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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Kings Road Bamboo Inspired by "Kimmie" Chace in 1922

(Click on images to enlarge)

Clyde and Marian Chace ready to leave Cincinnati for California, 1921. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Chace.

Pauline Schindler undoubtedly conspired with her husband to lure her very close friend and college roommate Marian Da Camara, and her new husband Clyde Chace, to fulfill a dream to cohabitate in a new house to be designed by her husband. Part of that plot was to land Clyde a job working for Irving Gill whose work Schindler became aware of during his 1915 sojourn to the West Coast to view the two California Expositions in San Francisco and San Diego. Gill likely also indicated his willingness to hire civil engineer Clyde to assist on his projects then in the works. Shrewdly using this likelihood of employment with Gill, the Schindlers successfully lured the Chace's to join them in Southern California in the summer of 1921 (see above). (For more on Schindler's formative West Coast trip see my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence and Selected Carmel-Taos Connections").

Horatio Court West, Santa Monica. Designed by Irving Gill, architect, Clyde Chace, construction assistant, 1921. Photo by the author, July 2014.

By September the Chaces moved into a house Gill was renting in Santa Monica while the apartment project for Horatio West was under construction (see above). Possibly made aware of Gill's modernist aesthetic via RMS before he and Kimmie moved to Los Angeles, civil engineer Clyde would have become a great admirer of the pioneering modernist Gill's work and use of progressive concrete construction techniques. Clyde would parlay what he learned on Gill's projects to use on Kings Road, the Popenoe Cabin in Coachella and the Pueblo Ribera Court in Gill's old stomping grounds of La Jolla and other Schindler-designed projects during his and Marian's 1922-24 stay in Southern California. (Author's note: Gill also had under construction at this time the Kate Crane Gartz duplex in Pasadena. The Schindlers were by then in the Gartz circle and RMS would certainly have been aware of these projects. See my "The Schindlers and Westons and the Walt Whitman School" for more on the Gartz Duplex.)

Schindler-Chace House under construction at 835 Kings Road, spring 1922. Courtesy, Schindler Collection, UC Santa Barbara.

It was possibly in San Diego, or more likely Los Angeles, that Schindler first learned of Gill's perfection of the Aiken System tilt-slab concrete construction techniques for which he had by then acquired the patents. Schindler and his builder-partner Clyde employed a simpler modified tilt-slab method, using some of Gill's own equipment, in the construction of their Pueblo-inspired residence in 1922 (see above). They built the house on a lot purchased from Walter Dodge just down the street from Gill's Dodge House which RMS more than likely observed under construction during his 1915 Los Angeles stopover. (For more on this see my "Irving Gill's First Aiken System Project: The Sarah B. Clark Residence, 7231 Hillside Ave., Hollywood, Spring 1913").

Aerial view of Sherman (soon-to-be West Hollywood), 1922. Note Schindler House front center at the southwest corner of Kings Road and Willoughby. From the internet.

The Schindlers and the Chaces spent many exciting nights in the fall of 1921 planning the layout of their new digs. They arranged financing of the lot purchase and the construction loan through Pauline's father Edmund Gibling and began construction in earnest around the beginning of 1922. (For much more on the Dodge House see my "Irving Gill, Homer Laughlin and the Beginnings of Modern Architecture in Los Angeles, Part II, 1911-1916"). "

Schindler-Chace House floor plan designed by R. M. Schindler, architect, 1922. Courtesy of the Schindler Collection, UC-Santa Barbara.

From left, Pauline Schindler's mother Sophie Gibling, Clyde Chace with Daughter Anne Harriet and her grandmother with Pauline's Smith College roommate Marian Da Camara Chace on the right all posing in front of the recently completed house. Courtesy of Jeffrey Chace.

R. M. and Pauline Schindler in the foreground with new son Mark. From left to right in the background are Pauline's sister Dorothy Gibling, her lover E. Clare Schooler, Pauline's father Edmund and mother Sophie Gibling all posing in front of the recently completed house. Author's note: Dorothy was then living in the guest apartment and working in the UCLA (nee UC-Southern Branch) Physical Education Department with Annita Delano and Weston dancing subject Bertha Wardell. For much more on this see my "Bertha Wardell Dances in Silence: Kings Road, Olive Hill ad Carmel").
Schindler House, 835 Kings Rd., West Hollywood. "Kimmie" Chace standing in doorway of her studio, ca. 1922. Courtesy of the Schindler Collection, UC-Santa Barbara.

Prior to being landscaped, the Schindler House looked quite desolate as can be seen in the above photos. Pauline Schindler's close friend, former Smith College roommate and original tenant, "Kimmie" Da Camara Chace can be seen at the door of her studio on the right forlornly gazing at the barren landscape surrounding her builder husband Clyde's handiwork. (For much more on Kimmie Dacamara and Pauline Gibling at Smith College see my "The Schindlers and the Hollywood Art Association").

While later that year in August living with Clyde and baby Anne Harriet at the building site of the Popenoe Cabin in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs, a brainstorm occurred to Kimmie. She saw that she was surrounded by California native plants and the thought leapt into her mind that their new digs on Kings Road would look fabulous with an infusion of bamboo and others from the desert. She excitedly included the following note in her periodic report on the construction status of the Popenoe House:
"To R. M. S.: I am excited over this desert vegetation. Why not bring a spade & shovel the next time you come down to inspect the Popenoe's house - come in your car - and dig up enough to plant our place. The water bamboo here is beautiful - we could get any amount - and besides the smoke tree, mesquite and several others here would be just the thing for our place and save us much money in the nurseries - and many water bills. Come down to inspect, get the plants & carry us back and we'll share up the expense. This of course we (illegible) will be returning long before you can come." (Kimmie Chace letter to Pauline Schindler from the Popenoe House building site, August 1922. From the Schindler Collection, UC Santa Barbara.).
Kings Road Thanksgiving, 1923. Photo likely by R. M. Schindler. Former Edward Weston lover Betty Katz front center facing the camera. Betty's future husband Alexander "Brandy" Brandner is seated to Betty's left. Soon-to-be Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin draftsman Anton Martin Feller is seated across the table from Betty Katz in front of the fireplace. Courtesy of the Schindler Collection, UC Santa Barbara. For a more detailed description of the other notable attendees please see my "Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism.").

The picture above clearly indicates that Schindler heeded Kimmie's advice and planted bamboo and smoke trees around the yard, shortly before the 1923 Thanksgiving celebration by the looks of the plants. (Author's note: Pauline Schindler lobbied the above Betty Katz to be one of the original denizens of Kings Road prior to its design in an October 1921 letter from Yosemite whereshe was then vacationing with her husband upon the completion of Aline Barnsdall's Olive Hill. For much more on this see my "The Schindlers and the Hollywood Art Association.").

Kings Road in the spring of 1924. Photo by Werner Moser. 

The bamboo and smoke trees that the Schindlers and Chaces planted in 1922 were thriving by March 1924 as can be seen in these above and below period images taken by Walter Moser during he and his wife's brief stay during March on his way to Taliesin. The Mosers would soon join Schindler's previous tenants, the Tsuchiuras, Anton Martin Feller (seen above), and later that year Richard and Dione Neutra. (For much more on this please see my "Taliesin Class of 1924: A Case Study in Publicity and Fame." Author's note: 1923 Kings Road Thanksgiving celebration attendee Anton Martin Feller, then working for another architect, soon left for Taliesin where he stayed until just before the Neutras arrived).

Kings Road Guest Apartment Ledger, 1924. Courtesy Kings Road Centennial Exhibition.

The Mosers in front of the Guest Apartment in the spring of 1924. For much more on the Mosers, Tsuchiuras, Neutras and Feller together at Taliesin see my "Taliesin Class of 1924: A Case Study in Publicity and Fame").

The bamboo in particular, later became so healthy that it intruded onto the next door neighbor's property which was owned by Orlando T. Palmer, the publisher of the Hollywood Daily Citizen. Mr. Palmer sent Schindler the below angry letter of complaint on August 6, 1928 which was likely rectified forthwith.

"My Dear Mr. Schindler,                                                              6322 Hollywood Boulevard

I am the owner of the lot on Kings Road adjoining your property on the south. I wish to call to your attention the fact that the bamboo on your property is creeping over on to mine. You, of course, know how difficult it is to clear property of the roots of the bamboo, and you will appreciate the fact that it is a nuisance to have it spreading all over my property. 

I must look therefore to you to abate this nuisance at once, and I must hold you responsible for whatever expense I am put to to get the bamboo out of my lot and keep it out.

If you would prefer to remove the bamboo from my lot yourself, and devise some method to keep it from spreading from your property, that will be satisfactory to me.

I am appealing to your sense of justice, and am sure you will give this matter your immediate attention.

It has been reported to me that in times past you have placed rubbish on my property, and while I appreciate that this is a common practice with vacant property, I should like to keep my lot as clean as possible, and if there is any truth in these reports, I shall thank you to discontinue the practice.

Yours Very Truly, 

Orlando T. Palmer" (Letter on display in the Schindler House Centennial. Los Angeles City Directory, 1928, p. 1644)

"Bovingdon Arrives," The Carmelite, July 4, 1928, front cover. 

John Bovingdon and Jeanya Marling performing at Kings Road ca. 1928. From Life Magazine.

The bamboo was still thriving as John Bovingdon and Jeanya Marling performed at Kings Road and Carmel in 1928 and finally moved in after the Neutras left in1930. (For much more on this please see my "Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism").

The bamboo in particular has over the next 100 years certainly achieved heroic status. A recent photo of Kings Road during last summer's centennial exhibition clearly bear this out. (See below photos).

"Schindler House: 100 Years n the Making" centennial exhibition, September 2022. Photo by the author.

View from the back yard of Kings Road. Photo by the author. Note the height of the bamboo on either side.

Bamboo along the back property line of Kings Road. Photograph by the author.

Closeup of bamboo roots in the back yard of Kings Road. Photograph by the author.

Little did Pauline's friend Kimmie Chace know that her innocent suggestion from the site of the Popenoe House in Coachella would result in such a prominent feature of Kings Road. May it thrive for at least another 100 years.