Carmel, Carmel Heritage Society, Carmel History,, Michael J. Murphy

First Murphy House – Home of the Carmel Heritage Society

Michael J. Murphy

Born on June 26, 1885, Michael J. Murphy was one of the twelve children of Michael and Emma of Minden, Utah.  He grew up on the family cattle and horse ranch in Utah until his father’s untimely death in a horse accident in 1893. 

The ranch became too much for Emma and her five unmarried children, so she moved the family to Los Angeles.  Here Michael learned the trade of carpentry. 

In 1900 Emma learned of a small settlement starting up near Monterey, called Carmel-by-the-Sea and decided to take Michael and his ten year old sister Myrtle north for a visit. They traveled by train to Monterey and then took a stagecoach over the hill to Carmel. 

In 1902 Mr. Murphy built his first home, for his mother and sister.  By 1904 he had become associated with Franklin Devendorf as a builder for Carmel Development Company. 

Franklin Devendorf had purchased much of the land in Carmel and was subdividing and selling the parcels. He wanted to sell the lots with homes.  So in 1903 Devendorf ordered 100 “portable houses,” to put on the lots he had for sale.  What was delivered however, were 100 doors.

Devendorf used the doors to create one house. (Insistently this house, “Door House,” still exists and will be part of the Carmel Heritage Society House and Garden Tour 2014.)  But Franklin Devendorf needed more than one house for all the lots he had for sale.  So he asked young M. J. Murphy who had only built one house, to help him build the houses he needed.    

Murphy developed his own designs and did most of the building himself. As his reputation grew, more and more people wanted Murphy homes.  “In 1914 he became a general contractor and in 1924, he established M. J. Murphy, Inc., a business which sold building supplies, did rock crushing and concrete work, and operated a lumber mill and cabinet shop business situated between San Carlos and Mission streets.” (1)  The lumber mill was located where the Wells Fargo Bank and parking lot are today, and the lumber yard where the Carmel Plaza is today.    

Over 300 buildings in Carmel are attributed to Michael J. Murphy, most notably The Highlands Inn, the Carmel Art Association, the Harrison Memorial Library, the Pine Inn, Sea View House and First Murphy House.  Murphy’s influence on the character of both residential and business districts was tremendous.  

Mr. Murphy was also hired by Robinson Jeffers to build Tor House.  During the first stage of construction Jeffers studied under Murphy as an apprentice.  After learning all the trades, Jeffers went on to finish the house and build Hawk Tower.

Mr, Murphy retired in 1941 and turned his business over to his son Frank. Today, M. J. Murphy, Inc is operated by his grandsons out of Carmel Valley.  

First Murphy House

Michael J. Murphy was not a proponent of any particular style when he built his first house for his mother and sister in 1902.  This home, an 820 square foot cottage, is a mixture of Victorian (Queen Anne bay windows) and a Craftsman Bungalow (rectangular single story style).

Over the years the home was remodeled, moved, and eventually ended up in the middle of the commercial district on Mission between Fifth and Sixth for use as a storage unit.

In 1990 Murphy’s first house was purchased by developers who planned on tearing it down.  

With the lack of funds, need for a new location for the house, and the developers pressuring for demolition, the odds of saving the house seemed insurmountable. 

But Carmelites can be tenacious.  To save the house from demolition, and with the support of the Carmel Heritage Society, the citizens of Carmel formed the First Murphy Foundation, which raised $16,000 for the relocation of First Murphy House.  

The City of Carmel offered city-owned property at Sixth and Lincoln for the relocation site, and the house was declared historical.  

One morning residents awoke to find the
First Murphy House rising above the trees,

being transported through town
 (almost as if leading a parade),

and deposited at its present location
 next to what would become First Murphy Park.

After relocation, renovation of the little cottage began. Project Architect, Brian Congelton of Congleton Architect,  spent a great deal of time insuring that the First Murphy House would conform to its original design. 

The project was completed in the summer of 1992 and First Murphy House became the home and welcome center for Carmel Heritage Society.  

Inside visitors will find a living history museum of Carmel.  They may also purchase the video Don’t Pave Main Street.  This video on Carmel history is narrated by former mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea Clint Eastwood.

Also available for purchase is The Comstock Fairy Tale Cottages of Carmel, by Joanne Mathewson, the second edition, published by Carmel resident Stephanie Ager Kirz of White Dog Press.  

 First Murphy House
Welcome Center 
Carmel Heritage Society 

Next History of Carmel Heritage Society and First Murphy Park

(1) Hale, Sharron Lee. A Tribute to Yesterday (Valley Publishers Santa Cruz, 1980), 20.

Photo CreditsPhotographs – L. A. Momboisse – Except those listed below: 

– Black and White Photo of M. J. Murphy with wife and children, 1910. (M. J. Murphy Hardware Carmel Valley)
– Black and White Photo of M. J. Murphy with his mother and sister in front of First Murphy House. (Harrison Memorial Library Local History Department)

– Three Color Photos of First Murphy House relocation. (Harrison Memorial Library Local History Department)
– Black and White Photo of the dedication of First Murphy House as Carmel Heritage Welcome Center.  Pictured (l to r) Susan Draper, Lacy Buck, Carmel Heritage President Kay Prine, Burney Threadgill, Glenn Leidig, and Jean Draper.  Prine holds a plaque dedicating the house to the late Carmel philanthropist and first President of Carmel Heritage Society, Virginia Stanton. (Deborah Sharp, “Carmel Heritage Officially Opens Welcome Center.”  Carmel Pine Cone, (1992).


One thought on “First Murphy House – Home of the Carmel Heritage Society

  1. Dear Lynn,
    I found your blog quite by chance and have enjoyed an hour or more in Carmel. I haven't had the opportunity to be there in years, but it is one of my favorite places in the world. I keep wondering….is the Tuck Box still there, or did I see a picture of a candy store in it's place. Thanks for the memories.


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