The Mystery of Pasquale’s Tower

pasquales tower north beach san francisco MyLifeBanquet

The Mystery of “Pasquale’s Tower”

If you are strolling the Broadway block between Columbus Avenue and the steep slope of Montgomery Street, look up the hill and your eye might alight upon an unusual structure. A white tower, four stories tall, topped with a Mediterranean blue dome, sits among the jumble of apartments and houses clinging to the hillside. If you are not looking for it, this tower is easy to miss.

Mystery of Pasquales tower MyLifeBanquet
Pasquale’s Tower Dome (Instagram by author)

On foot, “Pasquale’s Tower” is accessible only from Dunnes Alley, a short stretch of pavement that juts off from Kearny Street. If you walk down the alley a bit, you approach a set of intricate gates with ironwork forming the letters,”GOGNA.” The original tower has a set of apartments at the base, probably added at a later date.


 Pasquale’s Tower Legend

Mystery of Pasquales tower Gogna gates MyLifeBanquet
Pasquale’s Tower Gogna gates (Instagram by author)

Local legend has it that Pasquale Gogna came from Italy to work at some manner of trade, perhaps at the nearby Produce Market. He bought an undesirable lot for a cheap price and built a 4-story tower with one room on each level. It is said that Pasquale sent to Italy for his wife after the house was finished, but she didn’t like it. She left, and Pasquale was heartbroken.

That’s the legend, anyway. It’s undoubtedly a interesting theory but who knows?


Ti Penso Sempre

Mystery of Pasquales tower Ti Penso Sempre MyLifeBanquet
Pasquale’s Tower Ti Penso Sempre (Instagram by author)

When I first walked up Dunnes Alley toward the tower, on the retaining wall someone had painted a tricolor Italian flag design with the words: “Ti Penso Sempre” underneath. Translated from Italian, this means “I Think of You Always.” Was this Pasquale’s tribute to his lost love? I can’t find anything to support this romantic theory, but it is nice to contemplate. Sadly, on my last visit, the bittersweet sentiment had been painted over now and replaced with “Pasquale’s Tower.”

Who Really Built Pasquale’s Tower?

Based on my reading, the building of the tower is attributed to a Pasquale “Pete” Gogna. In her book, “San Francisco’s North Beach and Telegraph Hill” Catherine A. Accardi writes, “In 1930, Pasquale Gogna built his romantic tower dwelling overlooking Broadway.”

I continued with the SFMOMA site, where one photo is captioned with the following: “…Pasquale’s Tower, built in 1930 by baker/hotelier Pasquale Gogna. One of the legendary structures of Telegraph Hill, this tower located at the end of Dunnes Alley consists of four small square rooms stacked together and topped with a dome in a supposedly Genoese manner.” An excerpt from the National Trust Guide, San Francisco claims “Pasquale Gogna, a baker who owned several hotels in the neighborhood built the odd tower at the end of the alley in 1930 for his residence.”

Why the Mystery?

The problem comes when you compare dates. The tower was built in 1930, but records available from that time show Pasquale Gogna living in Stockton that year. The June 1917 Crocker-Langley San Francisco city directory shows Pasquale Gogna’s residence at 548 Green Street, quite a few blocks away on the north side of Telegraph Hill. Another record from 1920 shows Pasquale Gogna, again with a San Francisco residence. Marriage records, however, show that Pasquale Gogna married a Rose Lagomarsino in January of 1920, in Stockton.

The only pertinent record I could locate after 1920 is an annual report from the Superintendent of Banks of the State of California, showing a Pasquale Gogna with an address of 26 Dulles. This is possibly a misprint, maybe referring to the addresses of 2-6 Dunnes Alley, and which he may have still have owned in 1948, the date of the publication.

Looking a little further into Pasquale Gogna’s history, I found census records that showed he was born in Mongiardino, Alessandria, Italy in 1892. Mongiardino is a municipality located in the province of Alessandria and the region of Piemonte. Alessandria is located in the northwest corner of Italy, not far from the seacoast and the city of Genoa. During the early part of the 20th century, there was a large influx of Italians into San Francisco from the regions of Piemonte and Liguria. It would seem logical then that Pasquale would construct a building in the Genoese style, far from his birthplace but in a predominantly Italian district of San Francisco, North Beach.

Aerial photo cropped 1938
Crop of aerial map. (From a historical map collection, author Harrison Ryker)

I found no evidence to show that Pasquale ever came back to live in San Francisco. He lived in Stockton until his death in 1981. We will probably never know why and for whom this mysterious tower was built.

Helping to Solve the Mystery of Pasquale’s Tower

In the time since I first wrote this article, several people came forward to add to my research and to provide corrected information about Pasquale Gogna. I am most grateful to each and every person who helped to contribute. Their comments are reproduced below.

November 18, 2014

By David

Great write up! I’ve always wondered about this building and it is awesome to see that others are curious as well. I recently found a book called “San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill”, by David F. Myrick (1972) that may help shed more light on this mystery. The following was on page 117:


“Pasquale Gogna built the house in 1930. Arriving in San Francisco in 1907, he worked as a baker and through frugality he was able to join his brother in purchasing several small hotels in the city. The tower consists of four square rooms directly above each other, with access provided by an enclosed stairway on the west side of the building. In the northern corners of each room are two alcoves which collectively house the usual appurtenances found in kitchens and bathrooms. With the sink in one corner, the stove in another and so on, this arrangement offered some inconveniences, but the spectacular view offset these minor annoyances. Mr. Gogna must have enjoyed the house, for he lived there comfortably—with all utilities—until January 1956, when his arthritic condition caused him to move into his brother’s home on Russian Hill, after which the tower was rented. As the tower attracts much attention, a wrought-iron gate—with the name GOGNA in black metal letters on the top of the grill—has been erected to keep out trespassers.”


It looks like perhaps Pasquale went by “Pete” most frequently, because in the 1956 & 1961 City Directories, a “Pete Gogna” lived at 1657 Mason with Eugenio and Emily Gogna (perhaps his brother and sister-in-law?). Eugenio was listed as the manager of the Italian-American Hotel at 838 Sansome (about a block away from the tower, on Sansome between Broadway and Pacific). Interestingly, the Italian-American Hotel is still in business as a residential hotel. I found some different pages showing Eugenio was born May 22, 1893 and died in San Francisco in November 1971.


December 8, 2014

By Saybrina

My Great Grandfather was Pasquale Gogna from Stockton, Ca. and My Great Grandmother was Rosa Lagomarsino who lived in San Francisco with her Mother Maria Lagomarsino. After the death of Maria, Rosa and her half brother Leo Arrigoni moved to Stockton and some time around 1919-1920 she married Pasquale Gogna. You can find the family information on along with photo’s and more family information. I’m not sure if this Tower has anything to do with my Great Grandfather but I sure would enjoy finding out more about the history behind Pasquale’s Tower.


January 5, 2015

By Sabrina

I have some info. on Pasquale Gogna who was born 1883 lived in San Francisco. He never married and built the tower for himself. I also have census records and Immigration record from You can find it on facebook I also found a a death record for Pasquale Gogna Sept. 16, 1958 in Colma, Ca. Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. I can’t prove it is the same Pasquale but it’s the only record I can find on this Pasquale Gogna. In his Immigration it shows father name as Francesco Gogna and again who knows if this is true.

March 26, 2015

By David

Saybrina, great info! I did a little more research (censuses, city directories, etc.) and found more information. It looks like there were two Pasquale Gognas—one in San Francisco and your Great-Grandfather in Stockton. Given that they both lived in Northern California and were born around the same time, I’m not surprised to find several sources that mixed the information for both together. However, in looking at several sources over a span of years, below is what I found:


#1) Pasquale Gogna Family in San Francisco

Born: 7/15/1885 (or 1883—depending on source), Montjardino, Italy

Death: 9/12/1958, San Francisco



Brother: Eugenio Gogna (b. 1893)

Sister-in-Law: Armida (b. 1900)

Niece: Rona (b. 1922)

Nephew: Alnado (b. 1929)


Throughout the 1930s and ‘40s, city directories list this family living at the Italian-American Hotel at 838 Sansome, with Pasquale periodically listed as being the manager. By the late ‘40s, the family moved to 1657 Mason while continuing to manage the hotel. Meanwhile, Pasquale was listed as living at the tower property as early as 1925. The family also started managing the Cavour Hotel at 379 Broadway a block down the street from the tower.


#2) Pasquale Gogna Family in Stockton

Born: 3/17/1890 (or 1892—depending on source), San Lorenzo, Italy

Death: July 1981



Wife: Rosie







On a side note, I discovered that separate parties originally owned the original three lots that make up the tower property. Pasquale Gogna originally purchased the land directly under the tower in 1920 and adjacent land (that I believe mainly encompasses the cliff in front of the tower) in 1933. Interestingly, the land under which the current apartment building, that is attached to the left of the tower, was still owned by someone else in 1944, but was owned by the Gogna family by 1960. That apartment building was built in 1957 after Pasquale moved out. To see a picture of what the tower originally looked like (in 1953), see this link:


June 20, 2015

by Saybrina

David, My grandfather is William Gogna who is the oldest of the five boys that my Great Grandparents had Roy and Ray are twins and the youngest is Uncle Ernie. Thanks for sharing this information and I will keep up on the search.


I welcome your comments or additional information about Pasquale’s Tower. It has been quite an adventure learning about this remarkable building. Thanks to those who have provided me with more insight into Pasquale Gogna’s history! 


North Beach and Telegraph Hill History on Amazon


 Italians of the Bay Area: Gino Sbrana San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, David F. Myrick North Beach: The Italian Heart of San Francisco San Francisco’s North Beach and Telegraph Hill 


All photos by author except where indicated




The Storybook Houses of Belvedere

The-Storybook-Houses-of-Belvedere-MyLifeBanquet FI

The Storybook Houses of Belvedere

The storybook houses of Belvedere are little known outside of this wealthy island enclave at the southern tip of Marin County, California. There is very little information available on them but I was fortunate to have once been provided a tour by the owner of one of these charming cottages. I live only a few miles away, in San Francisco, so these magical places are there to see anytime I choose to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge—I feel very lucky indeed!

Storybook Houses of Belvedere

The Story Behind the Storybook Houses

The story goes that the storybook houses were built sometime in the 30s by a business executive by the name of Heidelberg, who tired of his humdrum office job and would often escape to work on his labor of love, the storybook cottages of Beach Road. In all, there are three cottages on the steep slope above the bay, one of which was used as a location for an obscure film noir called, “Sudden Fear,” starring the notorious Joan Crawford with Jack Palance playing her mysterious suitor. Of course, a murder plot is in the works as Mr. Palance woos Ms. Crawford in the hopes of making away with her fortune. What would film noir be without intrigue?

Read the article from ReelSF

Another notable resident was said to be Vivian Vance, who played Lucy Ricardo’s sidekick Ethel Mertz in the “I Love Lucy” television show. Ms. Vance used to come up to enjoy the cool summers of the San Francisco Bay Area and to visit her sister who lived in Belvedere, and she would stay in one of the Beach Road storybook cottages, eventually retiring from Hollywood to a home on Beach Road. Vivian Vance lived in Belvedere until her death in 1979.

The Storybook Houses of Belvedere top

Storybook cottages came into favor in the early Hollywood era of the teens and 20s of the 20th century. One of the most well-known examples of the time is the Spadena House of Beverly Hills, designed by art director and set director, Harry Oliver. This house is popularly known as “The Witches’ House” because of the resemblance to the gingerbread house in the Hansel and Gretel tale. Others who became known for the storybook cottage architectural style were: Carr Jones, W.W. Dixon, and William Yelland of the San Francisco Bay Area; and Ben Sherman. Ben Sherman is most known for his “Snow White house” in Hollywood.

Spadena Witch House by Kafziel
“Spadena Witch House” by Kafziel (Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia)

The chief characteristic of storybook architectural design is a whimsical style derived from fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel: crooked chimneys, odd elements such as round doors and circular windows, heavy timber, and use of natural elements such as stone and wood, all combined to look like a dilapidated cabin in the woods. Looking at these, I almost expect to see gumdrops embedded in the brick walls!

In the Belvedere storybook cottages, which seem to teeter on the brink of falling over the cliff and down into the bay, you will find winding staircases, and the timbers which jut out from the exterior walls with carved rustic figures and faces at their ends. Colored glass plates of varying sizes have been inserted in place of windows at different levels of the walls. The brickwork curves and slopes in a dizzying fashion, as do the oddly overlapped wooden shingles of the rooftop. All in all, delightful and quaint—I wouldn’t be surprised to see a wizard or a gnome emerging at any time!


 Storybook Style: America’s Whimsical Homes of the Twenties Carmel’s Fairy Tale Cottages (Hardcover, 2011) Tiny House Living: Ideas For Building and Living Well In Less than 400 Square Feet

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Photos by author except where noted

Arts and Crafts Home Decor

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Arts and Crafts Influences in the Home

The Arts & Crafts Movement began in the late 1800’s in England in response to industrialization—factory assembled and cheaply made furniture was flooding the market. The founders of the movement wanted to return to the craftsman sensibilities of the past, particularly the Medieval period, where furniture was built with quality materials and made to last a lifetime.

I’ve included some examples of Arts & Crafts Influences in the home and vintage Arts and Crafts home decor and furnishings that I find particularly appealing. Some of the information and accompanying photos have been excerpted from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unique Arts and Crafts Home Decor

Vintage Arts and Crafts Pottery

A number of women in the Arts and Crafts Period came to be recognized for their skill and dedication to this emerging movement. One example was in the realm of Arts and Crafts pottery and ceramics.

Tyg 3 handled cup by Leona Nicholson, c. 1908, Metropolitan Museum of Art mylifebanquet
Tyg 3 handled cup by Leona Nicholson, c. 1908, Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA2000)

Where women in Victorian times had previously been tied down to homemaking and cooking, the Modern Arts and Crafts Movement provided an opportunity for women to prove their worth in the creative endeavors. Although not many women, with the exception of the noted architect Julia Morgan, are mentioned in connection with the Movement, I found many examples in the works cited on the Metropolitan Museum of Art home page.

The example pictured is a Tyg, or three-handled cup, with an iris motif and plain lettering typical of the Arts & Crafts period. The cup was crafted by Leona Nicholson (1875-1966), pottery artist and teacher, who was the first woman to receive the designation of  “Master Craftsman,” awarded to her by the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts.



Vintage Arts and Crafts Jewelry

Other notable craftswomen of the period included Florence Koehler (1861-1944), jewelry maker and enamelist, and Marie Zimmerman (1879-1972), metalcraft and jewelry. The photos show Florence Koehler’s enameled brooch and comb set as well as an elaborate wood box inset with silver alloy, ivory, amethyst, and quartz crafted by Marie Zimmerman. The attention to detail in these pieces is amazing. (Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.)

Read more about the contributions of women artists to the Arts and Crafts Movement.


Arts and Crafts Movement Lighting


Copper and mica table lamp Dirk van Erp The Arts and Crafts Movement MyLifeBanquet
Copper and mica table lamp Dirk van Erp, (c. 1912-1915) Metropolitan Museum of Art



Of the many aspects of the Arts and Crafts Movement lighting has proven to be the most enduring. Whether it’s a Prairie style table lamp in the Frank Lloyd Wright design or a beautiful copper and mica lamp by Dirk van Erp, you would swear they were modern design and not over 100 years old.

I have always been drawn to these Arts and Crafts style lamps for as long as I can remember; they are the perfect adornment for my Craftsman bungalow dream home.




Vintage Arts and Crafts Furniture

Gustav Stickley library table The Arts and Crafts Movement
Gustav Stickley commemorative library table ( Timeless Furniture Design)

One of the foremost promoters of the early 20th Century Arts and Crafts Movement in America was Gustav Stickley, a furniture manufacturer and publisher. In his publication “The Craftsman,” Stickley brought widespread recognition to the American Craftsman style of furniture making. The works produced by Stickley reflected the Craftsman artisan’s ideal of simplicity, honesty in construction, and truth in materials.

(Pictured: Gustav Stickley commemorative design for a library table by Ontaria Timeless Furniture Design.)

Adjustable-Back Chair No. 2342, Gustav Stickley, 1902, exhibited in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Stickley chair, Arts and Crafts Furniture MyLifeBanquet
Adjustable-Back Chair No. 2342, Gustav Stickley, 1902, exhibited in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Licensed under Public Domain via Commons (Photo Credit: Daderot)



The popular Stickley “Mission” chair is pictured and, though often referred to as Mission Style furniture, Gustav Stickley preferred the term “Craftsman.” In fact, he named his company the Craftsman Workshops and went on to produce not only beautifully crafted furniture, but also textiles and metalwork.

I’m sure there are very few who have not seen a replica of this chair and admired its beauty and simplicity.








Arts & Crafts Designs Available on Amazon

Elk Deer Mica Swag Lamp Pendant Lights Rustic Vintage Arts Crafts Dirk Van ErpCoat Rack 18 Inch 3 Shaker Peg Mortise and Tenon Coat Rack Arts and Crafts / Mission styleMini Stickley No Solicitors Plaque 8×2 Inches in Raised Bronze Patina CoatedDale Tiffany Edmund Mission Style Table Lamp, Antique BronzeCoaster Mission Style Rocking Wood and Leather Chair Rocker

Vintage Arts and Crafts Style Wallpaper

William Morris trellis design for wallpaper Designs of the Arts and Crafts Movement mylifebanquet
William Morris trellis design for wallpaper, c. 1862 (Wikimedia Commons)

As more people are deciding to restore rather than renovate their Arts and Crafts or Craftsman style homes, they are interested in finding wallpaper appropriate to the period.

The inset demonstrates an example of the design of William Morris, one of the founders of the early Arts and Crafts Movement in England.

William Morris wallpaper designs are popular today more than ever, and his patterns have been licensed and are available on household items such as shower curtains, and even 21st Century amenities like iPad covers which are available through Zazzle.


Featured Image: Front entry door, Gamble House, Pasadena, Greene & Greene, architects (Photo by author)


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 The Craftsman Bungalow House Lone Tree Residential Design Homes of the Arts & Crafts Movement


The Craftsman Bungalow House

Life is a Bungalow The Craftsman Bungalow MyLifeBanquetcom

The Craftsman Bungalow House

The American Arts & Crafts movement emphasized pride of craft, simplicity and substance rather than the over-embellished pretentiousness of the Victorian era and eventually led to the popularization of the “Craftsman” style of architecture, giving rise to the popular Craftsman bungalow house. This familiar style of house is often referred to as the American bungalow or the Craftsman house. The bungalow style house is distinguished by a low, horizontal structure with overhanging eaves, an imposing front porch, banks of windows, often with a central picture window, as well as large square (“elephantine”) columns supporting the porch. The Craftsman bungalow evolved as a more affordable version of the Arts & Crafts home, typically offered for sale in the Sears & Roebuck catalog, to be assembled on the lot. Because this was the house that “everyman” could afford, Craftsman bungalows are ubiquitous almost everywhere throughout the Continental United States.

sears craftsman bungalow plans-brookside mylifebanquet
Sears Craftsman Bungalow, Brookside Plan

Craftsman bungalow houses can be found all over the United States, since anyone who could afford it could order a house from the Sears catalog using any number of available craftsman bungalow floor plans and have it shipped, usually by railroad, and then have their very own Craftsman bungalow assembled on a lot and move right in. Because of the proximity of many cities and towns to railroad routes, entire neighborhoods of bungalows sprang up across the country. As you can see from the illustrations, available designs ranged from the simple and inexpensive to bigger and more elaborate for a little more money.

sears craftsman bungalow plans-avalon mylifebanquet
Sears Craftsman Bungalow, The Avalon Plan

Natural and Reclaimed Materials Used in Craftsman Homes

The unique features as well as materials used in the construction of Craftsman homes were often dependent upon the availability of local resources, in many cases natural materials like river rock or reclaimed products like “clinker” bricks. Clinker brinks are the irregularly shaped and often burnt pieces that are left after the better formed bricks have been removed from the kiln. After the earthquake and great fire of 1907 in San Francisco, reclaimed bricks were commonly scavenged and used in construction of foundations and for siding in many houses, not just Craftsman style bungalows, and those are evident to this day in many neighborhoods of the City. River rock is a common natural building material in homes built in prairie towns and in the West, wherever rocks are easy to transport to a building site.

river rock chimney craftsman bungalow mylifebanquet
River rock chimney base, Pasadena, CA
clinker brick robson-harrington house mylifebanquet
Clinker brick post, Robson-Harrington House, San Anselmo, CA

















Craftsman Homes History

airplane bungalow pasadena craftsman bungalows mylifebanquet
Airplane bungalow, Bungalow Heaven, Pasadena (Instagram by author)












The popularity of the Craftsman bungalow house spanned from about 1905 to the early 1930s; however, the heyday of the American bungalow appears to have been from 1915 to the late 1920s, so this comparatively modern style of house is already about 100 years old today. Since in later decades these beautiful homes were looked down upon as old fashioned and low class, many bungalows were destroyed or subjected to misguided renovations. You would be fortunate indeed to find a historic Craftsman bungalow today that still has its original unpainted woodwork and functional built-ins intact.

There are as many styles of bungalows as you can imagine: the typical Prairie-style low horizontal model with a broad porch along its front, simple and built with wood; the Spanish bungalow with stucco and enclosed cactus gardens; the Japanese influenced bungalow with dark paint and red accents; and one of my very favorites, the airplane bungalow. The airplane bungalow got its name from the jutting second story that sits astride the first floor like an airplane cockpit.


Best Historical Places to Visit to See Bungalows

bungalow heaven sign mylifebanquet
National Register of Historic Places, Bungalow Heaven, design Toni Devereaux.

I personally have had a soft spot in my heart for these historic American bungalows. To me, they represent family dinners and warm nights sitting on the front porch; truly a home rather than a house. A few years ago, I learned about an area in Southern California called the Bungalow Heaven Historic District, a small neighborhood in Pasadena with a large concentration of Craftsman bungalows within a 16-block area. We of course signed up for the annual Bungalow Heaven tour scheduled for the coming April, and drove to Pasadena to visit the bungalows that were going to be featured that year.

If you love bungalows, Bungalow Heaven is the place to see! Many of the Craftsman bungalows date back a century or so, and most are modestly maintained but there are a large number of bungalows that have been lovingly and accurately restored back to original Arts and Crafts style, with paint colors and furnishings to match.

Now that I’ve seen Bungalow Heaven in Pasadena, I am interested in visiting the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Portland, Oregon to see the magnificent Craftsman bungalows that I have only seen in pictures. But that’s for another blog!


Bungalow Heaven Tour

A few photos I took of the nice Craftsman bungalows that we saw on our trip to Bungalow Heaven.





The Craftsman Bungalow on Amazon

Inside the Bungalow: America’s Arts and Crafts InteriorBungalow Colors: ExteriorsBungalow The Ultimate Arts & Crafts HomeCraftsman Collection: 170 Home Plans in the Craftsman & Bungalow StylePasadena’s Bungalow Heaven (Imag

Featured Image: Asian influenced Craftsman bungalow, Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven neighborhood (Photo by author)

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Homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement

Homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement

I have always been drawn to the simple yet sturdy design of Homes of the Arts and Crafts period of the late 19th and early 20thcenturies, without realizing what it was called or knowing much about its history. I just knew I liked the way the buildings looked and was naturally attracted to the earth tones and simple elements of wood and stone whenever I saw them. Eventually I learned that these beautiful structures were homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Famous Arts and Crafts Homes

For my most recent birthday, we drove down coastal Highway 1, from Santa Cruz to Pismo Beach. Our main objective (other than to relax and soak up fantastic scenery!) was to visit San Simeon for a tour of the famous Hearst Castle. This was my second visit to San Simeon. If you haven’t yet visited “La Casa Encantada,” you really should take the time to visit. There is nothing else quite like it.

The Castle at San Simeon (c. 1919-1937) – Julia Morgan, architect

At our visit, I learned that Hearst Castle was designed by a famous architect, Julia Morgan. Even though she was first denied entrance to the Beaux Arts Institute in Paris in the early 1900s because she was a woman, Ms. Morgan had become a well-known architect in her own right, with offices based in San Francisco, when William Randolph Hearst called upon her to build his dream home in the hills overlooking San Simeon Harbor.
Hearst San Simeon Arts and Crafts Movement MyLifeBanquet
View from Hearst San Simeon (Photo by author)
The Perfect Location

The spot William Randolph Hearst chose was quite a distance inland from the coast, on land bequeathed him by his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and the original site of the family ranch and campsite established by his father, George Hearst, a miner who had struck it rich with the discovery of silver at the Ophir mine on the famous “Comstock Lode.”


Plaza of San Simeon-Hearst Castle overlooking San Simeon Harbor Arts and Crafts Movement
Plaza of San Simeon-Hearst Castle overlooking San Simeon Harbor (photo by author)

Julia Morgan worked for nearly 20 years with W.R. Hearst to help him design and build his home, using her special reinforced concrete technique to provide stability in a region of high seismic activity. In addition, she incorporated elements of European design, from Moorish, French, and Venetian influences. According to the history, W.R. Hearst and his mother Phoebe had taken the “Grand Tour” of European palaces and castles when he was a young child, and thus Hearst’s dream was to come to fruition in his own castle on a hill with Ms. Morgan’s steadfast dedication and skill.

When he received his inheritance at the age of 57, along with his own fortune from the Hearst Newspaper empire, Hearst could finally afford to begin construction.
San Simeon-Hearst Castle Arts and Crafts Movement
San Simeon-Hearst Castle


San Simeon-Hearst Castle trefoil motif Arts and Crafts Movement
San Simeon-Hearst Castle quatrefoil motif (photo by author)


Julia Morgan’s other notable works include the former St. John Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, California, as well as the Asilomar Conference Center in Carmel. These structures seem to me more typical of the Arts & Crafts Movement than is Hearst Castle.


St. John Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA Julia Morgan architect Arts and Crafts Movement
St. John Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA Julia Morgan architect
Asilomar Conference Center by Julia Morgan Arts and Crafts Movement
Asilomar Conference Center ( Creative Commons)

The D.L. James House in Carmel Highlands (c. 1919) – Greene & Greene, architects

While we were driving slowly down Highway 1 through Carmel Highlands, enjoying the cool air and aquamarine color of the surf below, my husband called my attention to the long stone fence running for some length along the edge of the road. As he is an architect, he recognized the stone fence as the hallmark of the famous Greene & Greene House of Carmel Highlands. We pulled off the road and walked back to get a better look. Sure enough, it was the Greene & Greene House, constructed almost entirely of the same native rock from which the cliff was composed. To my eye, I saw elements of a J.R.R. Tolkien “hobbit house” but in stone rather than earth, and distinct Mission-style touches in the bell tower and unique curving red Spanish tile roof.

D.L. James House, Greene and Greene architects Arts and Crafts Movement

The architects were brothers, Charles (1868-1957) and Henry (1870-1954) Greene, both of whom were prominent in the American Arts & Crafts Movement of the early 1900s. Their other most well known project is the Gamble House in Pasadena, California, built for Procter & Gamble magnate, David Gamble, and his wife, Mary.
gamble house greene and green architects arts and crafts movement
David B. Gamble House, Pasadena, CA, Greene & Greene architects


Charles and Henry Greene also utilized elements of Arts & Crafts in furniture and lighting in accordance with their architectural designs. Both the Gamble House and the Robert Blacker House, also in Pasadena, contained a wealth of furnishings and fixtures designed by the Greenes.
Japanese inspired Greene and Greene chandelier Arts and Crafts Movement
Japanese inspired Greene and Greene chandelier


The Swedenborgian Church, San Francisco

Bernard Maybeck (draftsman); A. C. Schweinfurth & A. Page Brown, architects

Before knowing anything about the Arts & Crafts Movement, I already knew what I liked. As a teenager growing up in Marin County, I made myself at home among the quiet redwoods and natural beauty that surrounded me in places like Mill Valley and Larkspur. There were waterfalls, ferns, and natural redwood forests interspersed with homes made of wood and glass that seemed to blend right into the natural habitat. I was particularly fond of homes that incorporated hewn stone, heavy timbers, and stained glass.

When I was looking for a place to have my wedding back in the 70s, a friend suggested the Swedenborgian Church near the Presidio Wall district in San Francisco. It was perfect!


Swedenborgian church brides chamber, 1976 Arts and Crafts Movement MyLifeBanquet
Swedenborgian church brides chamber, 1976
I saw an unassuming building at the corner of Washington and Lyon Streets, built of heavy concrete with brick archways enclosing a quiet above-street-level garden. The chapel itself draws from rustic natural influences, with a large fireplace taking center stage at the back of the nave, dark ceilings with rough-hewn timber logs meeting overhead to form the apex of the roof, nature murals, and stained glass inserts in the windows. For me, the Swedenborgian church was absolutely heavenly and definitely “me”!

I recently went back and visited the Swedenborgian Church, and discovered that a very well-known architect of the Arts & Crafts Movement, Bernard Maybeck, had been involved in designing the building. He is now one of my favorite architects—I’d feel at home in every building I’ve seen that he has designed!

Swedenborgian church interior Arts and Crafts Movement mylifebanquet
Swedenborgian church interior (Photo: Eric Luse, SF Chronicle)
Swedenborgian church exterior Arts and Crafts Movement mylifebanquet
Swedenborgian church exterior, photographer unknown

Bernard Maybeck

Bernard Maybeck is well known in the San Francisco Bay Area.  His other buildings of note include the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Berkeley, California, considered a prime example of Arts & Crafts architecture. Probably his best-known work, however, is the Palace of Fine Arts, which he conceived for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
First Church of Christ Scientist Berkeley Bernard Maybeck Arts and Crafts Movement mylifebanquet
First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Berkeley, California



Also designed by Bernard Maybeck, the Roos House in the Pacific Heights district of San Francisco, which demonstrates such distinctive Arts and Crafts features as the quatrefoil (four-pointed star).

Roos House Bernard Maybeck Arts and Crafts Movement MyLifeBanquet
Leon L. Roos House, San Francisco, Bernard Maybeck 1909

Bernard Maybeck was born in 1862 and was a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He was an early mentor of Julia Morgan, and taught at the University of California at Berkeley. Many homes designed by Maybeck or his protegees can be found in North Berkeley. Unfortunately, in the fire of 1923, many historic homes in this neighborhood were destroyed.

The Arts and Crafts Movement on Amazon

Bernard MaybeckThe Arts and Crafts MovementJulia Morgan: Architect of BeautyGreene & Greene: Developing A California ArchitectureGustav Stickley’s Craftsman Homes and BungalowsPrairie Style: Houses and Gardens by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School



Featured Image: Sheep fountain, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA (Photo by author)

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