Historic San Clemente
Paul R. Williams Designed × Goldschmidt House
The Goldschmidt House marks the intersection of the real estate pioneers of Southern Orange County with the career of Paul R. Williams (1894-1980), one of California’s most highly regarded architects. The house today is very much as Williams designed it in 1928. In broad features, it illustrates the simple lines and Spanish heritage that was all the rage among the well-to-do in California in the 1920’s. In its small points it illustrates the attention to detail that helped to make Paul R. Williams one of the most sought-after architects of the day.
Although he had not opened his own practice until 1922, Williams had established connections to both the Forster and Goldschmidt families of Orange County. In 1926, he designed a residence for John Forster in San Juan Capistrano. (That structure no longer exists.) At about that time, Williams designed the Post Office building in San Juan Capistrano. In 1927, Williams designed a residence for Adlai Goldschmidt in Hancock Park (Los Angeles). The Goldschmidt House in San Clemente was designed in 1928 as a weekend house for the Goldschmidts. He never again designed a private residence in Orange County. Of his two residential commissions in Orange County, only the Goldschmidt house survives.
The Forster and Goldschmidt families were pioneering landowners and developers of Southern Orange County. John (Juan) Forster had controlled as much as 225,000 acres just before his death in 1882. In 1883, his son Marcus Forster acquired the 4,000 acre Rancho Los Desechos from the United States government in one of the last transactions directly related to the Spanish land grants. Cornelio Echenique had the good fortune of marrying Marcus Forster’s daughter Isadora. In 1906, Echenique partnered with brothers Herman and Max Goldschmidt to purchase 10,500 acres within Rancho Desechos from the Forster family. The Goldschmidts were to run cattle on what is now San Clemente for more than 30 years. In 1920, the partners decided to divide their land and end the partnership. Echenique took the inland portion, which was better for farming, and the Goldschmidts took the coastal grazing land.
Adlai Goldschmidt grew up in Los Angeles, about a year older than Paul R. Williams. He had all of the advantages that Williams did not. Williams was the son of a fruit stand owner, an orphan at age 4, and a black youth in an ethnically diverse and often ethnically divided city. Williams’ international education came not from travel abroad, but from the increasingly diverse neighborhood in which he was raised. Yet by 1924 Williams had completed a number of residences for the wealthy, including several in Hancock Park.
The Goldschmidt fortune was based on liquor, and their fortunes suffered after the passage of the Volstead Act establishing Prohibition in 1919. In 1924, millionaire financier and oilman Henry Hamilton Cotton bought the Desechos property from the Goldschmidts for seven million dollars (Walker, p. 64). The Goldschmidts leased the land back from the syndicate and continued to manage a cattle business on the property. Soon after, developer Ole Hanson acquired the land from a syndicate created by Cotton and began selling lots in the new town.
Adlai Goldschmidt bought the highest lot in the new city with views of the new city to the south, the ocean to the west, and the grazing land to the north. A well- known photograph of the era shows the fledgling cityby the sea, with The Goldschmidt House high upon the hill, solitarily overseeing the early development.
The Goldschmidt House illustrates the principal architectural elements that Williams associated with the Spanish revival style of architecture. Unlike the simple, country-style houses that had typified the Spanish revival style before World War I, designs in the 1920’s often included a variety of design elements. Indeed, architect Henry Lenny has said that San Clemente is notable in the history of Spanish Revival architecture for the playfulness of the designs the city encouraged.
The Goldschmidt House celebrates the birth of the “Spanish Village by the Sea”, as it was known, by providing a Monterey balcony overlooking the City to the south, a second-story sun deck overlooking the grazing lands to the north, and a round balcony overlooking San Clemente and Santa Catalina Islands to the west.
Entering from the front patio, the arched front door leads directly to the back courtyard, so that upon entering, one has the feeling that one should immediately step outside again. Although the original courtyard has been enclosed, a single floor element of colorful Mexican tiles mixed with adobe pavers is used in both the enclosed courtyard and the newer outdoor patio beyond so as to preserve Williams’ sense of making a large house meld into its setting. Williams completed the design of The Goldschmidt House in 1928. The Goldschmidt family used the residence for occasional weekends away from Los Angeles and as a base for managing their cattle operations.
Williams played with arches throughout, including the arched front door, large arched windows in the living room and the dining room (the latter with side panels that open to provide ventilation), corbelled arches framing the entry hall, and a set of nested arches in the upstairs hallway. The ceilings of the three upstairs bedrooms and the two upstairs bathrooms are arched, sometimes to match the roofline, sometimes just as a stylistic element.
Perhaps because it was commissioned by a family of distillers during the Prohibition Era, the house has a fully plumbed bar, including an ice box, hidden near the living room.
Hand-carved wood detail includes the intricately carved front door, an eleven-foot high coffered ceiling in the spacious living room, and wood frames for the windows. Faux-wood décor of plaster shaped and painted to look like wood is used throughout the downstairs, most notably in the form of the main fireplace. The thick walls provide function as well as remind one of the traditional adobe materials of the colonial period.
Paul R. Williams
FAIA (February 18, 1894 – January 23, 1980) Paul Revere Williams was an American architect based in Los Angeles, California. He practiced largely in Southern California and designed the homes of numerous celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney, Barbara Stanwyck and Charles Correll. He also designed many public and private buildings.
Orphaned at four years of age, Williams was the only African American student in his elementary school. He studied at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design and at the Los Angeles branch of the New York Beaux-Arts Institute of Design Atelier, subsequently working as a landscape architect.
He went on to attend the University of Southern California, designing several residential buildings while still a student there. Williams became a certified architect in 1921, and the first certified African-American architect west of the Mississippi.
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1 Half Baths
0.65 Acres lot
Spectacular 5 bedroom, 3.5 Bath home. The Goldschmidt House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its architect, Paul R. Williams. Built in 1928, the house was designed by Paul Williams, the first African American Fellow of the AIA, for Adlai Goldschmidt, the son of Herman Goldschmidt who, with his brother Max, owned all the land that was later developed by Ole Hanson into San Clemente. (For full history, contact LA) Set high on the hill this home enjoys panoramic views of San Clemente, Catalina Island, Dana Point and northern hills. Extraordinary opportunity for history or architectural fans, the home has been beautifully restored to its original grandeur. Features include a redwood coffered ceiling in the step-down living room, original hardwood floors refinished throughout, picket tile along the corbelled entryway, arched doorways, coved ceilings, four balconies, antique light fixtures and doorknobs. The large garage, now permitted as an office, may be converted back to a 2 or 3 car garage. The huge walk through closet may be used again as a fifth bedroom. The extensive gardens include a variety of fruit trees, a small vineyard, vegetables and berries. The property has 28,380 sq. ft. of private,usable land. Walk to the beach in 20 minutes. Property taxes are reduced to about $6,000 per year by the Mills Act which transfers to future owners. No home is comparable to this historic Gem.