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April 20, 2012 / Linda Hartong

HUGH COMSTOCK’S- MAJOR RALPH COOTE HOUSE

Born in London, England on Sept. 22, 1874, Major Coote was a career army officer and a veteran of both the Boer War and WWI. Upon retiring from the military, he  inherited the Coote estate at Ballyfin, Ireland. By then the staff had been halved and then some. The land was being redistributed by law, obliterating the remnants of the feudal age. Ballyfin was no longer the pride of a man’s title. In other words, he couldn’t afford it. And so this huge plantation

which was self-sustaining and highly productive in its day, was passed on to a Roman Catholic teaching brotherhood, the Patrician Brothers. They founded Ballyfin College.

I would love to know the story of how Sir Coote then settled in Carmel, CA in 1932 and took up painting as a hobby.  In 1934, he asks Hugh Comstock  to build a two-story Tudor influenced home. 

It is an example of English Arts and Crafts Architecture and costs $9,500.

In 1935, he adds a Studio for $418.00

Although this home is lovely, it is a far cry from the Coote estate at Ballyfin, Ireland that he inherited in 1920 .  

He only lives in this home for 7 years before his death in July, 1941.

I have hunted for this home for some time and finally find it this trip. It sits back from the street. The sparkle of the leaded glass windows catch my eye.

I am up to the front door

where I rap the knocker

and admire the porch light,

“door bell”

and the plantings.

When I find the original elevations, it look much more like a cottage. It is simpler. Now additions and plantings obscure the original design. 

I love the way Mr. Comstock has provided a “sectioned” view to show what lies on the other side of the walls. It is like looking into a doll house. 

When no one answers, I start around to the side gate. I am tempted to join the “window peeping” ducks, but refrain.

  and I push my camera past the bells on the closed gate.

and snap a few shots of the garden.

I backtrack past the garage

to the studio on the north

And ring the bell.

No one answers so I follow a path past two small cottages.

I love the ornamentation.

Wow! Serious gardeners live here. There is a wonderful garden shed

and potting bench tucked away behind a huge oak tree.

What a charming house and patio. 

Later at city hall, I find this is an addition and the original home looked like this.

There is even a cross-section drawing so we can peer through the walls. 

The back patio is a work of art with its brick walls and floor, wrought iron furnishings and potted plants.

Along the south side of the lot is a mixed border.

This is more formal than most Carmel gardens and reminds me of the formal borders I have seen in England.

Later, at City Hall, I find the landscaping plan.

 As I research on the internet, I find that Sir Coote’s estate in Ireland had a magnificent garden with bog, vast lake, deer park and “gardens in the antique style and extensive and elegant”.

The afternoon sun warms the south side of the house.

I pass a fountain

on the way to the gate 

Which bears a small metal marker “ Grays Gate”.

The original plans show a smaller home. The first floor is quite elegant with a curving staircase, beamed living and dining rooms and large kitchen.

I love the second floor plan.  Each spouse has their own dressing room and bath.

How very civilized. Scenes from Downton Abbey play in my head.

Major Cootes’ former home is now a 5 Star Country House Hotel in Ireland. 

Luxury Hotel Ireland | 5 Star Country House Hotel | Ballyfin …

I would love to know more of this story.

3 Comments

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  1. Annie Westlake, / Apr 20 2012 1:32 am

    A dreary, tedious day to be sure, and as I approach the computer, I am hoping for a new post from Tales from Carmel. Ah….there it is, and even better, it is about a Comstock cottage. My spirit is refreshed, and my dreams are renewed. Thank you, Linda, for going beyond the unopened door, the unanswered bell, to bring us such pleasure. I have lived in every house, shopped in every courtyard, and dined in every eatery you have presented. Thank you.

  2. maurakeith / Apr 20 2012 2:00 am

    Goodness this is certainly a ‘come down’ from what Major Cootes had in Ireland but I could live with it…no problem! 😉 I hope you get invited back to take photos of the inside…I bet that staircase is gorgeous. I love the back garden and all the trees..it looks very ‘English’. Thanks for taking us along on your ‘tour’…I loved it all. I hope your Friday is a good one.
    Maura 🙂

  3. James Mannes Bourke / Dec 27 2012 4:20 am

    I know Ballyfin House very well. My maternal grandparents worked on the Coote estate and Lady Coote gave my grandmother the Coote christening gown which is still in our family, – the Bourkes of Portlaoise and Clerihan, Clonmel. I am a retired academic residing in Kuala Lumpur. I have just completed a novel called Confessions of an Alien. It is a fictional story about a Ballyfin Coote who sees himself as an alien in his native land. Naturally, I would love to contact any remaining member of the Coote family in Ireland or the UK,

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