“My fingers had the art to make
stone love stone.” Robinson Jeffers
Robinson Jeffers Garden Party
May 5, 2013
Robin began work on Hawk Tower the year after the main house was finished in 1919. He would spend five years happily working on this tower. It would be his gift, his labor of love for Una. He would give her a tower like her adored poet, Yeats had lived in at Ballylee in Ireland.
Each day in the afternoon Robin would walk down to the beach below their house, find just the right stone and bring it back up the tor. If the wooded railway Mr. Murphy constructed to transport the heavy granite boulders for construction of the main house was still available this would have made Robin’s job a “bit” easier. If not, he would have carried or rolled the stones back from the beach.
For the first two stories, Robin rolled the stones up planks in a manner
similar to what the Egyptians used when they built the pyramids.
For the last two stories he would use the block and tackle he had installed near the front door of the main house. Finally in 1925 the massive tower, almost forty feet high with walls as much as six feet thick, was complete.
Today with the sounds of Ed Jarvis on the Bagpipe drifting though the air
I enter the door of Hawk Tower under the capstone with
Una and Robin Jeffers initials carved above.
On the ground floor there are two rooms, one of which, known as the dungeon, is several feet below ground level. Set on the work table is a painting of the 8 cent United States Postal Stamp issued in 1973 commemorating the life and work of Robinson Jeffers,
and a painting depicting the horse in his poem, Roan Stallion.
After his death, Robin’s writing desk and chair were moved from the main house to the first floor of the tower. His chair was made out of timbers from the ruins of Carmel Mission.
On the desk is a bible box belonging to his father, Dr. William Jeffers. It has been filled with some of Robin’s personal possessions: Prince Albert tobacco can, pipe, glasses and the sign Una would post daily on their gate, “Not at home before 4PM.”
The painting of Robin wearing an open neck shirt made by Una, is by Sam Manning. The painting was unfinished as Sam died before he finished the portrait. On the window in front of the desk, Donnan carved his name in the glass using his mother’s diamond ring. He learned at school that diamonds cut glass and he wanted to see if this was indeed true. Sure enough it worked. Stand at just the right angle and Donnan Jeffers appears on the glass. One act he couldn’t blame on his twin brother.
A kerosene lamp lit the first floor and a corner fireplace added warmth. Una and the twins placed many stone trinkets throughout Hawk Tower –
above the fireplace is a small cement plaque containing a piece of black lava from Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii, a piece of white lava from Mt. Vesuvius, an Indian Arrowhead from Michigan, and a pebble from the shore of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania.
There are two ways of reaching the second level of Hawk Tower. For the more adventurous, try the Up Only secret passage. But be warned this is not for everyone.
A tight fit and steep climb, this passage can only be maneuvered successfully
by leading with your left shoulder.
Then corkscrew your way up the inside wall to the second level.
There is a window half-way up to add a little light to the journey.
When you reach to end of the passageway,
open the wooden door to enter the second level.
Unless someone is standing against the door,
then just knock frantically until someone finds you.
A simpler way would be to climb the exterior stairway.
The second floor was “Una’s Room.”
Above the fireplace is another motto by Virgil,
“They make their own dreams for themselves.”
Una surrounded herself with the things that she loved, Robin and the twins. Most of the walls of this room are lined with mahogany panels. The Jeffers hired a cabinet maker to panel the narrow Gothic windows that face south.
Through a short passage there is a small sitting area where Una
could sit and watch the sea through the oriel windows.
In the short passage between the main room and the sitting area, the Jeffers placed a figurine of a woman with a red cape and black velvet dress.
This antique doll rests against a tile dating from 2100 B.C. Babylonia inscribed with a prayer to the goddess Ishtar. Across from the doll is a carved stone head from the temple of Prah-Khan in Cambodia.
On the climb to the next level there are two portholes embedded into the west facing wall.
The one on the right is said to be from the “Inconstant,” which was the ship that Napoleon escaped on from Elba. In The Stones Of Tor House
, Donnan Jeffers states, “The ship “Inconstant,” later renamed “Natalia,” was wrecked in Monterey Bay in 1830.” It is true that Napoleon was on the “Inconstant” but I am not sure if it was one in the same as the Natalia
The porthole on the left came from the wreckage of an unknown ship that washed ashore in Pacific Grove in the 1880’s. Open the one on the right and glance out to sea.
From the third floor, “one could ascent from the doorway of this room up into a little turret on the third floor, from which a door gave access to a marble-paved platform protected by battlemented walls.” (1)
On this level there are two plaques one is carved with the King James version of Psalm 68:16,
“Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in.”
And another plaque written in Latin that states, “With his own hands RJ built Hawk Tower for me.”
But Hawk Tower doesn’t end on the third level. Take hold of the weather worn chain and climb the last few stairs to the top of the turret. The gargoyles on the exterior walls were carved by Mr. Maddox and act as rain gutters.
From this vantage you can see 360 degrees from Point Lobos to Pebble and the entire grounds of Tor House.
Before descending back first, notice the piece of stone from the Great Wall of China. I touch it, knowing that this is the closest I will ever get to the Great Wall.
Time to descend by the outer staircase and let some other visitors enjoy this incredible view.
Tour Hawk Tower
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years
Part 3 Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part 4 Robinson and Una
Part 1 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party – Tor House Garden
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party – Tour House and Annex
Credits and Photos
Black and White photo – inclined ramp used for first two stories of Hawk Tower – notice garage to the right and the beginning of the stone wall to enclose the courtyard – Kent Seavey, Images of America Carmel A History in Architecture (Arcadia Publishing, 2007), 65 – (Photograph Tor House Foundation Archival Collection).
Black and White photo – Seavey, 66 (Photograph by Horace B. Lyon from Tor House Foundation Archival Collection).
Color photos – L. A. Momboisse taken May 5, 2013.
(1) Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House, (Ryan Ranch Printers, 2008), 24.