by Nick Azzollini
In early December 2004, maps in hand, some 200 visitors, most San Clementeans, viewed some of the city’s oldest homes on the Historical Society’s Holiday Home Tour. Scattered throughout town, the majority of these “Ole Hanson’s,” as they are known, are situated where originally built, while some, moved to make room for other buildings, inhabit new sites. The majority remain in their original condition, while those remodeled have retained their primary character.
This tour began with the Van Slyke residence located at 243 La Cuesta in the hills overlooking the city. As with all the other homes on the tour, visitors were greeted with beautiful holiday decorations both outside and in. Built in 1928 this residence is known as the “Goldschmidt House,” and has the distinct honor of being the only one in San Clemente on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the creation of master architect Paul R. Williams and is one of the largest of the Ole’s, originally used as a weekend getaway (as were many of these homes, explaining the small kitchens and closets). The family actually owned all the land in San Clemente and ran cattle in the hills around it.
Another of the larger Ole’s on the tour was the home of Judy and Erika Anderson. Located at 418 Cazador Lane overlooking the pier. Actress Gloria Swanson, as Judy will tell you, once owned this beautiful casa during an era when many of Hollywood’s stars would drive down the coast to get away from it all. Oddly enough, the master bedroom has a closet with a window overlooking the pier. There is also a maid’s quarters downstairs that is now used as a Bed and Breakfast unit. From what we were told, Patrick Swayze stayed there not too long ago.
The next stop was 146 Ave. Serra, owner Nancy Platt purchased this home 7 years ago. She refers to it as an “Enchanted Cottage”, and as you wander around this beautiful home you would have to agree. As with many of the Ole's this cottage has its own uniqueness, featuring a circular living room with a barrel type ceiling. The backyard garden is something to see. Oddly enough, the home was purchased sight unseen and when the keys changed hands it turned out to be an unsightly scene. Nancy reversed years of neglect turning it into a showcase to be admired.
At the corner of Ola Vista and Ave. Serra sat the next home on the tour. Renovated by Ret Wixted and Tom Eidem, this lovely home underwent some major changes. A garage was added with a huge master bedroom and bath on top to capture the ocean view. In the kitchen, they did the floors in red linoleum, and added French doors that lead to a nicely walled garden.
Next on the tour was the "Casa Marquita" at 236 W. Ave. Marquita, home to Bob & Nancy Schoner. This 1929 Ole sits above the Linda Lane Park and is another wonderful example of what a little TLC will do.
Last, but not least was the "Casa de la Luna Madre" at 126 E. Escalones. This Ole was originally built where the Wells Fargo Bank now sits. It was moved to its present location in the late 1950s. Recently purchased by Dan and Jackie Dubois, they had nothing to do except enjoy the warmth and beauty of this home as it remained in almost the same condition today as when new. The kitchen boasts a lovely little breakfast nook with the original table and benches intact. The tiles inside are untouched, even after cabinets have been replaced. As with many of the other homes, the garage is no longer a garage. Many have become workshops of one sort or another, be it for hobbies or home offices, and they no longer house vehicles.
Looking inside these and other homes of that era, one gets a sense of what living may have been like 70 years ago. Although it is hard to believe some of the smaller, Spanish style homes, 900-1100 square feet, housed entire families way back when, their diminished size gives them a warm cozy feeling and you begin to understand their appeal.
Arched windows are a prominent feature in most dwellings, and architecturally speaking these homes were definitely built to last. The materials used seem to serve a dual purpose, keeping the homes warmer in winter and cool during the summer months, and this was done without the use of fiberglass insulation. The mere fact that termites have not consumed these homes makes you wonder what happened to the materials they used then as opposed to those used today.
The original kitchens were pretty small by today’s standards. Understandably many of the present owners have restored, remodeled, and in some cases even enlarged these and other areas, but they have not compromised the integrity of the dwellings in the process. To make living easier, many Ole homeowners have installed new cabinets, dishwashers, lighting and ranges while keeping the kitchen’s original tile work intact. It is hard to imagine anyone ever cooked, ate and spent entire evenings gathered in such tiny areas.
To truly get a feel for what it must have been like living in these homes visit the historical museum at the site of the original City Hall on El Camino Real. There you can see photographs, artifacts and memorabilia depicting life in the early days of San Clemente. b