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January 21, 2012 / Linda Hartong


In 1928 , eastern investor, W.O. Swain convinced The Carmel City Council to allow him to develop a small, five-unit subdivision based on the English garden city plan.  Mr. Swain rearranged his lots and the cottages so that instead of standing on narrow wedges, city fashion,they would be grouped together with a feeling of spaciousness about them as in a park. He shortened and widened the lots. And he ask Hugh Comstock to build them. The five houses form the largest single concentration of Comstock fairy-tale cottage left in Carmel.

 The Birthday House anchors the corner of Santa Fe St and Sixth Ave. It is the last of the five cottages in this Comstock “cottage complex” and the largest. It is a whopping 28’x 36’. Hugh estimates it will cost $2,600 to build.

This house is most easily seen from the north side.

The elevations on file at City Hall show me the west looks like this.

I like the soft colors.

The floor plan

informs me that this is the kitchen door with potted herbs at the ready.

A sturdy wooden arbor forms an entrance to entice us down the path. 

I scramble around in the bushes to see better and am rewarded with branch poking my arm, some unknown plant blossoms in my hair, and a better view.  

 I love the way this window is angled to the eves of that steeply pitched roof – a Comstock trademark.

On the east side

are wonderful french doors that open from the living room to the patio.

The owner has found a  wood and iron bench to place outside the doors.

Above them is a large box bay window that surely has a window seat and a soft mound of pillows. 

It looks like the “front door” opens on the south, but it is a little out of the way .

 Many of the Comstock cottages open away from the street. I am sorry for this when I get a look at the plan for the South Elevation.

What wonderful details I am missing.

The houses in this complex were originally built without garages and three garages were later added. In the case of the Birthday House, this was in 1929.

The garage fell into disrepair

and local preservationist, Enid Sales who took up the cause of having it demolished.

Enid was a colorful, extraordinary woman. She was a well-known preservationist who was a force to reckoned with and would stop at nothing to save historic buildings of the past.

She was still active as the founder of the Carmel Preservation Foundation when we first moved to Carmel. Her name invoked fear in the hearts of those bent on tearing down or remodeling existing homes. You knew if she had so decreed, that house would stand “as is”.

At first I did not know how to feel about her, but now I admire her lasting legacy.

So many of us want to know the locations of the Comstock Cottages. This is the list the Visitor’s Center hands out with the reminder that all are occupied and their residents’ privacy need be respected.

 Oh, oh. 


Leave a Comment
  1. Linda Floyd / Jan 21 2012 5:18 pm

    Yes, when we were building Biddlestone Cottage in Carmel (your blog on 9/9/11), the name Enid Sales struck fear in our hearts! There was a very old, tired cottage in disrepair on the property. Luckily for us, when we had the Historical Committee out to review the cottage, “no redeeming qualities” was the final word. So, now, Biddlestone Cottage sits proudly on the property among the lovely oak trees. I often wonder who built and lived in that old cottage that was built in 1915-1920.
    I hope in the future, someone like Enid will come to the defense of our Biddlestone Cottage. We like to think of it as a contemporary fairytale cottage in Carmel!
    Thanks for the lovely blogs!
    Linda Floyd

  2. tammy j / Jan 21 2012 7:06 pm

    oh linda… how i never tire of your amazing posts.
    i love the names of all the cottages… hugh comstock’s as well as others. but wonder… why on earth would someone name one of those enchanted little homes “slaughter house!” care to use your sleuthing ability to find out? is it still original?
    i know books have been done on carmel, but i think none would hold a candle to yours!!!
    love and happy gratitude for all your hard work,
    tammy j

  3. dana pallessen / May 15 2012 10:35 pm

    back in 1982-1992 i lived at 6th and santa rita. i saw these wonderful houses daily. i loved living in carmel-by-the sea. those were the best years of my life in many ways. i now have a cottage in a one-acre woods up in wa. state. it only cost me total 20,000$ cash property and house. but i would love to pick it up and place it the home of my heart-carmel.

  4. Lakesha / Jun 23 2013 10:09 pm

    Good post. I’m dealing with a few of these issues as well..

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