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December 6, 2011 / Linda Hartong

THE FLOORPLAN FOR HANSEL- HUGH COMSTOCK’S FIRST ‘FAIRY HOUSE IN THE WOODS’

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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

and kitchen. 

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.

http://www.congletonarchitect.com/Hansel.htm


8 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Phebe M. / Dec 6 2011 2:14 am

    Loved the article and the photos. Thank you. I’m enjoying each post. I love all the details about the homes and shops.

    A fan!
    Phebe

  2. Sonia / Dec 6 2011 3:38 am

    Wow..you did a lot of work to obtain this wonderful information. I have longed dreamed of having an Hansel and Gretel house..the things fairytales are made of !! Thanks for sharing!
    Miss Bloomers

  3. Dianne / Dec 6 2011 1:35 pm

    You are wonderful to share all of your hard work with us. Thank you!
    I so enjoy coming to your site to see what surprise you have for us each day.
    Just want you to know much I appreciate your efforts!

  4. tammy j / Dec 8 2011 11:30 pm

    i love it when you ramble… both walking and word-wise!!!
    such a treat to see his actual drawings and ‘blue prints!’
    this wouldn’t suffice for building a house these days. can’t you
    just hear “i can’t work from this!”
    i ditto above. thank you for all your hard work in sharing your
    beloved carmel.
    someday i shall see it in person. til then, you make it come alive
    for me so joyfully!
    cheers,
    tammy j

  5. Jacqui / Dec 27 2011 3:35 pm

    My absolute favourite!

  6. Kevin / Feb 7 2013 2:09 am

    Love the picture of Gretel, do you have any other elevation or interior views of Gretel? Thank You, Kevin

  7. Norma Mason / Jan 25 2014 12:27 am

    For 40 years I have visited Carmel and purposely driven past the Comstock houses. What a delight. They take you back to another time.

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