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December 6, 2011 / Linda Hartong


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.


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!

  2. Sonia / Dec 6 2011 3:38 am 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!
    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.

  8. Irene Irene Art / Jun 28 2015 3:24 am

    What a fun place! I learned so much about Carmel through this.

  9. Warm The Heart of Winter / Aug 6 2015 10:27 am

    I would love to see this! Hansel and Gretel are my favorite story and the Rackham art is such an inspiration it’s no wonder he designed these after his works.

  10. Barbara Purgatorio / Apr 13 2016 1:59 am

    You can see this house both inside and out on hgtv’s tiny homes! It is beautifully done inside!

  11. Cindy Olsen / Aug 30 2018 3:10 am

    Wow it’s so coincidental to see this story especially since a fairytale cottage went up for sale in Elmira New York. I went to look a it as I have passed it while walking several times and dreamed of owning it. Falling it love with the whimsical details on the outside and wanting to see the inside became a reality when it went on the market a short time ago . Immediately I called the realtor and we went to go see the little dream cottage! It didn’t disappoint as it was as charming on the inside as it is on the outside. While strolling through the little rooms upstairs the agent told us that this house was built by someone who designed fairytale homes in Carmel by the Sea and that this was the only one he knew of on the east coast. Here is the link
    I would have purchased it right then and there but when we went into the basement it was needing some major engineering work done to rid it of a water problem. I’m sure someone who can afford that and the small price of the home will come along and snatch up the little charmer! I wish I had the extra money to do the work but it’s just not written in my book and this little cottage will have to stay a fairytale dream for me!

  12. Julie Thompson / Sep 4 2019 6:30 pm

    I was born in San Jose in 1955 (as was my Dad in 1929), and as a child spent many weekends drooling and hunting for Hugh’s magical creations. Disney was always a huge inspiration to my artist father…and passed on to me. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to peer into these homes! Can’t thank you enough for this amazing glimpse of a real life fairytale cottage !!


  1. {bits & pieces}
  2. What It’s Like to Have Your House on HGTV (& More Links)
  3. I’m going CRAZY! But enjoying the ride! | Living the Tiny Life
  4. Whimsical Cottage Originally Built As A Doll Store – Now, It’s A Dream Home By The Sea
  5. A Storybook Cottage Built by Hugh Comstock For Sale in Carmel - Hooked on Houses
  6. A Storybook Cottage Built by Hugh Comstock For Sale in Carmel - News Time Media
  7. Ein Storybook Cottage von Hugh Comstock zum Verkauf in Carmel gebaut – Gelbe Blume

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