Neustra Casa, San Clemente, California

Connie and I spent last Christmas Week and New Years Day in San Clemente, a Southern California beach town that I last visited as a young teen. My parents occasionally took us kids there to pay a visit with my fathers uncle and aunt, who lived in this magnificent Spanish Mission-style house lovingly known as Neustra Casa, Our House. I.M. Bartow built the house in the 1920s and it stood on a bluff as a prominent landmark overlooking San Clemente, creating a distinctive background profile for the scenic townscape. Sometime during the late 50s or early 60s the Bartow house became the home of Allan and Margaret Larry, and here they lived the next ten years or so. My sister, brother and I have fond memories exploring about, in and around the house, and peering through Uncle Allans brass nautical telescope at the San Clemente Pier below and at frequent trains that traced the shoreline. Around 1970, they moved to Honolulu and sold the house. But it was not long until it fell into the hands of developers who decided the site was too valuable for a single residence, no matter how beautiful or historic. They were unable to secure legal demolition permits and coastal protection legislation was about to be enacted into law. Time was running out, so the house was secretly bulldozed during the middle of a night in 1972. The next morning the town of San Clemente was shocked to find its iconic landmark gone and trucks hauling away the debris. Far away in Hawaii, Allan was heartsick to learn the fate of his beloved Neustra Casa. In its place, bland and cheaply constructed condos would soon rise on the ravaged bluff to the enrichment of developers pockets but to nothing else. But that criminal destruction also inspired the founding of the San Clemente Historical Society, which is now credited with saving many other historical gems from the fate that befell the Bartow-Larry House. Certainly, the citizens of San Clemente also revered it as Our House.

The watercolor is based upon a vintage black & white photograph in the collection of the San Clemente Historical Society.

November, 2012