Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Arts & Crafts at its Finest: The Gamble House

Arts & Crafts at its Finest: The Gamble House

In southern California stands one of the finest examples of the Arts and Crafts style in the United States. The Gamble House, built by the architectural firm Greene and Greene in the early twentieth century, embodies the apex of the style, with a hint of Japanese influence that is found on the West Coast. Throughout the home's interior and exterior, there is a heavy use of natural materials, a hallmark of the style and the craftsmanship. The home's construction is ingenious and impressive by today's standards. Simply put, a modern home like this would be hard to come by today.

The home was constructed as a winter residence for David and Mary Gamble, and two of their three sons: Sidney and Clarence. Their eldest son, Cecil, was 24 and already living on his own when the house was completed. David Gamble worked for Proctor & Gamble, his family's company. Mary’s sister, Julia Huggins, came from Ohio to live with the family. The home and detached garage were designed and built between 1908 and 1909 at a cost of $54,100; construction took ten months. With furniture and landscaping, the total cost rose to $79,000.

The home and its furnishings were designed by brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, of the architectural firm Greene & Greene. Originally born in Ohio, the Greene family moved to St. Louis, where the Greene brothers spent most of their teenage years. They enrolled in the architectural program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and completed their studies in 1891. The brothers travelled to Pasadena, California in 1893 at the request of their parents, who had recently moved there. It was here that the brothers settled and opened up their office. Their firm, Greene & Greene, produced over 150 projects between the years 1902 and 1910, their peak period, which focused on residential design.

The exterior of the home is clad in dark redwood shakes and features low roofs with broad overhanging eaves that offer shelter from Southern California's heat. The home was designed to have excellent cross-ventilation, which was achieved; only two rooms on the second floor actually have air conditioning. To connect the house with nature and the lush landscaping surrounding it, there are wide open terraces on the first level and open sleeping porches on the second floor. The front driveway is sunken so that when looking at the house from the street, it disappears. A low wall on the back terrace (with koi ponds) is constructed of clinker bricks. Clinker bricks are bricks that were placed too close to the fire in the kiln and form irregularities in shape and color, so they seem more natural than man-made.

One unique construction feature is the use of scarf joints, which hold beams and interior wall panels together without nails and screws and allows for flexibility in movement. The scarf joints, which resemble a long, flat "Z" are used in shipbuilding. One benefit of this type of joint is the reduced amount of earthquake damage, which is prevalent in the region.

Inside, the home is 6,100 square feet, spans three floors plus a basement, and contains five bedrooms. The third floor was originally designed to serve as a billiard room but was instead used as storage by the Gamble family. The interior decorating uses multiple kinds of wood which includes teak, maple, oak, Port Orford cedar, and mahogany. The Chinese or "cloud" lift design can be seen on the window mullions and furniture throughout the home. All of the furniture was designed by Greene & Greene and built by the Peter Hall Manufacturing Company. The leaded glass front entry doors were designed by Charles Greene and built by Emil Lange. The doors bear the design of a gnarled California Live Oak and when the light shines through looks absolutely stunning.

All of the bedrooms have fireplaces except for Julia's. She insisted on having her Franklin stove installed, so instead of a fireplace, a fire wall was built. But the winters in Pasadena never got cold enough, and the stove was never installed.

David and Mary lived in the house until their deaths in 1923 and 1929, respectively. Julia lived in the house until her death in 1943. The Gamble's oldest son, Cecil, and his wife Louise moved into the house in 1946 and at one point considered selling it. Prospective buyers had plans to paint all the interior woodwork white to "brighten it up." Upon hearing this, the Gamble's immediately changed their minds and took the home off the market. The home remained in the Gamble family until 1966, when it was deeded to the city of Pasadena in a joint agreement with the University of Southern California School of Architecture. This magnificent home was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 3, 1971 and declared a National Historic Landmark on December 22, 1977.

Today, the home serves as a museum, open to the public for tours. It is the only standing structure by Greene & Greene to retain all of its original Greene & Greene designed furnishings. Because of the home's connection with the University of Southern California, each year two 5th year architecture students from the School of Architecture have the opportunity to live in the former servant's quarters in the house full-time.

Additional photos of my trip to the Gamble House on Pinterest
See interior photos of the Gamble House here.

For More Information
Gamble House

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