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  

Browne House,, 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

Birthday House, Doll's House, Fables, Gretel, Hansel,, 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