THE FLOORPLAN FOR HANSEL- HUGH COMSTOCK’S FIRST ‘FAIRY HOUSE IN THE WOODS’
When we move into our Carmel home, we are told that City Hall keeps a folder on every home in the City limits. Curious, I make my way to the desk and ask for my home’s folder. Sure enough, there it is, original blueprints and all. Notes have been kept on all improvements and I find that one owner was investigated for running a newspaper business in the garage. Our Garage?
Folders can not be checked out but they can be read in City Hall and one needs the assessor’s parcel number to get the folder. Be patient, this rambling really is going somewhere. I am determined to find the folder for Hugh Comstock’s first home- HANSEL. Through the kindness of one the clerks at the desk ,
I locate it
and read and photograph to my heart’s content. I find Hugh’s application for a building permit. He estimates it will cost him $1,400.00 to build this home.
This is one thick folder because the owners wisely decided to apply to have this home on Carmel’s Historic Register. This involves many steps and is quite rigorous. During the process the evaluator, Kent Seavey, adds tons of information to the folder.
He writes that Hugh Comstock was a native of Illinois who moved to California at age 14 in 1907. Until he built Hansel, his only building experience had been in helping construct several farm buildings with his family. All that changed when he came to Carmel in 1924 to visit his sister who introduced him to Mayotta Browne ,an entrepreneurial doll maker. Before the year was out, they married. Mayotta needed a showroom and more storage for her dolls.
She asked Hugh to build “ a fairy house in the woods” for this purpose.
Hugh had always loved the book illustrations
of the English illustrator Arthur Rackham
and used these as inspiration for building Hansel, then known as the Doll’s House.
Little did he suspect this would become the germinal design for the Tudor Storybook substyle of architecture that would help define the residential character of Carmel as a village in a forest for decades to come.
The couple did the work with day labor. Some special features marked this design. The undulating roof ridge line,
hand carved door and window casings, Carmel stone chimney built in an irregular uncoursed pattern that made it appear “Stacked” and random,
and finally covering the exterior walls -a mix of cement plaster mixed with pine needles troweled over coarse burlap that was nailed to the walls.
Hansel is one and one-half stories resting on a concrete foundation.
The south-facing facade sports a lower projecting bay that frames the arched, wood-plank main door. The flared roof projects over the door. The entry was recently modified to form a Dutch door. The chimney is crude and undulating and has an arched cap. The main entry is reached by a straight run of open Carmel stone steps.
There is half- timbering in the gable end of the west facing bay.
The plans for Hansel are simple.
The first floor consists of a two-story living-dining area,
one bedroom, one bath
The ladder leads to a second-story loft that over-looks the living room and bedroom below and has a small storage area.
It is a whopping 300 sq. Ft.
“Gretel” was originally built as one room to display Mayotta’s dolls.
How I wish I could photograph the interior of Hansel . Until I get that opportunity, the interior shots are compliments of Congleton Architects who did the Historic Restoration.