The Gamble House in Pasadena is one of the most significant houses ever built in America, and a quintessential example of the Arts and Crafts movement. Here are two descriptions, under their links:
The David B. Gamble house, constructed in 1908, is the internationally recognized masterpiece of the turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts Movement in America. Built for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter and Gamble Company, the house is the most complete and best preserved example of the work of architects Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene who made a profound impact on the development of contemporary American architecture.
Greene and Greene broke sharply from the academic traditions of their time, using nature as a guide rather than the dictates of popular historical styles. The design of the Gamble House, while in part inspired by the wood-building vernacular traditions of such cultures as the Swiss and the Japanese, is a unique statement drawn from the life and character of Southern California. Wide terraces and open sleeping porches facilitate indoor-outdoor living, careful siting and cross-ventilation capture the cool breezes of the nearby Arroyo Seco, and broad, overhanging eaves shelter the house from the hot California sun. Wood is celebrated in the Greenes’ use of articulated joinery, exposed structural timbers and shingles which blend sensitively with the landscape.
In the Gamble House, furniture, built-in cabinetry, paneling, wood carvings, rugs, lighting, leaded stained glass, accessories and landscaping are all custom-designed by the architects, and were created in the true hand-crafted spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement. No detail was overlooked. Every peg, oak wedge, downspout, air vent, hardware fitting and switchplate is a contributing part of the design statement and harmonious living environment.
The Gamble House was designed in 1908 by architects Greene & Greene. It was commissioned by David and Mary Gamble, of Cincinnati, Ohio, as a retirement residence.
David Berry Gamble, a second generation member of the Procter and Gamble Company in Cincinnati, had retired from active work in 1895, and with his wife, Mary Huggins Gamble, began to spend winters in Pasadena, residing in the area’s resort hotels. By 1907, the couple had decided to build a permanent home in Pasadena. In June of that year, they bought a lot on the short, private street, Westmoreland Place, passing up the more fashionable address, South Orange Grove, known at that time as “Millionaires’ Row.”
At the same time the Gambles were selecting their lot on Westmoreland Place, a house designed by the firm of Greene & Greene was being built for John Cole on the adjacent property. Perhaps meeting the architects at the construction site, and certainly impressed with the other Greene & Greene houses in the neighborhood, the Gambles met with the brothers and agreed on a commission.
The architects worked closely with the Gambles in the design of the house, incorporating specific design elements to complement art pieces belonging to the family. Drawings for the house were completed in February 1908, and ground was broken in March. Ten months later, the house was completed, the first pieces of custom furniture were delivered, and The Gamble House became home to David Gamble, his wife Mary, and two of their three sons: Sidney and Clarence. (Their son Cecil was 24 at the time, and on his own.) In addition, Mary’s sister, Julia Huggins, came from Ohio to live with the family. By the summer of 1910, all the custom-designed furniture was in place.
Not bad for a house built in 1908. Take a tour!
The Gamble house is an amazing house. Another house they build near-by is the Blacker House, their master piece (IMHO). The Torrey Pines Lodge’s porte-cochere was modeled after it.
Thank you for sharing this, Jim. Next time I’m up in Pasadena I will look into touring it.
Some stories well-known to fans of Greene & Greene homes…
After Mr. and Mrs. Gamble passed on their children decided to put their house up for sale. One of the Gamble children happened to be on the premises when some enthusiastic prospective buyers toured the house, and when the wife complained about how dark the teak made the interior, the husband replied “we can paint it white.” The children immediately took the house off the market, and arrangements were made to gift it to the city of Pasadena along with sufficient funds to support its upkeep.
The Blacker house was sold in the 80’s, and the new owner promptly stripped it of its original trim and fittings and sold them at auction. This incident is known as “the rape of the Blacker House,” and resulted in the city of Pasadena enacting new laws to prevent the same thing from happening to other historic homes in the city. The current owners purchased the shell of the house 10 years later, and over the next four years had craftspeople recreate all the missing parts of the house and restored it back to its original state,
I love Arts & Crafts homes! We built that style (with radiant floor heating) in 1999 up in Oregon. My late husband–the best finish carpenter on the planet, IMO–would be drooling over the pictures you shared, Jim. They are simply gorgeous. Can’t find the words to adequately convey how beautiful!
I particularly love the front door treatment and the beautiful earth-green shingles. And how beautiful is that fireplace area?
My late husband was known for his meticulous finish work. He built a double oak wall unit out in our carport in the first home we built over in Hawaii. I remember one buyer asked if he bought the home would it be included. My husband–who never thought it was his best work–said Yes!. I, on the other hand–standing right next to my husband-said No! Guess who won?
What at treat to see such a beautiful home built over a century ago. I will come back over and over to this particular post, Jim, just to gaze on such beauty.
And mahalo to Gene for more stories. Kudos to the Gamble children who took it off the market so those buyers couldn’t paint the dark teak white. Unbelievable–to think that beautiful interior finish would ever be changed.
The Gamble House is one of America’s great architectural and woodworking treasures. I have been reading articles about it in various places for probably twenty years. That is a famous story about the almost-owners wanting to paint it.
They don’t make them like they used to.
Is it a REO?
Gee, no granite countertops?!?
Thank you so much for this post, Jim. That house is exquisite, and such a pleasure to look at.
It would be wonderful if people could buy their own lots and build such houses. Unfortunately, developers have hoarded all the land, so we are stuck with the tacky, stucco McMansions that many of us rail against.
Don’t even get me started on the people who paint over natural wood!
This Gamble home is unreal for a 100 year home. I grew up in Wisconsin and there was an abundance of FLWright homes in the state. Great style. There were 5 in my town of LaCrosse that I would walk past on my way to high school. Now my Mom lives in Scottsdale, just down the road from Taliesen. My wife and I were married at the Marston house here near Balboa Park in San Diego. Surrounded by great architecture my whole life…now I live in a mostly generic SO CA where a 10 year old 7-ELEVEN is said to have historical and architectural significance! Guess that’s why I ended up in the old foothills of Vista on a 100 year old street with adobes on every hill’s peak!
Incredible! Simply stunning! I’d actually be afraid to live in a house like that out of fear of ruining it!
Kudos to the kids for taking it off the market so quickly as soon as they realized what the potential buyers were planning to do with it.
The Gamble House is both an architectural treasure and a woodworker’s dream. It may not be evident from the photos, but those ebony pegs you see in the teak are what is actually holding those pieces together (no nails, screws or glue).
Back when I lived in Pasadena, my wife and I took the tour of this place. They were doing some restoration work and undoing some exterior painting that a Gamble family member had made to the place. It is dark inside, but what a wonderful place. The tour guide mentioned that USC’s school of architecture is also involved, and that a few students reside there. Definitely take the tour if you can, and take a look at the interior for yourself.
And if you’re lucky, you might see this pull in the driveway: