Architecture Around the World

The Gamble House
4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, California
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TEXT Beneath Illustrations


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Leaded art glass entry doors designed by Charles Greene

       

Sleeping porch

36 inch split-redwood shakes

Exposed rafters

Sleeping porch

Sleeping porch

Sleeping porch

Sleeping porch

Sleeping porch

Virtual Tours of Architecture - Table of Contents

Built

1908
See also; Highlights of Buffalo History, 1908

Architects

Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene

Style

Arts & Crafts - Bungalows

One of the masterpieces of the Greenes, this house features outstanding craftsmanship and beautiful woods. Nearly all of the original furnishings, most designed by the architects, are in the house.

Owners

David B. Gamble lived until 1923, his wife Mary Gamble until 1929.

Their eldest son Cecil Gamble and his wife, Louise, inherited the house.

In the mid-1940s, Mary Gamble's sister Julia Huggins (Aunt Julia) died.

In 1966, the heirs of Cecil and Louise Gamble ensured the home's preservation by generously donating the house and furniture in a joint agreement to the City of Pasadena and the University of Southern California, whose School of Architecture directs its preservation and programs.

Status

National Historic Landmark, 1978

The Owners

By 1900, Pasadena had become the winter destination of choice for wealthy Easterners and Midwesterners fleeing the damp, dark winter. It was, in short, a seasonal playground for the rich and famous. Theodore Roosevelt and Andrew Carnegie were among the visitors who regularly spent months at Pasadena's luxury hotels. Some wealthy visitors stayed on to build lavish permanent residences on Orange Grove Avenue which became known as "Millionaire's Row."

During the 1890s, David B. Gamble of Cincinnati, Ohio regularly wintered with his family in Pasadena's resort hotels. His Father had been a cofounder of the Procter & Gamble Company. By 1907, David Gamble and his wife, Mary, had decided to build a home in Pasadena.

The Architects

Another Cincinnati couple, Thomas Sumner Greene and his wife, Lelia, had moved to Pasadena in 1892 to benefit Mrs. Greene's health. Thomas Sumner Greene was a doctor specializing in the treatment of nose and throat conditions. He was a staunch advocate of fresh air and light. The couple were attracted to Pasadena's gentle climate and scenic charm and urged their two sons, both now fledgling architects working in Boston, to join them.

Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene arrived in Southern California in 1893 to visit their parents. Finding ample opportunity for their abilities, they decided to stay. Within a year they had established their own architect's office.

Charles Sumner Greene (1868-1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870-1954) descended from distinguished New England families. From their father, Charles and Henry gained an appreciation of the need for a healthy air- and light-filled environment. Their futures were set in motion when Dr. Greene enrolled his sons in The Manual Training School run by Washington University in St. Louis. Founded by Calvin Milton Woodward, it was the first school in America to promote manual skills equally with academic coursework. Its motto, The Cultured Mind The Skillful Hand, embodied its founder's belief that a thorough education informed the hands as well as the mind. Charles enrolled in 1883 and graduated in 1887. Henry enrolled in 1884 and graduated in 1888. Formative experiences there would contribute immensely to the kind of architects they would later become. Subsequently both attended a program of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where they were introduced to traditional historic styles. Apprenticeships with architects followed. The brothers were beginning their careers in Boston when their parents moved to Pasadena and asked them to join them.

En route to Pasadena the brothers stopped at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, with its abundance of Beaux-Arts architecture. Designs featured at the Exposition stimulated the incipient "City Beautiful" movement that bloomed into a progressive crusade to beautify and humanize the urban environment with parks and gardens and grand architecture. A highlight of the exhibition, to which the brothers may have been drawn, was a replica of a Byodin temple from Japan that had been expertly crafted by Japanese workmen and reassembled in Chicago. A Japanese influence would emerge in much of the work the Greenes would later create in Southern California, including the best-preserved example of their outstanding contribution to American architecture, The Gamble House.

The Gamble House

Between 1894 when they opened their office and 1907 when work began on The Gamble House, the Greenes designed dozens of homes in Pasadena. Many of their designs have been called bungalows and it is worth pausing over the term. "Bungalow" stems from the days of British Colonial India, from the Hindi bangla. It originally referred to a low, one-story dwelling with an airy verandah that was well-suited to a hot climate. In America, the term came to refer to a modest, well-built, low profile, one or one-and-a-half story dwelling, popular from the turn of the century until the mid 1920s.

When used in reference to The Gamble House, the term "bungalow" may seem somewhat misleading, however. In what sense is this three-story building a bungalow? In describing the characteristic features of a bungalow Charles Sumner Greene cites low roofs with broad eaves and perfectly ventilated roof spaces. In his architectural vocabulary "the term is stretched to include anything of a house with a long simple roof line... It is not so much what one does as how one does it..." For the Greenes the word connoted an ordered style of easy living suited to retirement with lots of built-ins and all necessities to hand.

The Gambles purchased a site at 4 Westmoreland Place in the area known as "Little Switzerland" overlooking the picturesque Arroyo Seco with views of the San Gabriel Mountains beyond. Along the Arroyo Seco, a thriving art colony flourished from the early 1890s inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. In this artistic enclave writers, artists and craftsmen found inspiration amidst a grove of magnificent live oaks along a tranquil canyon where a perennial stream bubbled among acres of boulders.

The Gambles chose a site with a rustic setting, a physically outstanding yet unpretentious site in preference to a lot on the highly fashionable "Millionaires' Row." Westmoreland Place was and is still a quiet street, one that fit well with the Gambles' desire for a winter retirement home.

For any architect, the perfect client is one with the wisdom to select a fine architect. Greene and Greene were a natural choice for the Gambles. By 1906, the brothers had built a dozen homes in "Little Switzerland," a triangle of streets now bordered by the 210 Foothill freeway, Orange Grove Boulevard and the Arroyo Seco.

Charles Sumner Greene's own home, built on Arroyo Terrace in 1902, had featured in the July 1907 issue of Stickley's Craftsman magazine. The brothers had begun building the Cole House at 2 Westmoreland Place that spring and were working steadily on a commission for the wealthy client Robert R. Blacker, a colossal 12,000 square foot oriental-style home at 1177 Hillcrest Avenue.

With their flair for design, keen knowledge of materials and ability to gauge a client's needs in terms of furnishings and decorations as well as architecture, the Gambles' choice of Greene and Greene spoke to their desire for a home that would, above all, be beautiful (transforming Aunt Julia's sleeping porch into an outdoor sitting room, are some examples.)

The Douglas fir frame and boards are covered with 36 inch split-redwood shakes that provide insulation from the Pasadena heat. The Chinese or "cloud" lift design recurs on the window mullions and furniture. Original Sarouk rugs decorate the polished wood floors. The leaded art glass entry doors designed by Charles Greene and crafted by Los Angeles master craftsman Emil Lange, bears the design of a gnarled California Live Oak such as those now protected in the Arroyo Seco. The door provides ample cross ventilation with double doors on the far side of the Burma teak-paneled hall which looks onto the garden's ornamental pond and a terrace bordered by a low undulating wall of inextricably intertwined clinker brick and creeping ficus. Clinker bricks develop irregularities of shape and color in the firing process, and thus often seem more natural than man-made.

In Japanese fashion, joints and structural underpinnings are exposed, creating a virtue of necessity. There are open mortise and tenon joints, scarf joints (which allow for some degree of movement and which may contribute to the lack of substantial earthquake damage to the house), and queen- and king-post trusses.

On the second floor a screened door from "Aunt Julia's room," (Mary Gambles unmarried sister, Julia Huggins, lived in the house until her death in 1943), with its willow and ash furniture, leads to a projecting sleeping porch and outdoor living room for entertaining and enjoying the view over the Arroyo. The sleeping porch reflects a Japanese-inspired identification with nature so suited to the beneficial climate and clean air of Pasadena at the turn of the last century.

The Gambles wanted a house that would foster a close relationship with nature. Sleeping porches achieve this aim and provide a sheltered canopy for outdoor terraces below. Terraces connect the house with its surroundings. Charles Sumner Greenes description of an ideal garden matches the intent of the Gambles - "an arbor leading at the side to a secluded spot sheltered but not gloomy, where one may leave one's book or work and take it up again at will. Where one could look out into the bright sunlight on groups of flowers, and where one may hear the tinkle of water and see the birds drink. Where the shapely branches of tree or bush cast their lacy shadows fitly across a winding path."

The aim was to connect the house with its environment while at the same time maintaining a respect for privacy outside the home. This is achieved by means of low-walled terraces and the sunken driveway. Inside, privacy is achieved through connecting doors and vestibules. The Gamble House has been described as a house of doors. There are more than fifty doors and each benefited from the Greenes' keen regard. Charles Greene believed that "doors should be interesting in themselves and not merely holes of entrance and exit."

When it was built, The Gamble House cost $50,400 the garage (which now houses the bookstore), $3,700. The entire project, house, garage, furniture and landscaping cost $79,000.

The furniture was made for The Gamble House to the Greenes' specifications by the Peter Hall Manufacturing Company, a firm established to cater to the Greenes' designs in 1905. Stair builder Peter Hall and his cabinetmaker brother John Hall were supreme craftsmen who had come to the United States from Sweden as boys. They had trained in carpentry and woodwork in Illinois before advancing their careers in the Pacific northwest.

Emil Lange, a German-born stained-glass artisan from Burlington, Iowa, was responsible for executing the leaded art glass in The Gamble House, including the magnificent entry doors. Lange also began working with the Greenes on the 1905 Robinson house, their first


Source of text: "The Gamble House," by Linda G. Arntzenious. Pub; by the U. of So. California School of Architecture, 2000.
Photos and their arrangement © 2001 Chuck LaChiusa
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