Faux Bois

When given the opportunity to wander around the gardens at The Huntington not too long ago, I ran across someone who is definitely following his vision, using his hands, and being a master craftsman.  He’s not using machinery and his entire project is time-consuming and, obviously, a labor of love. Terence Eagan is painstakingly restoring the faux bois works (arbor supports, etc.) that were created at the Huntington in the 1920s and have since been decaying.IMG_5002IMG_5003Luckily for me, he stopped his work and graciously posed for a few photos and told me about his project and how he worked so hard get the restoration approved and funded.  Fascinating!  And just the kind of thing we advocate at QSB.

See videos and articles on his website.  Also, the Huntington is well worth a visit if you find yourself in southern California.


No faux bois in this particular part of the Huntington’s gardens.

To the Point

The Point Arena Lighthouse makes a great destination if you find yourself midway along California’s north coast.  It’s always cool there, too, so guess where I wish I could be right this very moment.  Admission is only $7.50 for adults and it’s well worth the price which funds the non-profit organization’s maintenance of the lighthouse and grounds.  Here’s some of what you’ll see….Point Arena LighthousePoint Arena Lighthouse with mess at baseThe current lighthouse dates from 1907 (in operation, 1908) as the original was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake.  Our very chatty but knowledgeable docent told us that the stairs in the current lighthouse are the very same ones used in the 1870s original.  Even though the old lighthouse was destroyed by the quake, the iron spiral staircase lent enough stability that the lighthouse keeper (who was in the lighthouse at the time!) was able to get out alive.Lighthouse stairsThey are some seriously twisty stairs and there are 125 of them.  Quite the workout. The last level is a ladder rather than stairs so wear good shoes.  You’re able to walk into the lens room and look out the windows.  Then, one level down (down the ladder again), you can walk outside on the narrow balcony and really get great views, feel the wind on your face, and enjoy.  Bring your camera.

Here’s what you see from the top:

In the Lens RoomFrom the lighthouse balconyThere’s a small museum where you can see the lighthouse’s original lens and a tastefully curated gift shop (I actually wanted to buy a lot of things and that is unusual for me).  You can even do the cheesy but irresistible squish-a-penny schtick.  I did.

The old lighthouse keepers’ quarters are now available for vacation rentals but I don’t know what the rooms are like in person.  Great location, though.

For a historical view, the Library of Congress has a stereograph of the early lighthouse.  They’ve dated it at ca. 1868 but the original lighthouse wasn’t constructed until 1870 so they’re a little off.  Click the image below to enlarge.

Point Arena Light House stereograph from the Library of Congress

See http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003674058/ for more information.

Here’s another image from around the same period at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.  This one shows the Keepers’ house better (there were 4 keepers at a time plus their families so up to 30 people lived in that house at once).  Stereographs are awesome.

Have you ever been to a lighthouse?

Go. While You Still Can.

Today’s the anniversary of Jack London’s birth (1876). Like many, I had to read either White Fang or Call of the Wild (can’t really remember which was required but I have read both) in school. I wasn’t a fan. I’ve never been one for stories with animals as main characters–call it a character flaw on my part.

Time passed. Then my family spent my paternal grandmother’s 80th birthday at the house where she was born (now a B&B…it was a boarding house when she was born) in Glen Ellen, California.  Just down the road is Jack London State Historic Park. We visited. London wrote other things? Nonfiction too? His life was more adventurous even than his stories? Did my family meet him? Yes. Yes. Yes. And I don’t know. But, it was time to start reading his other works.

I’ve been back several times because the Park is beautiful–it’s the remnants of the ranch London bought in 1905 (the year before my grandmother was born)–and so worth a trip. You can see the remains of the house he and his wife Charmian were building that burned down just before it was completed, hike to his grave site, and see the museum. The museum/cottage on the property is, well, if I ever build a house from the ground up it’s having sleeping porches just like the ones in “The House of Happy Walls.” Plus the hiking through the Park and to the top of Sonoma Mountain is wonderful.

The Park is currently closed Tuesday-Thursday and is one of the California State Parks on the chopping block due to budget cuts–it’ll be totally closed starting July 1, 2012. Go While You Still Can. Who knows when/if it will open again.

And while I’ve got you thinking about Jack London, two of his short nonfiction works that I recommend are particularly evocative of California. One is an article, “Navigating Four Horses North of the Bay,” he wrote for Sunset Magazine in 1911 (later published as “Four Horses and a Sailor”). The trip that he and his wife took by four horse-drawn carriage (the theme of the article) is still a romantic one today and visits many of my favorite places in California. His description of the San Francisco Fire after the Earthquake, “The Story of an Eyewitness,” that he wrote for Collier’s Weekly in 1906 is another piece that I highly recommend. He was in the city as it burned.

Both can be found in the now out of the print Jack London’s Golden State edited by Gerald Haslam, various other publications, and in a multitude of places on the web (including the links above, of course!).

Jack London's Golden State edited by Gerald Haslam