BY CHRISTINE LAMPERT, ARCHITECT, AIA, NCARB
Old photo of Casa Romantica
Ole Hanson was the visionary who, along with his business partners, developed the new town of San Clemente in the 1920s in the empty, rolling hills halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.
This new “Spanish Village by the Sea” had everything that was needed to thrive as a town. Ole’s team laid out the future city with curving ocean view streets and built everything that a new town would need including: the community center, community pool, the pier, Max Berg Park, the first school, horse trails and stables, a hotel, a drinking water system and electricity.
Ole chose five acres just above the pier for his own home. In 1927 he hired Carl Lindbom, a well known architect, to design his house. Lindbom was also hired to design the house, known as Casa Pacifia, for Hamilton Cotton. This is the home where President Richard Nixon would love eventually.
The 7,200 square foot house built for the Hanson family had seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms all on one floor, and was designed in a traditional courtyard shape. The Hansons had twelve children and the girls’ bedrooms and bathrooms were on one side of the courtyard and the boys’ were on the other.
The 5,400 square foot courtyard had a large grassy area with a reflecting pool. The courtyard was surrounded with covered walkways on all sides and the flooring is a colorful concrete tile that is still there today.
The front door of the house is in a traditional keyhole shape. To the right of this door is an opening with a grid pattern and another door that allows one to look in but doesn’t allow entry. This was the “courting door” for Ole’s daughters to meet with their suitors. Another function of this opening in traditional Spanish architecture is to allow breezes to pass through into the courtyard from outside.
The Hanson family had many pets including horses, birds, peacocks and goldfish that swam in the reflecting pool in the courtyard. The fish soon disappeared when the family was given four baby alligators.
The main salon of the house is a huge living room adjacent to an outdoor porch that overlooks the ocean. The main rooms were used to entertain many famous people of the time. Ole was a politician- a former mayor of Seattle, he had even briefly considered running for U.S. President. One regular guest to the house was Earl Warren, who later became governor of California and Chief Justice of the United States.
The Great Depression ended the Hanson family’s time in San Clemente when Bank of America foreclosed on their home on October 27, 1934. Over the years the Casa was owned by various people and then in 1989, the City of San Clemente bought the Casa and restored it to its current glory, having spent over $3.6 million.
Today the house sits on 2.5 acres and is renowned for its gardens and historic architecture. Visitors are welcome. or you can become a member for a small annual fee. There are many fun and educational events held at the Casa to participate in throughout the year.