Hugh Comstock, the youngest of seven siblings, was born on a ranch in Evanston Illinois in 1893. He spent his early years growing up in Evanston working on his family’s ranch, occasionally assisting in the building of ranch structures. He received his formal education at home under the direction of tutors and had a talent for drawing but never received any proper training in architecture or building. In 1907 his family moved to Santa Rosa, California where he continued to receive his education by tutors.
At the age of 31, Hugh came to Carmel to visit his sister Catherine and her husband George Seideneck who were both fairly well known artists in this quaint village in 1924. Hugh had only planned on staying a short while, but once he met Mayotta Browne, the designer of a popular rag and felt doll called the Otsy-Totsy, he extended his stay.
Mother of 1,200 Children Weds
After a “lightning courtship, Carmel’s mother of 1,200 children Mayotta Browne and Hugh W. Comstock” were married in Salinas April 14, 1924. The Pine Cone reported the “rumor states that the pretty Miss Browne had hung half a hundred dolls on the clothes line in her back yard and was industriously painting in their naughty roving eyes when a stranger stopped by with a “Hello!” of astonishment. That started it all. Buy the time the fifty had received noses and mouths via the paint brush route, the acquaintance was quite firmly established. Before the townspeople even so much as knew that there was such a thing as an acquaintance between them, they slipped over to Salinas and got married. Mayotta Browne Comstock established her title when she created 1,200 dolls of character and personality for the Christmas trade last year. “
”Barbie had her own townhouse with a
splash ‘n’ slide pool but she never owned
a Tudor fairytale cottage with pitched gable roof,
simulated thatch shingles, half-timbered walls
over stucco cladding and mullioned windows.”
(The Carmel Pine Cone March 12, 2004)
The Knoll on Torres Street
Shortly after Huge and Mayotta married their rented home became full of her “children,” the Otsy-Totsy that people came from Los Angeles and San Francisco to purchase. With every nook and cranny filled with dolls, Mayotta asked Hugh if he might build her a cottage in their backyard just to display her dolls.
George had built his sister Catherine’s home in Carmel, so why not. In the spirit of adventure Hugh set out designing and building Carmel’s first doll house, a whimsical fairy tale style cottage. Built with little more than a band saw and a pen knife, Hugh and Mayotta Comstock’s dream took root on the oak and pine covered knoll of Torres Street between 5th & 6th Avenue.
In the 1920’s much of the building in and around the village were irregularly built wood or canvas tent cabins. There were no building inspectors or codes to contend with so residents built their homes with what was available. As tourists visited Carmel they were drawn to the newest attraction in this charming town, the enchanted doll house in the woods, with high pitched gable roof, hand whittled trim, stone fireplace, and mullioned windows. And everyone wanted one. Hugh’s experiment in building blossomed into a career, as orders for more “fairy tale” cottages were requested.
Comstock Historical Hill District
Hugh Comstock built a number of homes in Carmel Village, 21 are still in existence, with 11 clustered in a hilly area shaded by crooked oaks and gangly pines. Park near Bruno’s Market 6th and Junipero. Note parking limitations, no one wants a parking ticket.
Make sure to view each home from outside the fence, as each is privately owned. The area for the 11 Comstock’s is a square area of land bordered by Ocean Avenue to the South, Torres Street to the west, 5th Avenue to the north and Santa Rita to the east.
List Location and Picture
Homes in the square mile Village of Carmel-by-the-Sea do not have addresses. Insead each house is located by using an “coordinate system.” If you are a corner house or business you are either the NW (north west), NE (north east), SE (south east), or SW (south west) corner of two intersecting streets.
West is always the side closest to the ocean, east the side closest to Highway 1, north is closer to Pebble Beach and south Carmel Valley. So for instance Bruno’s Market would be NE corner 6th and Junipero. With this in mind here are the “addresses” of the 11 Comstock homes in the Historical Hill District.
Map Historical Hill District
Be Your Own Tour Guide
I have embeded a pdf map of the Historical Hill District which includes “addresses” and photographs of all 11 Comstock cottages discussed in this blog. It is two pages. Be your own tour guide and print this off here PDF Map . It is much more detailed than map illustrations in this blog.
To learn more about the history and see more pictures of each of the cottages, click on their historical name below.
6th Ave and Torres Street – Obers
know known as
Hugh Comstock Residence
Torres Street 4 NE of 6th Ave
(On east side of Torres Street, 4th house
from NE corner of 6th and Torres)
Hansel (shown) and Gretel
(On west side of Santa Fe,
4th house from the NW corner 6th and Santa Fe)
2 6th SW Santa Rita
(On the south side of 6th, 2nd house from the
SW corner 6th and Santa Rita)
SW Corner 6th and Santa Rita
Santa Rita 2 SW 6th
(West side of Santa Rita 2nd house
from SW Corner 6th and Santa Rita)
NW Corner Santa Rita & Ocean Avenue
Ocean Avenue 2 NW of Santa Rita
NE Corner Ocean Avenue and Torres
(Across from Comfort Inn)
Carmel Pine Cone, January 1975, “Love Gives Inspiration for Fairy Tale Houses,” Chris Keller on book by Joanne Mathewson.
Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture, Kent Seavey, page 80, Photography courtesy Pat Hathaway, Historic California Views.
Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture, Kent Seavey, page 80, Phtograph courtesy of the Monterey Public Library, California History Room Archives.
Otsey Totsy “Little Iodine” made by Mayotta in 1948 on display at the Carmel History Library – Photo L. A. Momboisse
Comstock Home Photos – L. A. Momboisse 2012