Architectural Treasures of the Central Coast
Everyone can appreciate a beautiful home or a quaint beach cottage despite their knowledge of architecture or design. The Central Coast is lucky to have tons of beautiful buildings and landmarks that reflect a California laid-back style. Some of the world’s most prominent architects have left their mark here in Central California through their amazing designs and work, creating a lasting impression on these beautiful towns and cities. Whether you know the difference between cornice and a cupola, or you just love to appreciate gorgeous buildings, it is worth your while to check out some of the Central’s Coast most remarkable sites.
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, San Luis Obispo
Mission San Luis Obispo was founded by Franciscan missionary Father Junipero Serra, with Father Jose Cavaller in charge of building. The Church is comprised of an adobe building with “mezcla” floors, which is a mixture of stone and mortar that makes up tiles. This simple “mission” style is noted for its combination of belfry and vestibule, which is found in no other California missions. Belfry is a structure that encloses the church bells as a part of the tower and vestibule refers to the entryway. This combination of designs is unique to this mission and has become a landmark structure for Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Also unique to this mission is its “L”-shape, another exceptional element native to only this mission site. The red tiled roof that is iconic to many California missions was established right here in San Luis Obispo, with this technique being perfected and patterned to be integrated into many other mission designs. Visiting information for the San Luis Obispo mission is available at http://www.missionsanluisobispo.org/.
Fairy Tale Cottages, Carmel
Hugh Comstock built these iconic cottages on the Central Coast of California in Carmel. During the 1920s this exceptional designer had no architectural or building experience, but was determined to build a home for his wife, Mayotta. Mayotta created and sold rag dolls in the area, but her business soon outgrew their home. She asked her husband to build “a fairy house in the woods” for the sale of her dolls, leading to the creation of the original house called “Hansel.” This amazing, quaint structure is best described as whimsical, adorable, and breathtaking. Comstock’s love of storybook illustrations becomes evident when viewing these houses, with his Tudor style and an undulating roof ridge line (the style of roof when the structure slopes down and the top area meets at an angle). The stone chimney built in an irregular pattern even appears to be stacked and random as an authentic mythical home would, with a hand carved door and window casing that also reflect this style. As time went on, Comstock continued to build more of these amazing houses for his family and his neighbors, creating over ten fairy tale cottages. These structures still stand today and many are inhabited by families and residents of the Central Coast. Information on finding these homes can be found at https://talesfromcarmel.com/2011/04/06/hugh-comstocks-fairytale-cottages-by-the-sea/.
Point San Luis Lighthouse, Avila Beach
The idea for the Point San Luis Lighthouse came from none other than the current President at the time, Andrew Johnson. During the 1870s Port Harford was very busy and the need for a guiding light for safety and accessibility came to the President’s attention. Completed in June 1890, the lighthouse is the only surviving Prairie Victorian model lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States! The lighthouse is still an important landmark in Central Coast, with its defining white tower and black lantern. Avila Lighthouse Suites is located just a short drive from the Point San Luis Lighthouse, where tours are available weekly. Information on the restoration and reservation for tours is available at https://sanluislighthouse.org/tour/.
Hearst Castle, San Simeon
Hearst Castle is well known as newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst’s mega-mansion on the Central Coast. This gorgeous, sprawling collection of buildings makes up buildings with ornate designs, lavish furniture, and exceptional art. A lesser known name connected to Hearst Castle though, is the architect behind this beauty named Julia Morgan. A San Francisco native, Morgan attended University of California at Berkeley, which led to her studying architecture in Paris at Ecole des Beux-Arts. She was the first woman to ever attend this prestigious program, waiting two years before they would allow her entry. After being commissioned to design Hearst Castle, Morgan worked for 28 years perfecting this project. She understood Heart’s grand vision, incorporating delicate tile mosaics into the Roman Pool and complicated patterns into the roofs. Morgan displayed her exceptional architectural knowledge on this project, including gothic sytles of elaborate door molds in the Gothic Suite and Greco-Roman styles in the Doge’s Balcony Ceiling. Tours of Hearst Castle are available every day, excluding holidays, and tour information is available at http://hearstcastle.org/tour-hearst-castle/daily-tours/.
Tor House, Carmel
In 1914 Robinson Jeffers and his wife fell in love with the Central Coast, building Tor House and Hawk Tower as a home for their family. This famous author wrote all of his major poetry in Tor House, reflecting the themes and images in the area. Jeffers himself planned the original cottage, inspired by the stone cottages and towers he saw traveling in England. He named the structure Tor House from the Celtic word “tor,” meaning rocky outcropping at the crest of a hill. Jeffers found granite boulders on the beach below to have hauled up to build his home, seen in partially exposed boulders featured in the home’s foundation. Tours are held every Friday and Saturday, reservation and historical information available at http://www.torhouse.org/tours.htm.
Bixby Bridge, Big Sur
Local engineers were required to find the perfect spots to cross creeks along Route 56, the highway connecting Big Sur to the rest of California. As the largest bridge in this group of structures, this spot was chosen for is scenic, safe, and environmentally friendly location. State highway engineer C.H. Purcell and bridge engineer and designer F.W. Panhorst chose concrete to build this design to reduce cost and maintenance, but also noticed how the color and texture of the material mimicked the natural rock around the area. The bridge features two very large vertical buttresses, which are supporting pillars, on each side of the arches, making the structure very artistic. The Bixby Bridge is now known as one of the most photographed features of the West Coast because of its beautiful design and scenic location, thanks to Purcell and Panhorst!