Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Blogger's Dream Come True

For those of you who think I've abandoned my Blog...its not true. What has happened is sort of every Blogger's dream: I have found another venue for my architectural ramblings: Artbound KCET. For the last few months I have been writing for this wonderful online digital magazine with a much larger audience than I would ever have here at home, and I'm loving it! I will still be posting here occasionally, but as long as they'll have me but for now, my heart (and mind) belong to KCET. To see my columns for Artbound, go to Cheers, -Patrick

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Newhall / DeGraff Residence Coming Back to Life...

George Almer Newhall, Sr. / LeGrand Simson DeGraff Residence (1928, Architect Unknown) 535 Tamarisk Road This large (4,700 sq. ft.) and beautifully detailed Spanish Colonial Revival style Movie Colony home on a 1.6 acre site has been vacant for years. The main house has 5 bedrooms and 5 baths, each featuring original intact ceramic tile work. The public rooms face southward opening onto a rear courtyard with a fountain. The property also has a detached guest house containing 2 bedrooms, 2 baths a kitchen and a 2 car garage. Much of the original architecture is intact including a beautiful wood-beamed ceiling in the living room. Also included on the property are a swimming pool, tennis courts, potting shed, and rose garden. It has recently changed hands and restoration work is underway. Although the Riverside County Assessor’s office shows this property as having been built in 1934, additional information recently uncovered suggests otherwise. The 1929 Palm Springs City Directory lists George A. Newhall (1862-1929) at this address. Newhall was the youngest of five sons born to William Mayo Newhall. Although the house appears to have been architect-designed, no records have been located to verify this assumption. The 1987 HSPB List refers to the property as the Newhall / Tackett Residence.
George and Caroline Newhall Residence, Hillsborough For his northern California home, Newhall built a large French Renaissance Revival-style mansion located at 1761 Manor Dr., in Hillsborough, California. Named “La Dolphine”, it was designed in 1912 by important Bay Area architect Lewis Hobart and completed in 1914. The Newhall Residence was listed on the National Register in 2007. It is not known if Newhall (who died in 1929) ever actually occupied the Palm Springs house but it appears that it was custom built for him and for its style, it compares favorably with his Hillsborough home. According to historian Tracy Conrad, an article in a 1931 California Arts & Architecture magazine contains information indicating that the George Newhall Residence in Palm Springs was sold to LeGrand DeGraff. DeGraff’s father, James, was one of the first bank presidents in the upstate New York town of North Tonawanda. Their son LeGrand Simson DeGraff was born March 30, 1871. He attended Lima College near Geneva, New York. LeGrand DeGraff (1871-1960) managed A. Weston & Son Lumber Company. He and his associates sponsored the construction a new hospital, named for the family in recognition of the contributions of DeGraff's father to the civic and economic life of the Tonawandas. DeGraff stipulated that the indigent of the communities were to receive free hospital care, and the two cities were to maintain the hospital property. If the hospital failed to meet these conditions, the property would revert to the donors for disposal with the proceeds to be divided according to the proportion of each donor's original contribution. According to the City Directories, LeGrand DeGraff and his wife Norma, who wintered in Palm Springs, resided at 535 Tamarisk beginning in 1933 thru and extending until at least 1953 and possibly until his death in 1960. In their absence, the home was maintained by caretakers Foster H and Bertha Ferguson. A 1933 article from the North Tonawanda NY Evening News indicates that “LeGrand S. DeGraff of Goundry Street left yesterday to motor to Palm Springs for the remainder of the winter. Mrs. DeGraff will leave by train, in a few days, for Palm Springs. A photograph in the Albert C. Doane Collection at the Ohio Historical Society shows the launching of a ship named in honor of LeGrand S. DeGraff built by the American Shipbuilding Company. The ship was a lake freighter built to transport bulk products such as iron ore and coke. By 1952, American Shipbuilding Company was the largest shipbuilder on the Great Lakes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

High Desert Adventure

Our friend Hilary organized a great trip to the High Desert. We went by caravan to the Integratron for a refreshing "sound bath" followed by a trip to the Orchid Farm and then lunch at the 29 Palms Inn...we really should do this more often.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Second Venetian Renaissance Revival

What with the recent Desert Spanish project, I've been neglecting my blog, but with a quiet summer ahead, I will be adding some new stuff. I recently had a couple of hours to kill in Venice where there is an amazing collection of great new residential architecture....
Miami Vice in Venice?
I love this one by Antoine Predock
...and this one by Gehry...
They may have thought they were on the other Grand Canal.....
Rumor has it that this house was built by the inventor of the Chia Pet....not your ordinary ivy covered cottage....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rachel deBrabant Residence

Rachel deBrabant Residence (1929, Architect Unknown)
982 Avenida de las Palmas
Palm Springs

I have been working on a new book project for the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation to be published in conjunction with Desert Spanish Weekensd,March 23, entitled Desert Spanish, the Early Architecture of Palm Springs. It will feature this large Spanish Colonial Revival estate that was built for Rachel de Brabant on land she purchased in 1927 from physician-turned-real estate developer Jacob John Kocher. The house was built in a barren desert-scape on a large through-lot that extended from Avenida de las Palmas to Via Miraleste. The rear one-third of the parcel was sold off in the 1980s to provide lots for two new homes. The property is located in the Las Hacenditas (“Little Haciendas”) Tract in the Movie Colony neighborhood and bears evidence of having been architect-designed, although the designer has not been identified. When the house was built, the deBrabants were living in Alhambra, California near Pasadena. With their interest in the arts, they are likely to have commissioned one of the prominent Pasadena architects to design their Spanish Colonial Revival-style home.

Paul Grimm Painting of the deBrabant Courtyard

The deBrabant's interest and involvement in the arts community is documented by artist biographer Edan Hughes who refers to Marius’ sketching trips to Palm Springs. Additionally a painting of the house by Paul Grimm reinforces the connection to the arts community as does an image of painter Hanson Duvall Puthuff (1875-1972) in the deBrabant living room. Puthuff is known to have painted in Palm Springs, although he best-known for the paintings that were done near the hills and mountains of his home. The walls of the deBrabant home were hung with images of the desert and the California coastline. Smoketree school painter Sam Hyde Harris also made desert trips with fellow painter Hanson Puthuff and may have encountered the deBrabants.

Hansen Puthuff in the deBrabant Living Room

In this 5,000 sq. ft. Spanish Colonial Revival home, an L-shaped floor plan is laid out around a forecourt that recalls the layout of a Spanish Hacienda. A short east-west axis leads the visitor directly through the Foyer to the rear garden. North of the Foyer are the Dining and Kitchen areas. South of the Foyer, the Living Room features a tall cathedral ceiling with exposed and stenciled wooden trusses. Continuing on from the Living Room, the “foot” of the L-shape contains a single-loaded corridor that functions as a Gallery that provides access to several en-suite bedrooms, each with a private bath. The Gallery may have been designed in response to Rachel’s program requirement for a space to exhibit the deBrabant’s collection of plein air paintings. A second floor suite with exterior access surmounts the Dining Room and provides an isolated guest suite.

The entire complex is roofed with hand-made red clay roof tiles with broad protective roof overhangs. In a unique and picturesque architectural expression, the exterior walls of cement plaster are studded with native rock. Originally painted white, today the home is a warm sand color, and most of the original features of the house survive intact or have been restored. In 1956 a shed-roofed addition and a carport (later enclosed as a garage) were added. Today the deBrabant residence is surrounded by mature landscaping. In the rear of the property a rectangular pool, patio and large sheltered porch were built to add to the indoor/outdoor usability of the home.

Immigration:The de Brabants Arrive in New York
The reasons for manufacturer Alphonse deBrabant’s (1847-1901) immigration from Belgium to the United States with his children are lost to time, but in 1886 the 37-year old father of two arrived in New York along with his 17-year old daughter Rachel (1869-1943) and 14-year old son Marius (1872 - 1936). The small family initially resided on West 58th Street. No mention of a wife has been recorded, so it is likely that Alphonse was a widower. It is possible that a third child, Adrian (b. 1876) remained in Belgium with other family members. Marius and Rachel became naturalized citizens in 1894. The family were reputedly members of Belgian aristocracy - Marius is sometimes referred to as “Baron deBrabant.”

Within a few years, Marius, then in his early twenties, had begun a successful career as a Railroad Agent in New York. Rachel remained single throughout her life, but the two shared homes in both New York and California and traveled abroad extensively during the years 1916-1936. Passports listed Marius as the head of the household with Rachel listed as his sister. In a Passport Application in 1894, Marius also listed himself as a manufacturer with a business address of 63 Wall Street. On that trip he was to be traveling for about 6 months. Rachel’s travels: After her arrival in the U.S. in 1886, she completed her next Atlantic crossing returning in 1897 with her brothers Marius and Adrian. Rachel did not travel outside the U.S. again until 1923; between the years 1923 and 1930, Rachel made six trips abroad. Construction of her home and the Great Depression may have curtailed Rachel’s travel; her next European trip was in 1936, and her last in 1938.

The deBrabants in California
According to a newspaper article, the deBrabants made their first trip to California in 1906 and by 1920 were living near Los Angeles at No 4 Halsted Circle in the town of Alhambra in a modest home that still exists and was maintained by the deBrabants until Rachel’s death in 1943. According to artist’s biographer Edan Hughes Marius was known to have made “painting trips to Palm Springs,” but was not considered a professional artist. By 1929 the siblings were living in Palm Springs. Here, the deBrabants moved in artistic circles with such California landscape painters as Paul Grimm and Hansen Puthuff. Known primarily for his landscapes, Grimm created an unusual painting of the deBrabant courtyard in the early 1930s. A Gayle Thompson Archive photo shows Puthuff, seemingly very much at home, in a smock standing before an easel in the deBrabant Living Room.

William Andrews Clark Residence (1907, Lord, Hewlett & Hull, and others); called "the most ostentatious Beau-Arts Baroque" house on Fifth Avenue.

In 1925, at 53, and seemingly a confirmed bachelor, Marius and Rachel were living a quietly domestic life at their home in Alhambra. The “budding railroad magnate” was at that time a Vice-President with the Union Pacific Railroad Co. in Los Angeles. Then, on February 1925 in a private ceremony, unknown to their friends, Marius became the third husband of Mary Joaquina Clark of Glendale and New York City. The ceremony took place in the enormous 926 Fifth Avenue mansion (see above) that was home to Mary’s 86-year old father, William Andrews Clark.

He was a U.S. copper industrialist and former Senator for Montana, and one of the world’s wealthiest men. Clark had successively been a miner, teamster, merchant, railway builder, capitalist, and late in life, an art collector. Clark died a week after Mary’s wedding making Mary and each of her siblings very wealthy. Although previously married to two wealthy husbands, Mary had also received an annual income of $200,000 from her father; upon his demise, his $200 million was divided among his six children. As it turns out, her wealth did not assure her happiness; it appears that she continued to live a somewhat solitary social life in New York, while Marius continued to share quarters with his sister.

In addition to her Glendale home, the new Mrs. deBrabant also maintained an enormous apartment in one of New York’s most prestigious apartment buildings of the day at No. 7 East 51st, located across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She also resided at her 80-acre turn-of-the-century Gold Coast estate, a Tudor-style mansion called "Plaisance" on Long Island. With her well-documented social life, Mary Clark deBrabant doings were often mentioned in New York newspapers, but Marius was rarely mentioned. After Mary’s death, "Plaisance" fell into disrepair and was demolished. The land was eventually sold and subdivided in the 1950s. Remains of the estate’s reflection pool, sunken garden and brick walls on the property survive on the property.

The Clark’s biographer William Mangum sheds some light on the deBrabant marriage: “Marius de Brabant, a distant relative of the King of Belgium, was somewhat younger than his wife. He had a particularly gracious personality, was good looking, public-spirited, and efficient. He was best-known in Los Angeles for his activities in the development of the city, his efforts being largely devoted to the improvement of the harbour. He occupied important honorary positions in many organizations in the city, and did much for artistic interests.

Marius at the Palm Springs Home

“Within six months following his [August 1925] marriage, deBrabant became afflicted with a mental ailment, from which he never fully recovered. He was sent to Palm Springs, California, some three hours from Los Angeles; only a few months before he had been so active and prominent. In Palm Springs he was to be seen, carelessly dressed, strolling around in his garden in a listless fashion. It was rumored at one time that Mary Clark deBrabant contemplated a divorce, but she never actually instituted proceedings.”

This is the first mention of the deBrabant’s arrival in the desert. In light of Marius’ health issues, the assumption that Marius was the “good brother” who protected his spinster sister, must be re-examined. It appears that her brother’s illness required Rachel to assume the role of head of the household, and it was she who commissioned the Palm Springs house, completed four years after the onset of Marius’ illness. Although no images of Rachel have been located, several images of Marius strolling he grounds of the Palm Springs home with his dogs have survived. The last European trip that Rachel and Marius would share returned from LeHavre to NYC to on August 3, 1936. The ship’s manifest lists the siblings as residing in Palm Springs. Marius died in his wife’s home in Glendale six weeks later on September 16, 1936.

The marriage notwithstanding, following with the completion of Rachel’s Palm Springs home in 1929, the siblings listed their residence as the “unincorporated Palm Springs Village.” The deBrabants were never very well-known in Palm Springs. The 1987 HSPB list refers to Rachel as “Madame De Berbont (sic), which continues to perpetuate the inaccurate local myth that Rachel was the wife of a French diplomat. Although never married, Rachel continued to maintain the homes in Alhambra and Palm Springs until her death in 1943; she continued to be listed in the Palm Springs Telephone Directory until 1947. She willed her Palm Springs property to her friend Susanne Schambach who inexplicably occasionally listed herself as “Susanne Schambach deBrabant.” Subsequent owners of Rachel’s Palm Springs home include Adam and Ruth Hitchner; Abram and Rose Simon; and Essaness Pictures Corporation in 1952.

Before Marius’ death, Rachel persuaded Marius to create a scholarship fund at the University of California / Riverside. This fund, the Marius deBrabant Fund, also known as the Chancellor's Performance Award was established in July of 1967 with a gift of $77,678.63 from DeBrabant’s estate. The benefactor deBrabant was described as the Vice President of the Los Angeles-Pacific Navigation Company and is considered a noteworthy figure in early 20th century in California History. Income from his gift was to be used to fund scholarships for incoming freshman in the Fine Arts.

Another bequest from Marius’ estate was reported in the June 24, 1947, Long Beach Independent. The estate donated a check in the amount of $287,670.15 earmarked for the development of a stroke center at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California. Mrs. Edith Haubrichs, assistant trust officer Bank of America and former State Senator Leonard J Difani of Riverside County were trustees of the estate. The funds were to be used in the development of a stroke center for the care and treatment of elderly patients at Rancho Los Amigos suffering from stroke and providing a facility for the improvement of the knowledge of the disease, its related disabilities and the development of new treatment techniques.

Upon application by the current owners, who are also collectors of California art, the deBrabant Residence was designated a Class One Historic Site in 2009. Today, the deBrabant Residence has been beautifully restored and filled with the sort of early California art that would make Rachel and Marius feel right at home.

Traffic World, An Independent National Transportation Newsmagazine, Vol. 25
International Railway Journal, Vol. 26
American Contractor, Vol. 42
Who’s Who in Railroading in North America, Issue 8.
MacKay, Robert B.(ed.) with Anthony Baker and Carol Traynor, Long Island Country Houses and their Architects, 1880-1940. New York, W. W. Norton & Co.: 1997
Hughes, Edan Milton, Artists in California 1786 – 1940. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum: 2002.
Mangam, William D., The Clarks, An American Phenomenon. New York: Silver Bow Press, 1941.

Historic images courtesy The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rediscovered William Cody

My Realtor friend Keith introduced me to this 1957 (County Assessor's date) residence that appears to have been designed by Bill Cody. Maybe not instantly recognizable from the exterior, the interior reveals itself to be architect-designed with numerous Cody style details, including his signature Kitchen windows that rest upon the counter tops, sans the usual 4" splash. More exciting however are the numerous paneled walls that are an exercise in minimalism. Much of the paneling conceals cabinetry without any obvious hardware.

Some City Directory research indicates that the property / home (?)was owned by Alex C. Meyer as early as 1951. The Cal Poly Cody Box List has no mention of Meyer or this address. Will have to dig deeper...

The new owner seems appreciative of the extraordinary architectural character of the house and willing to go the extra mile to preserve the character-defining features. Long-overdue is the Cody Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, but that will change during Modernism Week this year; his star will be at the corner of Baristo and South Palm Canyon - just outside the new Edwards-Harris Museum of Architecture and Design....

John Corson Snyder Residence

John Corzon Snyder Residence (1932, Architect Unknown)
271 Merito Place

I once attended a Christmas party at this house. It exudes warmth as only a Spanish style home can. A typical hacienda form, it was the prefect blend of indoor / outdoor living, and even at Christmas time the party was mostly outdoors. Most of the original details are intact, and it appears to have been built by Alvah Hicks and his carpenter Lee Miller. The roof trusses are spectacular.

It was built for John Corson Snyder (1887- ) who was born on a farm near Middletown, Ohio, the son of Jacob C. and Mary (Kemp) Snyder. The Snyders moved from Middletown to a farm near Crawfordsville, Indiana when their son, John was seven years of age. They later moved to a farm in southwestern Missouri. John C. Snyder, the subject of this sketch attended district schools near Crawfordsville and later took a business course in Kansas City, Missouri. When he was 15 years of age he accompanied his parents to Southwestern Missouri where he remained until 21 years of age. He taught school several years when a young man and after attending Business College, engaged in the real estate business for a short time. Prior to 1893 he was associated with his brothers, Frank L. and Harry K. Snyder in a lead and zinc mining enterprise near Joplin Missouri for several years.

Beginning in 1924, he was an insurance company executive and served as the president of the Elston Bank & Trust Company of Crawfordsville. During the WWI he directed many activities in Montgomery, heading drives for the American Red Cross, YMCA, War Chest and Liberty Loan. He served on the executive committee of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce and was chairman of that body in 1918 and president in 1919. He served 3 terms as president of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce. He formerly was a member of the Crawfordsville School Board. Mr. Snyder, who is independent in politics, is a member of the Masonic Lodge; Shriners; Rotary Club; Crawfordsville Country Club; Elks Lodge; Montgomery County Chapter, Citizens Historical and St. John's Episcopal Church. Mr. Snyder was active in civic affairs and in undertakings for public betterment.