Pacific Coast Architect

A Country House in Early Californian Style
[BY HENRY W. HALL, A. I. A.]

In  THE making of “Dias Dorados,” the Ranch estate of Mr. Thomas H. Ince, in Beverley Hills, California, the architect has accomplished an unusual thing. There is the designer who clings with favor to the old motifs, who uses always, with creditable favor, what he deems fine in the study of archaeology. He never profanes an architectural ideal. His work is always pleasing and admirable, but very often, the finest features of his work are not self-creative. Then, alas! there is the designer who scoffs at “precedent,” who makes claims to originality to such an extent that he divests his mind of all that is splendid and inspirational.
      Mr. Roy Seldon Price, the architect of “Dias Dorados,” is not in a class with either of these. He belongs to that class of designers who can be original without offending. His work shows a strong sympathy with the finest principles of design, coupled with a certain freedom-refreshing, human-whimsical, but never bizarre.
      Early California architecture has been his inspiration. The ranch buildings are built of hollow tile, plaster and rock. The spirit of the pioneers is expressed in the natural rock work and security of construction. The low roof lines and road arches hark back to the simple spirit of he padres. The general crudity of the place is its greatest charm.
[Arbor Photograph, p.5]
      The floor plans of the main residence reveal a very compact provision of living space, with out sacrifice, giving the low, simple ranch effect on the exterior.
[Hall to Patio View, p.6]
      This building contains thirty-five rooms and ten bathrooms. The living room is 28x45, with East, West and North exposure to city, mountains and canyon. At the west end of the room, picture window, 15x9, gives a beautiful view of the canyon in the distance. On the south wall, a Spanish tapestry conceals a pipe organ chamber. The furnishings are akin to the spirit of the more prosperous early California family. The floors are of hand-hewn oak. On the north wall, a small tapestry conceals a door which leads to a rock billiard room on a lower ground level. The east exposure reveals wading and swimming pools, designed to the lines of a natural lake. This construction has not been completed; neither has the landscaping.
      The dining room, 19x28, looks out into the canyon and into the patio. The fireplace in this room, unaffected and unadorned, is truly a keynote of early California building. A hole in the wall, framed with rough dressed stones, flush with the plaster. Above, a quaint shelf carries a ship model with a concealed rose lamp which silhouettes the tracery of sails and spars against the plaster background. At the ceiling, over this, atrophy case (inspired by the old Spanish food cabinets), with light iron-grilled doors, thru which gleam fine old silver plates and trophies.
      These grilled doors are exquisite in detail and were made, with other grille work, on the site, by Mexicans, under the architect’s direction and at a surprisingly low cost.
      On the interior walls of the patio cloister, are painted in dim colors, gay Spanish characters. At one end of this section, two fighting cocks flaunt their dispositions. These paintings appear to have been there for centuries. just under the cocks, and over the door to the main hall, are the typical Spanish niches, holding quaint miniatures from Mexico.
      The lighting fixtures in this residence prove well a mistake so oten made in recent work-the mistake of repeating the same designed fixture in a room. Mr. Price has not been satisfied with beautiful fixtures, carefully placed, but in each room, by contrast and balance of texture, color and form, he has made his fixtures as interesting as his murals and tiles.
      The breakfast room, to my mind, is the happiest room of all. The tile floor, now delicately, then more brilliantly shaded in a harmony of colors, is delightful. The furniture is of yellow antique laquer, with simple, woven buckskin seats. The windows are curtained with unbleached theatrical gauze, trimmed, unconventionally, with colored yarn. This room has a view of the sea, canyon and mountains. From it one steps thru an intimate little garden, filled with flowers and the music of a playful fountain, into a pleached arbor of flowering peach trees. This arbor borders the bowling green.
      The kitchen has a feature typical of the designer. On cupboard doors, vegetables and a variety of fowl are painted in brilliant color. The general woodwork is stained sage green, varnished flat.
[Residence Front View, p.7]
[Floor Plans, p.8]
[Rock Stairway, p.9]
[Entrance Detail, p.11]
[Upper Servants Wing, Lower Arbor, p.12]
[Corner of Patio, p.13]
[Entrance to Ranch, p.14]
[Pigeon Tower, p.15]
[Garage and Smithy, Gardner’s Cottage, p.17]
[Door to Patio, p.19]
[Entrance Door, Wrought Iron Grill, p.20]
[Main Stairway, p.21]
[Breakfast Room, Dinning Room p.22]
[Entrance to Living Room, p.23]
      Automatic refrigerators, electric ovens, plate warmers, Hoosier cabinets and every necessary equipment have been so compactly planned and built into this kitchen that many steps are saved in a day’s work. Everything seems to be in just the right place.
      The dining room for the servants looks into the servants’ patio, in which again speaks the human spirit of this house, for the cheer and color of this patio proves to be hollyhocks and lettuce, roses and cabbages, side by side.
      A beautiful variety of tile, designed by the architect and made in Mexico, has been used in the Ince residence. The base of the main hall and principal rooms are decorated in this manner. The main stair is a fascinating, solid arangement of color.
      The leaded glass work is charming and romantic. In the boys’ study windows, medallions in leaded overlay picture the historical high-lights of early California--Cabrillo, Junipero Serra, and the 49’ers. Here and there, peering thru windows, are seen Padres, Spanish youths and maidens. In the reception room a beautiful window of leaded glass encircle a butterfly in vine work.
      A rock stair leads from a door in the main hall to a motion picture projection room which is part of the basement hallway. Here the designer has let “his fancy roam.” The room is a romantic reproduction of an old Spanish galleycaulked floor, weathered woodwork, rig, sails, ship’s wheel, red, green and yellow ship lights, and tropical seas painted dimply on the side walls. At the far end of the room a leaded glass pirate stands in the door. Over this door falls the screen during projection of the picture. This is an entertaining transition in keeping with the purpose of the room.
      With all its whims and variety, the design of “Dias Dorados” embodies a definite continuity of thought, a consistency and sincerity of purpose. It conveys the feeling of a real home. It is domestic.
      The estate comprises 35 acres of cultivated land. The residence is on a hill. A winding road follows a natural slope which leads to the lower ranch buildings. There are the barn, the gardener’s cottage, chauffeur’s quarters, duck house, and pool, trout stream, chicken house, pigeon tower, bunk rooms and fruit rooms. This architecture is certainly a contrast to the now most popular “Mediteranean” style, with its theatrical, over-formal attempts to tight-lace an American family into a relic of old Spain. “Dias Dorados” is indeed Californian. Crude? Yes, compared to the very nice uncomfortable poses of its elegant contemporaries-crude as Salem houses were compared to Versailles-crude as Abe Lincoln.


Reprint from “Holywood News”


      A “new old house” has been created in Beverly Hills by Roy Seldon Price, originator of “Dias Dorados,” and member of the American Institute of Architects. Although this structure has only just been completed the materials used in its construction are as old as California. Two years’ time was necessary to complete the building which is recognized as something entirely new in architectural designing and construction. The tiles are all made on the grounds by Mexican labor.
      The inspiration for the building was received from the earliest history of California, when Mexicans and Indians were used to build the missions by the Franciscan padres. Flagstones carried from all parts of the Southland have been collected for use in the steps. Whenever an old landmark was to be torn down to make way for commercial progress, Mr. Price bought materials from it that could be used in the recently completed home in Beverley Hills.
      The ancient Mexican lantern shown in one of the accompanying pictures is a relic from an old house which was removed from the Los Angeles pueblo of years ago. The spindles in the balcony above are unmatched and were collected from various corners of this district.
      The long, low plaster walls, arches and natural rock work, breathe the old spirit of the Padres. Gardens, lakes, pepper and palms recall the scenes of the life of Ramona. Hand-wrought pottery and roof tile, gates, beams, screens and shutters are all harmonized in a modern mode.
      Much of the furniture used in the house was made after designs furnished by Mr. Price. It was made on the site of the estate, “Dias Dorados.” As the same time tents pitched by Mexican laborers spotted the grounds while an adobe oven and kiln were used for the tile making. Beams were split and carved by hand.
      The main entrance hall is made of flagstone, brightened by small “accidental” chips of tile. The patio has a real flagstone floor brought from heretofore unknown quarries in Los Angeles. The swimming pool is not an ordinary plunge arrangement. It consists of a wading pool with a sand beach under a palm grove. The trees, not new young things, but years old and ancient, were moved from long distances. Each tree slopes, twists and bends exactly as it should to fill the space assigned to it most gracefully.
      The architect has given the estate a complete water system. An automatic water feeding plant is installed, being operated electrically with alarm bells and tell-tale lights. Even the lawn sprinklers are operated by an alarm clock arrangement.
      The residence can be seen from Angelo Drive. It contains thirty-five rooms and ten baths. The living room is 28x45 feet. Hidden behind a tall tapestry is a pipe organ. Specially designed washbasins were made from the architect’s drawings. The baths are set in Jeweltiles. No metal shows, all valve handles being shaped like flowers and made of porcelain.
      The interior of one room is a clever reproduction of the ancient Spanish pirate ships. Old worn benches, caulked sloping deck floors, ladder, rig and sails.
      The estate at “Dias Dorados” is composed of 35 acres. The lower part can be seen from the Benedict Canyon road. It is surrounded by a low rock wall and a large old gate which weighs more than a ton. It is so balanced that it can be pushed open with the little finger.
      On the ranch are a duck house, a pigeon tower, a chicken run, a carpenter shop, a blacksmith shop, a series of garages, a hot house, a gardener’s cottage and stables. The beams in the garage and smithy are held in place by old-fashioned buckskin ties.
      The whole place needs more trees. The architect plans to plant large sycamores in front of the residence to give that valuable play of light and shadow upon the plaster building.



NOTE:
      The owner of “Dias Dorados” was none other than silent film pioneer, Thomas H. Ince. He began directing shorts in 1911 and was known for his Westerns, many starring William S. Hart. He produced and directed The Coward in 1915. He directed his most well known film, Civilization, in 1916. After, he focused mostly on supervising and producing.
      Ince was a partner in the Triangle Film Corporation along with D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett. He built the Culver City studios which later became the famous home of MGM. He is know as the man who virtually invented the Hollywood studio system.
      Ince is also known for his unfortunate death on 19 November 1924. He was aboard the yacht owned by William Randolph Hearst when he suddenly and mysteriously fell ill. Ince was rushed to the hospital, then to his home in California’s Benedict Canyon, where he died without ever regaining consciousness. Officially he died of heart trouble, but Hollywood rumors still persist that Ince was accidentally shot in the midst of a lover’s quarrel between Hearst, Marion Davies and Charlie Chaplin.
Fred Smoot

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