8 Arts and Crafts Buildings

Craftsmanship is the focus, from a Julia Morgan auditorium to an 18-room home.

the Grace Dodge Chapel Auditorium, image
The Grace Dodge Chapel Auditorium at Asilomar, in Pacific Grove, California.
Courtesy Asilomar Conference Grounds

People who love handsome houses may picture wood-and-stone bungalows full of rustic furniture when they hear the term arts and crafts. But the label actually covers a huge variety of early-20th-century buildings featuring natural and handcrafted elements. Many in the West are open to visitors.

In Pasadena, California, the 1908 Gamble House by architect brothers Charles and Henry Greene embodies arts and crafts ideals in a harmony of light fixtures, woodwork, and fireplace tiling. A leaded-glass tree-of-life window sparkles across the front door and sidelights.

Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan put nature onstage with a dramatic picture window and elegantly detailed woodwork in her 1915 Grace Dodge Chapel Auditorium. It’s one of 11 Morgan buildings still standing at Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California.

Arts and crafts inspired many other design styles, including craftsman, prairie school, and bungalow. Every May, Portland’s historic Irvington Neighborhood holds ticketed, docent-staffed tours of such homes, built when the city expanded into “trolley car suburbs” east of the Willamette River.

Satiny redwood paneling lines much of the 18-room Marston House in San Diego’s popular Balboa Park. Built in 1905, the pristine home combines craftsman, prairie, and classic English architecture. Decor declares the tastes of the time: tables and chairs by craftsman forerunner Gustav Stickley, Persian and Navajo rugs, Tiffany table lamps, and American Indian baskets.

Never admired a hooked scarf joint? You will at the Thorsen House near the University of California, Berkeley. Now a student residence lovingly run (and lived in) by the Sigma Phi Society, the 1909 Greene and Greene home features gnarly clinker bricks, hand-forged ironwork, precision joinery, and wood-and glass fixtures by artisan Emil Lange. Tours by appointment.

A leaf-shaped dining table and a wicker swing by a fireplace are two peculiar appointments of the roughly 13,000-square-foot Riordan Mansion, built in 1904 for two families in Flagstaff, Arizona. Treasures include furniture by Stickley and Harvey Ellis (who designed for Stickley).

The South Hill homes of Spokane, Washington, display spirited blends of craftsman, Tudor revival, and prairie school designs. Find details on a self-guided sidewalk tour of the craftsman houses. See similar homes during interior tours in the Cliff Cannon neighborhood of Spokane, usually in mid-September.

At the 1905 El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon Village, Arizona, mission-style furnishings mix with animal trophy heads and exposed beams for a Wild West strain of arts and crafts design.