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September 20, 2013 / Linda Hartong

The Cottage Gardens of The Comstock-Built Swain Subdivision

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

I would  love to see this open shared garden plan, but when I investigate, I find each home has fenced in its own garden.

Roger and Kathy Sanger, the owners of Fables, mention that they have restored their cottage garden and invite me to tour it and share it with you.

The Sangers are proud of their little treasure and are restoring the house as well. In fact most of the Comstock’s are being updated.

I peer through the branches of the oak tree and see little Fables


I descend from street level already liking the ivy being trained along the railing and under the eaves of the cottage.


This patio tucks into the front yard sheltered by the oak and the Carmel Stone wall. It is not visible from the street right above.


From here I look to the south and see the patio 


Of Doll’s House


It is easy to see how this once could have been a shared open space.


Fables opens to the south side- not to the street.


There is the traditional Comstock porch light. A delicate tracery of vines is being trained on the trellis.


The Sea Horse door knocker is polished.


I don’t remember this name plate. It is handsome.


They have a door bell shaped like a bull’s head. The bell hangs from the horns.


I peek over the gate. A charming patio sits at the SW corner. The latticework walls covered with vines gives it privacy from Doll’s House directly to its south.


There are lots of little accents to discover such as these lights.


Bold colors add punch.


From here I can look up and see the wonderful 


Windows on the south side.


To the east I have a framed view of the front yard 


And to the west the back patio


Opens up to the back yard. Beyond the fence is the garden of The Birthday  House.


The frog soaks up the sun


Potted plants hang from the garden walls


And fun accents tuck in everywhere I look.


Back up the path and stairs


I go next door north to The Birthday House.


Love the bench


The back garden consists of a deck ( see Fables over the fence).


And a lower patio. I glimpse the roof of Honeymoon next door.


I admire the north profile of the home


And then go west down the hill to Honeymoon.


New roof, recent fence . How about this gate?

A small patio tucks into the front yard


And a handsome garden is beginning in the side and back yards.


I can easily see how they could share yards.


Wish I could have seen this in the 20’s.  Perhaps a shared rope swing for the kids , a picnic table , a vegetable garden and some chickens. I bet the kids talked to each other from open bedroom windows.

The garden city movement is a method of urban planning that was initiated in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom. Garden cities were intended to be planned, self-contained communities surrounded by “greenbelts“. The garden city would be self-sufficient and when it reached full population, another garden city would be developed nearby. Howard organized the Garden City Association in 1899. 


Leave a Comment
  1. Dennis Strauss / Sep 20 2013 1:28 am

    Linda-Besides the wonderful photography and fascinating comments about individual homes, you have given us a view into the historical past of Carmel that we never would have known. Thank you. Denny Strauss.

  2. / Sep 20 2013 2:52 am


  3. Michael Smith / Sep 20 2013 3:13 am

    It’s so unique and enchanting, like being in yester-year. Thank you again for the great pictures and very interesting history profile! Michael

  4. Kim Smith / Sep 21 2013 3:28 am

    Just beautiful!

  5. Roberta Speechley / Sep 21 2013 4:23 pm

    Linda, I always look forward to the next treasure you’ve found. Love it.

  6. Inspired and pretty / Sep 27 2013 2:46 am

    There’s so much details and beauty in each of Comstock’s cottages. I imagine how it must have looked like without the fences and walls. It’s beautiful as it is now but maybe it looks more restrained. The patios are very beautiful and the vegetation is so luxuriant, just beautiful 🙂

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