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.

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