Because most development occurred during a relatively short time span and houses were built by contractors for speculation, rather than by owners for their personal use, the general appearance of the housing is quite undistinctive and lacking in architectural quality. A majority of the newer houses, however, have been constructed of natural wood. They blend nicely with the wooded physical setting and provide a design unity which did not exist in the past.
Bounded by sea and mountains, the most scenic aspect of the community is its natural setting. Trees, although not native to the area, also play an important role in contributing to the scenic beauty. In portions of Montara and Moss Beach, rows of cypress were planted along the roadways and in many areas canopies of gree now arch over the streets. Thousands of eucalyptus were planted on the hillside which surrounds El Granada and today a mighty forest shelters much of the town.
A unique feature of El Granada is its Beaux-Arts design pattern. Radial and semi-circular streets, and divided landscaped boulevards give the community a distinctive style which is unparalleled in the County. The plan was designed by Daniel Burnham, the famous architect and city planner. Burnham was in San Francisco during 1905 and 1906 working on a plan for the City and was hired by the Ocean Shore Railroad ro design the town as a Coastside attraction. El Granada was planned as a model community and seaside resort with hotels and casinos to rival Atlantic City and Long Beach. Advertisements of the era promoting its values refer to it as the "magnificent Burnham City."
Since Pescadero's early days, people have noted an architectural unity in the community which set it off from other villages. This unity is still in evidence today. There are several possible explanations for this architectural unity. An unusual number of the original settlers came from Maine. They no doubt brought with them fairly strong ideas about the proper appearance of a village. Also, the relative isolation of the village many have kept their ideas from being diluted by innovations from the outside. The unity of style may also have resulted from the effect on newcomers of a few particularly pleasing houses already in the community.
Alexander Moore, son of a pioneer family in the area, built one of the first houses in Pescadero in 1853. His home, which burned in 1975, was constructed along vaguely classical lines in Greek Revival style. This house may well have been the model by which subsequent buildings were judged. In any case, its Greek Revival character appears throughout Pescadero with numerous variations, giving the village a style which is still dominant.
An outstanding example of this character can be seen along the east side of Stage Road on the block immediately south of Pescadero Road. The wooden structures that remain there are residential, civic and religious examples of indigenous Coastside architecture. The sparing but effective use of ornamentation such as pierced columns, scroll and fan brackets, cresting, shingling, assorted fenestration and balustrades indicates a clear understanding of the styles of the time and creative application of those styles to local needs. Although altered somewhat in appearance and useage, these buildings accurarely reflect a village landscape of a significant period in the history of San Mateo County.
When the village was bypassed by the new Coast Highway, business declined and in 1930 the hotel closed its doors to guests. Today, all that remains is the San Gregorio House, a general store, and a scattering of houses. The character of the community is that of a small, rural hamlet dominated by the general store and the old hotel. Viewed in its impressive natural surroundings, the hotel and its out-buildings present a striking 19th century landscape.
Few examples exist of any pure architectural style. For the most part, the early builders incorporated different architectural elements into structures according to their own personal whim or sense of beauty, without regard to any "standards" of design. It is this characteristic, in fact, which adds a distinctive charm to Coastside architecture and sets it apart as a unique feature of the region.
It is important to understand historic architectural styles, because buildings are often eclectic and combine the best elements of different styles. When elevating development proposals in older areas, it is necessary that there is compatibility in style, scale, and use of materials between new and old structures. This is especially essential when considering new construction adjacent or in close proximity to culturally significant buildings.
The architectural styles described in this section are the major styles found on the Coastside.
The term adobe refers to a building material and to a construction type used during the Spanish and Mexican periods in California history. Adobe structures must, by definition, be built at least partially of adobe: large, unfired, sun-dried bricks made from clay-type soil mixed with straw for strength. The architectural style is characterized by long structures with a covered porch extending along the facade.
Construction consists of adobe walls, usually varying from one and a half to 6 feet in thickness, resting on dirt foundations. Roofs are usually either brea (natural tar), tile, or shingles supported by heavy wooden beams. Door and window openings are crowned by heavy lintels, and often there are long porches. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many adobes were covered with wood siding in order to protect and update them.
Pioneer buildings are box-like cottages which were built by California's early settlers. Often these houses were sent in sections from the East Coast and reassembled in California. Usually 1 to 1 1/2 stories, the cottages have horizontal wood siding, double hung windows, and either hipped or gable roofs. If gabled, roofs often take on the "salt-box" configuration typical of New England's Colonial houses. Front porches and shelf moldings over doors and windows are typical features.
This was an important style for churches, insitutions, and large houses in the Eastern United States during much of the first half of the 19th century. It was popularized throughout the country after 1840 as appropriate for small houses, by A.J. Downing in "Cottage Residences". In form, typically, it has a steeply pitched central gable roof and gable ends. Characteristic detail include vertical siding, pointed arches above windows and doors, window tracery, finials, pendants, and lacy bargeboards.
During the Victorian period, which lasted from 1860 to 1900, the Gothic Revival style often took on characteristics of Victorian Architecture and is referred to as Victorian Gothic.
This early American house form is of frame construction and has a symmetrical facade. It was derived from England and brought to California by New Englanders, mainly in the 1850's. The name comes from the profile of the gable roof, which comes down lower in the rear (north elevation) than it does in the front. The typical California version adds a full front porche with a shed roof whose pitch is lower than that of the gable.
Greek Revival style was one of the most popular styles in the United States. Buildings of this style are very straight forward statements, with clean, simple lines and precise detailing. Facades are usually devoid of extraneous ornamentation, save perhaps decorated porch posts.
In its early California stages, Greek Revival is noted for its sharp, severe lines. Building volumes appear as a simple block, or a juxtaposition of simple blocks. Roof slopes are steep, and different building volumes are positioned perpendicularly. Doors and windows are positioned at very regular intervals, often in a symmetrical relationship. Doors have the same proportions as windows, both being long and narrow. Windows are composed of many small panes with simple architraves at the top. Molding around windows and doors and at building edges is very precise. The more articulated examples of Greek Revival have gable returns, i.e., roof plane framing that returns at the building edges.
Literally, the word "Victorian" describes the era when Victoria was Queen of the British Empire. Domest arts and inventions thrived in her domain, and the Victorian Style of Architecture flourished during this period in California. Here, the optimism of the gold rush and silver strikes was translated into physical expressions of prosperity. By the 1880's the life of the aggressive pioneers assumed an aura of grace as the middle-class built themselves homes as spacious and spectacular as purse or parcel would allow. Building facades were embroidered with elaborately carved spindles and brackets. Although California Victorian architecture varied in design, it can be dividied into three distinctive styles: Italianate, Stick and Queen Anne. Variations of all three styles are visible on the Coastside.
The Spanish Colonial Revival style structure, also known as Mediterranean, is identified by red roof tile and stark white stucco; although many of these structures today are painted in various hues. There was originally little color, except for the terra cotta of the tile and (frequently) the burnt sienna paint on the wooden window frames. Ornamentation is restrained, with wood or wrough iron used for second-story balcony railings on larger homes and window grills on cottages. Arches are common, either in the front porch, front windows, front door, or all three. Extending from the side of many Spanish Colonial Revival style homes is a stucco wing, with another arched opening. Depending on its size, it may be an entrance to the back yard or to the garage.