Guggenheim Turns 60

Wright was hired to design the museum in 1943. He wanted to break all convention with this signature work of his, but it took 16 difficult years to bring his ideas to fruition. Wright passed-on before opening day but still saw most of his work to completion.

Santa Fe Depot, San Diego, 1969

1969 was a different time, and San Diego was a different city. Often called laid back or sleepy – even as City officials touted it as “City In Motion.”

It is very likely plans were on the drawing board as early as 1969 to get rid of the Santa Fe Depot. By 1972 a full pitch battle was on to save the depot from demolition.

It was Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) that stepped in to save the Depot from demolition. It was a call to action the preservation group had to put out, not once, but twice.

The depot opened in 1915, approximately coinciding with the biggest of events in San Diego History, the opening of the 1915  Panama-California Exposition 

As with the domed towers at the Panama-California Exposition, the Santa Fe Depot tower domes have a Spanish style zig-zag pattern of yellow blue tiles.

The Mission Style architecture was designed by the firm Bakewell and Brown, out of San Francisco. They built San Francisco City Hall the same year.

The 55 foot wood beam ceiling shelters travelers entering and exiting the depot.

The YMCA building in the distance remains. MTS buses look different. And the Art Deco bowling alley across the street is long gone.

Originally the front arch was entered through a forecourt lined with arches. As so often the case, the demand for parking ruled the day in 1954 when the forecourt structure was demolished.

There had been interest in rebuilding this structure in recent years. But the current alignment and configuration of today’s railroad tracks has been deemed incompatible with such a project. So the old forecourt will remain only a memory or echo from the past.

Old Oak Benches Remain On Duty To This Day

Gone are that style of passenger car as well as the structure beyond it.

An antique luggage cart that no longer sees service.

Private Train Cars were once parked outside, along-side the depot.

They Cyrus K Holliday was once owned by the Sefton Family and their San Diego Trust and Savings Bank. In the following decades San Diego Trust and Savings went away and the Seftons relinquished the train car as well, as it resides somewhere else on tracks far away.

The train yard itself is much different and busier today. There’s the Trolley line, The Coaster line, and Amtrak.

A view towards the south. Police headquarters (now a museum, shopping and restaurant venue) in the distance. The power building is one the left. The Swift Company building, long gone.

And best shot for last. San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot is one of the largest and best loved train depots in California. A jewel that celebrated its 100th Birthday in 2015, and still as beautiful as ever.

The Amy Strong House

In 1909, Amy Strong, a famous San Diego dress designer, hired master builders Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter to build her dream ranch house. They lived and worked on site from tents where they drew renderings and blueprints. 

The home was completed by 1921. The Strong home is just off the road to Ramona at the base of Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock). It embodies the vision of this artistic woman, the talents of her architects, and the philosophy of the Craftsman Movement.

Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. The tiles are purportedly from the San Gabriel Mission. Inside and out the home has a truly organic and hand made feel to it.

It’s a split level home with exposed eaves – troughs hewn from unfinished eucalyptus trunks supported by gargoyle figures. 

Eclectic motifs throughout were taken from Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs chosen for the home. Interior use of wood included lightly polished redwood planks recycled from vats for many of the doors and mantels, beams, and balustrades of twisted eucalyptus.

Other building materials of the main house included oak, rocks, flagstone, adobe, bricks and tiles, plaster, concrete and stucco.

No chalk lines were used in the construction. There are no perfect corners and neither the roof nor floors are level. 

Eucalyptus was cut from stands that dotted the property. Rocks were individually hand-picked by Mrs. Strong for their shapes and colors from the slopes of Mt. Woodson.

Mrs. Strong, her niece and their cook, did much of the painting and design-work themselves, inspired by Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs.

Light fixture and stencil detail

The Zodiac Room. The ideals of this masterpiece emphasized harmony between the individual and the environment, intense involvement of the artists with their materials, and the blending of the primitive with the sophisticated.

The 27-room Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter adobe and stone structure was completed after five years and $50,000 of 1921 currency.

Light Fixture Detail

Upper Level Passage Way

Light and Stencil Detail

“The Castle” is a multi-level, twenty-seven room 12,000 square foot home with eight foot thick walls, a Great Hall with a sixteen foot ceiling, a swing porch, pantry, four fireplaces, a dutch oven, dumb waiter, complete intercom system.

Mrs. Strong left natural, oak, and pine exposed; other woods were painted or polished. Some of the original floors and stairs were flagstone and a few of the floors were oak planks.

Main Entrance Detail

The goal was integrate and unify the rock and tree studded surroundings with both the exterior and interior of the home.

The finished exterior, the stone work, windmill, bricks and tiles, and arches reflect French, Dutch, Spanish, and Medieval styles. Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. Aztec, Greek, Roman, North American, and Oriental crafts, decorate the house inside and out.

The windmill is gasoline-engine-assisted. It pumped water from the springs to redwood storage tanks and the room under the windmill was used to cool meats and vegetables.

The site today in Romona is used for conferences, weddings and other functions spurred by the nearby golf course.

The 1924 Samuel and Harriet Freeman House By Frank…

I was barely 16 in March of 1972 when I met Harriet Freeman. She was gracious about not only letting me see her home inside and out but to photograph it as well. This collection includes shots from a later visit in September 1972 as well.
The Freeman House was the last of four Frank Lloyd Wright concrete block houses built in 1924
March 1972
The street view of many Frank Lloyd Wright homes is often the most understated and minimalist part of the home.
September 1972 – Pepper Tree de-branched. Samuel and Harriet Freeman had long ago divorced. But the love for house lived beyond their marital bond. They continued to living in the house after divorcing.
Upper level room.
Photo from March 1972. Rudolph Schindler designed the furniture and other interior fixtures. Mrs. Freeman expressed a fondness for Schindler she didn’t necessarily feel toward Wright himself. While intellectually she admired Wright, it was Schindler she felt in-tune with. She credited him for making the residence “feel like home.”
March 1972
Harriet told me Greta Garbo stayed at this house when the German actress first came to the U.S.
View of Highland Avenue and Hollywood
The horizontal sweep of mullions supporting planes of glass that meet in a clear mitred corner – the corner window. A character defining feature in Wright’s catalogue, appearing here for the first time without the aid of stiles to support the horizontal mullions between the panes of glass. That distinction alone qualifies this house as being among the most important historic sites in California. Having said that, sadly, the home under purview of USC is crumbling to dust and is in shockingly dire condition.
The “front door” to a Wright house is frequently discrete.
March 1972

For sure, there is a ton of questions I should have asked. But at age 16, I hadn’t honed my interviewing skills whatsoever. Nor did I take notes as I’m sure Mrs. Freeman shared with me a lot more information than I remember now. Harriet Freeman lived into her 90’s, passing away in 1986.

Collaboration of Architect and Client – Lloyd Ruocco’s Masterpiece…

This is a scan from the Sunday November 17, 1985 San Diego Union article written by Kay Kaiser.

A site I remember exploring with my mom and dad in 1966 or 1967. La Jolla was a favorite place for us to explore back then. Still is.

To view larger version of any image or scanned text, just click on it. 

Family Archives

Randy’s Donuts – Inglewood, CA


Built in 1953 as the Big Donut Drive In this Los Angeles landmark is an example of programatic/thematic  architecture that was once a rage in Southern California. An architecture related to roadside convenience for freeway laden modern society. There’s a great book by Jim Heimann and Rip Geoges about this type of architecture titled California Crazy – Roadside Vernacular Architecture. Chronicling the times when architecture was allowed to be distinctive and fun.

Bradbury Building – 21st Century Vision

It was a building inspired by a vision of the 21st century depicted in an 1888 novel. Then 94 years later was depicted in a film vision of the 21st century.


Image: Creative Commons

The street view doesn’t quite reveal the characteristics of a future vision. The building’s facade is clearly an Italian Rennaissance Revial, Romanesque Revival design of its time (1894).


Image: Creative Commons

You might walk by without ever knowing what lies beyond the arched entry.


Image: Creative Commons

But the inside – that’s another story. It was the shared dream of two men. Lewis Bradbury who had a specific philosophy and ideas of what he wanted built. And the young man whom Bradbury met – they shared that philosophy and those ideas. He was George Herbert Wyman – who wasn’t even an architect, but draftsman by trade. Their common vision stemmed from a futuristic novel called Looking Backward 1887 – 2000 by George Herbert Wyman.

Lewis Bradbury


Image: Creative Commons

Bellamy’s futuristic structures in Looking Backward were described as “vast halls filled with light.” The Bradbury building has a glass roof which baths the entire central portion of the interior in daylight. The railings, balconies and supporting columns are made of iron. The resulting effect is a suspended, floating illusion of interior elements.

It stands as one of the most distinctive and remarkable interiors of any office building ever constructed.


Images: Creative Commons

The Bradbury interiors inspired by a Utiopian future depicted in Looking Backward by Edward Belamy.

blade_runner BladeRunner_Bradbury_Interior

It is a curious twist in the history of the building that 94 years later it again would be part of another science fiction spin of the 21st Century – the 1982 film The Blade Runner.

The building not only attracted the producers of Blade Runner. There have been dozens of other Film, Television, and Commercial productions that have used the Bradbury Building as a set.


Image: Dan Soderberg

Louis Bradbury died before his building was complete. His dedication to creating his lasting legacy notwithstanding, even he likely wouldn’t dare imagine how the building would continue to inspire and fascinate well into the 21st century.

The Bradbury Building is located on Broadway at 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA

Lunch At Girards

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Girard’s was located on the third floor of the building at 65 Ellis Street occupied on lower levels by the historic John’s Grill, established in 1908. Image Source: The only trace of Girard’s today are the retail-sold salad dressings.

Girard's Ad

1939 ad from the Golden Gate International Exposition Guidebook.

Thursday June 8, 1939. “Downtown with Zella Reilly. Bought drapes and rods for the living room. Lunch at Girards.”

Hotel Empire Sky Room

“A drink at the Sky Room. Lots of window shopping. Nite: Sam and I walked in the the park.”


Friday June 9, 1939 “Got the drapes hung. Nite: met Marc, Bessie, and Streets at the Blue Fox Room for a couple of drinks. Then to see Ice Follies at Winterland. Swell show! After to Jacopetti’s, Cafe Diablo’s, and then home at 12:30. Rene over to see Jeanne.”


Saturday June 10, 1939. “Quiet day. Home mostly. Sam worked all day. Picked him up at 5:30. Home for dinner. Nite: read and to bed early. Fog.”


Sunday June 11, 1939. “Sam and I walked to the beach in the A.M. Seal Rocks were covered with seals. Marc, Palmer, Murphy, Doni over. We went to Doc’s Ranch at Walnut Creek. Stoped at Palmer’s place in Alameda. Got cat. Hot in the country. Fog in our distance.”

I tried digging for information about Doc’s Ranch. Not much there. Here’s a note from the Contra Costa County Historical Society:

“We believe “Doc’s Ranch” refers to Dr. A.H. Rowan, who built a hotel and spa on Ygnacio Sibrian’s Sulphur Springs Ranch property. He called it “Bareges Sulphur Springs, named after the Bareges-Barzun Springs in the French Pyrenees Mountains. He charged $12 a week for board, lodging and use of the baths until fire destroyed the hotel in 1875. The sulphur spring still exists, near Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek.”Seems like there must be more to this story.

Monday June 12, 1939. “M. stayed here last night. Lazy day. Felt the cold. Took kitten and Bijou to meet Jeanne after school. Little Jimmy called up – also F. this afternoon, surprise. Picked up Sam at 5. Bed early.”

Tuesday June 13, 1939. “Lovely afternoon. Nice walk in the park. Quiet evening.”

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Wednesday June 14, 1939. “Zella over. We walked in the park and saw the miniature yacht club house.”

“Saw the baby Buffalo. Foggy. Nite: to the library. Half day at school for Jeanne. Took Sam down to do work at the plant. Home 12:30”


Thursday June 15, 1939. “Rather sleepy this A.M. Lazy day but cooked nice dinner. Tony and Phil over in early evening – slight rain tonite. Sam and I up late drinking Tom Collins.”

Went to the RKO Golden Gate

An ongoing series illustrating the diary of my grandmother Helen Hussey. Current entries: The San Francisco Sojourn 1939-1940.

Poster - Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, The_02 as Smart Object-1
Wednesday April 5, 1939. “Jeanne and I to the RKO Golden Gate to see Rogers + Astaire in the Castle picture.” The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), would be their final RKO film together, although they would reunite in 1949 for MGM‘s The Barkleys of Broadway. The film was unique for Astaire and Rogers. The characters in it are more realistic than usual in an Astaire-Rogers film, it is the only Astaire-Rogers musical biography, the only one of their musicals with a tragic ending, and the only one in which Astaire’s character dies.


The RKO Golden Gate Theater.

Built in 1920, the Golden Gate Theatre was a movie theater for over 50 years until it closed in the 1970s. By the time it was shuttered, the Golden Gate Theatre had already been converted into a two screen theater in the 1960s, with the balcony theatre known as the Penthouse Theatre. With the twinning it suffered little permanent damage as it was restored to a single auditorium by the Shorenstein Hayes Nederlander group.

When it was finally renovated and reopened in 1979 into a performing arts center, the original detail and look of the theater was restored as well. Although the neighborhood has remained a little seedy, the theater is still very grand, with a marvelous Art Deco vertical sign that is nearly 4 stories high. Today, the Golden Gate Theatre is still a premier venue for travelling broadway shows and a visual journey into San Francisco’s gilded past. Contributed by Juan-Miguel Gallegos. Cinema Treasures. org

Japanese Tea Garden

“Afternoon walk in the park. Jose over and took Jeanne for Tea at Japanese Tea Garden. Nite: Took Sam to the library. Wrote to Irene. It was a beautiful day.”
Mom took me for my first trip to San Francisco in 1967. I remember she made a point of visiting the Japanese Tea Garden. One other note –  Sam Hussey never drove; Helen did all the driving.

39belltelephone2 as Smart Object-1

Friday April 9, 1939. “Jeanne and I to the fair. We won telephone calls. Jeanne phoned Mercedes, but not home. I called Irene + talked to her. We went to listen to the marimba. Home about Ten P.M.”


Friday April 8, 1939. “Met Sam and we all went to the Fair. Saw many exhibits. Drank at Happy Valley. Saw Carlos and met most of the marimba players. Back to Izzy’s-fiesta, etc. Got a ride home with the Italians. Hazy ending to the day.”

Adelphian_Club_House_Central_Avenue_and_Walnut_Streets_Alameda_California_2975 as Smart Object-1

Sunday April 9, 1939. “Easter Sunday. Went to Oakland for dinner with Gen and Jess. Drove to Berkeley and Alameda. Saw an interesting big house, also an old home on Central Avenue. Home about 6:30” Certainly similar interests through the generations in this family!