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Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party Part 3 – Hawk Tower

My fingers had the art to make
stone love stone
.”  Robinson Jeffers 
Robinson Jeffers Garden Party 
May 5, 2013
Hawk Tower 

Robin began work on Hawk Tower the year after the main house was finished in 1919.  He would spend five years happily working on this tower.  It would be his gift, his labor of love for Una.  He would give her a tower like her adored poet, Yeats had lived in at Ballylee in Ireland.

Each day in the afternoon Robin would walk down to the beach below their house, find just the right stone and bring it back up the tor. If the wooded railway  Mr. Murphy constructed to transport the heavy granite boulders for construction of the main house was still available this would have made Robin’s job a “bit” easier.  If not, he would have carried or rolled the stones back from the beach.  

For the first two stories, Robin rolled the stones up planks in a manner
similar to what the Egyptians used when they built the pyramids.
For the last two stories he would use the block and tackle he had installed near the front door of the main house. Finally in 1925 the massive tower, almost forty feet high with walls as much as six feet thick, was complete.

Today with the sounds of Ed Jarvis on the Bagpipe drifting though the air
I enter the door of Hawk Tower under the capstone with

Una and Robin Jeffers initials carved above.

On the ground floor there are two rooms, one of which, known as the dungeon, is several feet below ground level. Set on the work table is a painting of the 8 cent United States Postal Stamp issued in 1973 commemorating the life and work of  Robinson Jeffers, 
 and a painting depicting the horse in his poem, Roan Stallion
After his death, Robin’s writing desk and chair were moved from the main house to the first floor of the tower.  His chair was made out of timbers from the ruins of Carmel Mission.

On the desk is a bible box belonging to his father, Dr. William Jeffers.  It has been filled with some of Robin’s personal possessions: Prince Albert tobacco can, pipe, glasses and the sign Una would post daily on their gate, “Not at home before 4PM.” 

The painting of Robin wearing an open neck shirt made by Una, is by Sam Manning. The painting was unfinished as Sam died before he finished the portrait. On the window in front of the desk, Donnan carved his name in the glass using his mother’s diamond ring.  He learned at school that diamonds cut glass and he wanted to see if this was indeed true.  Sure enough it worked. Stand at just the right angle and Donnan Jeffers appears on the glass.  One act he couldn’t blame on his twin brother.

A kerosene lamp lit the first floor and a corner fireplace added warmth.  Una and the twins placed many stone trinkets throughout Hawk Tower – 
above the fireplace is a small cement plaque containing a piece of black lava from Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii, a piece of white lava from Mt. Vesuvius, an Indian Arrowhead from Michigan, and a pebble from the shore of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania.  
There are two ways of reaching the second level of Hawk Tower.  For the more adventurous, try the Up Only secret passage.  But be warned this is not for everyone. 

A tight fit and steep climb, this passage can only be maneuvered successfully
 by leading with your left shoulder.

 Then corkscrew your way up the inside wall to the second level.
There is a window half-way up to add a little light to the journey.

When you reach to end of the passageway,
open the wooden door to enter the second level.

Unless someone is standing against the door,
then just knock frantically until someone finds you. 

  A simpler way would be to climb the exterior stairway.   

The second floor was “Una’s Room.”
Above the fireplace is another motto by Virgil,
“They make their own dreams for themselves.” 

  Una surrounded herself with the things that she loved, Robin and the twins. Most of the walls of this room are lined with mahogany panels. The Jeffers hired a cabinet maker to panel the narrow Gothic windows that face south.
Through a short passage there is a small sitting area where Una

 could sit and watch the sea through the oriel windows.

In the short passage between the main room and the sitting area, the Jeffers placed a figurine of a woman with a red cape and black velvet dress. 
 This antique doll rests against a tile dating from 2100 B.C. Babylonia inscribed with a prayer to the goddess Ishtar.  Across from the doll is a carved stone head from the temple of Prah-Khan in Cambodia.   
On the climb to the next level there are two portholes embedded into the west facing wall.
The one on the right is said to be from the “Inconstant,” which was the ship that Napoleon escaped on from Elba. In The Stones  Of Tor House, Donnan Jeffers states, “The ship “Inconstant,” later renamed “Natalia,” was wrecked in Monterey Bay in 1830.”  It is true that Napoleon was on the “Inconstant” but I am not sure if it was one in the same as the Natalia.”   
The porthole on the left came from the wreckage of an unknown ship that washed ashore in Pacific Grove in the 1880’s.  Open the one on the right and glance out to sea. 
From the third floor, “one could ascent from the doorway of this room up into a little turret on the third floor, from which a door gave access to a marble-paved platform protected by battlemented walls.” (1)
On this level there are two plaques one is carved with the King James version of Psalm 68:16, 
“Why leap ye, ye high hills?  this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in.” 
And another plaque written in Latin that states, “With his own hands RJ built Hawk Tower for me.”  
But Hawk Tower doesn’t end on the third level. Take hold of the weather worn chain and climb the last few stairs to the top of the turret. The gargoyles on the exterior walls were carved by Mr. Maddox and act as rain gutters.
 From this vantage you can see 360 degrees from Point Lobos to Pebble and the entire grounds of Tor House.  
Before descending back first, notice the piece of stone from the Great Wall of China.  I touch it, knowing that this is the closest I will ever get to the Great Wall. 
Time to descend by the outer staircase and let some other visitors enjoy this incredible view.  
Tour Hawk Tower 
Part 1 Family Background

Part 2 Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years
Part 3 Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part 4 Robinson and Una
Part 1 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party – Tor House Garden 
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party – Tour House and Annex


Credits and Photos

Black and White photo – inclined ramp used for first two stories of Hawk Tower – notice garage to the right and the beginning of the stone wall to enclose the courtyard – Kent Seavey, Images of America Carmel A History in Architecture (Arcadia Publishing, 2007), 65 – (Photograph Tor House Foundation Archival Collection).
Black and White photo – Seavey, 66 (Photograph by Horace B. Lyon from Tor House Foundation Archival Collection).
Color photos – L. A. Momboisse taken May 5, 2013.
(1) Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House, (Ryan Ranch Printers, 2008), 24.
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Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party Part 2 – Tor House and the East Wing

Robinson Jeffers Tor House
Garden Party
Sunday May 5, 2013
Original Kitchen Now the Library 
Still in the main house built in 1919 I leave the living room and enter what used to be the original kitchen.  It is now the library. The picture above shows this portion of the house (from the outside) to the left of the open doorway.
Back inside, the dining room addition (completed in 1930) can be seen through the white door.
 Hundreds of the 2,000 books cataloged by the
 Tor House Foundation are found in this room –   

including Robin’s unabridged dictionary. 

Above the dictionary is a painting of Noel Sullivan a friend of the Jeffers who directed the choir at the Carmel Mission.  It was Noel who accompanied Robin and Una on a cross country journey in 1941. Robin had accepted an invitation to speak at the Poet’s Congress in Washington D.C. 

This acceptance resulted in Robin giving addresses at a number of college campuses as they drove their Ford across the country.  It would be the only time Robin accepted an invitation to speak publicly as a lecturer.

 Here, after a brief introduction to his life, you may listen to Robin Jeffers personally recite his poetry
 at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, in 1941.


 Still in the library notice the two unicorn figurines on the window sill, a reminder of Una’s influence,
and a picture on the back wall of  Annie Jeffers, Robin’s mother.  
The side door off this room filled with motto’s,
leads to the bathroom.
The motto at the top of the door
written in French states:
“Quick to Accomplish”
Four people, numerous house guests,
one indoor bathroom –
Una was not about to let anyone think
they could take their time in this room.

The Place for No Story 

The coast hills at Sovranes Creek; 
No trees, but dark scant pasture drawn thin
Over rock shaped like flame;
The old ocean at the land’s foot, the vast
Gray extension beyond the long white violence;
A herd of cows and the bull 
Far distant, hardly apparent up the dark slope;
And the gray air haunted with hawks: 
This place is the noblest thing I have ever seen. No imaginable 
Human presence here could do anything
But dilute the lonely self-watchful passion. (1)

   Dining Room 

“The year 1930 saw the start of two new projects for Jeffers:  the planning and building of a dining room for Tor House and the writing of a new narrative poem, Thurso’s Landing. The new room was to be added to the north of the kitchen with a door and large window facing seaward, another door into the courtyard, and a large window at the north end of the room.  A stone fireplace was planned for the northeast corner, and the room’s dimensions were to be large enough to accommodate a long table, as well as one of Una’s melodeons and a Welsh dresser for the earthenware dishes.  At the south end of the room would be a corner for her grandmother’s spinning wheel.  Mornings Jeffers wrote on Thurso’s Landing and afternoons he carried and cemented rock upon rock for the new dining room.”  (2)

The picture above was taken in 1920 (Garth and Donnan just toddlers) after Robin completed work on the garage.  It is in the area between the main house and the garage, that the dining room would be built 10 years later.

Work on the dining room was completed in 1930, after the completion of Hawk Tower. Step down from the library into this large room with an open beamed ceiling,

and a ladder that leads to the gallery, an area used frequently by Garth and Donnan. By the tiny door to the gallery is a motto by Virgil, “Easy is the descent.”  More motto’s can be seen on the Welsh dresser which holds Una’s Jug Town pottery. 

Mr. Maddux  a gravestone
cutter from Monterey,
did most of the wood
carvings in the dining room,
 here a Unicorn and a Hawk,

and the chiseled inscriptions on various stones,
 here the date of death of Thomas Hardy. 
It was for Mr. Maddux that Robin wrote:
To the Stone Cutters 
Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain.  The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems. (3) 

In one corner of the dining room is a large fireplace with a massive chimney.  In order to support the weight of the chimney, Robin dug down four or five feet to make the foundation.  With each shovel full of soil he brought up fragments of abalone shell.  Abalone being a staple of the Ohlone diet was evidence to Robin and Una that their new kitchen lay on the very bedrock where the Ohlone Indians prepared and cooked their meals. 

The walls of the dining room are quite different than the redwood lined walls of the main house.  Here the thick stone walls remain exposed.

It was in these walls that “Una had great fun deciding on where to place the small stones, some of which she had brought home from her travels, and others given by friends.  Robin and the twins then cemented them to the window-frames, into the fireplace, and in the flagstone entrances, as others had been cemented into various portions of the tower…With such embellishments the new room might have achieved the appearance of a fruit cake, but it is a warm, and pleasant room, and one is not uncomfortable in the company of those fragments of Ossian’s grave, and of the Egyptian pyramids.”  (4) 

In the picture above there is a “carved stone Aztec mask and just above it a small fragment of mosaic from the ancient Roman city of Timgad in North Africa.  Above these again, the large oblong cut block of sandstone was once a surveyor’s mark on the highest of the hills just sough of the Carmel River.  The motto “Carpent Poma Nepotes” (Let the Grand-children Gather the Apples) was carved by Maddox.”(5)  
If you want to know more about any of the stones, trinkets or gifts placed lovingly around the Tor House property you will find it in The Stones of Tor House by Donnan Jeffers available at in the Tor House Office. It is a tour all in itself!!!

Near the fireplace is a long cord attached to a bell probably used to call the family to supper. This bell came from the Carmel Mission before its restoration in 1933, led by Harry Downie.
Robin employed men from Castroville to hand make and lay the tiles for their dining room floor. Once the twins left for college, Una would encourage them to bring their friends home on the weekends.  Square dancing was in fashion and Garth, Donnan and their friends would need to give little encouragement to their parents before the large oak table was pushed into the corner and a huge floor ready for dancing. The couples would dance for hours, until a pink dust from the soft tile drifted throughout the room. “To this Una began to object, and Robin said, “Very well, I shall build them a ballroom.”  Such was the inception of what is now called the east wing.”(6) 

The poem October Week-End was written about his sons after they had gone off to college. 

October Week-End 

It is autumn still, but at three in the morning
All the magnificent wonders of midwinter midnight, blue dog-star,
Orion, red Aldebaran, the ermine-fur Pleiades,

Parading above the gable of the house.  Their music is their shining,

And the house beats like a heart with dance-music

Because our boys have grown to the age when girls are their music.

There is wind in the trees, and the gray ocean’sMusic on the rock.  I am warming my blood with starlight,not with girls’ eyes,But really the night is quite mad with music.(7)

Today we find a fancy spread on the long dining table used by the Jeffers family. It is the 100th anniversary year of Robin and Una’s marriage.

 Una has invited us to tea, pulling out all the stops she is using her personal silver tea service.

Opposite the fireplace is Una’s grandmothers spinning wheel.

Above the spinning wheel hang two rifles which were gifts from a friend. The longer rifle on top is a two man rifle.  Just underneath the rifles is a Narwhal tusk Una ordered from the Hudson Bay Company.  She thought it would make a good walking stick but it turned out to be too cumbersome for her stature and it was hung on the wall instead. The Narwhal may have been the closest real live animal Una could get to her mythological Unicorn.

Another one of Una’s melodeon organs sits under the window in the dining room, this one a chaplain’s or missionary organ which was very lightweight, and easily transportable by missionaries in the field.  
On top of the book case is a bust of Robin by American sculptor Jo Davidson

Robin sat for this at Lincoln Steffens home in Carmel. The bust was commissioned for an exhibition in London where Robin was one of four writers honored.

Prior to his feature in Life, and after the writing of his eighth major work, Thurso’s Landing, Robin’s  photograph, taken by Edwin Weston, graced the cover of Time Magazine April 4, 1932.  

The East Wing and the “Annex”

The East Wing is not open during regular tours of Tor House.  Today we may enter and listen to the soothing sounds of String Trio, local high school students, Jonathan Vu, Eric O’Hagan and Brynn Dally.

“On January 10, [1937] he celebrated his fiftieth birthday, on which day he laid the first stones for an additional room on Tor House.” (8) “It wasn’t until 1957 – twenty years after the foundations had been laid – that the structure was complete, and it consisted of a very spacious and pleasant abode with the sitting room, office, and garage on the ground floor and three bedrooms and bath above, and the younger Jefferses, now with three children, moved in.” (9)  I had the pleasure to meeting Donnan’s children Lindsey and Una in at the garden party.  They each spoke of the joy they experienced growing up at Tor House and birthday parties in Hawk Tower.

1937 – 1957
During those twenty years much would happen in the Jeffers family that would keep the east wing from being completed. In the late 1930’s Robin and Una would travel to Ireland for four months, and  Robin would publish The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers.  In 1941 the Jeffers traveled cross country so that Robin could participate in numerous speaking engagements for the Library of Congress. Later that year, Una had surgery for cancer for which she was told she was cured of in 1944. From 1942 – 1946 their son Garth was stationed in Germany.  During this time the Jeffers became very involved with the war efforts at home leaving little time for building, leisure activities or their friends.  Una would write, “…we have taken on a few more duties at Fort Ord and as I regard all that as my contribution to the war effort, it comes first…” (10) 

Robin continued to write during this period, though the war dominated his writing during the 1940’s. Publishing Be Angry at the Sun in 1941; “but the full measure of the bitterness and disgust he felt was not apparent until The Double Axe (1948), a volume whose isolationism and biting acerbic criticism of world leaders were so offensive to the literary establishment that his publisher felt compelled to preface the book with a disclaimer.” (11)
Yet this decade would also bring Robin great public acclaim.  In 1945 he completed Medea which would be adapted for live theater opening on Broadway in 1947 with Judith Anderson in the title role.  “Night after night, the “Medea” played to a full house, continuing month after month, lauded by the theater’s most astute critics, publicized in every newspaper and magazine in the country, with a two-page spread in Life magazine.  As Miss Anderson took the bows, she insisted that all publicity give Jeffers his share of the credit, and it was she who insisted that he receive a generous royalty.”(12) 
In 1947 Donnan and Garth would both move to Tor House with their wives. Garth and his family stayed only until May of 1948 when he took a job in Oregon with the US Forest Service. Donnan and Lee would remain at Tor House and raise their children.  Though building on the east wing had begun again – it was be interrupted in 1948 when Robin and Una decided to travel to Ireland.
During this trip, Robin would become quite ill with pleurisy, a condition that almost took his life.  It was a number of months before he was strong enough to return to California.
Sadly in 1949, Una’s cancer returned.  Lee nursed her mother-in-law during her illness and Robin slowly began again to work on the east wing.  “By the time of Una’s death, in 1950, the walls of the new building were almost to the height of the second floor, and Robin almost ceased to work.”(13)

Finally in 1957 with Donnan doing much of the remaining work, the east wing was completed.  
The Annex (or converted garage)

On the inside wall of the dining room there is a doorway which is closed during normal Tor House tours.  Today it is open.  This doorway leads to what was originally the garage built in 1920, but converted to a kitchen during the addition of the east wing.  
“In 1955, the “annex” was nearing completion, and the old garage was successfully converted into a new kitchen,  Lee Jeffers wrote:  “We had a door jack-hammered through the wall from the dining room into the garage.  The garage was extended into the court yard with a large bay window – [original rock arch visible inside] – 
Then Donnan built a wonderful fireplace – and with much, much more work the result is a large and really most charming kitchen – the old kitchen has become the most minute Library to bear so grand a title – very cozy and sweet though, and we all love the changes – gives us so much more room…” (14)

When Donnan finished the east wing he moved Lee and the children into their new quarters.  Lindsey however decided to stay in the attic apartment to be near his grandfather, Robin.  When I spoke to Lindsey at the Garden Party, he spoke tenderly of this time as he recalled those years with his grandfather. 
Inside Tor House 

Part 1 Family Background
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years
Part 3 Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part 4 Robinson and Una

Part 1 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party – Tor House Garden


Credits and Photos 

Black and White photo taken 1920 after the garage was completed – Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Ryan Ranch Printers, 2008), 19.

Black and White photo from Life Magazine, April 1, 1948, photo by Nat Farbman.

Color photographs taken May 5, 2013, L. A. Momboisse.

(1) Tim Hunt, ed., The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press, 2001), 379.

(2) Melba Berry Bennet, The Stone Mason of Tor House (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 146.
(3) Hunt, 18.

(4) Bennett, 147.
(5) Donnan Jeffers, The Stones of Tor House (Jeffers Literary Properties, 1985), 7.
(6) Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Ryan Ranch Printers, 2008), 28.
(7) Hunt, 531.
(8) Bennett, 160.
(9) Jeffers, 29.
(10) Bennett, 193.
(11) Robinson Jeffers Association, Biography 
(12) Bennett, 201.
(13) Donnan, 29.
(14) Bennett, 229.

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Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party Part 1 – Tor House Garden

The first Sunday of May is the day set aside for the Tor House Garden Party and the only day when photography is allowed beyond the gate.  The preservation of Tor House, the gardens, and the literary legacy of Robinson Jeffers and his muse, Una Call Jeffers is made possible by the Jeffers family and the Tor House FoundationTours are conducted hourly year round Friday and Saturday, beginning at 10AM.

May 5, 2013
The Tor House Garden Party

26304 Ocean View Ave

A Celebration of the
100th Anniversary of the Marriage of
Una and Robinson Jeffers


The stone fence that surrounds Tor House was built by Robin Jeffers with two gates.  The one we enter now to the east off Ocean View Avenue, which the Jeffers referred to as “moor gate,” and the one to the west, we will discover later in this tour, they called “sea gate.” 

Tor House Moor Gate photo DSCF1239_zps0b3b3579.jpg  

One of the first things you will notice, after taking in the spectacular sea view, is the abundance of what appear to be randomly placed unusually designed stones. Well, one thing is for certain, nothing around Tor House has been placed without purpose.

Stone Trinkets

Look just about anywhere in the garden path or in a rock wall, and you will find items that just don’t seem to belong.  But they do. These are stones, statues, or trinkets; all precious jewels with a treasured memory that Robin and Una or one of their many friends or family members would bring to Tor House for its final resting place.  They were reminders of adventures taken, places visited, a famous person, or just local history. 

After entering the moor gate look for the fragment of green ceramic from the Temple of Heaven in Peking.  It is hard to miss the blue and yellow Italian tiles,  

Tor House Italian Tiles photo DSCF1286_zps628ba636.jpg
or the four colorful tiles from Mexico.  The gray-green stone with the Celtic cross Una found discarded in an alley near the Clondahorky church yard, in County Donegal, Ireland.  She just had to have it, so of course Robin picked it up and brought it home. 

Tor House found near Clondahorky Churchyard County Donegal, Ireland photo DSCF1321_zps4172b181.jpg 

All of those large gray slabs of slate, most of which make up the entrance to the East Wing were formerly the tops of the billiard tables in the Fort Ord Officers Club.  Robin thought they would make a wonderful walkway. They do actually.

Tor House pathway to East Wing path made of tops of billiard tables from Fort Ord Officers Club photo DSCF1318_zpsb924adbe.jpg  

The lintel of the door over the entrance to the east wing is from the High Sierra forest ranger station near Mono Lake.  Garth brought it to the house as a memento of the time he was stationed there.

Tor House Entrance to East Wing photo DSCF1291_zps375e2b00.jpg  

Rock Hounds will be fascinated but the array of rocks and minerals embedded throughout the walls of the property.  Just inside the moor gate is a piece of obsidian from Glass Mountain, California, a fossil from the Tassajara Hot Springs, black lava from Hawaii, and Jade from near Big Sur.

Tor House Garden Wall Obsidian photo DSCF1322_zps51632597.jpg 

The little boy and the dolphin has an interesting story.  It is a Roman statue that originally belonged to an American artist, John Singer Sargent, who kept it in his garden at 31 Tite Street, London before giving it to Julie, one of his students, who then gave it to Robin and Una.

 photo DSCF1332_zps3b7e41b2.jpg When excavating for their foundation, Robin and Una discovered that the land they were building upon was originally inhabited by the Ohlone. In honor of the Ohlone they placed a stone mortar and pestle found in the Big Sur area on the top of the gate posts that lead into their main courtyard. 

 For the garden party they are adorned with flowers.

Tor House Indian Mortar from Big Sur, California photo DSCF1324_zpsc6bcc3d8.jpg
Also in the main courtyard is a large mill stone of gray lava.  Robin and Una brought this from one of their numerous trips in the 1930’s to Taos, New Mexico to visit friends Tony and Mabel Luhan.  As with everything else on the tor, there is a story and many times a poem.

Mabel Luhan was “obsessed with the idea of the artistic perpetuation of the New Mexico country.  She was responsible for the folio of photographs by Ansel Adams, printed by the Grabhorn Press.”  Mabel had “willed” the English writer D. H. Lawrence to come to Taos and write of the country. He did so only sparingly, so “she then “willed” that Robinson Jeffers should come to New Mexico and take up where Lawrence had left off.” (1)

Though the Jeffers traveled many times to New Mexico between 1930 and 1938, Robin wrote only one poem on Mabel’s beloved Indian country. 
 New Mexican Mountain 
I watch the Indians dancing to help
 The young corn at Taos pueblo.
The old men squat in a ring and make the song,
 The young women with fat bare arms, and a few
     Shame-faced young men, shuffle the dance. 
The lean-muscled young men
 Are naked to the narrow loins,
 Their breasts 
and backs daubed with white clay,
Two eagle-feathers plume the black heads.
They dance with reluctance,
They are growing civilized;
 The old men persuade them. 
Only the drum is confident,
 It thinks the world has not changed;
     The beating heart, the simplest of rhythms,
It thinks the world has not changed at all;
It is only a dreamer, a brainless
     Heart, the drum has no eyes.
These tourists have eyes,
The hundred watching the dance,
 white Americans, hungrily too,
With reverence, not laughter;
Pilgrims from civilization,
Anxiously seeking beauty, religion, poetry;
     Pilgrims from the vacuum. 
People from cities, anxious to be human again.
 Poor show how they suck you empty!
  The Indians are emptied,
And certainly there was never religion enough,
 or beauty  nor poetry here
     …to fill Americans. 
Only the drum is confident,
It thinks the world has not changed.
     Apparently only myself and the strong
Tribal drum, and the rock-head of Taos mountain,
Remember that civilization
Is a transient sickness. (2)

Main House
Besides the writing of her husband, Una loved the works of Irish poet William Butler Yeats and Irish novelist and poet George Augustus Moore.  Anything associated with Yeats or Moore that crossed Una’s path managed to make its way back to Tor House. And that is exactly what happened to the stone set in the paving outside the front door with the words “Moore Hall, County Mayo.”

This stone came from George Moore’s manor house that was burned during the “Troubles” of the early 1920’s.  The words were not carved into the stone until the Jeffers had returned with it to California.  Robin then hired a gravestone carver out of Monterey by the name of Maddox to carve this and other stone work throughout their property.   

What looks like a bench under the front window, also has a fascinating story.  One day Robin got word that part of a stairway in Monterey was being demolished and that the cement from this stairway had at one time been a ballast on a ship which traveled around Cap Horn from New York to San Francisco.

Feeling that this would make an excellent addition to their ever-expanding collection of “gifts” from around the world, Robin brought the ballast home and it became the bench under the window outside the living room. I believe there is also one of these ballasts outside the dining room window facing the sea.
On top of the bench is what looks like a Buddha,
but it is actually a Chinese goddess of fertility.

Just to the left of the front door is a plaque.
Tor House is one of two properties in Carmel
listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The other is “Outlands on 80 Acres”
better known as Flanders Mansion

One last thing to notice before entering Robin and Una’s front door, is the block-and-tackle pulley system at the upper left of the door. Robin devised this to lift the heavy loads of stone up to the third and fourth floor of Hawk Tower during construction.  Robin and Una’s ingenuity is absolutely fascinating.

The lingering scents of hearthfires
 and dried petals remain
in the west sitting room.
Beyond the original wavy glass window
panes, the Pacific continues its ceaseless
murmur and motion – now as then, when the
Jeffers family gathered for evenings of music,
reading, chess, or conversation with friends
.” (3)

Living Room
Once inside notice the ceiling, this was purposely built low to keep the heat in on many a cold night. The interior walls were made of redwood, because apparently termites do not like redwood. 
On the wall  to the left is a framed map of Ireland with little red circles.  Each of the circles represents the location of a round tower in Ireland, confirmation of Una’s obsession with Irish round towers. This map is hung over one of Una’s treasured melodeon organs. 
As Una played her Irish music,
Robin would doodle on the page around the music.

On page 71 Robin has drawn William Butler Yeats
 tower and cottage at Ballylee.

Una usually “sat in the same chair
by the table in front of the fireplace, 
with a green eye shade she always wore when
sewing, or making the little moccasins.”  

Robin commonly sat in the settle. 

 Near the settle is the wood bin,
plenty of wood was necessary
 to heat the house which did not have
gas or electricity until 1949. 
The cabinet above the living room fireplace was a pistol cupboard, but instead of finding a pistol behind the door, a skull was found.  Robin’s son Garth thought it might have been because of Una’s interest in   the supernatural, or it could have been from the time Robin studied medicine at the University of Southern California in 1907.   
The fireplace (one of 11 to heat Tor House) had pipes behind it to heat water for cooking and laundry. The furniture, mirror, wall sconces, and just about everything that ones sees while touring this home is original to the family.  This is clear when you compare the black and white photo shown at the beginning of this blog, which was taken in the 1930’s to the existing room.  You can almost compare the contents of the shadow box in 1930 with that of today’s. 

Behind the locked shadowbox is a chess set from Bavaria and a Red unicorn – besides Irish round towers, the unicorn was another one of Una’s fascinations.  If you wonder how her name is pronounced it is UNa as in UNicorn. 

Though Robin and Una were visited by many famous people at  Tor House, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sinclair Lewis, George Sterling, Charlie Chaplin, Dylan Thomas, Noel Sullivan, James Cagney, Judith Anderson, Jane Addams, Martha Graham, Charles Lindbergh, Leopold Stokowski, and George Gershwin to name a few, most of the days and nights at Tor House were spent quietly. 
After dinner, the Jeffers family sat in the living room by the fire. Robin read aloud to Una, Garth, and Donnan poetry as well as all of W. H. Hudson’s novels, ten novels from Waverly and Thomas Hardy, three works from Dostoevsky and many others.  Una would sew or mend cloths for the family, make moccasins for Garth and Donnan or play the melodeon. 

The chair with blue upholstery by the fireplace is unusually low to the ground (not visible in this picture, but take my word for it).  Called an oven chair, it was the perfect height for sitting in while tending to your baked goods in the oven.  I had never heard of this but when I goggled “antique oven chair” I believe I got the 1960’s version.

Robin and Una collected numerous books that were piled high throughout their home.  In 1970 when inventory was taken 2,000 books were counted.  Today the books are stored on the shelves of the home.  The grills were added by the Tor House Foundation for security. 
The Round Tower and Ancient Architecture of Ireland shown above contains handwritten notes by Robin. This book may have been a “How To Guide” for Robin while he built Hawk Tower.   

You can not miss the 1905 Steinway, a prized possession from Una’s marriage to Ted Kuster, 

which sits predominately in front of the west facing window to the sea.
Yes that is the Butterfly House, but this wouldn’t have bothered
the Jeffers until 1950 when it was built.  

 We can probably be sure the George Gershwin sat at this bench when he visited, as the scenery and environment would have been irresistible for a piano man. If you look just right you can block out the Butterfly House. 

On the wall near the Steinway is a striking portrait of Una Jeffers, Donnan’s daughter, painted by a local artist, Sam Manning.  Robin was so taken by the portrait that he wrote, as he always did when he was moved by something, a poem. 


And here’s a portrait of my granddaughter Una
When she was two years old: a remarkable painter,
A perfect likeness; nothing trickery nor modernist,
Nothing of the artist fudging his art into the picture,
But simple and true.
She stands in a glade of trees with a small inlet
Of Blue ocean behind her.  Thus exactly she looked then,
A forgotten flower in her hand, and great blue eyes
Asking and wondering.
Now she is five years old
And found herself; she does not ask any more but commands,
Sweet and fierce-tempered; that light red hair of hers
Is the fuse for explosions.  When she is eighteen
I’ll not be here.  I hope she will find her natural elements,
Laughter and violence; and in her quiet times
The Beauty of things- the beauty of transhuman things,
Without which we are all lost.  I hope she will find
Powerful protection and a man like a hawk to cover her.
Daily Ritual

Robin had his schedule to which he rarely deviated.  Each morning after breakfast, he would go back to the attic loft and write until Una called him to lunch.  After lunch he would go down to the beach to find suitable granite boulders for whatever addition he was building.

Una also had her daily ritual, she did not have a servant, she was responsible for the early education of Garth and Donnan, along with doing all the housework herself, cleaning, cooking, and sewing. “Very early she would jump out of bed and light the air-tight heater to make the room warm up for the twins.  Then Una would take a cold bath!  For some reason she thought this was an important thing to do. She would roar like a lion all the time she was taking it.  I [Edith Kuster] used to wake up in my room [the Guest Room] and start laughing at her self-torture.  The next move was to get a huge bowl of corn flakes and milk with three spoons…After this, the twin’s bath…After this Una made Robin’s breakfast…Una made the beds, swept, washed the breakfast dishes and several times a week washed the clothes for the family.” (5)  

 The shelves to the left of the front door held books dear to both Una and Robin, Yeats and Moore alongside Swinburne, Mallarme, Synge, Flaubert, O’Neill.  Next to this book shelf is a tiny nook which contains Una’s desk.  

 It was here with the light filtering through the window by day, or lit by a kerosene lamp at night, 
 Una would write numerous letters, sometimes half a dozen a day.  

Una’s desk is surrounded by photos of things she loved most, round towers, her favorite poet other than her husband, Yeats

 her husband Robin, 

their precious sons as infants, 

and young men, Garth in the military
and Donnan in the tweed jacket

and the first gift ever given to her by Robin — while they were in Miss Borthwick’s German class in 1905 Robinson gave Una an etching of a cottage on a tor by the sea.  Was this a foreshadowing of the home they would build together 14 years later?  
Watching over Una’s shoulder in the oval frames are Robin’s maternal grandparents,
Edwin Rush Tuttle and Evelyn Sherwood Tuttle.
Sitting at her desk Una could look at the steep steps that led to the attic loft.  Una brought these stairs from the farmhouse in Michigan where she lived as a child.
We are not allowed up the steep steps and through the trap door but this is where the family slept, Robin had his writing desk and Una one of her melodeons. 
“Upstairs, under the eaves, was one large room encircling the chimney-vent in the center of the room.  In four niches were the four beds, one for each of the Jefferses.  By the east window overlooking the courtyard was Jeffers’ desk and the heavy old chair made, some sixty years before, from plank taken from the ruins of the mission.  This room was heated by a Franklin stove that Una had brought from Michigan.” (6)

The Bed By The Window
I chose the bed down-stairs by the sea-window for a good death-bed
When we built the house; it is ready waiting,
Unused unless by some guest in a twelvemonth, who hardly suspects
Its latter purpose.  I often regard it,

With neither dislike nor desire: rather with both, so equaled
That they kill each other and a crystalline interest
Remains alone.  We are safe to finish what we have to finish;
And then it will sound rather like music
When the patient daemon behind the screen of sea-rock and sky

Thumps with his staff, and calls thrice: “Come Jeffers.” (7)

Guest Room
Off the living room is the guest room. Many used this room, and Robin chose this as his bedroom after Una died from cancer in 1950.  On January 20, 1962, during an unusual dusting of snow on the Monterey Peninsula, Robin died in his sleep, in the bed by the window, thirty years after he wrote the poem about this very same bed.  

Una was very fond of motto’s.  In the wooden beams over the bed, Robin inscribed lines from The Faerie Queen, “Sleep after toyle, Port after stormy seas, Ease after warre, Death after life does greatly please.” The words are no longer visible, heavy smoke that filled this room from the fireplace covers the beams.   

On the wall to the left of the dresser is another motto,

this one written in French, which translated says, “Do well and let them talk.” On top of the mahogany dresser is a photograph of Una taken by society photographer Arnold Genthe in 1910 and a sketch of one of their beloved bulldogs.  The pastel portrait of Robin reflected by the dresser mirror, was done in 1919 by Hamilton Achille Wolf.  

Next to the bed is another one of Una’s melodeons.   

The doll in the cradle is wearing the Robin’s baptismal gown of which Annie Jeffers wrote on April 30, 1887, “Today being the anniversary of our wedding we thought it a very appropriate time to have the baby baptized.  After considerable thought and discussion pro and con we decided to call our boy John Robinson.  Cousin John seemed pleased, and shows his appreciation in various ways; one was by sending him a beautiful new dress for his baptismal robe..” (8)

From the bed or while sitting on the window seat Robin would have been able to enjoy his front garden and the ever changing sea.  He probably watched with great interest the building of the Butterfly House in 1950.
Today, Reid Woodward, a plein air artist, takes a break from working on his watercolor of Hawk Tower.
A Garden Tour


 Next:  Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party Part 2 Tor House
Part 1 Family Background
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years
Part 3 Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part 4 Robinson and Una 

Credits and Photos
Black and White photo of Una, Robin and Haig in their living room 1930’s.  Black and White photo of Robin at his desk in the attic in 1948.*

All color photos except the one of the mill stone are by L. A. Momboisse May 5, 2013.  The photo of the mill stone was taken by Tor House Docent, Lorna Claerbout.

(1) Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1996),  137.

(2) Edited by Tim Hunt, The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press, 2001),  380.

(3) Text and Editing, Jean Ritter-Murray, A Tour of Tor House Home of Robinson Jeffers (The Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation), 3.

(4) Edith Greenen, Edited by James Karman, Of Una Jeffers – A Memoir,  Story Line Press, 1998, 51. 
(5) Greenen, 45-46.
(6) Bennett, 92.

(7) Hunt, 376.

(8) Bennett,15.

* Black and White photos on wall in Visitors Center Tor House