Friday, March 15, 2013

Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock - Obers, now known as, Hugh W. Comstock Residence, The Woods

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 Historic Name: Obers
Architectural Style:  Tudor (Storybook substyle)NE Corner 6th and Torres
Block 60 Lot 18 and 20

Obers, now known as Hugh W. Comstock Residence, became the second building designed by Hugh Comstock.  It was built as Hugh and Mayotta's private residence, just south of Hansel in block 60 on the NE corner of 6th and Torres. 

 
This residence was built as a one and 1/2 story Tudor style cottage for $1,000 in 1925. The picture below shows the home shortly after being built. 

In his personal residence, Hugh experimented with a recessed "eyebrow" window on the east side (right side of the dwelling). You see this replicated today in homes and businesses throughout Carmel Village.

As Hugh Comstock's building business continued to flourish, he began another experiment, that of using adobe in his structures.  He found though, that the one impractical feature of using adobe in construction was that it absored moisture.

Hugh experimented again and between 1936 and 1940 he developed a system of adding emulsified asphalt to just the right soil to make a moisture proof adobe brick that looked identical to the Spanish adobe.  He then set up a plant in Carmel Valley to make these waterproof adobe bricks and used this technique "Post-Adobe" when building the addition to his residence in 1940.  The picture below shows the addition to the west side (left) of the dutch door, another "eyebrow" window was added to this elevation.


This addition which employed Comstock's innovative Post-Adobe constuction for the first floor, and vertical board-and-batten for the second grew the Comstock residence by another bedroom and bath, plus a kitchen/dining room and sewing room for Mayotta. 

The 1940 drawing for the west elevation (the side facing Torres) shows the home much as it appears today.   
The delineation between the post-adobe and board-and-batten is clearly visible on the west side of the building.
By 1953 the owners of "Obers" are listed as the Ireland's.  They added a flat roof detached garage to the north east corner of the property, and two years later added a rec room and additional bathroom to the main house. 

In 1963 City Hall records show an Electrical Permit obtained by the owner of record, W. Obers.  William Obers is again noted as the owner in 1976. The historic name given to this property, "Obers" is most likely a reference to William Obers and not something pertaining to the Comstocks. 

The current owners have remodeled this home, adjusting the floor plan into 4 bedrooms and 3 baths, while beautifully maintaining its historical nature and charm.

In July of 2011 an Application for Residential Design Study to remove the existing garage (built in 1953), which was not historical, and build a new one, was submitted to the city.
In reviewing this application the Community Planning and Building Staff of Carmel-by-the-Sea determined that the proposed demolition of the existing garage and construction of a new 527 square foot garage on the same location was permissible, with conditions.
A Consultant was conferred with on this matter, and suggested that the new garage should be differentiated from the existing adjacent historic residence. The consultant also suggested that if the project was undertaken in this manner, it (the garage) could be removed in the future without impacting the historical element of the property.  The Staff concurred with the Consultant's evaluation.
So in the fall of 2012 a new garage was built, "similar in style to the historic residence, but adequately differentiated." The differentiation would be provided by the stone veneer.  Abbey Baker Design Build of Carmel, did this renovation and shows more before and after pictures of this remodel on her site

Staff concluded that "while the new structure is more visually prominent than the original detached garage, it will compliment the historic residence without adversely impacting the historic character of the property.

For a peek inside "Hugh W. Comstock Residence," please visit Hugh Comstock's Architectural Signature - Inside "Hugh W. Comstock Residence." 

Historic Name:  The Woods
Architectural Style:  Tudor (Storybook substyle)

NE Corner Ocean and Torres
Block 67 Lot 9


The Woods was the seventh cottage designed by Comstock, after Hansel(1924), Obers (1925), Gretel (1925), Tuck Box (1926), Guest House (1926), and Snow White's Summer Palace (1926).  He designed this ell shaped home for Mary Young Hunter in 1927.

Mary was born in Napier, New England in 1872 and schooled in Switzerland and Italy where she developed a talent for painting. In 1899 she married John Young Hunter a well known English painter. Though John and Mary were great influences on each other artistically, the marriage did not last and in 1924, Mary Young Hunter, now a portrait artist, came to Carmel with her daughter Gabrielle.

In this small village during the late 1920's, Gabrielle met Edward Kuster (whose 1st wife was Una Jeffers) and became his 4th wife. Gabrielle and Edward's first child Colin, born in 1931, is responsible for the 1988 photographs of many of the homes in the Historical Hill District.  Including the one of his grandmother's, Mary Young Hunter, known historically now as "The Woods." The iron railing in the photo below is thought to be original. 


In his design for Mary Young Hunter, Hugh Comstock moved away from his "fairy tale" design to a more straight forward interpretation of the English Folk home.  According to records on file at City Hall, the actual cost of building the original one story ell shaped cottage on the upward sloping knoll of the NE Corner of Torres and Ocean Avenue in 1927 was $2,359.19.


A stucco chimney replaced Comstock's traditional erratically laid pile of Carmel stone.  Gone too was the high pitched roof flared up at the eaves (except for the slight overhang acting as a door hood over the front entry French doors).

Though it is interesting to note that Comstock's whimisical craftsmanship still came through with the interesting treatment he gave the two gable apexes along the west side of the structure. 

In 1936, Mrs. Marshall the new owner of "The Woods" had a detached flat roofed board and batten one car garage built on the north west corner of the property.  In 1951 owner Cecilia Powell added 75 square feet to the north east corner of the original building in the form of a closet and bathroom. And in 1981 the current owner added a bedroom to the north east corner.  The house now appeared as a T with a detatched flat roof garage.   

In 2007 the current owners desired to expand their living area and hired Ortiz Design to design the additions currently visible on the property.


The additions in 1951 and 1981 were considered not historically significant, so the flat roof detached garage and the other additions were demolished and replaced with a two story structure on the site of the old garage that consists of a garage and bedroom on the first floor and a bedroom and recreation room with balcony looking toward the sea on the upper-level.

The main house and the new two story structure were connected with a hyphen that on the upper-level contains a bathroom and elevator.  The main building constructed by Hugh Comstock in 1927 for Mary Young Hunter still consists of a kitchen, dining, livingroom, bedroom and one bath.


It was interesting to note that the Staff report in 2007 determined that the new addition should be stucco siding, composite roof and wood windows to match the materials in the existing historical residence.  Just four years later when making the determination on "Obers"  Staff would conclude that the new garage should be differentiated.

Today, "The Woods", (except for Comstock's whimisical wood treatment on the two gable apexes) appears to be one uniform structure, and could easily pass for a newly constructed home.

Map

I have embeded a pdf map of the Historical Hill District which includes "addresses" and photographs of all 11 Comstock cottages not just the ones discussed in this blog. You may print this off and use as your own personal walking tour here PDF Map . It is much more detailed than the illustration below.


 Back to Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock

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Credits
Photo of Hugh and Mayotta outside "Obers" donated by Harrison Comstock to the Henry Meade Williams Local History Department, Harrison Memorial Library.
Comstock personal residence "Obers" 1925 - Photograph Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture, Kent Seavey page 81courtesy of Pat Hathaway, Historic California Views.
Comstock personal residence "Obers" circa 1940 - Photograph Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture, Kent Seavey page 117 Photograph by Morley Baer, courtesy of Monterey Peninsula College.
Black and White photograph by Colin Kuster, son of Edward Kuster and grandson of Mary Young Hunter, taken 1988 of "The Woods" courtesy of the Henry Meade Williams Local History Department, Harrison Memorial Library.

All other photos by  L. A. Momboisse 2013