No Place Like Home: La Casa Nueva in Construction, ca. 1924, #2

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Back in October, a photograph was highlighted showing the courtyard of La Casa Nueva, the home of the Temple family, during the construction of the Spanish Colonial Revival-style structure that took five years to build, but in which the Temples lived for only about half that time before they moved in spring 1930.

As noted in that post, work began in summer 1922 after the Temples returned from a vacation in Mexico.  Stonemason Pablo Urzua of Guadalajara and his crew were brought up to make adobe bricks by hand. Construction was based on rough drawings based on Walter and Laura Temple’s ideas and then formalized with plans prepared by the Los Angeles architectural firm of Walker and Eisen, which designed many commercial buildings in which Walter Temple had an interest.

At the end of 1922, however, Laura Temple died and work stopped on the home while Walter pondered its future.  When the project resumed, Beverly Hills architect Roy Seldon Price (whose “Dias Doradas” home for film studio head Thomas Ince has also been covered in this blog) was brought in to work on the residence.

Price made substantial changes to the home’s design, including the remarkable carved plaster surround at the front entrance, the refashioning of the interior stairs, and many other elements that made the house far more distinctive than the original plan.  As the Temple family joked, however, the architect’s invoices matched his last name!

La Casa Nueva West Elevation Construction
This circa 1924 photograph from the Homestead’s collection shows workers and a man in a suit, perhaps architect Roy Seldon Price, looking over progress on the building of La Casa Nueva, the Temple family residence.

The photo accompanying this post is from about the same time as the courtyard image from a few months back, sometime in the summer of 1924, and shows a crew of workers in white overalls and a gent in a suit and hat with documents in his left hand (perhaps Price?) gazing at the west side of the home.  It was probably taken by Thomas W. Temple II, eldest child of the family and who was an enthusiastic photographer.  Thanks to him, we have a wealth of images documenting the Homestead during the 1920s, including the building of La Casa Nueva.

There are several distinctive elements to the home at that juncture.  One is that rough plaster coating to the adobe walls looks to have been pretty well completed.  Another is that the roof was layered with red tile.  Then, the chimney for the fireplace in the Library was finished off.

To the right, where the first floor wing includes two bathrooms (one half and one full), barber shop, and two bedrooms, the open area at the top includes adobe brick pillars across which would eventually be placed wood beams.  It appears the Temples’ original concept for the wing was to simply place roofing material, but Price prevailed with his idea of making these large open sun-decks.  Again, it added substantial cost, but definitely improved both the appearance and function of the transforming dwelling.

Obviously, such details as french doors and windows, all of which had some form of decorative glass work (stained or painted) that further added to the uniqueness of the home, as well as landscaping, were far in the future.  Finally, it is striking to observe the rudimentary nature of the ladders and scaffolding used on the project!

Check back here to see more images of this remarkable historic home in future posts.

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