Interesting San Francisco House Photo

12 Jordan Avenue S.F copy

I’m not sure what my family’s connection with the house is. Whether it belonged to family or family friends. But Helen Martin was there in 1923 to take this picture for her scrapbook.


Surprisingly the house is still there with new infill all around. A large apartment built right up to the side.

12 Jordon at California Street

The other building seen in the historic photo however are gone.

Helen Returns To Santa Rosa

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

Helen Martin at 913 Cherry St

Helen in Santa Rosa where she grew up. This photo was taken in 1923. Helen was then married to Val Martin (Jeanne’s father); they lived at 913 Cherry Street, Santa Rosa. Later that year they moved to Southern California to work in the film industry. Mom was born Jeanne Delano Martin on September 22, 1923 in Long Beach, CA.
Today Cherry Street is a Historic District in Santa Rosa.


Sunday April 2, 1939. “Took a grand drive today to Santa Rosa…It has certainly grown.”
guerneville992x625  ArmstrongTreerussian_river_resorts_sign_1936_41sm as Smart Object-1

“Also saw Healdsburg, Guernville, and Armstrong woods. It was a beautiful day, and the country was green and luscious. Arrived home in San Francisco about 5:30.”

Monday April 3, 1939. “First day of Jeanne’s vacation–slept until 8. At 1 P.M. we walked to the beach. Took the tram home. Went shopping on Clement Street. It was a foggy day.”

bell_switchboard as Smart Object-1

Tuesday April 4, 1939. “A lovely day and night. Jeanne and I went to the Fair. Went to the phone exhibit and saw kids there from Los Angeles.”

El Salvidor

“Then went to El Salvidor. We met boys from Guatemala.”


“To Brazil for coffee. We were introduced to various people. Carlos and Jose drove us home.”

The Best Place In The Fair

Thursday March 16, 1939 “Walked to the beach and back. Took a nap. Then met Jeanne after school and rode to the beach and got cones. Came back and shopped and had a good dinner. Sam called on E. Hurt, the Russian artist. It was very hot today.”

Sunday March 19, 1939 “A quiet day. Walked to the beach. Took streetcar home. Went to look at apartments of various kinds.”

Monday March 20, 1939 “It was a grand day of interest. I went to The Fair alone. Saw Eleanor Roosevelt arrive. In the afternoon I heard her speak–most charming. Went to several exhibits. El Salvidor-coffee and marimbas. To Greenwich Village. Home about 9.

ElseArgal+IreneRich_Broom For The BrideCurran-Theatre_San-Francisco_1922-1 as Smart Object-1
Elsa Argal, left with Irene Rich, right in Broom For The Bride.

Thursday March 23, 1939 “Sam came home in the afternoon. Feeling sick. He went to bed early. Nite: I went to Tony’s, and with eight women went to dinner at Vagabond House. Then to the Curran Theater to see Irene Rich in ‘Broom for the Bride.’ Enjoyed it.”

Jeanne's Fair Page2

A page from Mom’s crumbling scrapbook. I’m in the process of moving photos from it to archival pages. She indicates the Brazil Pavilion is “the best place in the fair” (lower right). Brazilian flag upper left. A partially used ticket book from 1940, And the El Salvador Pavilion napkin. And Duke. I don’t know what happened to him. Maybe got tossed after she got married.

Saturday March 25, 1939 “Sam feeling much better. The Doctor was here. Says he can get up Monday. Then go to work on Tuesday. Today was Rainy. Jeanne went to the fair.”

Brazil Pavilion

“Best Place in The Fair.” The photo caption reads “Pavilion of the United States of Brazil. It occupies 10,000 of its 25,000 square feet of the ground. The products displayed are representative of the country’s ever increasing potentiality and includes coffee, rubber, matte, vegetables fibers and oils, timbó, guaraná, etc. and manufactured products. Visit the CAFE BRAZIL with its tropical patio and try a cup of PURE Brazilian coffee.”


A name that begins to appear in Helen’s diary is Carlos. He became a constant friend in both San Francisco and Los Angeles for years to come. Apparently they met at the Brazil Pavilion where he sang. The Photo shows him in the rotunda of that pavilion–silhouette of  The Exposition Tower “Spire to the Sun” in the background.

The Car Went Blewey

Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts

The already mentioned Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts

Sunday March 12, 1939 “Jeanne, Sam, and I with Paul, Ruth Marc + Nancy to the Fair. Marc, Ruth, + Nancy left early but we stayed”


The Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts is one of the few surviving buildings from The Fair. This is a Historic American Buildings Survey photo done in 2003.

The building predated the fair itself, and was constructed in 1938 as an aircraft hangar for Pan American World Airways and their trans-Pacific Clipper services. It was later modified for the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition.

The building retains its George W. Kelham and William Peyton Day designed Art Deco Streamline Moderne features.

The interior was adapted for the exposition by adding curving temporary plaster walls to house a $20 million collection of artwork, designed by Dorothy Wright Liebes and Shepard Vogelsang. The space was extensively subdivided into small galleries.

07 Dorothy Liebes who illustrates the optimistic modernism of the American designer post WWII as Smart Object-1

Dorothy Wright Liebes worked closely with Frank Lloyd Wright. She talks about her relationship with the Wrights in her papers.

“After The Fair we had dinner in Chinatown. Then the car went blewey. Stuck for a long time. Paul stayed over again.”

Monday March 13, 1939 “Didn’t get up until after 11 a.m. The car started OK. Later Jeanne and I rode through the Presidio. Shopped. Then home to clean up the mess. To bed early.”

Busy Weekend – No Less on Monday

Empire Hotel

Saturday February 11, 1939. “Jeanne + I to Tony’s business. Bought a skirt for me + a suit for Jeanne–wholesale. Then to other stores. Bought hat and purse. Marion + friend over for short time. Nite with Phil + Tony to Polk Street. Dinner at German American Restaurant. To the Sky Room at Empire Hotel.”

Empire Hotel Picture+Blurb

“Then to Izzy Gomez’ and the Beach.”

Izzy Gomez and salt shaker, “M’ Fren'” Image Source CLAY BANES.

“Home about 11:15.”

Sunday February 12, 1939 “Jeanne, Sam + I took Bijou for nice walk in Golden Gate Park. Started to rain on the way home. Sam + I walked to the branch library + Clement Street. Shopt. Took bus home. Took streetcar to the big library.”

Ferry Building

“Walked to the Ferry Building and took streetcar line number 21 home.. Marion here. Jeanne to movie alone.” 21-car as Smart Object-1

Monday February 13, 1939 “Jeanne + I to town early-paid phone bill. First scraping of fenders.”

san-francisco-chinatown-circa-1950 as Smart Object-1

“Lunch in Chinatown.”

cable+cars as Smart Object-1

“Rode the cable car.”

Jeanne Helen Hussey4


“Nite-Sam all decked out Western Style.”

cissie-loftus-and-hilda-trevelyan1 as Smart Object-1Curran-Theatre_San-Francisco_1922-1 as Smart Object-1

“Took me to see Cecilia Loftus at the Curran.”

Red Roadway


It was either when my dad was going to what he called Oceanside College (Now called MiraCosta) or just after joining the Marine Corps. The time just prior to and in the wake of Pearl Harbor. He spoke of hitch hiking between L.A. and San Diego. I remember he said the hike through San Clemente was on a red roadway. The concrete of the street and sidewalks were cast with a color tint.


Bill Soderberg in his hitch hiking youth. Other stories he told about this period of time concerned working at the poinsettia farms in Oceanside and San Diego North County. His service in the Marine Corps, outside one stint on the USS Portsmouth, was all based at the Marine camps in San Diego County. Photo is dated 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor, “Day of Infamy,” was December 7, 1941.


The distant building with a tower is San Clemente’s forever endangered 1938 Miramar Theatre. So far I haven’t verified the roadway itself was cast in colored concrete. Observing the black and white photos, one can see the car tracks darkened the pavement. And it was, and still is, typical for concrete roadways to eventually be paved over in asphalt. Clearly this is pre asphalt.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 9.19.15 PM
The 1957 view of San Clemente. Note the colored sidewalks. Especially red on the right side.

The Sturges

Historic photo of the 1939 Sturges House by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Wright’s photographer Pedro E. Guerrero, 1947. It is always interesting to find a photo where you can compare and evaluate the contrast between Wright’s timeless design and the bygone style of cars or fashion.
Image source:


Image source: The Guardian

The home was owned for long time by actor Jack Larson, who lived here until his death not long ago. He was famous for a role that accounts for only a small part of his overall career – playing Jimmy Olson in the TV version of Superman.


My Kodachrome slides of the Sturges House, Brentwood, CA from June of 1970.  It is an example of Wright’s Usonian design principles outlined in his books “The Natural House,” and “The Living City.” Wright preferred to say Usonian when the context was specific to the United States. The word American should never exclude Canada or Mexico, being they are also part of America. And not to forget South America.

The historic designation of this house points to the fact it is the only structure in Los Angeles representing his midcentury Usonian style of design and construction.

Most angles of the house show a windowless mass of either brick or shiplapped redwood. The stairs lead to a rooftop sunning deck. Carport is on the right.


Here is the side of the home with the broad redwood balcony that really opens up to let the outside in.
Peering down to the balcony from the rooftop sunning deck. Note the cut out at the top left where the stairs lead up from the driveway area seen in the earlier photo.

Full view of the rooftop deck.


Diagram showing the massing required to carry the weight of this bold cantilevered home. Wright’s apprentice assigned to help build this home was John Lautner who became one of the Century’s important Frank Lloyd Wright trained architects.

There are a number of design ideas that Wright returned to over and over in his career. This type of dramatic cantilevering was explored by Wright most famously in his “Falling Water” house in Pennsylvania.

SturgesColorInt-1 as Smart Object-1

Sturges House interior view. Source:

From the Historic Designation report, City of Los Angeles. 

Dog House

babysharks-minority-report-doghouse as Smart Object-1

Lucky was the dog that got his own Frank Lloyd Wright designed dog house. It is at the 1951 Frank Lloyd Wright designed Robert Berger House in San Anselmo, CA. The house is unique in a couple of ways. First it was a “do-it-yourself” construction project. From the years 1951 – 1973 Robert Berger built his own Frank Lloyd Wright house by hand, so to speak. And Second, it features the above custom designed dog house.



I got to meet Mr. Berger and his wife in April of 1971. They generously allowed me to photograph the house, and they enjoyed sharing information. He told me although the work could be physically demanding he had no difficulty following Wright’s plans and instructions even though he had no previous house building experience. It was designed so it could be built in phases. It began as a one bedroom house, then became three bedrooms with the addition of another wing.


Wright utilized a number geometric layouts for his Usonian homes. The Berger House is based on a diamond module. 60 degree and 120 degree angles.


Character defining features of Wright’s work. Generous use of rock, wood, and glass. The broad overhang. The mitered window corner.

The rock walls are made with wood forms. Desert rocks piled into the forms, and concrete pushed in to ooze between the rocks. It’s a technique Wright devised in the desert of Taliesin West.
As so often the case with a Wright home, you enter through a low passage way and enter a larger expansive space within. The cut out pattern windows are a Wright signature design feature.
A peek within. “The Hearth” was always a focal point of Wright’s living areas. When construction was finally complete, it includes Wright designed furniture.



Welcome to Springbough. Beyond the FLLW designed gate is the Frank S. Sander House in Stamford, Connecticut. Source Dami’s Findings


Springbough was completed in 1955. I had a chance to visit in August of 1980. The home since then went through a period of decline. But in 1996 was lovingly restored by Anne Del Gaudio.

It is a 2,200 square foot Frank Lloyd Wright designed home on 2.3 acres of land. Ms. Del Guadio bought the house after the death of her husband, a Scarsdale dentist. Buying this home was a new life for her.

Wright’s design, built onto a rock outcropping, makes her feel “connected to the earth,” she said, adding, “As a widow I need that grounding energy.”

Ms. Del Gaudio spent several hundred thousand dollars replacing 14 skylights and restoring all of the exterior mahogany to its original amber finish. She also repaired extensive water damage to walls and ceilings. “Wright never built a roof that doesn’t leak,” she said.

She made the house glisten. But in 2003 she put the house on the market.
“I babied the house,” Ms. Del Gaudio, 65, said. “Now it’s someone else’s turn.”

She enlisted the help of the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy to help find a sympathetic owner. Source NY Times


A sky-lit living space cantilevers over a rock outcropping. Wright was close to 90 years old when this house was built. It was also the most prolific period of his long career. “I can’t shake them out fast enough,” he said, demand for his work was that high.


Springbough, detail. Brick and Mahogany.


Springbough entrance. WoodDance studio has a story to tell about the restoration of these doors. It’s a bit scary!

“Not too long after I started working on a Frank Lloyd Wright home here in Connecticut I was asked to fix the front storm door because it was badly warped and one of the screws holding the handle in place had stripped out, leaving the handle a bit loose.

After altering the door in my shop I brought it back to the residence and set it outside. I left it leaning there against the stone wall in the carport while I worked on the jamb and passive side. I replaced the passive side and left for the night.

The next morning at 5:30am the garbageman stopped to collect the trash and for some reason, took the door as well.

When I showed up at the job site, just a few hours later, and couldn’t find the door, panic set in. We raced to phone the sanitation company. They said the door had been taken, dumped at the transfer station and had by now been driven over by large debris moving caterpillars. The original Frank Lloyd Wright front storm door was destroyed!

While working on this home, I removed some large boards of mahogany from the deck area. Every piece of this Frank Lloyd Wright original that I removed, I labelled and stored neatly in one of the out-buildings. I brought a few pieces to my shop and reconstructed the door using that material from the site.

Having the opportunity to affect repairs on what I consider to be an important structure, at times, holds more meaning to me than to the client. The work I do, in a way, can be a personal interaction between myself and the original Architect, Builder and/or carpenters. I have my hands on things that homeowners never see; the guts of a house. In a forensic sort of way, I can get a feeling for the job as it might have been for the crew putting it together.

Using wood that came from the house was important to me but furthermore I wanted to use wood that Frank Lloyd Wright likely had set his own hand upon.

Frank Lloyd Wright began using the red square symbol as his signature mark around 1904. This home was built in 1952. In this image we can see the original signature block on the left hand side.

Thank the lucky stars we didn’t leave that door off too!”



Springbough, driveway, carport. Wright preferred a carport, not a garage.


Springbough, driveway, carport.

La Miniatura


Photos from March 1972

In the early 1920’s Frank Lloyd Wright sought to create a new architectural vocabulary for California. One not based on Spanish Colonial, Mission, or Craftsman. Wright almost never pointed to inspiration for his designs, but one can certainly have a hunch he tapped the ancient Mexican and South American civilizations for the look of his concrete textile block homes in Los Angeles in 1923 and 1924.

The first of these homes was the Alice Millard House in Pasadena, 1923.

This was the second home he designed for this particular client. The previous one was done 17 years earlier in Highland Park, Illinois, for her and her late husband. Wright said he was proud to have a repeat client. “Out of one hundred and seventy-two buildings this made only the eleventh time it happened to me. So, gratefully, I determined she should have the best I had in my portfolio.”


Indeed it is regarded as one of his best. Brendan Gill wrote “La Miniatura is assuredly among the most beautiful houses to be found anywhere in the world, regardless of size.”

Gill questioned, however, the wisdom of the site chosen for the home. It is an arroyo. “For obvious reasons (it is) not thought desirable as a building site. So Mrs. Millard was able to acquire the arroyo property at a low price. Flying in the face of conventional prudence, Wright and she decided to build at the bottom of the arroyo, where a small pool would be dug to reflect the house.” All four of the textile block homes Wright built in L.A. in 1923 and 1924 had water damage issues. Gill may well have a point. But clearly both client and architect loved where the house was built.


“The interior is as exquisite in its shapeliness as the exterior and has a plan of remarkable ingenuity, comprising three full floors and terraces at four levels, with easy access to it surroundings and to the street.”


The concrete block as a construction material was not new in 1923. But Wright’s construction method was unique. As well as his attention to design pattern. He envisioned this becoming a low cost way to build elegant homes–a design goal he remained interested in decades after these first experiments. Unfortunately the textile block homes of this period all went over-budget and proved to be very difficult to build. They are imperfect works of great art. But as works of art they are very important in history. The effort to save these homes has been a challenging cause, if not heroic. The fate of the Millard house has been uncertain for years. One investor wanted to move the house to another site. I suspect it was determined to be infeasible, and would have been a disaster. From what I can tell the house is currently for sale. Here is the agent selling the home–providing some great interior shots for us to see.

Image Source Architizer, Scott Mayoral