Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Connections in Stone: Lummis, Jeffers and Kuster

(Click on images to enlarge)
Charles F. Lummis Home, "El Alisal," Arroyo Seco, 1910. 

Recent publicity over the Historical Society of Southern California's lease for the Charles F. Lummis House not being renewed got me to thinking about Robinson Jeffers' Tor House and his wife Una's ex-husband Ted Kuster's neighboring house in Carmel. These three still extant icons in stone have many fascinating connections. For example, Occidental College is likely to be the new lessee for the Lummis House. Jeffers was a student at Occidental where he met the married Una Kuster. Una soon divorced Kuster to scandalously marry Jeffers and they moved to Carmel in 1914. The Kuster's breakup was reported as a "queer love triangle" (see below) in a series of articles appearing in 1912-13 in the Los Angeles Times. (See for example, "Parents Wash Hands of It; "His Own Affair," says Poet Jeffers's Mother; Mrs. Kuster Defended as the Scapegoat of Clique," Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1913, p. II-1). 

Ted and Edith Kuster and Jeffers at the Jeffers''s recently purchased Tor on Carmel Point, ca. 1915. Photo by Una Jeffers. From Of Una Jeffers: A Memoir by Edith (Kuster) GreenanStory Line Press, 1998, p. 26.

Lummis at work on "El Alisal." From Los Angeles Magazine.

Lummis was the first editor with a national reputation to recognize Jeffers' work publishing two of the 18-year old's poems in Out West, "The Stream" in the October 1905 issue and "Death Valley" in the May 1907 number. Thus Jeffers was most certainly aware of, and might have even pitched in on, Lummis's 1898-1910 labors to build "El Alisal" (see above). Inspired by Lummis, Jeffers taught himself stone masonry and built much of Tor House with his own hands roughly between 1919 and 1930 (see below). More research needs to be done to corroborate the seemingly likely participation of Jeffers in the construction of "El Alisal."

Jeffers at work on "Tor House." From Robinson Jeffers Association.

Jeffers Tor House under constuction, ca. 1923-4. From Carmel-by-the-Sea Blogspot.

Robinson Jeffers Residence, "Tor House," Carmel Point, ca. 1930.

Ted Kuster Residence, Carmel Point, 1924.

Originally a prominent lawyer from Los Angeles, the cuckolded Ted Kuster married Denishawn Dancer Edith Emmons and moved to Carmel where he rapidly built his own stone house next to the Jeffers in 1924 along with his pioneering Theatre of the Golden Bough in downtown Carmel. (For much more on all of this see my "The Schindlers in Carmel, 1924," and "Schindlers-Westons-Kashevaroff-Cage," and "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence.").

Charles F. Lummis, 1902. From Wikipedia.

An interesting sidebar on Lummis: I just finished Donald Hagerty's fascinating biography, The Life of Maynard Dixon and learned that Lummis and Schindler-Weston mutual friend Dixon were very close lifelong friends. Lummis was instrumental to Dixon's successful career providing much companionship and moral and financial support and published his art work and poetry in Land of Sunshine beginning in 1897 and later in Out West (see below for example). He also listed Dixon among his regular contributors on the magazine's monthly masthead.

"Genius of the West," by Maynard Dixon, Out West, January 1902, frontispiece.


Pauline Schindler also featured Dixon's art work on the cover of The Carmelite alongside the work of Robinson Jeffers during her tenure as editor and publisher (see below for example).

The Carmelite, June 19, 1929. Courtesy Carmel Harrison Memorial Library Local History Room.

"Tor House" by Stanley Wood, The Carmelite, December 12, 1928.