By Sal Maccarone
While growing up just blocks from Sarah Winchester’s famous house in San Jose, I began to develop a real affinity for strange and unique residential architecture. Years later I was actually privileged to be involved with some of the restoration to the house. In spite of the fact that this house lacks any congruous master planning, it is still a wonderful example of Queen Ann Victorian architecture. The story goes that Mrs. Winchester continued to build around the clock for 38 years, (between 1884-1922), in an effort to appease the souls of those who fell victim to her husband’s Winchester rifle. The cost of this continuous building has been estimated at $5.5 million which is the equivalent of $172,000,000 of today’s dollars. The official museum web site for this marvelous structure is located at: (www.winchestermysteryhouse.com).
On a more current, and less somber note, I remember when a very unique residence was being built along a section of Hwy 280 in Hillsborough, Ca. It has been painted many different colors since it was first built in 1976; hence, it has looked like many different things. Affectionately known now as the “Flintstone House” it has been compared to everything from a moon colony prototype to a bunch of giant marshmallows. The fact is, the house was built as an experiment that utilized a new type of sprayable concrete; the effort was to create corner-free architecture. Every surface in this 36 thousand sq. ft. house is rounded. I am sure that it is very comfortable on the inside, but I have always wondered how they hang pictures on the walls.
IF YOU MISSED IT: Unusual Architecture – Part I
Another very famous California wonder first opened for business in 1958 with just twelve rooms. While only a temporary residence for weary travelers, the Madonna Inn has become a real Central Coast landmark. Prominently located on Hwy 101, this motor inn is situated on the lower portion of a mountain called Cerro San Luis Obispo. The inn, which resembles a whimsical Swiss Alps village, was created by Alex Madonna (1918-2004) and decorated by his wife Phyllis. A tourist attraction in itself, the property now has 109 totally unique guest rooms, a bakery, a restaurant, a gift shop and many other wonderful out buildings. Some tourists stop just to peek at the famous utilitarian rock waterfall in the men’s restroom which was conceived by a Hollywood set designer. Always a great place to visit, their official website is located at: (www.madonnainn.com)
Then there are those who choose to renovate an existing unique structure to be used as their own domicile. For example, the “Golf Ball House” in Yucca, Arizona was once a part of a futuristic community that never quite came to be. This four story, 3400 square foot spheroid built upon a single metal column looks just like a golf ball perched on a tee. The building was originally built to be used as a night club, but eventually plans for the whole forward-thinking development were scrapped. The building went into a state of deterioration for a number of years before being remodeled for use as a very unique private residence. Bravo!
Sal Maccarone salmaccarone.com
MORE FROM SAL