Story #5 – A Very Unique Home

In 1948 as Sharon and River Lane were just being installed, Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Crawford began to build one of the most unique home constructions in the neighborhood. Their design at 1015 West River Lane is a pristine example of a California Ranch style home built using a U-shaped footprint, but it’s the building materials and construction quality that set this residence apart from the typical Ranch style residence you see sprinkled across Southern California neighborhoods.

The Crawford house is different from other ranch houses because it is fully constructed of solid adobe bricks reportedly made on site using the local heavy clay soil, water, bonding material and cement as the grout. The post war era brought adobe bricks into fashion for Southern California home building, with the Weir Brothers of San Diego being the most famous builders. Each brick is approximately 12” wide, 18” long and 5” thick and would have been created using wooden forms. No two bricks are the same and it’s this variation that gives the house it’s unique undulating, soft appearance, unlike a straight, hard and smooth finish on a more traditional brick application. These massive bricks were set upon a 4” tall by 12” wide reinforced concrete footer mated to the extra thick concrete slab foundation.

Example of Adobe brick forms

The insulation value of the adobe brick also makes it the perfect material to create a large fireplace in the traditional adobe ranch style. Tucked into the corner of the high ceilinged, wood beamed dining room is the location of the stacked adobe brick hearth.  Above every doorway and window opening there is a visible 4” thick, hard wood lintel for added support and visual beauty. These lintels are an additional distinguishing feature of the adobe design language as several of these beams have a minimum 10’ span.

Adobe bricks and example of lintel over door
Image courtesy of Bussard Family

By the 1940’s Californian’s had been burning their garbage in backyard incinerators since the turn of the century. Buying or building an incinerator was a normal practice and so the Crawford’s had one built in the back garden. The incinerator was constructed using the same adobe bricks as the house but left unpainted. By 1957 a total ban on incinerators was enacted and it may have been converted into an outside grill, today it is home to a beautiful succulent garden. Neither the house exterior structure, roofline, nor footprint have changed from the original 1948 plans. Across the front of the house a sturdy trellis structure supports several large intertwined trumpet vines each with trunks 6-8-inches diameter. These vines provide beautiful flowers through the spring and summer and shade year-round as they make their way from the entrance to the original tiled pergola on the west side..

Adobe bricks at courtyard entrance