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April 22, 2011 / Linda Hartong


Its early morning and the light is perfect. I throw on some clothes, grab the car keys, my camera and a cup of coffee and am gone before Bill gets up. I want some time to photograph Hansel, Hugh and Mayotta Comstock’s first fairy tale cottage. They built it together as a place to showcase her stock of Otsy Totsy Dolls. It is still my favorite of the Comstock cottages in Carmel.

Only the landscape gardeners, the meter reader and me are up and about at this hour. I envy the meter man because his meter allows him to walk on private property and I tell him so. He just laughs and says to follow him.

I approach Hansel from the west side.

Yup, cute as ever. In fact, as I look more closely, even cuter. Still the hand – carved gate and the topiary tree. But the trim looks freshly painted. Someone has been dolling up the “doll house”. I find out later that Hansel is going to be on the Carmel House and Garden Tour, Saturday, May 7th. I am so bummed that we are not going to be here for that. I would kill to get inside that little cottage.

But for now I am delighted by the obvious care the new owner is putting into the yard. The Carmel Stone patio to the west side of the house has weathered teak furniture

and some decorative items are beginning to appear on the grape stake fence.

Birdhouses galore festoon the oak trees’ gnarled branches.

Small vignettes are all over the  yard.

I love the weathered wheel barrow and rusty hand spade.

Benches, birdhouses and potted plants continue the theme. And still another little patio occupies the south-west corner. I would sit here where I could see the entire property.

“OK, meter man, I am taking you up on your offer.” And in we go.

Wow, now I can get a good look at Gretel, too. She is to the south side of Hansel and further back on her lot. A large tree-fern guards her privacy.

She is darling too but less cared for than Hansel.

Look at that red door

and the cut outs on the screen

The meter man grins and says that he is leaving and I will be on my own, so I make a hasty retreat snapping photos all the way out.

What a darling potting bench to the east of Hansel. It looks like more birdhouses are going to be put up.

I click the gate closed and give one more glance to this fairytale creation.

Oh boy, the meter man is heading up the hill toward more Comstock homes. Hey, wait up,I’m coming with you.

If you are as fascinated as I am by the Comstock Cottages, I recommend three books. The first, and most comprehensive ,”The Fairy Tale Houses of Carmel” was written by Joanne Mathewson. She is still considered the “go to” woman for information on Comstock’s Fairy Tale Houses. She has done wonderful pen and ink sketches of the houses and provided details  and blueprints. From her book, I find out that Hansel was built in 1924 and that the land was purchased for $100.00. I believe that the Tuck Box still sells this book. It is out of print but you may be able to find a used copy on Amazon.

The fairy tale houses of Carmel by Joanne Mathewson

The second book ,”Cottages By The Sea”, is by Linda Leigh Paul. Her book covers many historic Carmel homes and builders and has sent me out early on other mornings with “just the right light”. She describes Hansel as “Folk Tudor”. She talks about Hugh Comstock’s hand wrought door hardware, hand cut shingles, and Carmel Stone chimney with the arched chimney pot. There are several photos of the 300 sq. ft. interior.

Cottages by the Sea by Linda Leigh Paul

The last book is brand new. Carmel’s Fairy Tale Cottages by Mike Barton is a picture book for grown-ups. He spent several week wandering the streets of the village, taking shots and interviewing Carmelites. He has distilled the essence of Carmel into this little book. You get a look at cottages, distinctive doors, windows, chimneys, fireplaces, yards and fences and even interior shots. When I ordered the book, he autographed it without my even asking him too. Carmelites were charmed by his manner. The book is for sale in Carmel, but I got mine on Amazon.

 Carmel’s Fairy Tale Cottages
Mike Barton


Leave a Comment
  1. Carolyn / Apr 22 2011 4:49 pm

    Have always loved seeing images of these. Thanks for the tour. Yep, I’d be following the meter man.

  2. Jacqui / Apr 22 2011 6:21 pm

    Wow! These pics are fabulous!

  3. Nita@ModVintageLife / Apr 22 2011 6:42 pm

    Oh…how brave you are to snap these photos. I’ve known of these cottages for quite a few years and only seen the front of them. Thanks so much for wandering in and taking photos of the yard and other views of the cottages. I love them! I don’t know that I would have been so brave.

  4. karen / Apr 23 2011 3:54 am

    I can’t wait to go explore with you! I love birdhouse and the birds that use them. Have you done a blog on the unique fences or the unique roofs in Carmel?

  5. jeanette sclar / Apr 25 2011 12:19 am

    I would love to see you charming the meter reader! Such a wonderful place!

  6. tismarkMark E Tisdale / Sep 15 2011 9:38 pm

    Beautiful set! I had never heard of these cottages before today but really love this one! Wold love to see the interior if you ever get the chance to photograph it!

  7. Amanda / Oct 23 2011 4:00 pm

    I recently met the owner of Hansel and Gretel. She is a very kind woman and I’m sure would not have minded that you snapped a few pictures. She and her husband use Hansel as a vacation home and rent out Gretel (a month at a time only, per carmel ordinance…boo). She has a friend take care of her gardens (no landscaper, which surprised me). I was kind of hoping she’d invite me to come stay, but no such luck (what?!! you don’t want to invite a complete stranger to stay in your lovely vacation cottage?)

  8. awesomeart / Jul 11 2012 5:20 pm

    You did such wonderful job, I would love to paint these places. I visit Carmel once a year and used to sell my work when the Lindsay gallery was operating back in the late 80’s. I am looking forward to do a bit of investigating with my camera on my own, most of the time I go with people and that does not help.

  9. john / Jan 4 2013 5:01 pm

    my great aunt owned these until 1995…she bought for 20K waaaaay back and sold for 800K

  10. / Jan 23 2013 12:38 am

    COTTAGES IN CARMEL Once upon a time..Tales from Carmel by the Sea”.
    I actuallywill absolutely end up being returning for
    much more reading and commenting here shortly. Thanks, Tressa

  11. Cindy Holland / Oct 14 2014 8:05 pm

    I stayed at this little cottage many years ago with my fiance. They are just adorable. Must be
    under new ownership. The woman that used to own them was very different! They are beautiful inside also.

  12. lavene nunez / Dec 29 2017 7:09 pm

    I met the owner Today Bobby, she was one of the most kindest Woman, I have ever met, how I was so fascinated by the love of her home the back ground, of the OtsyTotsy Dolls, I felt like I could of talked with her for hours, I cant wait to go and view these beautiful cottages, Carmel here I come.

    Lavene Nunez


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