Virgil Westbrook, blueprints in hand, during construction of the community pool in 1928.
by Christine Lampert, Architect, AIA, NCARB
Imagine San Clemente in the 1920s as a small village and the only buildings are all Span- ish style architecture. The entire town of San Clemente once had over 500 buildings that werebuilt in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. Today there are only around 200 original buildings left. Ole Hanson, who was one of the founders of San Clemente wanted this town to be a “Span Village by the Sea”. He succeeded until the Great Depression of 1929 brought most construction to a halt.
The architect who designed many of the commercial and residential buildings in San Clemente 45 Virgil Westbrook. He came to San Clemente as a well-known architect magical. He knew how to incorporate the fine and fluid details of Spanish Revival Architere into his projects and his proportions were perfect. In addition to his architecture, he was an accomplished artist and he drew sketches of his projects as well as many wildlife sketches from his time spent in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
San Clemente’s founder, Ole Hansen was a big fan of his work.
Virgil Westbrook designed his own house at 235 Avenida Miramar which today has been beautifully restored by the current owners. He owned the house until 1945 when it was sold. Today the house is owned by a young family with the goal of improving the house even more over the next few years.
The Historic City Hall building is one of his most recognizable commercial buildings. This prominent building is at the top of Avenida Del Mar at 101 S. El Camino functions as an office building and the spaces are rented out to various businesses. Right across the street is the Bartlett Building which Virgil Westbrook also designed. This building has a long history with many uses and today is a successful retail space at the comer with other tenants throughout the building.
Another Virgil Westbrook design is the Beach Club and swimming pool in the North Beach area. This beautifully proportioned building has served as the city’s Olympic size swimming pool and has a long history of events with some of the most famous swimmers including Esther Williams and Johnny Weissmuller who were also famous actors of their time.
St. Clements Church is another of his projects. Ole Hanson offered two empty lots across the street from the Plaza Park to any church that chose to build in the new town. The Episcopal Church took him up on his offer and they hired Virgil Westbrook to design this beautiful building named after St. Clement which today is still functioning as an Episcopal church.
One of his most prominent homes is 402 Pasadena Court which can be seen from Avenida Victoria as one drives past the pier and up the hill. This house was known as “Vista de las Olas” which means “View of t w of the Waves”, and the waves can be seen clearly from the living room. Two sisters, Bertha and Emma Wierk hired Virgil Westbrook in 1926 to design this house for them just above the beach. Built in 1927 this historic house sits just above the pier on over a quar-ter-acre site. The amazing gardens are in disrepair today, but they include a cascading tiled water fall that runs down the hill into a fountain.
Even though “Vista de Las Olas” is the original name of this property, other names have been used over the years including “The Wierk House”, “Sea Cliff” and the “Robison Property”. There is a new owner who is currently working with the city to design an addition to the prop-erty which would turn it into a small hotel and restaurant.
Another Westbrook project is 230 West Marquita which is owned by a family who are hoping to expand this one bathroom house slightly and add a few improvements. The house has been nicely restored over the years.
Historic City Hall
The completed pool, now called the Ole Hanson Beach Club.
Barilett Building on El Camino Real and Avenida del Mar
San Clemente’s first church, St. Clement’s