Fairy Tale Houses, Hugh Comstock

Hugh W. Comstock Builder of Carmel’s Fairy Tale Houses

Posts on Fairy Tale Houses of
Hugh W. Comstock 

Carmel House and Garden Tour 2012 Inside Hugh Comstock’s Hansel and Curtain Call 

Carmel House and Garden Tour 2013 Inside Hugh Comstock Residence and A Storybook Cottage

Hugh Comstock’s Signature, Inside Comstock’s Residence

Hugh Comstock’s Signature, Inside Fables

Carmel-by-the-Sea Comstock Historical Hill District Walking Tour and Map of 11 Fairy Tale Houses

History of Hugh Comstock and the Historical Hill District and Map

Google Map of Hugh Comstock Houses 

Hugh Comstock’s Hansel and Gretel 

Hugh Comstock’s Residence (formerly known as Obers) and The Woods

Hugh Comstock’s Studio, Our House and Storybook Cottage

Hugh Comstock Builds Five Cottages for O. W. Swain -Honeymoon, Birthday House, Fables, A Dolls House and Ocean House

Carmel, Fables, Hugh Comstock

Hugh Comstock’s Architectural Signature – Inside "Fables"

 “In 1928, Eastern investor W.O. Swain convinced the Carmel City Council to allow him to develop a small, five-unit subdivision based on the English garden city plan, as Swain noted, “with a feeling of spaciousness about them, as in a park.” The five houses form the largest single concentration of Comstock fairy-tale cottages left in Carmel.” (Images of America Carmel A History in Architecture, Kent Seavey, page 82)

At a cost of $2,989, Fables was the fourth cottage built by Hugh Comstock in 1928, for Mr. Swain’s sub-division.  All five of the cottages were built in a different style, this one with its polygonal hipped roof is French Norman style.   

The original structure, approximately 1000 square feet was built in an ell shape. A Carmel stone chimney 
anchors the north elevation. 

The house has changed little on the outside on the eastern elevation as can be seen from this picture taken by Colin Kuster (son of Edward Kuster and Gabrielle Young-Hunter) in 1988. Let’s see, how do I explain this? Edward Kuster was the first husband of Una Jeffers.  His fourth wife, Gabrielle was the daughter of Mary Young Hunter, whom Comstock built “The Woods” for in 1927.

Anyway, typical of Comstock, the front entrance is not seen from the street but faces the south toward another Swain cottage,  Dolls House.
The outside porch light is vintage Comstock.
You will see these throughout the village.
 When you do, know that they are
originally from the 1920’s and 30’s.   
The drawing below is Comstock’s
 original schematic for the
southern elevation  of Fables.
Notice that all of the windows are multi-pane.   
Today three of the windows on the
 southern elevation are stained glass.
Two on the second floor nestled between the
 signature Comstock half-timbering and 
the one next to the front door.  
There is no record of these changes on file. 
Upon entering Fables one is amazed
by Comstock’s ceiling.
With no background in architecture or design,
 he created cottages and fairy tale homes that have
 become synonymous with Carmel-by-the-Sea!
The living room highlights another Comstock feature,
a Carmel stone fireplace with anchor capstone. 
In 2012, the current owners
beautifully remodeled the kitchen,
maintaining the original footprint 
of the kitchen
and dining area. 
Sometime during the 1980’s, the garage was converted into a den and bathroom. The current owners have updated this area, again keeping the footprint and use for the area the same, with one exception. 
 The multi-pane window in the garage/den to the west was bumped out into an oriel style.  You can see it above from the inside and below from the outside

Another Comstock feature are the
 flat wood balusters on the staircase 

 leading to the interior balcony.

From here you can look directly

through the collar ties supporting
the ceiling, or

down into the living room 

On the second floor there is one bedroom 

and one bath tucked into the high pitch of the roof. Here is a view of one of the three stained glass windows.  Notice that even the shower tiles conform to the roof pitch.
Comstock also made great use of space with the addition of windows seats.  The current owners followed his lead by adding the drawers in the wall. 
 From the western bedroom window

there is a nice view of the ocean,

and a good view of Ocean House which Comstock

also built for Swain’s subdivision.

For a tour of the lovely outdoor garden of Fables please visit here.  
Black and white photo by C. Kuster, from Harrison Memorial History Library
All other photos by L. A. Momboisse http://www.carmelbytheseaca.blogspot.com
A Storybook Cottage, Carmel, Carmel Heritage Society, Historical Home, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Hugh Comstock, Hugh W. Comstock Residence, Michael J. Murphy, Obers, The First Murphy House

Carmel by the Sea House and Garden Tour 2013 – Part I – Carmel by the Sea

On an unseasonably sunny day in mid June, I set on the Carmel Heritage Society’s House and Garden Tour sponsored by Sotheby’s International Realty  and Village Corner Restaurant to explore eight of Carmel’s historical and quaint cottages. The owners of these homes meticulously care for them and have graciously opened their front gate and front doors to the community. It is a marvelous opportunity to learn more about the architects that built the first homes in Carmel-by-the-Sea as well as discover how we can continue to preserve these buildings, which are “ours to protect,” through the Carmel Heritage Society.    

We will be touring the work of three creative Carmel architects, two of which I have written extensively on before. You may read more about their life and work in my past posts on Michael J. Murphy and Hugh W. Comstock.  

The First Murphy House 
Lincoln and 6th Avenue

Built by Michael J. Murphy when he was 17 years old, the 111 year old First Murphy House is an 829 square foot cottage that today houses the office for the Carmel Heritage Society, a non-profit organization serving the community of Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Their mission is to protect, preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the community in a way that encourages public recognition and participation so that people will have a greater knowledge and appreciation of the community of Carmel and its sphere of influence.

In 1990 when the First Murphy House was facing the possibility of demolition, the Carmel community came together and formed the First Murphy House Committee under the auspices of the Carmel Heritage Society.

With the committee’s efforts, $16,000 in donations were quickly raised to save Mr. Murphy’s first architectural achievement, and this home was literally lifted up by a crane, transported through town (almost as if leading a parade) and deposited into its present location next to what became First Murphy Park.

The newest addition to the grounds of the First Murphy House is a commemorative bench dedicated in honor of Enid Sales, a historic preservationist, who was also instrumental in the community effort to save  First Murphy House.   

With a filtered view of Carmel Bay, First Murphy Park and Gardens sits adjacent to First Murphy House.

The meandering paths and benches make it a lovely place to sit and have lunch.  In the southwest corner, down the stairs from the upper deck there are public restrooms. 

My favorite part of the park is “The Valentine” a bronze sculpture by George Wayne Lundeen of an 

elderly couple sitting quietly, their heads leaning together in a comfortable gesture of compatibility, the woman holds a heart shaped valentine, and they both appear lost in a daydream of years filled with shared memories.  

But, no time to sit and daydream,
 we have places to be and homes to see.

 Hugh W. Comstock Residence
 NE Corner Torres & Sixth 

Formerly known as “Obers” this whimsical storybook style residence has reclaimed its Comstock designation with a new name, the Hugh W. Comstock Residence.   Built in 1925 for $1,000 this residence was just that, the private home of Hugh and his wife Mayotta, who lived there until Hugh’s death in 1950.

A new roof was completed just a few days before the house tour by  Alcal Specialty Contracting, Inc.  The roofers worked cautiously on the steeply pitched roof for almost two weeks, hand cutting and staggering the wood shingles, laying them in such a precise manner, as if putting pieces of a intricate puzzle together.  The resulting pattern suggests thatching, and replicates the original roof. 

The current owners who have owned the property since 1985 have kept it in pristine condition meticulously preserving all the original Comstock features except…  

the adobe patio that was built by Hugh Comstock in 1940, using his newly fabricated Post-Adobe method.  It was one of his earlier experiments with the material and the patio did not stand up to the test of time.  


Abbey Baker Design Build renovated the patio with Carmel Stone, paying special attention to keeping the exact footprint of the original Post-Adobe patio, fireplace, and wall;

 at the same time leaving a small portion of the wall, for historical purposes, in its original form on the northwest side of the property. 

When Hugh Comstock built his home in 1925, it consisted of an entryway, living area, upper loft, and attic, a cozy 400 square feet of living space, with an exterior wall of cement stucco, patterned after his first storybook house, Hansel.


Inside this tiny cottage, Hugh built an open hand-hewn redwood beam ceiling low over the first floor living area.

In fact only two rows of the three-tier mullioned windows visible from the outside are visible from the first floor living area. 

 The upper row is covered by 

the attic wall and ceiling. 

The living area is anchored by a Comstock Carmel Stone fireplace and lit by the wood framed French doors that lead to the Comstock Studio, which became Mr. Comstock’s office following the success of his “Storybook Fairy Tale” style architecture which can clearly be seen imitated throughout Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

In 1936 Mr. Comstock experimented with a system of adding emulsified asphalt to soil to make a moisture proof adobe brick that looked identical to the Spanish adobe used to build the Carmel Mission.  By 1940 he was ready to use this new building material on an addition to his home.  The photograph below shows the Post-Adobe addition to the left of the Oak tree.  

Hugh Comstock’s Post-Adobe combined the “best features of both a sturdy timber frame and modern waterproofed adobe walls. Heavy eight-inch posts of redwood or cedar are placed at all window openings, door openings, and corners of the house…Waterproofed adobe masonry, of the same thickness as the posts, is placed in the wall spaces between the posts as a filler material (as shown in the illustration below from Post-Adobe by Hugh Comstock).”  (2)
In 1948 Hugh published a “How To” booklet with simplified directions on his Post-Adobe construction.  In this booklet he used illustrations by W. Harvey Williamson of his residence that when shown side by side with current photographs confirm the lengths the owners have gone to preserve this home and its historic nature.  

The two pictures above are of the dining room.  The top from Comstock’s “How To” booklet, the bottom the room today, with the original Post-Adobe walls constructed between hand-hewn redwood timbers sitting on top of the original polished brick floors.

In the corner of the dining room is the original 73 year old fireplace with copper hood.  For a man with no architectural training, this home, as well of the others he built in Carmel, is remarkable.  
The floors in the kitchen are a continuation of the polished brick from the dining room. Though the kitchen has been modernized, it blends beautifully in seamless compatibility with the rest of the home.  
My favorite spot, the view out of the 
window over the kitchen farm sink.

Continue up the staircase in the entryway to the second floor and pass an original light fixture which had at one time adorned the outside of the home. 
From the top of the stairs, we enter a four sided balcony (part of the original 1925 house) with view to the entryway and living area below.
The detail in Comstock’s hand-hewn pierced flatwork railing is quite extraordinary. 

Here on second floor is the original attic, sleeping quarters, and tiny bathroom from 1925. 

The closed door to the left, above, is the bathroom door.  If you think you have seen this unusual door shape before, you have – It is the same style door Mr. Comstock used when he built the Tuck Box. On the right is the knotty pine arched door to the
attic area with three signature Comstock features:  a steeply pitched roof line, narrow arched three-light casement window, and  

diamond pattern leaded glass casement “eyebrow” window. A glance out this window shows a view of the Carmel Stone arch built around the front door of Comstock’s Studio

The 1940’s second floor addition houses what was originally Mayotta’s knotty pine paneled sewing room, now a guestroom.  

Through the wooden french doors is a small enclosed deck with  low railing of pierced flatwork similar in style to the inside staircase and balcony.  From this narrow balcony the Carmel stone patio by Abbey Baker Design Build is especially enjoyable today with fragrant smells wafting from the fireplace.  

A master bedroom 

and balcony with Comstock’s now signature pierced flatwork railing was also added in 1940. From this balcony the intricate and time consuming details of the new roof by  Alcal Specialty Contracting, Inc. can be seen close up.

Instead of using Post-Adobe for the walls upstairs, Mr. Comstock used a vertical board-and-batten siding.  This can be more readily seen from the outside west elevation.

In 2012, a Carmel Stone garage and bonus room was added by Abbey Baker Design Build. It was purposely built in a differentiated style from the residence.  The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea is very protective of its history, so much so that when a another building is added, not renovated, but added, to a lot with an existing historical dwelling, the new structure must be built so that when one looks at the lot from the street they will immediately know that the new building is not part of the original structure.  And just to make things more challenging for the modern architect, the new structure must not only be differentiated it must also be complimentary.  

Which is exactly what has been done with Hugh W. Comstock Residence.

Just around the corner in the Comstock Historical Hill District is our next destination.

A Storybook Cottage 

Santa Fe between 5th and 6th 

One block northeast of the Hugh W. Comstock Residence, Hugh’s father-in-law, Thomas M. Browne purchased a lot.  In 1926, Mr. Browne acquired a permit to build a small structure on the eastern side of the property.  

Fifteen years later, after the death of Mr. Browne, his widow, Mayotta’s mother, sold the property to the Comstock’s for $10.

Hugh Comstock built a 384 square foot cottage at the western edge of the lot in 1941, using many of his signature architectural features; the high pitched roof, door hood, side facing front door, Carmel Stone chimney, hand carved wood window casings and rough textured cement stucco exterior wall cladding.  

In 1987 owner Joan Bard added a two story 693 square foot addition to the back of the existing cottage, increasing the size of the kitchen and adding two bedrooms. 

Joan Bard used materials, such as stucco siding, which was similar to that found on the original 1941 building, but in a report by Kent Seavey dated May 15, 2012 to City Planner Sean Conroy, it was determined that the use of vinyl windows with snap-in diamond pattern mutins and the pierced decorative wood railings used in the 1987 addition detracted from the historical integrity of the property.  Consequently on May 22, 2012 the property was determined to be ineligible for listing on the City’s Inventory of Historic Resources.

Before the present owners took possession of the property a shed and 167 square foot studio were added to the easternmost portion of the lot.  

On the House and Garden Tour we enjoyed a beautifully renovated Storybook Cottage.  The new owners, Harry and Jane Herbst, are admirers of Comstock’s work, and in their restoration incorporated some of his signature details from Marchen Haus in the main house and Hansel in the studio. 

The vinyl windows were replaced 

with wood crank windows and  

the old studio received 80 additional square feet making it a comfortable guest house with bedroom, half bath, and cozy sitting area. 

A detached one car garage was added adjacent to the original cottage.  It has similar characteristics as the residence, hand-carved wood window casings and roof edge, high pitched roof line, and exposed rafters, yet it will be differentiated by being built with board and batten exterior siding instead of stucco cladding as in the original 1941 cottage.   

The result, great care was taken in the restoration of this home by Bell and McBride Builders  and the current owners to continue to embrace the Comstock style and character.  It is stunning!  A year ago I named this home “Browne House” and included it in my map of the Comstock Historical Hill District that can be printed off and used as a self-guided tour. Welcome A Storybook Cottage to the Comstock Historical Hill District of Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

Next up: Forest Cottage built by Frederick Bigland, Holly Oak Cottage Garden, home built by Michael J. Murphy and All the Way the mysterious hidden American Foursquare I have walked by for 40 years, now I know what beauty lies behind that fence.   

House and Garden Tour Part 2 – Forest Cottage, All the Way, Holly Oak Cottage
House and Garden Tour Part 3  – Hob Nob, Carmel Cottage Inn



Black and white photo Michael J. Murphy’s mother Emma (left), Murphy, and his wife Edna standing in front of the first home Mr. Murphy built in 1902. Kent Seavey, Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture (Arcadio Publishing, 2007), 36. Photograph from Harrison Memorial Library Collection.

Two color pictures from 1990 the relocation of the First Murphy House to present location, courtesy of Harrison Memorial Local History Library donated by Harrison Comstock.

Black and white photo Hugh and Mayotta Comstock in front of the east entrance to Hugh Comstock Residence, courtesy of the Harrison Memorial Local History Library.  

(1) Photo courtesy of Abbey Baker Design Build

Black and white photo Hugh Comstock Residence shortly after construction in 1925. Seavey, p. 81. Photograph from Pat Hathaway Historic California Views. 

Black and white photo of Comstock personal residence circa 1940. Seavey, p. 117.Photography by Morley Baer, courtesy of Monterey Peninsula College.  

(2) Hugh Comstock, Post-Adobe – How to booklet published 1948. 

Color picture of  vinyl windows of 1987 addition to A Storybook Cottage copied from Carmel-By-The-Sea City Hall Building Department files.  

All other color photographs by L. A. Momboisse http://www.carmelbytheseaca.blogspot.com

Hugh Comstock, Hugh W. Comstock Residence, Mayotta Browne Comstock, Obers

Carmel by the Sea – Hugh Comstock’s Architectural Signature – Inside "Hugh W. Comstock Residence formerly known as Obers"

Hugh Comstock and his wife Mayotta built
 “Hugh W. Comstock Residence
as their private residence and office in 1925.

The picture above shows the original
structure shortly after being built
for $1,000.

The approximately 20 x 20 square foot
floor plan  consisted of a living area


with a signature Comstock Carmel
stone fireplace on the first floor,


and a petite bedroom above the living area.

In this tiny cottage, Hugh built the ceiling
low over the first floor living area.

The open beam ceiling exists today
as it did over 80 years ago –

intersecting the bottom of the top tier
of the south facing three-tier
mullioned window at 90 degrees.
(seen from outside in this picture from 1924)

Or this current picture 

The bedroom over the living area is reached by
the staircase in the foyer, 


which features an open balcony enclosed with
another Comstock signature,
a highly detailed hand hewn
low railing ornamented 
with pierced 
flat wood balusters. 


This light fixture is thought
 to be an original to the home.

Comstock, also famous for his use of space,
 incorporates two twin beds and

a door for storage in the slant of the steep roof line. 


The bedroom over the living area contains the
east facing eyebrow window with
diamond-pane leaded glass
(seen from the outside below)


and the south facing narrow arched
 three-light casement window. 
 Features Comstock would incorporate in his
 future cottages, The Studio and Our House.

In 1940 Hugh Comstock added a
 two story addition to the west side
 of the cottage.

On the first floor a kitchen, dining room
and lavatory were added.

In this new addition Hugh incorporated
 his new Post-Adobe
construction on the first floor.
 The original brick floor
 and fireplace still exist

as well as the Post-Adobe brick walls.

The picture below shows the south elevation of
the home after this addition.

Upstairs Hugh added a master bedroom
with adjoining bathroom
 and east facing deck,
and a sewing room
with west facing deck for Mayotta.

The plans above were drawn by Hugh Comstock.
  The balcony outside Mayotta’s sewing room
 is shown on the plans
to the left and would be
 the west facing elevation
toward the sea.


Today Mayotta’s sewing room is a cozy bedroom,
 featuring the south facing eyebrow window with
 diamond-pane leaded glass and

Wooden French doors leading to a balcony
 with yet another signature
 Comstock hand hewn low railing,
 this time of double pierced
flat wood balusters similar in style to the
 interior staircase and balcony.


Hugh Comstock’s architectural signature
 is visible throughout this historical cottage
located in the Historical Hill District of

We have the longtime current owners to thank,
as they have lovingly maintained
 and restored this charming home
 both inside and out.

Photo Credits
Black and White photo of Hugh and Mayotta outside “Obers” donated by Harrison Comstock to the Henry Meade Williams Local History Department, Harrison Memorial Library.

Black and White photo of Comstock personal residence “Obers” in 1925 – Photograph Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture, Kent Seavey page 81, courtesy of Pat Hathaway, Historic California Views.

Black and White photo of Comstock personal residence “Obers” circa 1940 – Photograph Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture, Kent Seavey page 117 Photograph by Morley Baer, courtesy of Montery Peninsula College.

House plans courtesy of Carmel-by-the-Sea City Hall Files

*Color Photos by Al Saroyan Masterbuilder
**Color Photos by M. Vincent
All other color photos by L. A.Momboisse  

Birthday House, Doll's House, Fables, Honeymoon, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Hugh Comstock, Ocean House, Yellow Bird

Carmel by the Sea – Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock – W. O. Swain Cottages

“Some time last year an easterner came out to the Monterey peninsula, built himself a house to settle down in, and decided to do a friendly thing in Carmel…He wanted to help create…He therefore chose an architect who would carry out this feeling sympathetically in the lines of his houses.  He rearranged his lots and the cottages on them (first consulting and obtaining the consent of the City Council) so that instead of standing on narrow wedges of plots, city fashion, they would be grouped together with a feeling of spaciousness about them, as in a park.  He therefore shortened and widened the lots…grouped his cottages in community fashion…like the English cottage groups in their garden cities.  The houses were cleverly planned and executed by Hugh ComstockThese quaint little cottages are nevertheless modern, with their electric stoves and hot water, their ironing-boards tucked cleverly away…These fetching little houses…stand on Ocean Avenue at the rise, lifting to a glimpse of the sea.  There are five of them in a group among the trees.  The landscaping about them has given them a unity.”  (The Swain Houses, The Carmelite, February 6, 1929)
 “In 1928, Eastern investor W.O. Swain convinced the Carmel City Council to allow him to develop a small, five-unit subdivision based on the English garden city plan, as Swain noted, “with a feeling of spaciousness about them, as in a park.” The five houses form the largest single concentration of Comstock fairy-tale cottages left in Carmel.” (Images of America Carmel A History in Architecture, Kent Seavey, page 82)

Historic Name: W. O. Swain Cottage #1
Common Name: Honeymoon (aka Yellow Bird)
Architectural Style: (English Cottage Vernacular)
6th Street 2SW Santa Rita
Blook 66 Lot 1 and 2

Honeymoon is the first of the five English cottage style homes built by Hugh Comstock for O.W. Swain. The original structure, 660 square feet built in 1928 for $2,400, is described in city documents as a “one story wood framed Tudor, English cottage – rectangular in plan…[with] detached garage.”
Though there are no recorded changes
to this property on file, the roof looks quite new.
As well as the “Carmel quaint” grape stake
fence with the wood and glass oval gate.
With basically no architectural training, Comstock was able to change his designs from Fairy Tale Storybook to English Cottage quite seamlessly.
Honeymoon’s exterior wall cladding is textured cement stucco with  decorative half-timbering.
The roof is steeply pitched hip-on-gable reminscent of a small Anne Hathaway Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon (replacing shingles for thatch of course).  

Comstock’s use of a stucco interior chimney, instead of the exterior Carmel stone chimney was his nod to the English cottage style architecture that his client, Swain, had requested for this group of houses. 
For many years this property was popular with newlyweds, hence the common name of “Honeymoon.”  At one point the owners of this home painted it yellow contributing to another common name for this home, “Yellow Bird.” 
Today the current owners have brought back the original name and feel to Honeymoon; quaint, tranquil and charming.   
Historic Name: W. O. Swain Cottage #2
Resource Name: Doll’s House
Architectural Style: (Tudor Storybook Substyle)
NW Corner Santa Rita and Ocean Avenue
Blook 66 Part of Lot 2,3,4
The second cottage built in Mr. Swain’s complex was Doll’s House, one of Comstock’s larger homes, a 3 bedroom, two bath with attached garage for an estimated cost of $2,665. The only evidence we have of the garage is from Comstock’s original drawing of the east elevation is shown below.   
The garage area was enlarged and turned into a bedroom in 1945 exchanging the carriage style garage door for present footprint shown below.  
This one and one-half story wood framed Tudor Storybook cottage has exterior wall cladding of textured cement stucco. The picture below taken in 2002 shows the front entry, which faces Ocean Avenue, recessed behind the steeply pitched roof overhang.
Today the front entry is hidden by mature oak trees that surround the property.  Yet a glimpse of the intereior stucco chimney can be seen from this elevation.  

From the east elevation (Santa Rita Street) Comstock has left his signature in the whimsical wood treatment on the gable apex. 

Other than the garage conversion in 1945,

a bathroom remodel in 1971 and kitchen remodel in 1989, Doll’s House remains relatively unaltered over the past 85 years.

Historic Name: W. O. Swain Cottage #3
Common Name: Ocean House
Architectural Style: (English Cottage Vernacular)
Ocean Avenue 2 NW of Santa Rita
Blook 66 Lot 5

If you turn right on to Ocean Avenue from Santa Rita, being careful to walk off the roadway you will come to Ocean House, the third cottage built by Hugh Comstock for Mr. Swain in 1928.  Although the roof looks new, the only recorded change in 85 years to this home is an electrical upgrade in 1999.
The English Cotswald cottage style of architecture was Hugh Comstock’s influence for this one story wood framed cottage, with steeply pitched intersecting hipped roof.
Ocean House is probably the simplest and most private of the five Swain cottages.  There is no garage and the property sits well back from Ocean Avenue.
The chimney is built on the inside, using stucco.
The principal window facing west is barely visible through the trees but may possibly still have a Point Lobos view. The front entry facing east is also sheltered from view.

Historic Name: W. O. Swain Cottage #4
Resource Name: Fables
Architectural Style: (Norman French Cottage Vernacular)
Santa Rita 2 SW 6th Avenue 
Blook 66 Part of Lot 2,3,4
With no formal design or building experience, it is quite amazing how Hugh Comstock rather effortlessly moved from one architectural influence to another creating one charming cottage after another in such a short amount of time.  
Fables’s is the 4th cottage built for Mr. Swain.  This time Comstock let French Norman architecture be his influence incorporating a polygonal hipped roof reminiscent of a French country farmhouse.
Built in 1928 for $2,989, this cottage may be the most unusual in style for Comstock, built in an ell shape with an attached garage and an exterior Carmel stone chimney at the inside corner of the ell. 
The garage was turned into a den sometime during the 1980’s; which connects to the west facing kitchen, remodeled in 2012.
The only other room downstairs is the living area which, two stories high, opens to a second floor balcony that leads to the upstairs bedroom and bath.
In true Comstock fashion the front

door is not visible from the front elevation

it is under the awning facing

south toward Doll’s House.

The elevation of Fables suggests an ocean view from the kitchen and bedroom. From the above photo you can also see how close together these cottages were built.  From left to right is northfacing wall of Doll’s House, roof of Ocean House, a peek at the ocean, south facing wall of Fables.
Continuing to the right it appears as if Birthday House is saying, “I’ve got my eyes on you Fables.”   

Historic Name: W. O. Swain Cottage #5
Resource Name: Birthday House 
Architectural Style: (Tudor Storybook Substyle)
SW Corner 6th and Santa Rita
Blook 66 Part of Lot 2,3,4

The last house Hugh Comstock built for
Mr. Swain in 1928 was Birthday House. 
This is a two-story wood framed Tudor Storybook style with exterior wall cladding of textured cement stucco, extensive use of false half-timbering, especially noticeable around the bay window on the eastern elevation. 
 hipped-roof over dormer,
and Carmel stone chimney partially
visible on the north elevation.
For Birthday House, Comstock borrowed a feature from New England architecture. From 6th Avenue, the cottage apears asymmetrical with the two story tall steeply pitched roof sloping down to one story.  This style is called saltbox, which takes its name from its resemblance to a wooden lidded box in which salt was once kept.
A garage was added to the property in 1929 and though it was built with different design elements than Birthday House, Kent Seavey suggests that the construction and design of the garage by Comstock was to “both conceal the adjacent property [Honeymoon] as a visual fence, and to connect it to its neighbor through the use of like construction materials.”   
The two pictures above from Carmel City Hall files show the garage as it was originally built before demolition and reconstruction in 2002.
The historical renovation of the detached garage for Birthday House looks like an exact replica, making Birthday House a fine example of what it would have looked like in 1928/29 when originally build by Hugh Comstock.


I have embeded a pdf map of the Historical Hill District which includes “addresses” and photographs of all 5 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 illustration above.
Back to Fairy Tale Houses of Hugh Comstock


Add from The Carmelite, February 13, 1929
Black and white photo Honeymoon/Yellowbird courtesy of City Hall, document Building, Structure, and Object Record dated 2002.
Color photo Honeymoon/Yellowbird courtesy of Carmel City Hall Records, circa 2003.
Black and white photo Doll’s House courtesy of Carmel City Hall Records, document Building, Structure, and Object Record dated 2002.
Black and white photo Ocean House courtesy of Carmel City Hall Records, document Building, Stucture, and Object Record dated 2002.
Two color pictures of Birthday House garage circa 2001 courtesy of Carmel City Hall Records.
The rest of the photos credit L. A. Momboisse 2012 – 2013
Browne House, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Hugh Comstock, Mayotta Browne Comstock, Storybook Cottage, The Studio

Carmel by the Sea – Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock – The Studio, Our House, Storybook Cottage

Map Comstock Historical Hill District Carmel California Fairy Tale Homes

Historic Name: Comstock Studio
Architectural Style: Tudor (Storybook substyle)
NE Corner 6th and Santa Fe
Block 60, Lot 17 and 19

As Hugh Comstock’s design business grew he and his staff outgrew their office in his personal residence “Obers.” So Hugh built a studio on the lot next door beginning in 1927 with the first structure placed on the western side of the lot.

Comstock built “The Studio” in three distinct sections between 1927-1937, continuing with the Tudor “Fairy Tale” style of many of his earlier cottages, but adding two new design elements to his exterior, leaded glass and Carmel stone, lending a country element to his whimsical style.

The entrance to the studio was directly across from the French wood doors on the east side of his personal residence. Surely a well worn path was traveled back and forth. 

The front entrance is not visible from the street.  This is a picture of the entrance taken from the January/February 2008 issue of Cottage Living. A  wrought iron sign proclaims its historical origin, “Comstock 1927.”

The studio, or first section of “The Studio,” visible from 6th Street features a dormer acting as a door shield over a pair of diamond-paned leaded-glass wooden French doors.  Comstock carried the diamond-paned leaded-glass element to the east where the roof steps down in a small arched wood casement window. 

His signature Carmel stone fireplace anchors this section.  Emulating the pitch in the roof, the chimney is topped with a steeply pitched, gabled spark arrester, here examined closely by one of our squirrel residents. 

Continuing with the charming county look of leaded glass, Comstock added a “hyphen” to the studio in 1936.  This glazed hall gallery features a pair of tall diamond-pane leaded glass windows supported by a low Carmel stone wall flanking a pair of wood and glass double doors.

A year later an office was added off the hall gallery to complete the third section of “The Studio.” 
After Hugh’s unexpected death in 1950, Mayotta made “The Studio” her residence, remodeling the interior of the studio/office in 1953 to include a bedroom, kitchen and living area, and adding a garage with entrance on Santa Fe.
From the outside “The Studio” remains much as it looked in 1988 when it was still owned by the a member of the Comstock family, Harrold Comstock.
 Today the current owners maintain
this historic home beautifully
as well as the lovely
and lush country garden
surrounding the property.
Historic Name: Our House
Architectural Style:  Tudor (Storybook substyle)

Santa Fe 4 NW 6th
Block 60 Lot 11
Our House was designed by Hugh Comstock in 1928 for Elizabeth Armstrong and built for $1,900. From Santa Fe depending on the time of year you will be able to see different parts of this cottage over the grape-stake fence and high shrubs.
But one window always seems to be visible, winter, spring, summer or fall, the narrow arched three-light casement window with braced wood shutter of the same shape with heart-shaped cut out. Spot this and you will know you have the correct house.
Comstock’s architectural signature can be seen in the steeply pitched roof and Carmel stone fireplace. The exterior wall cladding is textured stucco over felt, instead of burlap. Similar to Hansel, the front entrance to Our House is positioned on the side of the property.
In 1940, Hugh Comstock added a small guest house to the SW corner of this property. Later in 1958 the main house and the guest house were combined by adding an extension to the original kitchen.
This picture taken by Colin Kuster in 1988 shows that the cute wood shutters with the heart shaped cut out were a modern addition to the property.
A “twin” to Our House was built by Comstock in 1929 on Casanova and Palou named Sunwise Turn.
“Storybook Cottage”
Santa Fe 2 SE 5th

Until recently I called this house the “Browne House.”  Clearly not because of its color, but because the property was originally owned by T. M. Browne, the father of Mayotta Browne Comstock. 
The current owners Harry and Jane Herbst
 have aptly named  their quaint property
 Storybook Cottage.  

Back in 1926, T. M. Browne purchased a permit to build a small cottage on the property.  Instead he built a small shed structure on the eastern side of the lot.
In 1941, the widow of  T. M. Browne transferred the property to her daughter Mayotta and son-in-law Hugh Comstock.
Shortly after the transfer, Hugh Comstock built a 384 square foot cottage at the front western edge of the
property with his signature high pitched roof, Carmel stone chimney,

front door with door hood 
 facing away from the street, 

 hand carved wood casings around
 the doors and windows
 rough textured cement stucco
exterior wall cladding.
Joan Bard owned the property in 1987 and added a two story addition to the rear of the property. 
According to a report written in 2012 by historian and author Kent Seavey, it was found that “though Ms. Bard employed materials and finishes somewhat similar to those found on the original building, 
her use of vinyl windows with snap-in diamond muntins and the overstated decorative wood railing contributed to the property’s loss of historical integrity. 
Mr. Seavey’s report recommended that the subject property did not meet the “necessary criterion for listing in the California Historical Register.  Nor does it meet the criterion established by the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea for inclusion in the Carmel Historic Resource Inventory, and therefore cannot be considered an historic resource.” 
Currently this home is being renovated, smoothing out the connection between the 1987 addition and the original 1941 cottage.  

A garage is being added to the southwest corner of the property.  It will have similar characteristics as the residence, hand-carved wood window casings and roof edge, high pitched roof line, and exposed rafters, yet it will be differentiated by being built with board and batten instead exterior stucco cladding as in the original structure. 

The homes mentioned in this blog are C) The Studio, D) Our House, and E) Browne House (Storybook Cottage).  
I have embeded a pdf map of the Historical Hill District which includes “addresses” and photographs of all 11 Comstock cottages not just the ones discussed in this blog. You may print this off and use as your own personal walking tour here PDF Map
Back to Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock


Black and White photograph by Colin Kuster, son of Edward Kuster, taken 1988 of “The Studio” courtesy of the Henry Meade Williams Local History Department, Harrison Memorial Library.

Black and White photograph by Colin Kuster, son of Edward Kuster, taken 1988 of “Our House” courtesy of the Henry Meade Williams Local History Department, Harrison Memorial Library.

Black and white photo dated 2010 of the wood rails on the second story addition to the “A Storybook Cottage” from City Hall Records. 

Undated picture showing vinyl windows with snap-in diamond pattern muntins on the second story addition to the “A Storybook Cottage” from City Hall Records. 

All other photos by L. A. Momboisse 2013

http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Hugh Comstock, Hugh W. Comstock Residence, Obers

Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock – Obers, now known as, Hugh W. Comstock Residence, The Woods

 Historic Name: Obers
Architectural Style:  Tudor (Storybook substyle)NE Corner 6th and Torres
Block 60 Lot 18 and 20

Obers, now known as Hugh W. Comstock Residence, became the second building designed by Hugh Comstock.  It was built as Hugh and Mayotta’s private residence, just south of Hansel in block 60 on the NE corner of 6th and Torres. 

This residence was built as a one and 1/2 story Tudor style cottage for $1,000 in 1925. The picture below shows the home shortly after being built. 

In his personal residence, Hugh experimented with a recessed “eyebrow” window on the east side (right side of the dwelling). You see this replicated today in homes and businesses throughout Carmel Village.

As Hugh Comstock’s building business continued to flourish, he began another experiment, that of using adobe in his structures.  He found though, that the one impractical feature of using adobe in construction was that it absored moisture.

Hugh experimented again and between 1936 and 1940 he developed a system of adding emulsified asphalt to just the right soil to make a moisture proof adobe brick that looked identical to the Spanish adobe.  He then set up a plant in Carmel Valley to make these waterproof adobe bricks and used this technique “Post-Adobe” when building the addition to his residence in 1940.  The picture below shows the addition to the west side (left) of the dutch door, another “eyebrow” window was added to this elevation.

This addition which employed Comstock’s innovative Post-Adobe constuction for the first floor, and vertical board-and-batten for the second grew the Comstock residence by another bedroom and bath, plus a kitchen/dining room and sewing room for Mayotta. 

The 1940 drawing for the west elevation (the side facing Torres) shows the home much as it appears today.   

The delineation between the post-adobe and board-and-batten is clearly visible on the west side of the building.
By 1953 the owners of “Obers” are listed as the Ireland’s.  They added a flat roof detached garage to the north east corner of the property, and two years later added a rec room and additional bathroom to the main house. 
In 1963 City Hall records show an Electrical Permit obtained by the owner of record, W. Obers.  William Obers is again noted as the owner in 1976. The historic name given to this property, “Obers” is most likely a reference to William Obers and not something pertaining to the Comstocks. 
The current owners have remodeled this home, adjusting the floor plan into 4 bedrooms and 3 baths, while beautifully maintaining its historical nature and charm.
In July of 2011 an Application for Residential Design Study to remove the existing garage (built in 1953), which was not historical, and build a new one, was submitted to the city.
In reviewing this application the Community Planning and Building Staff of Carmel-by-the-Sea determined that the proposed demolition of the existing garage and construction of a new 527 square foot garage on the same location was permissible, with conditions.
A Consultant was conferred with on this matter, and suggested that the new garage should be differentiated from the existing adjacent historic residence. The consultant also suggested that if the project was undertaken in this manner, it (the garage) could be removed in the future without impacting the historical element of the property.  The Staff concurred with the Consultant’s evaluation.
So in the fall of 2012 a new garage was built, “similar in style to the historic residence, but adequately differentiated.” The differentiation would be provided by the stone veneer.  Abbey Baker Design Build of Carmel, did this renovation and shows more before and after pictures of this remodel on her site
Staff concluded that “while the new structure is more visually prominent than the original detached garage, it will compliment the historic residence without adversely impacting the historic character of the property.

For a peek inside “Hugh W. Comstock Residence,” please visit Hugh Comstock’s Architectural Signature – Inside “Hugh W. Comstock Residence.” 

Historic Name:  The Woods
Architectural Style:  Tudor (Storybook substyle)

NE Corner Ocean and Torres
Block 67 Lot 9

The Woods was the seventh cottage designed by Comstock, after Hansel(1924), Obers (1925), Gretel (1925), Tuck Box (1926), Guest House (1926), and Snow White’s Summer Palace (1926).  He designed this ell shaped home for Mary Young Hunter in 1927.

Mary was born in Napier, New England in 1872 and schooled in Switzerland and Italy where she developed a talent for painting. In 1899 she married John Young Hunter a well known English painter. Though John and Mary were great influences on each other artistically, the marriage did not last and in 1924, Mary Young Hunter, now a portrait artist, came to Carmel with her daughter Gabrielle.

In this small village during the late 1920’s, Gabrielle met Edward Kuster (whose 1st wife was Una Jeffers) and became his 4th wife. Gabrielle and Edward’s first child Colin, born in 1931, is responsible for the 1988 photographs of many of the homes in the Historical Hill District.  Including the one of his grandmother’s, Mary Young Hunter, known historically now as “The Woods.” The iron railing in the photo below is thought to be original. 

In his design for Mary Young Hunter, Hugh Comstock moved away from his “fairy tale” design to a more straight forward interpretation of the English Folk home.  According to records on file at City Hall, the actual cost of building the original one story ell shaped cottage on the upward sloping knoll of the NE Corner of Torres and Ocean Avenue in 1927 was $2,359.19.

A stucco chimney replaced Comstock’s traditional erratically laid pile of Carmel stone.  Gone too was the high pitched roof flared up at the eaves (except for the slight overhang acting as a door hood over the front entry French doors).

Though it is interesting to note that Comstock’s whimisical craftsmanship still came through with the interesting treatment he gave the two gable apexes along the west side of the structure. 

In 1936, Mrs. Marshall the new owner of “The Woods” had a detached flat roofed board and batten one car garage built on the north west corner of the property.  In 1951 owner Cecilia Powell added 75 square feet to the north east corner of the original building in the form of a closet and bathroom. And in 1981 the current owner added a bedroom to the north east corner.  The house now appeared as a T with a detatched flat roof garage.   

In 2007 the current owners desired to expand their living area and hired Ortiz Design to design the additions currently visible on the property.

The additions in 1951 and 1981 were considered not historically significant, so the flat roof detached garage and the other additions were demolished and replaced with a two story structure on the site of the old garage that consists of a garage and bedroom on the first floor and a bedroom and recreation room with balcony looking toward the sea on the upper-level.

The main house and the new two story structure were connected with a hyphen that on the upper-level contains a bathroom and elevator.  The main building constructed by Hugh Comstock in 1927 for Mary Young Hunter still consists of a kitchen, dining, livingroom, bedroom and one bath.

It was interesting to note that the Staff report in 2007 determined that the new addition should be stucco siding, composite roof and wood windows to match the materials in the existing historical residence.  Just four years later when making the determination on “Obers”  Staff would conclude that the new garage should be differentiated.

Today, “The Woods”, (except for Comstock’s whimisical wood treatment on the two gable apexes) appears to be one uniform structure, and could easily pass for a newly constructed home.


I have embeded a pdf map of the Historical Hill District which includes “addresses” and photographs of all 11 Comstock cottages not just the ones discussed in this blog. You may print this off and use as your own personal walking tour here PDF Map . It is much more detailed than the illustration below.

 Back to Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock


Photo of Hugh and Mayotta outside “Obers” donated by Harrison Comstock to the Henry Meade Williams Local History Department, Harrison Memorial Library.
Comstock personal residence “Obers” 1925 – Photograph Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture, Kent Seavey page 81courtesy of Pat Hathaway, Historic California Views.
Comstock personal residence “Obers” circa 1940 – Photograph Images of America Carmel A History In Architecture, Kent Seavey page 117 Photograph by Morley Baer, courtesy of Monterey Peninsula College.
Black and White photograph by Colin Kuster, son of Edward Kuster and grandson of Mary Young Hunter, taken 1988 of “The Woods” courtesy of the Henry Meade Williams Local History Department, Harrison Memorial Library.

All other photos by  L. A. Momboisse 2013

Comstock, Comstock Historical Hill District, Hansel, Historical Hill District, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Hugh Comstock, Hugh W. Comstock

Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock – Hansel and Gretel

Whimsical Experiment

“Perhaps the whole thing had been something of a whimsical experiment, but the popular reaction was one of tremendous enthusiasm.  Many came to marvel and be charmed by the Doll House.  In a community that at the time was predominately made up of rough summer cabins, this imaginative and unusual effort on part of the Comstock’s set off a spark of civic pride.  Carmelites liked the way the Doll House fit into the native surroundings.  It sprouted out of its curved chalk rock foundations amongst the pines, as much as a part of the woods as the mushrooms and toadstools.”  (Carmel In Story and Picture, Carmel Architecture, by William Albee, 1958)

Historic Name: The Doll House
Common Name: Hansel
Architectural Style: Tudor (Storybook substyle)

 Torres Street 4 NE of 6th
Block 60 Lot 10 and 12
In August 1924, just four months after their wedding, the Comstock’s purchased a building permit to build Mayotta’s Doll House on Block 60 between 5th and 6th on the northside of Torres.  They spent $100 in materials and built “The Doll House,” later renamed Hansel, almost entirely themselves.  

With no real building or design experience between them, they managed to fashion a perfect storybook setting for Mayotta’s dolls.  They purposely designed their dwelling with no plumb-lines, and hand whittled trim boards with pocket knives to frame the doors and windows.  

A mixture of pine needles and plaster were applied by Hugh and Mayotta using a trowel, as an artist would a brush, to burlap they had nailed over the redwood walls. The result was an uneven heavily textured surface. 

They had a stonemason build the Carmel stone chimney so it would appear “stacked” and random.

In this 244 square foot cottage, Mayotta displayed her dolls as if they were living in their own fairytale style house in the woods.
Historic Name: The Doll House
Common Name: Gretel

Architectural Style: Tudor (Storybook substyle)
 Torres Street 4 NE of 6th
Block 60 Lot 10 and 12
The third house designed by Comstock was Gretel which is set back from Torres Street and barely visible through the heavy growth of the garden.  

Designed as a one story building in the same style as Hansel, Gretel was built as Mayotta’s office in 1925 with $400 worth of building materials. 
There are two gates in the fence in front of this lot.  Gretel is down the gravel path behind the gate on the right.
Hugh Comstock added a bedroom to Mayotta’s office in 1928, which extended out of the original structure in an ell to the north east.  
 New Owners
Besides Hugh and Mayotta, Hansel and Gretel have had a few different owners.  Repairs have been made when necessary and a few additions have been added. 
Mrs. Gardner owned the property in 1946.  The name and fairy tale charm of the two cottages  was influential in her decision to open a candy shop on Ocean Avenue named after her property, Hansel and Gretals Candies and Gifts.
Though Mrs. Gardner continued to own the cottages, she sold her candy shop in 1947 to Hyla Tillman who moved the shop to 6th Avenue and Lincoln.  Mrs. Tillman sold the shop to Peter and Mary Robotti in 1965.  The Robotti’s owned the Hansel and Gretel Candies and Gifts until it closed and was replaced with an art gallery in 1998.

In 1949 Hansel and Gretel were owned by Mrs. G. K. Wood and Mr. H. B. Kennicott.  They hired Mr. Comstock to make a very small addition to the bathroom of Hansel and add a second bedroom to Gretel.
Joan Harding owned the property from 1962-1992 then Mr. and Mrs. Voris fell in love with the property and purchased Hansel and Gretel from Joan.   
When the Vorises bought the property the landscape was considered “woodland natural.”  Bobbie Voris wrote, “We rented Gretel to a recently-divorced  New Zealander whose “therapy” was gardening.”  It is this woman who is responsible for the attractive abundance of flowers and shrubbery that grows on the property today.  
The Vorises  added a much needed cement foundation to Hansel and in 1999 replaced the original roof because daylight was visible through the aging shingles.
The rest of the renovations Mr. and Mrs. Voris did themselves, emulating Hugh and Mayotta.  To save space the bathtub in Hansel was replaced with a shower and a tiny space in the closet was used to increase the bedroom to a “grand” 8 by 9 foot space just large enough for a trundle bed. 
To make room for guests the unfinished crawl space and attic was opened up to create a loft with a ladder for access.  Now Hansel house sleeps four people. 
The Vorises have also added numerous bird houses to the property adding to the charm of the quaint garden setting. 
 From the front patio off of Hansel which features
a potbelly stove and wood furniture
Point Lobos can be seen in the distance. 
I have embeded a pdf map of the Historical Hill District which includes “addresses” and photographs of all 11 Comstock cottages not just the ones discussed in this blog.  You may print this off and use as your own personal walking tour here  PDF Map .  It is much more detailed than the illustration below. 
Back to Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock
Photo Credits
Pictures of Hansel and Gretel by L. A. Momboisse taken during the Carmel House and Garden Tour 2012
Plot Plan Additions by H. W. Comstock May 5, 1949 – Carmel City Hall Records
Hansel and Gretel Candies and Gift Shop Sign – Carmel History Library
Birthday House, Doll's House, Fables, Gretel, Hansel, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Hugh Comstock, Hugh W. Comstock Residence, Mayotta Browne Comstock, Obers, Ocean House, Otsy-Totsy, Our House, The Studio, The Woods, Yellow Bird

Carmel by the Sea – Fairy Tale Cottages of Hugh Comstock – Names Locations and Map

Hugh Comstock

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. 

 NE Corner
 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
NW Corner
 6th and Santa Fe – The Studio
Santa Fe 4 NW 6th – Our House
(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

Carmel Heritage Society, Curtain Call, Hansel, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Hugh Comstock, Second Act

Carmel House and Garden Tour 2012 (Hugh Comstock)

Carmel House & Garden Tour 2012
We could not have asked for a more glorious day as my friend and I set out for an afternoon of walking, admiring, laughing, enjoying and re-bonding.  In four hours we would tour seven homes on the 2012 Carmel House & Garden Tour benefiting the Carmel Heritage Society.  

Hugh Comstock
Carmel’s Builder of Dreams

Two of the homes on our tour were built by Hugh Comstock, Hansel located on Torres Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, and Curtain Call, Junipero and Third.

“Hugh Comstock developed the Fairy Tale style of architercture with which Carmel has become closely identified.  Born in Evanston, Illinois in 1893, Comstock moved to Santa Rosa with his family in 1907. In 1924, he came to Carmel to visit his sister and met and married Mayotta Brown.  The two decided to remain in Carmel as Mayotta had a successful doll making business.  Comstock’s career as a designer-builder began when his wife asked him to build a cottage for her dolls.  The “Doll’s House” became the first of many Fairy Tale style cottages he would design and build.” (Historic Context Statement Carmel-by-the-Sea, page 96)

Block 60 Lot 10

Hansel is a one-and one-half story wood-framed Tudor “Storybook” style residence constructed in 1924, irregular in plan, on a concrete foundation, with exterior walls constructed with cement plaster mixed with pine needles placed over burlap that was nailed to the redwood walls. 
The outside this home is one of the most photographed in the Village, the inside however is another matter altogether. Built in a “Folk Tutor” style, by Hugh Comstock for his wife Mayotta, the Carmel Building Department records this structure costing $100 to build, “without labor” in August 1924.
In this 244 square foot cottage, Mayotta displayed her dolls, so that buyers could view them “in their own environment,” a fairytale style house in the woods.

Hugh Comstock had no formal training in building, design or architecture, yet he built such a detailed little fairy book style cottage in Hansel, with a pointy steeply pitched roof covered in irregularly shaped cedar shingles “jig and scroll-sawn into a random staggered pattern”, round Dutch front door of rough planks joined together with two wrought iron braces, a lopsided chalkstone fireplace reminiscent of an elfin hat when viewed from the inside living area, and uneven hand-hewn casings and moldings and doors and windows, that everyone wanted a Doll House of their own.  He would go on to build around thirty or so individual designs in Carmel Village, with 21 still in existence.

      Behind the crooked grape stake fence,

      beyond the gate, pass the Carmel Stone patio

complete with potbelly stove,
                       duck under the sprawling limb of an old oak tree
                                   with assortment of bird houses,
pass by beds of tall flowers,
an unusual patch of lawn,
and enter Hansel.



Renovated in 1993 by Congleton Architects, this cottage now measures a whopping 290 square feet. Every inch has a purpose. 

The bookcase at the entrance is a facade, made to look like old dusty books, but open sesame to find the mechanics for the entertainment center.

From the front door look left to the master bedroom (large enough for a twin bed), then center to the loft ladder, and right to the kitchen.

Off the master is the bathroom.
A better view of the bathroom is from the backyard through the window. From here there is also a view of the Carmel Stone fireplace in the living room.
From the backyard we have a glimpse of the tiny kitchen spice rack and cute itsy bitsy shed with pine tree cut out.
Curtain Call & Second Act
Block 27/ Junipero & 3rd 
Curtain Call is also a one-and-one half story, wood-framed, “Storybook” style residence, irregular in plan on a concrete foundation, but this time Mr. Comstock would mix it up a bit making the exterior walls of textured stucco.
The cottage was built in 1929 for Ms. Bertha L. Bowen. The name “Curtain Call” was given the cottage in the mid 1940s by another owner, Constance Ferris.  Ms. Ferris a San Francisco journalist named her home after the title of one of her books of short poems which were adapted for the stage, “Curtain Calls.”

The current owner of this home meets the tour guests at the front gate.  She has graciously opened her charming historical cottage to the public, along with Second Act, the garage, that has just recently been renovated and restored. 

The floor plan for Curtain Call is two parallel gabled wings, separated by a “hyphen” or hall that serves as the entry, topped by dormers and Comstock’s signature steep pitched roof. 

Off the right wing facing east is a wooden deck with decorative “splat” railing.

Off the entrance in the left wing is an uncharacteristically large (for a Comstock) kitchen/dining area.  The best part – the view out the window to the Carmel Stone built in fireplace and through the oak, pine, and cypress to Pebble Beach and beyond!

When outside looking back into the kitchen/dining – WOW

The right wing houses the bedroom/study, bathroom and comfortable living area with high open beam ceiling and a Hugh Comstock fireplace.

One-half flight of stairs leads to a loft above the living area.

Walk outside the right wing to a second cozy patio with an equally incredible view through the forest to Carmel Bay and Pebble.

A double plus lot, allows for a charming garden
with exuberant and colorful Hydrangeas and Dahlias 

While Curtain Call sits back on the lot, Second Act, formerly the old garage, sits close to the front gate.  Here the original Carmel Stone interior has been flipped to the outside. 
 The inside is the ideal in-law apartment
or guest house with studio bedroom plus loft,
reminiscent of Hansel,
sitting area,
and fully appointed kitchen
                        with a hidden refrigerator
 (it is in the picture).
Next up, two homes of Michael J. Murphy.
Black and White photos from Monterey Public Library History Room and Harrison Memorial Library Local History Room. 
All other photography by L. A. Momboisse