Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Twelve Acres

Photo: Los Altos History Museum
I received a bounty of information from Jane Metz, describing a house in Los Altos that JHT designed as a country retreat for E. J. McCutchen, a prominent San Francisco lawyer. It was located on Pine Lane, near Adobe Creek. The house was featured in the January 1920 issue of Architect and Engineer.

Constructed for $20,000 in 1918, the 14-room mansion was sited on a sixteen-acre site that was beautifully landscaped by McCutchen's friend, John McLaren, who served as superintendent of Golden Gate Park. McCutchen died in 1933 and the rambling 2-story house was sold to Adolph Meyer of the Pet Milk Company. For a time, the house became known as the Meyer and Manning residence. In 1943, the house and 12 acres of land were sold to the Christian Science Church and served as a home for children until 1959. During this time the estate was known as "Twelve Acres". Once they had further subdivided the property and sold all but two acres, the church built their new children's home about 75 feet from the original house.

Photo: Los Altos History Museum
The old mansion was sold to a member of the planning commission, a contractor who planned to either remodel it or tear it down. Unfortunately, after standing empty for a year, the structure was destroyed in a suspicious fire on August 16th, 1960.

Photo: Los Altos History Museum
Stylistically, this house was transitional for JHT, fitting in after his Viennese Secessionist period and largely of the English Plaster Cottage style he would settle into throughout the 20's. With its clipped gables and thatch-like rolled shingle eaves, it bore some resemblance to the Blasingame House in Piedmont of the same year, or the Cherry House in Oakland of 1915. Ironically, prior to building this house in Los Altos, Edward McCutchen's home in San Francisco had been destroyed by fire--but that was in the days when fire wagons were still pulled by horses and house fires were relatively common.

Thanks to Jane Metz for digging up most of this information. She even found out that during the time the house was serving as a children's home and summer camp, Peter Ueberroth worked there as a recreation leader or PE teacher. Though the building no longer stands, due to its history as a children's home there must be scores of people who have memories off this place.