Clint Eastwood photographed by John Bryson / Time magazine
the Big Sur “bridge timber” houses. These were built out of reclaimed redwood timber sourced from local bridges that were demolished and replaced with concrete and steel in the 1960s. (The lumber for the Shaw House came from the old Dolan Creek Bridge, located just south of the Esalen Institute, the storied human potential movement retreat center.) Among the more celebrated bridge timber structures are the 1969 Hill of the Hawk house and the 1971 Staude House, both built by the Carmel Valley architect George Brook-Kothlow, who also did a similar place for Clint Eastwood in nearby Pebble Beach.
George Brook-Kothlow had earned his architecture degree at the University of
Colorado and while in school worked under Elizabeth Wright-Ingraham
(Frank Lloyd Wright’s granddaughter) in Colorado Springs. From
Colorado, he leapt to Mill Valley and, from 1962 to ’66, worked for a boutique Bay Area design firm known for its
high-end work and Japanese Organic leanings.
In terms of organic-architecture history in the Monterey Peninsula
region, Brook-Kothlow’s ’66 arrival in Big Sur and subsequent output
situates him in-between the late Taliesin alum Mark Mills and the
great Bruce Goff protege and Post Ranch Inn architect Mickey Muennig.
For decades, these three transplants operated as friendly
contemporaries in the region, and for all high-art design intents and
purposes they were without peer. With Frank Lloyd Wright’s Walker
House on the beach in Carmel looming in the background as an early
benchmark, these three architects, each in his own unique way, showed how Modern could also be rustic, idiosyncratic, and warm. (Nepenthe
Restaurant architect Rowan Maiden, also a Taliesin apprentice, has to
be mentioned here. A tragic story, Maiden died very young.)
in this rarefied company, Brook-Kothlow stands out. He was the
region’s first Modern architect to build “from the ground up”
principally with architectural salvage. Keep in mind that, even
through the 1960s, most Modern architects who dabbled in “woodsy” did
so with easy-to-handle, machine-cut veneers. Brook-Kothlow worked with
solid redwood—giant used first-growth redwood timbers that had been
saw-sized to be able to support train and automobile traffic over
great spans. Between the 1960s and ’80s, in house after house, he made
an art form out of re-using these large-scale natural materials that
might’ve otherwise ended up in landfills or the incinerator. In the
process, he gave his clients showpiece ecofriendly homes that have
skyrocketed in value and are regularly sought out by Hollywood
The client behind his 1966 break into independent practice, artist
Claire Chappellet, was the one who’d nudged him in that then-unpopular
direction, asking for a big family house and a studio made of bridge
timbers for her oceanfront ranch in the Ventana Wilderness. Earlier,
the architect had observed both Daniel Liebermann and Lloyd Kahn build
successfully in Mill Valley using mostly scraps. But by comparison
these were small-scale endeavors, not fair points of reference.
Really, in the case of the Chappellet project Brook-Kothlow would be
on his own.
With many of the state’s old wood bridges then being decommissioned
and replaced with steel-reinforced concrete structures as part of a
major infrastructure overhaul
After the house’s May 25,
1969 heralding in the Los Angeles Times‘s Home magazine, with photos
by Baer, Brook-Kothlow knew things were going to change for him. As
unlikely as it may sound, among progressives statewide interest in
houses made of old weather-beaten rough-sawn redwood was spreading. In
fact, thanks to Brook-Kothlow and to similarly important creative
input from artist-carpenters in the Bay Area enclave of Canyon, in
just a few years the California bridgetimber house was on its way
toward becoming an actual building trend.
For the better part of the next 15 years or so, the architect
was in high demand, all the while repeatedly drawing from that Duncans
Mills timber stash and outdoing himself, it must be said, with each
new project. Finally, in
’78, he was building his own house and studio.
In the ’80s, at his zenith, he created the Clint and Maggie Eastwood residence, 3166 Del Ciervo Road, Pebble Beach. Clint, too, had seen the LA Times’s Home magazine piece
on Hill of the Hawk.
Starting in the 1980s, though, popular tastes shifted. A more flashy,
if not more feminine, look was the direction. Increasingly among the
affluent, it was common to hire an interior decorator and an
By the ’90s, among the new design
tastemakers, the genre of all-natural exposed-structure redwood
interiors, what characterized Brook-Kothlow’s greatest houses, was
being filed under a new category: “Granola,” the East Coast’s new
derogatory term for practically any interest or endeavor deemed to be
rooted in the “loose” New Age-friendly California lifestyle. Every
once in a while, fortunately, there were exceptions, and commercial projects too, including a renovation of Eastwood’s
Hog’s Breath Inn restaurant in Carmel.
On April 8, 1986, Clint Eastwood defeated the incumbent mayor of Carmel, a small seaside city and his home, just south of Monterey and San Francisco.
But why did Eastwood—at 55, still making movies more than 30 years after beginning his career as a screen actor—choose to run at all?
He believed he was being disrespectfully treated by the little city’s administration, and he was upset about it. Hassled with rules, regulations, and taxes regarding building permits and zoning laws, and tired of getting the runaround and going through endless miles of red tape with the city, Clint decided to fight back.
In 1985, Carmel’s city council gave him what he alleged to be an extraordinary amount of grief over plans to erect office buildings on property he owned within city limits.
The preservationist-dominated town council automatically rejected Clint’s plans to build a small building in downtown Carmel that would have improved the surrounding area.
Clint promptly sued the city winning an out-of-court settlement that permitted him to proceed with his building if he used more wood than glass.
He remodeled The Mission Ranch and preserved the precious landscape it was on which was supposed to be demolished in favor of 80 condominiums. He also opened the library annex which is dedicated for children’s use, and it is said to be the accomplishment of which he is most proud.
His congratulatory phone calls included Jimmy Stewart and President Reagan, who, like Eastwood, had starred in a movie with a primate - Bedtime for Bonzo, and Any Which Way You Can
His first order of business was to sack the 4 planning comissioners.
Clint Eastwood - The Biography of Cinema's Greatest Ever StarBy Douglas Thompson
Though he enjoyed his experience, he opted not to run for a second term. He began to reach this conclusion one day standing in a chilly garage, surrounded by staff and council members trying to decide if a prominent Carmel citizen, a doctor, would be permitted to change the slope of his garage roof. Life was too short for this kind of pettiness. Late in 1987 he announced that he would not stand for a second term. And although he made two films while in office (Heartbreak Ridge and Bird), in early 1988, Clint was back to devote a full time effort to his career in film.
FWIW, I find it ironic that he had a house made of bridge wood, then made a movie about wood bridges.... the Bridges of Madison County.
FYI, if you want historic timber, it's still out there. https://crossroadslumber.com/historic-sources-of-our-wood/
has an inventory of ships timbers, which were in transit from Washington state in 1909 to build ships, when a storm sank the cargo ship they were on.
A Warner Brothers studio building, built in 1936, was carefully demolished to recycle the building materials
Stanford University Encina Gymnasium built in 1915 and deconstructed in 2008
The Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) mill in Scotia, California is the largest redwood mill ever built. In the 1980’s PALCO was taken over by Maxaam Corporation (Wall Street Crooks) who tripled the Old Growth Redwood cut, prompting activists to camp up in some of the old growth trees to save them.
By 2007 Maxaam drove PALCO into bankruptcy and the deconstruction of some of PALCO’s 1910 buildings provided vintage lumber
In 2005, demolition of the Cribari winery in Las Palmas brought more 100 year old lumber to inventory
Beams from the 1893 Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco were removed and replaced to make a tourist attraction compliant with the new earthquake standards
The Georgia Pacific Mill in Fort Bragg, California was in its 117th year when the 400-acre mill site was closed in 2002.
The San Quentin 1854 dungeon was discovered and uncovered in the demolition of 2008
Built in 1903, the Fresno Ice House near the Santa Fe Railroad tracks is a remnant of the industrial boom that hit Fresno with the introduction of the railroad at the beginning of the last century. The San Joaquin Ice Company claimed to be the largest ice facility but closed in 1945. The Ice House was used to store turkeys for Swift meat packing company next door. The Ice House building stood empty for four decades until it was declared a public safety hazard and demolished in the summer of 2008.