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As I mentioned last week one of our authors, David Mathias, is spending a week in California immersing himself in all things Greene & Greene. Here is the first of several reports from David:

Friday Oct. 19

I grew up in Wilmington, Del. Wilmington is located roughly 30 minutes from Philadelphia and two hours from both New York and Washington, D.C. Therefore, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Washington’s wonderful monuments and museums many times.  On the last occasion, we visited the Lincoln Memorial. Though I had been there before, I was struck with a strong sense of history and being in the presence of greatness. Today at the 16th Annual Craftsman Weekend, I felt the same way.

It was an incredible day. As a member of the Greene-style-furniture Yahoo group, I regularly interact with Greene & Greene fans from around the country. My friend Tom Moore and I had volunteered to help several of the group’s members set up their booths for the Exhibition that is part of Pasadena Heritage’s Craftsman Weekend. That’s how I met Darrell Peart, Tom Stangeland and Tim Celeski and got to see, carry and help assemble some of their very beautiful furniture.  It is, by far, the most fun I’ve ever had helping people move.

Exterior of the Gamble House

And from there the day only got better. Our next stop was the Gamble House. Arriving at the Gamble House is an almost surreal experience. As the Greene brothers best-known work, and a museum that is regularly open to the public, it is an iconic structure. But to approach in person a building that I’ve spent so much time studying in pictures is odd. I don’t know a better way to say it. Though I had been there once before, I was awed.

The interior of the Gamble House is a stunning achievement. During the standard, one-hour tour you can only begin to glimpse all there is to see. I suspect that I could spend several days just in the entry hall and still not notice all of the details. Subtlety is everywhere. As is wood. On much of the first floor, nearly every surface is wood. Teak and mahogany are everywhere. The desire to touch the beautifully finished surfaces is almost overwhelming, though doing is strictly prohibited (except when climbing the stairs). Sensory overload is a given. The attention to detail is almost insane.  One example: The shape of the dining room table is mirrored in the shape of the dining room chandelier and repeated in switch plates in the room. It also appears in inlays in the master bedroom.

Exterior of the Irwin House

Many casual fans don’t realize that in the Park Place neighborhood you can’t turn around without stumbling on a Greene & Greene home. Our last official event of the day was a walking tour of the area where we saw about a dozen more of their houses and were able to go inside two that are lesser known. The docent for the tour stressed the rapid evolution of the Greenes’ style. Seeing so many homes in rapid succession makes it obvious. The curve of their creative genius was very steep. Highlights included the James Culbertson house (the first name is included to distinguish it from the Culbertson sisters’ house , the Greenes had many repeat clients and personal referrals), the Duncan-Irwin house (a personal favorite , I resisted the urge to knock on the door and ask for an interior tour) and Charles Greene’s own house, which also served as something of an architectural laboratory for Charles.

Exterior gate and clinker brick wall at the Van Rossem House

David will be sending us more reports and photos this week, including some rarely seen interior details. Check back here, or subscribe to the updates in the upper left corner of the page.

– Bob Lang

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  • Sedona Tours

    Great houses. I would love to have one like those on the mountains. :d

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