Sunday, November 28, 2010

Storyland at Roeding Park, Fresno

A few weeks ago I wrote about Roeding Park for my September 26th post. Today I want to focus on just one of the many features of this wonderful regional park – Storyland, which was a gift to the children of Fresno given by the Fresno Metropolitan Rotary in 1961. Storyland is now 49 years old and is a valuable contributor to our state’s cultural landscape. It would have been a strong contender in the national Theme Park Challenge initiated by the Northern California Chapter of the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) and sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Like Fairyland in Oakland, Storyland is a theme park for young children with exhibits based on familiar fairy tales. It is a richly stimulating environment with so many colorful and delightful elements that it can be overwhelming. Every detail is scaled to accommodate children – doorways are low, light standards short, benches and seats small, and pathways are narrow. Here adults have to stoop, bend down and crouch.

There are at least 25 fairytale exhibits including Little Boy Blue, The Old Woman In The Shoe, The Crooked Man who Walked a Crooked Mile, Mother Goose, The Wicked Witch at Candyland, Jack and Jill, Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, Miss Muffett, Alice In Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty, and The 3 Little Pigs.

There are at least two areas that families can rent for birthday parties or other special events. My favorite is the castle tower party room designed with a Camelot and Knights theme. Access to the castle is via a wooden draw bridge over the castle moat – beware of the sea serpent lurking in the moat near the bridge. A narrow passage way leads into the Camelot room that has a circular table for the knights, painted stone interior, colorful hanging banners, and a tall, carved chair for the king or queen.

The theme of the other party space is Alice In Wonderland where the White Rabbit presides at the entry and the 3 of Hearts stands guard. A large clock face is painted on the pavement and party tables are set inside a walled garden.

But there is much more at Storyland to explore. The multi-masted Pirate ship with its giant wheel and elaborate riggings is unlike anything you could every find in any pre-manufactured play catalogue today. This realistically detailed structure includes carved ornamentation, cannons protruding from the sides, a coat of arms, a lantern for night sailing, slides, shoots and hiding cubbies, chains and robes, a sliding pole for quick escapes, and a carved dolphins masthead.

There is a child-size train that you board at the Storyland Train Station opposite the entry ticket booth, and then take a ride around Lake Washington where you’ll pass by a wrecked pirate ship and beneath the canopy of Roeding Park’s wonderful trees. There is a stage with seating for theater performances and puppet shows. There is even a small scale chapel with stain glass windows made with primary colors and miniature pews with inscriptions like, “The world rests on truth and peace”.

Even the boys and girls restrooms are custom designed and scaled to accommodate children. The Tudor-style buildings enclose a brightly painted setting featuring the baker and boy with a goose – help me readers identify which fairytale this depicts – send a comment.

Storyland is laid out with curvilinear paths, of varying materials, colors and textures that lead to each of the exhibits. A man made, shallow, concrete-lined creek meanders through the site and at several spots one passes over a bridge to cross the creek. Each bridge is unique – one is a simple wood structure but others include bridges with colorful candy cane railings or gingerbread men. The best is an intricate, painted metal dragon with scales and loops on top.

Small, themed tables and stools are found along the paths for picnics or snack stops. Of course each is unique. The one near the 3 bears looks like mushrooms and the table top is painted with daisies. There are two styles of brightly painted mushroom seats – one with a table, and many other small details tucked into every curve of the pathway.

Storyland is worth a visit to Fresno if you have small children and for older children there is Playland with amusement rides, a water play area and another train. Of course there are other reasons to visit Fresno but Roeding Park is a must see for all ages.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Robson-Harrington Park, San Anselmo

One of the best parts of doing HALS work is visiting places you’ve never been to before – whether you are away from home on a trip for just taking a Sunday drive nearby. Robson Harrington Park in San Anselmo is just such a place – a great discovery practically in our backyard.

The front entry to Robson-Harrington Park is defined by a low stone wall with pillars at the corner and entry drive. A walk parallels the driveway and is made with terra-cotta pavers with a redwood grained motif. This material continues to the front porch where it is laid in a herringbone pattern. The front garden looks much like a traditional early 20th century garden with curving expanses of lawn, shrub beds and a variety of mature specimen trees, but once in the garden you discover a unique brick wall constructed with a combination of standard brick and irregular chunks of what look like molten brick or glass. These are combined in infinite variety changing height, width and detailing. The wall forms arches, lines steps and terraces, and defines a group barbeque area on the lower level of the sloping site. Along the way one discovers one-of-a-kind pieces of glazed terra-cotta medallions varying in size from 4" to 26" round and rectangular pieces. All are glazed in ivory and or blue. It is a fanciful and organic garden that invites exploration and discovery.

The property includes a large expanse of lawn surrounded by a small redwood grove and an assortment of other trees including an exceptional Cratagus cordata/Washington Thorn. Currently, the area adjacent to the house is used for community gardening in terraced beds.
The residence on this property was completed in 1906 and was built for Edwin Kleber Wood on a 2.68 acre parcel. Wood was the son of farmers who served in the civil war prior to starting a career in the timber industry. His lumber company grew to be one of the largest in Michigan. In 1885, he served in the Michigan legislature. At this time Wood expanded his lumber business to the west coast and moved first to San Francisco and then Oakland, California. His Marin lumber yard, which opened in 1905, was one of the largest in Marin County. In 1917 when Edwin Woods died the property was valued at $2 million.

In 1923, Wood's sons sold the property to Kernan and Geraldine Robson. Kernan was the son of Albert L. Robson and Frances Harrington. Kernan attended Wesleyan University, Harvard Divinity School and Oxford prior to becoming a Professor of English. Later he formed a real estate partnership.

The Robsons planted extensive orchards and a vineyard. They added the curving brick walls using bricks salvaged from property acquired by Kernan's real estate dealings. They built archways, fountains and elaborate niches throughout the property.

The property was deeded to the City of San Anselmo upon Geraldine's death in 1967.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wassama Village

Two weeks ago we drove to Yosemite to enjoy some fall color and a relaxing weekend. On the way we stopped at Wassama State Historic Park and found a gently sloping site with topography that steps down to the south. It is an oak-grassland with a few tall Valley Oaks (Quercus lobata) and other trees. The park is surrounded by a split-rail fence and beyond the park boundary there are rural, private properties. The distant view of hills, clad in Oak woodland is likely much as it would have been during the time that Native Americans used this site, when the roundhouse was originally built.

The main feature of the park is a 40-foot diameter roundhouse, actually an octagon-shaped building, that is sited on a level area of open grassland, adjacent to two mature oaks that shade the structure and a picnic area. The roundhouse has pine board siding, and a new shingle roof with a smoke hole.

The original roundhouse was a semi-subterranean building constructed in the 1860s that was used for ceremonial purposes by the Southern Miwok tribe of Native Americans. The site was known as Wassama Village meaning Falling Leaves. This structure was burned in 1893 by the native people, in honor of their leader upon his death – in keeping with tradition.

The new roundhouse, built in 1903 is an above-ground structure that utilized the original center pole in the construction. This roundhouse was restored in 1978 when state parks purchased the property, and is the only remaining Miwok roundhouse in California. The roundhouse is still used by Native Americans for religious ceremonies, dancing, and for interpretive programs. According to a monument at the site “Southern Miwok dances, including the 1870 Ghost Dance are known to have been performed in the round house.”

According to the Madera County Genealogy website, the roundhouse built in 1903 “was constructed of poles cut and hauled from Captain Jim Rohan’s 80-acre allotment three miles to the north. Rohan and Johnny Jacobs hauled all the material and directed the building. Other Indians who worked on it included Chief Peter Westfall, his sons Johnny and Eff, Jim and Sam Johnson, Charles Rohan, Frank Tex, Johnny Gibbs and Ben Jacobs. There were many more but their names are forgotten.”

Near the high point of the park, on the north side, there is a small burial plot (approximately 100’ x 60’) defined by a split rail fence with two horizontal members. Access to the cemetery is through openings on the west and east sides – there are no gates. A very subtle, eight foot wide dirt path, marked with rocks, leads to the west opening. One large oak at the center, casts shadow over most of the cemetery. The ground surface is covered by non-irrigated grasses and is without formal paths. Most graves are unmarked while a few have simple wooden crosses, and fewer still have upright or flat stone monuments.

The third feature is a grinding stone. This low, broad stone has more than 30 mortars of varying depths. The layout of the mortars forms an oval shape within the oval shaped stone.

Wassama Roundhouse is California Historical Landmark No. 1001. It is located in a beautiful part of California’s foothills and is worth a visit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, Oakland

Sometimes staying close to home is just right. Have you ever spent a weekend constantly working, trying to catch up on errands, house cleaning and shopping, and then ….. it’s Sunday afternoon and you know you need to do something fun before facing the workweek? I had a weekend like this in the middle of July and decided to visit the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, which is so close to where we live that of course we take it for granted, driving by five days a week to and from the office, but never stopping to literally “smell the roses.”

The Morcom rose garden, named after Fred N. Morcom, Mayor of Oakland 1931-33, was built in the 1930s, during the depression, in a steeply sided canyon. Landscape architect Arthur Cobbledick took advantage of the sloping site. The site is terraced with formal gardens at each level. There are five entrances into the park from the surrounding residential neighborhood. We parked at the high side of the site and walked down, one of two long flights of stairs, to the first terrace of rose beds. Rose covered trellises terminate the stairway. The rose beds on the upper terrace are bi-laterally symmetrical and together form an oval. Each bed is planted with one or more rose varieties, each labeled.

A wide sloping path leads to the next terrace. Embedded in the walk are small bronze plaques placed there to honor reach recipient of Oakland’s Mother of the Year program. The centerpiece of the middle terrace is a formal, elongated oval reflecting pool. It is set in a lawn defined by an oval path. A Mediterranean-style pavilion with a terra-cotta tile roof and tall arches sits on the northeast side of the pool. This is the premier spot for weddings.

Opposite the pavilion Cobbledick took advantage of the widest portion of the site and laid out a ten-tier cascade, perpendicular to the main axis of the garden. Stepped paths lead up at either side of the cascade to another terrace of roses. After climbing these steps one is rewarded with a view looking down the rose-lined cascade to the reflecting pool at the bottom and its pavilion backdrop.

At this point I was more than satisfied – feeling renewed by our afternoon’s outing, but there was still more to explore. After walking back down the cascade towards the reflecting pool we continued downhill where parallel paths line a wide planting bed filled with tall shrub roses. On the right is another small maintenance building, designed in a similar style as the pavilion, and at the end of our walk we came to the main entrance to the garden, which is framed by roofed structures supported by eighteen foot tall sets of paired classic columns.

This cultural landscape is well used and loved by residents, and now after years of park staff cuts, residents have taken on the maintenance of the garden. A friends group meets regularly to deadhead and prune the 6000 roses, and they are doing a good job – despite the staff cuts Morcom was recently acknowledged as one of the ten best municipal rose gardens in the nation. Thank you volunteers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Roeding Park, Fresno

It has been a few weeks since my last post. I’ve been busy. I attended the annual conference for landscape architects in Washington DC early this month. Two days later I headed out to Fresno, to start a new HALS documentation job. I was asked to prepare a HALS short form for Roeding Park – a 156 acre regional park in the Central Valley. Roeding Park is both a park and an arboretum. The man who donated the land to the City of Fresno, Frederick Christian Roeding and his son, George Christian Roeding were important figures in the state’s rich agricultural history, and owned and operated Fancher Creek Nursery. FC Roeding provided most of the trees for the new park and was very engaged in the park’s design as a Fresno Park Commissioner. He worked with landscape architect, Johannes Reimers, in the early 1900s, and together they created a community park that continues to be cared for and well used by “Fresnans”.

The park has much to offer. There is a tremendous variety of mature trees – exceptional specimens and small groves. These provide essential shade and stunning settings for picnicking. The picnicking facilities are almost endless – there are three group picnic areas with rustic-style shelters, large enough to house 7 twenty-foot long picnic tables at each. There are other group picnic areas without structures but shaded by trees. These are called The Eucalyptus Grove, Pine Grove and Cedar Grove picnic areas. There are also picnic areas for small groups, and isolated tables for a single family or couple.

The park has two dance floors with stages and lighting, there are 8 horseshoe pits, two tot lots with climbing structures, and a tennis complex with 14 tennis courts and one handball court. My favorite part of the park is the lily ponds. Just inside the main entry off Belmont Avenue Reimers designed five ponds, each has a curvilinear edge and all are shaded by a variety of canopy trees. Simple wooden bridges link one pond to the next. There is no formal path, so one feels invited to meander or sit, enjoying the cool shade and watching children fish from the edge.

The pond furthest from the entry, and near one corner of the park, has an ornate basin set on a pedestal, in the middle of the pond. A jet of water shoots up about 15 feet in the air above the basin. This too is lighted and is visible to people in cars driving by at night.

Lake Washington was constructed in another portion of the park. This is a single, large body of water with three jets and the remnants of what was once an island – before Highway 99 was built and cut off a portion of the lake and island. The lake is surrounded by lawn and trees and there is a monument to President George Washington, that was installed to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth. At the time the monument was dedicated, Fresno school children raised funds for, and helped plant more than 600 trees of over 300 types, in the park.

In 1955, the local Rotary gave funds to build Playland – an amusement park with rides, a miniature train, merry-go-round, and boat rides. Then in 1962, Storyland was added for young children. This fairytale themed area is very similar to Oakland’s “Fairyland” – see my January 24, 2010 blog post.

A zoo was added to the park in the 1920s and over the years has expanded several times. Currently, there are plans to expand the zoo again. It is clear that they need more space to accommodate their program, but I question the loss of park / arboretum space, which today is being used and obviously much enjoyed by many groups and families. Where will all the picnickers go? The family bar-b-ques, the casual strollers, the youthful fishing fans, the dog park users? Hum.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tor House & Garden, Carmel

The main event of my three day visit to Monterey with my mother in June was to visit the Tor House on the Carmel peninsula. To prepare for our trip I had reviewed the list of potential HALS sites our chapter members had assembled, and the brief description of the Tor site sounded intriguing. When my mother confirmed that she had never been there, which is unusual because she takes lots of trips to visit places throughout the state, that became our premier destination.

One thing to know about the California coastline is that it is frequently inundated with fog. When I called to make our reservations they reminded me to dress warmly. Well, I think we must have picked the best day of the year to visit Tor House because it was absolutely spectacular. The view from the top of Hawk Tower was stunning.

A little history: The property was owned and built by Robinson Jeffers who lived on the property with his wife Una. According to Wikipedia, “Jeffers was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. Most of Jeffers' poetry was written in classic narrative and epic form, but today he is also known for his short verse, and considered an icon of the environmental movement.” After they married in 1913 the Jeffers had planned to move to England but the outbreak of WWI prevented them from doing so. A friend suggested they spend time in Carmel where they rented a small, wooden cottage in town in 1914. They took long walks out to the beach and found themselves attracted to the small knoll with the tor stones and expansive view of the ocean and Point Lobos beyond.

They purchased the property and hired M.J. Murphy contractor to build their home. Jeffers hired himself out as a laborer to the mason, which is how he learned the trade. They moved in to Tor House in 1919 when their twin sons Garth and Donnan were three years old.

Originally the property encompassed 16 lots on Carmel Point. A stone wall defines a courtyard space that also connects the Tor House, Hawk Tower, the dining room, and the rumpus room/office. The original wall, built by Robinson Jeffers, was about 30” high on all sides with columns at the gates. Jeffers placed Native American stone mortars on top of these columns and at the corner of the wall on the ocean side. The wall height on the ocean side was raised to approximately 6 feet, by one of the Jeffers twin sons, in order to provide more privacy. Brick paths between the buildings and a colorful, perennial garden have been added. Jeffers built a stone path between the Tor House and Hawk Tower that remains.

The stone used and the style of construction is the same as what was used to construct the buildings and structures in the compound. It is a rough Santa Lucia granite. It is clear where the son raised the height of the wall on the ocean side of the compound because he used smaller stones – there is a distinct change in texture in the wall here. There is one simple wooden picket gate in the wall that leads to a path on the ocean side of Tor House. This was known as the “sea gate” and the other gate, on the opposite side of the courtyard was the “moor gate”.

Just inside the gate, in the garden at the southwest corner of the compound there is a stone pedestal set on a stone foundation, with a sundial on it. This was Robinson Jeffers first solo effort of masonry construction.

The entire complex of buildings and garden is strongly tied to the landscape. Robinson and Una Jeffers chose to build their home at this site because it was located on a small knoll with a circle of stones known as a Tor. They instructed their contractor to anchor their new home to one of the Tor stones and they designed the home with a window that looks out towards the ocean with the tor stone in the foreground. Another element of the landscape is a stone bench, made from a single slab of granite that is integrated into the Tor stone and house.

In addition to his passion for poetry and masonry Robinson Jeffers planted some 2000 trees on and around his property – Monterey Cypress and Eucalyptus globules. Some of these remain today lining Ocean Avenue, and in the neighborhood that has developed. Other plantings on the property appear to be modern additions though there has been an attempt to maintain the character of the original landscape on the downhill parcel where wildflowers and oat grass grow. The oat grass is a remnant of the feed given to the pony that pulled the stone up from the beach. Una Jeffers recorded 45 species of wildflowers found at the site. There is also a yew tree (Taxus baccata) within the courtyard that could date to the Jeffers.

The docent who led our two-hour tour had been a long time volunteer at the site. He knew a tremendous amount about the Jeffers, the site, their home and all of the many treasures on display – many gifts from artistic friends and colleagues. Tor House was definitely the highlight of a wonderful mini-vacation and HALS adventure.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Carmel Mission

While on our weekend trip to Monterey we did not plan to visit the Carmel Mission, also known as Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo, because my mother and I had both been there before, but when we found ourselves with a few minutes to spare, we decided to visit the mission gardens. Oops, big mistake – what we didn’t know was that the plaza gardens had undergone extensive renovation since either of us had been there, and they were bursting with flowering vines, shrubs and perennials that all seemed to be at their peak.

One starts the tour at a small gift shop attached to what is now a museum. Exiting a modest wooden door a large plaza is revealed that lies between of the museum and perimeter wall. The Basilica with its tower provides the backdrop. This stone structure was built in 1793 replacing an adobe chapel, which had been built to replace the original wooden church, built in 1771. The current church tower is of Moorish design and has nine bells in the tower.

While many of the plantings appear to be new, several old specimens remain including a pair of Taxus trees that dwarf the entrance to the museum, an old pepper tree, and a wonderful cork oak with deeply furrowed bark. Planting beds are lined with large cobbles and a raised portion of the garden is defined by a plastered wall with Moorish detailing and an integral wood bench. The layout of the garden spaces appeared true to the period but time did not permit verification of this. What was clearly not historic was the exposed aggregate paving with brick bands in the plaza – these seem to be a misguided 1970s era “improvement”.

Moving through a broad, stucco garden wall one enters the mission cemetery where several of the padres and over 200 Native Americans and Spaniards are buried. Plots are lined with abalone shells and stones, have simple wooden crosses and compacted earth paths. Some have bronze or granite headstones.

Given the time we had to spend at the mission these gardens would have sufficed – and their beauty and detailing would have satiated us, but following the tour path we entered first into an intimate, shady garden with benches, a fountain, glazed tile friezes and religious-themed sculpture. This quiet space opened onto a massive plaza more than four times larger than the museum/Basilica plaza.

The main plaza, like the first, had a traditional mission character consisting of a large expanse of open area surrounded by perimeter planting beds and one, large pentagon-shaped stucco, brick and deep-blue tile pool. The weathered brick of the fountain gargoyle conveyed its age. This space was so large and richly planted it was instantly apparent that we definitely did not have enough time to really enjoy the mission gardens, much less have a moment to look at the mission structures or visit the museum. We rushed off to make our 1:00 tour reservation, which I strongly recommend one avoid. The Carmel Mission deserves a half day visit easily.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

La Mirada and The Castro Adobe

The ideal HALS site is one that has changed very little since its period of significance. Period of significance means the time period during which the garden gained importance as a historic site. Typically it is the period when the original owner occupied the site. For example the period of significance for the San Francisco Presidio are the years when the military occupied the site.

Casa Amesti in Monterey is a perfect example of a garden that has not changed substantially since its original design, because when owner Francis Elkins died the property was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. My firm, PGAdesign was asked to restore this garden a few years ago, and when we started we found that the current garden was essentially the same as the garden depicted in photographs from the 1930s – it had deteriorated but the original design and most of the original plantings remained.

Realistically though all gardens change and they change quickly because plants grow and as they grow they transform the landscape profoundly. Other things change as well – wooden fences and gates deteriorate, stone walls crumble, and sometimes modifications occur when a new owner simply wants their garden to look different or to accommodate a new use. The Monterey Art Museum at La Mirada is such an example. The original Castro Adobe has been restored and over time several buildings have been added. At this point it is impossible to tell, just by looking at the complex, what is historic and what has been added, and certainly some additions are now old enough in their own right to qualify as “historic”. 50 years is the general rule for HALS, which I find a bit disconcerting considering I passed that milestone some while ago.

The garden at La Mirada is enclosed by a chalk rock stone wall that is an extension off the back of the Antonio Mario Castro Adobe. The stones are rough and irregularly-shaped, nearly white in color except where they are covered by lichens. The height of the wall varies from about 30” to 7’ where it has buttresses. There are two wooden gates into the garden – one a simple board fence with a round, bronze knocker, and the other more elaborate and set in a classical stone peaked arch, which is in poor condition. I presume these gates are replacements for the originals.

Garden beds occur on three levels and are edged with brick set on end and half buried. Beds are separated by brick paths about 4’ wide in a basket weave pattern. One bed is terraced with a chalk rock stone wall about 20” high, and is in poor condition which leads me to believe it is original. The beds are bordered with hens and chick succulents and planted almost exclusively with roses.

The Antonio Mario Castro Adobe was built in the early 1800s. It is one of three buildings that appear on an 1849 map of Monterey. Castro was a soldier in California from 1780 to 1809. The home remained in the Castro family for a few generations until 1919. For a time the John C. Fremont family rented two rooms in the adobe from Modesto Castro, until Fremont was elected to the U.S. Senate and they moved to Washington.

Gouverneu Morris purchased the adobe in 1920. He restored the adobe, added other buildings and built the wall around the garden for privacy. So, the garden wall is nearly 90 years old and clearly meets the 50 year criteria for HALS.

Thomas Albert Work, Sr. purchased the property in 1936. He made his fortune in land and real estate. Work planted the cypress, pine and other trees surrounding the property. Work’s wife, Maude Porter created the rose garden before her death in 1949. The rose garden was rehabilitated in 1989 when many new roses were added and some of the original roses were retained. One Cecile Brunner rose with a mass of knotty root stock was labeled 1881/1894.

Thomas and Maude’s son Frank Work inherited the property and maintained the garden until he deeded it to the museum in 1983.

So, this is a garden has had several owners since the early 1800s and it has changed substantially. There are clues to what is old and what has been added, but the lines are blurred and only extensive research would tell us more.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Forest Theater, Carmel

In the summer of 1968 after graduating from high school I auditioned for the cast at Woodminster – an outdoor amphitheater in the Oakland hills. I was in two musicals – The Most Happy Fella and The King and I where I played one of the king’s many wives. It was a lot of fun, so when I read about the Forest Theater in Carmel I was keen to go see it as part of my HALS adventure.

The Forest Theater was built in 1910 and is the oldest outdoor theater west of the Rockies. It was started by actor/director Herbert Heron with poet Mary Austin. The land for the theater was given rent free by Carmel’s founder Frank Devendorf – the same person who gave the land for Devendorf Park that I wrote about of week. Plays, pageants, musicals, Shakespeare and outdoor films have been performed at the theater. There is a long-standing tradition of featuring original works of California authors including the work of Robinson Jeffers, Mary Austin, and Barbara Newberry who wrote The Toad and Junipero Serra, a historical pageant focusing on the life of Father Junipero Serra.

The privately owned theater was deeded to the city of Carmel in 1939 so it would be eligible for federal support when it became a WPA project. The theater closed during World War II in response to mandatory blackouts, but reopened after the war. Since then interest in the theater has waxed and waned but renewed community interest has kept it going for 100 years. According to Wikipedia, “in 2005, Pacific Repertory Theater presented the theater’s highest attended production, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, to a combined audience of over 10,000 ticket holders.”

The site of the 60-seat theater is a naturally occurring bowl-shaped area in an oak woodland, in a residential neighborhood of Carmel. Oaks were removed to construct the bleacher seating but the grove remains at the back and sides. Most of the understory has been cleared. The view back of stage is through Monterey pines and beyond to the Monterey Bay. The character of the site and planting is left a bit wild and natural.

The perimeter of the theater is defined by a four-five foot high grape-stake fence. There are two gates into the theater; one wide enough for vehicles and one pedestrian gateway that has a beam overhead with “Forest Theater” carved into it.

Materials are limited to wood and rough stone. The wood is either painted “state parks brown” or left unpainted. The bleacher seating is divided into two sections with concrete paths at either side and in the middle. There are 11 rows of seating, then a stone retaining wall about 30” high, and 6 additional rows of seating. Seats have backs and the space between rows is compacted earth.

Near the stage there are semi-circular stone fireplaces built at either side of the bleachers that provide warmth to those sitting near enough and ambiance for the rest of the audience.
The stage is wood and there are storage areas for props at either side. Additional storage, dressing rooms, and an indoor theater are below the main stage. There is also a wood deck (about 40’ x 80’) with a built in bench on the downhill side of the theater.

The form and layout of the theater all appear to be original as does the stone work and arrangement of the seating. In 1939 Works Progress Administration (WPA) crews undertook a major reconstruction. They built new benches, laid a concrete foundation for the stage, and replaced a barbed-wire fence with the grape-stake fence.

To stage left there is a square of stones and an upright carved boulder: “Here lies Pal the friend of all who knew and loved him. Carmel’s dog, born Aug 1929, died Dec. 1943.”