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Manka's Inverness Lodge destroyed in fire

Sad news: the main hall at Manka's Inverness Lodge, one of California's most spectacular hotels, was destroyed by a fire - caused by the high winds battering the Bay Area - yesterday. Manka's was a beautiful and friendly place with one of the warmest and most comfortable dining rooms anywhere, a dark and intimate space built in the Arts & Crafts tradition with lots of gleaming wood. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but a number of pieces of Stickley were destroyed, as well as a number of original photographic prints by Dorothea Lange.

The main hall of Manka's Inverness Lodge, a historic Marin County hunting retreat that became a famed hub of gourmet cuisine, burned to the ground early Wednesday.

The shingled structure, built in 1917 of ancient redwood in the Arts and Crafts style, was consumed by wind-whipped flames almost instantly after fire alarms went off around 2:40 a.m., according to witnesses. 

"We went outside and then we saw the main building totally engulfed in flames,'' said Linda Feldman, a visitor from Seattle who was staying in a next- door annex that was not damaged. "It was huge. Flames were coming out the windows.'' 

Investigators suspect the blaze started after winds sent a tree crashing into the lodge, damaging a water heater. The inn and restaurant is located on a bluff above Tomales Bay in the town of Inverness, about two hours north of San Francisco.

There were no injuries. Eight guests in the four rooms above the restaurant narrowly escaped and lost most of their belongings in the two-alarm conflagration, which firefighters contained at 7:30 a.m. 

Also destroyed were valuable furnishings, including pieces of furniture by Gustav Stickley, the early 20th century Arts and Crafts designer; photographs by Dorothea Lange; and a 17th century Parisian pharmacy cabinet recently installed in the entry.

Signature Style in the San Francisco Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle, for its various failings as a source of unbaised and serious local reporting, has some of the best feature articles on architecture of any regional paper in the country. Especially worth reading are Dave Weinstein's Signature Style columns on local architects and properties - often with a very strong Arts & Crafts bent. Here are several that most closely relate to Arts & Crafts homes and their builders in Northern California:

Charles "One Nail" MacGregor, Albany California

Our friend Lotusgreen (of the Japonisme blog) tells us a bit about Charles "One Nail" MacGregor, a housebuilder in the Berkeley and Albany, CA area who was known for some very special marks he left on the homes he built: amazing chimneys, clinker brick, unique stucco patterns, Batchelder fireplaces, inlaid oak floors and - in the front and back yards - lemon trees and camellia bushes. Even when the realtor doesn't know or chooses not to bill the house as a MacGregor, they still cost a pretty penny - one modest MacGregor, which had been in Charles' family since it was built in 1926, recently sold for $639,000.

While MacGregor considered himself "just a builder," he did design many of the houses himself, and all those he built are known for their sturdiness. He also collaborated with noted designer Walter W. Dixon, a master of the storybook style; they worked on a number of properties in the 1930s that remain some of the most interesting residential structures of the east bay.

Even though many of his signature chimneys are long gone - the photo linked in the previous paragraph is one of the few left - and most of his lemons and camellias have been replaced, he lives on in dozens of homes in Albany and Berkeley, as well as in the name of Albany's "continuation" high school, where several of my miscreant friends were relocated to when they had disagreements with Albany High's teachers and administrators.

The next time you are in the area, take a look at 1389 - 1391 Solano Avenue, which was MacGregor's office. Dixon designed the Spanish-style building for MacGregor in the 1930s. Let us know if it's still there, and if it is, take a picture for Hewn & Hammered!

monthly Craigslist finds

Lots of good stuff on Craigslist for last-minute Holiday gifts - get a piece of furniture for the A&C aficionado on your list. But why buy only for other people? What about you? You know you deserve a present for all the time you've spent shopping for your friends and family. Plenty here in Northern California, at the top of the list, and elsewhere in the country, below.

in California

outside of California

Searching Google Print for Arts & Crafts

Google Print is one of Google's numerous specialized search engines. It lets you peek inside any of several hundreds of thousands of books. You can't download & print, or even read through most books in their entirety (I imagine that would hurt book publishers, but a number of them - mostly out of print texts or those with permissive publishers - do allow you to read through the full text) but you can browse, seeing sample pages that have been okayed by the publishers or authors, or search through them for a particular phrase or word.

There are many book son the Arts & Crafts movement available, including some that are very photo-rich; here are a few dozen that I've found, which I think you'll appreciate.

Greene & Greene specific

decoration, design & picturebooks

essays & history

plans & remodeling

woodwork & furniture

Architectural Salvage: Pasadena, CA

The folks at Pasadena Architectural Salvage are about a lot more than building materials an architectural woodwork. They also have a large selection of furniture, from rescued built-ins to a wide range of American and English Arts & Crafts pieces, in addition the usual stock of doors, lighting, hardware, stained glass, mill- and plasterwork, and even bits and pieces of ceramic and metal A&C ephemera. The owners are especially familiar with the movement (how could you not be, living in a city like Pasadena?), being regularly involved with Pasadena Heritage's Craftsman Weekend events.

new houseblogs - they just keep coming

Browsing through (their new community section is terrific, and I think we are aggregated somewhere within it, although I can't find out where - there is so much to read!!), I was struck by how many new houseblogs have sprung up since I last did any kind of comprehensive search - dozens related to Craftsman homes in just the last year and a half. Here are some of the most interesting:

Hi-Fi Bungalow - "musings on a 1925 bungalow in Northern Colorado"
Prairie Rose House - Lebanon, IN-based Ben and his Prairie home
Foxcroft - "a record of our restoration of a 1928 Craftsman."
Our Charmed Life - "bungalow addicts head to Texas to start a new life"
Big Orange House - "a 1922 California Craftsman and the people who love it"
Bungalow Blog - "Ron & Mary Ann's owner-builder journal"
Chicago Two-Flat - "Steve and Jocelyn's adventures renovating a Chicago-style two-flat"
1919 Craftsman - "ongoing restoration of a cold-press cement block Craftsman"
Renovation Rants - "renovating our 1916 Craftsman style home, one room at a time"

Just remember, these folks are making the mistakes so you don't have to.

Settle & Loveseat on Ebay


Reader Dan Dutra sends us this attractive sofa & loveseat, made by Strictly Wood Furniture and now
for sale on Ebay for the excellent price of (currently) $1225. It's here in my town - Sacramento, CA - but since I just got a new sofa it's not for me, but someone will get a good deal here.

Each piece is in a spindle design and built of quarter-sawn oak, and all the upholstery is a lovely caramel Italian leather. The total for both pieces from the manufacturer today would be just under $14,000, plus shipping.

Ask the Architect: How to expand our bungalow?

The Fairfax (Virginia) County Times has a regular column by Bruce Wentworth, architect and principal at Wentworth Studio in Chevy Chase, where readers' questions about their own homes and remodel issues and architecture in general are answered in detail. From the September 12 column:

I own a classic 1,200-square-foot bungalow built in the mid-1920s and I want to remodel my rear-of-the-house kitchen as well as build a two-story rear addition that will include a new family room below and a master suite above. What are some architectural considerations that will help ensure the added space will appear to be a part of the whole ... not merely tacked on?  - A.L., Vienna

read excellent Wentworth's response at the Times site.

book review: 500 Bungalows

500bungalowsthumb Douglas Keister's 500 Bungalows ($12.95) is a neat book. A small but hefty soft-bound volume with hardly any text beyond a brief introduction, it is quite literally what it's title says: a photo essay of 500 bungalows, spanning the various permutations of the Arts & Crafts movement.

I am not usually effusive about books, but this one is terrific. Unlike so many of the big hardbound coffee-table photo books focusing on Arts & Crafts, this one makes no pretensions at all. It is a perfectly simple idea book for painting, landscaping or externally-remodeling your Craftsman or Mission home. If you're contemplating a paint job or adding a bit of "curb appeal" to your home, this may not show you how to do it, but it will certainly give you five hundred ideas. And at less than $15, it's a great gift idea for the bungalow-lover (or anyone eternally working on an old house) on your shopping list.

The only thing that would have made it a little bit better would be perhaps year/architect information on some of the more unique homes - like the amazing Japanese-inspired bungalow (#13) in Pasadena, which looks like Greene & Greene pushed almost to abstraction. Additionally, the form factor of the book suggests postcards; I bet a postcard book, with maybe 50 selected images from this volume, would sell really well. Think about that, Taunton!

an eco-home for the old-house set


The term "eco-house" usually conjures up images of concrete on hay bales in modernist or even brutalist forms, perhaps underground with grass on the roof and lots and lots of glass. Designer Stephen Beili doesn't agree that an environmentally-friendly, well-situated home needs to look like that, though; he's taken his love for the classic bungalow form and merged it with all the advantages of a contemporary green-built home.

This 1,400 square foot bungalow in Asheville NC, winner of a 2006 Griffin Award for  preservation - somewhat ironic, since this is a new and not rehabilitated structure - is, on the outside, a perfect wide-eaved Craftsman bungalow. On the inside, though, it is open, modern, bright and specially constructed using environmentally-friendly techniques and products to have as little impact on the environment as possible. It is also a bit different in scale, inside, than most homes that it might otherwise resemble: much of the house - counters, doorframes, stairways - have been built specifically to accomodate its owners 6' 8" stature.

The house was built by James Moody, president of Asheville's Ecobuilders, whose portfolio is a wonderful example of how the classic designs and motifs of the Arts & Crafts movement can be a perfect complement for a modern eco-house. via This Old House. photographs copyright Ecobuilders.

Greene & Greene's Gamble House needs docents!

Vertikoff205062921 Our friend Bobbi Mapstone at Pasadena's Gamble House wrote to us yesterday regarding their need for additional docents. This is a great opportunity to share your love for Greene & Greene, learn more about the property and get to see it up close and personal yourself. If you have the spare time and live near Pasadena, please do consider contacting them at 626.793.3334.

What kept the doors of The Gamble House open for the last 40 years is no secret – the House is dependent upon the art, craft, goodwill, commitment and passion of many docents.

As the New Year approaches, the annual search for prospective docents is in full swing. We are looking for men and women to participate in our remarkable training class. It begins in February and by May newly trained docents are conducting House tours. In September the class resumes with more in-depth learning, and it ends in November with a splendid graduation dinner and celebration.

It takes 170 docents to keep the doors open and each year more than twenty new docents join the family. Like all communities it waxes and wanes, which requires the annual replenishment of participants. It’s a win-win situation. The House needs docents to fulfill its mission to educate the public on the exquisite art and craft of brother architects Charles and Henry Greene by offering tours, lectures and activities. Docents receive specialized training from craftsmen, artists, Greene family members, architects, experts, and other docents and they have the personal pleasure of guiding visitors through the House, creating their own script, contributing ideas, and being active members in The Gamble House community.

Docent training commences on Saturday, February 3, 2007 and continues for ten Saturdays. For additional information, or to express interest in becoming a Gamble House docent call 626 793-3334 and follow the prompts to Docent Council information. Phone calls will be answered promptly. More information on The Gamble House and its many activities is available on the website.