The Witch’s House
The architecture of the Witch’s House is right out of fairy tale or the imagination of Walt Disney. Fact is, the Witch’s House was the vision of Whittier carpenter Vernon Barker who built it in the late 1920’s before he became the chief architect for the UCLA Medical Center.
Located at 290 Wave Street in North Laguna Beach, the Witch’s House has steep gables facing different directions. The tallest gable is nearly 60 feet tall. The house has irregular shingles, odd angles, and oddly shaped doors and windows. The Witch’s House is from an era when an owner could build his dream home unhindered by permits and regulations or uncreative neighbors.
The Witch’s House is designated eligible for the National Register of historic homes and the current owners are dedicated to its original restoration with current safety and energy requirements. According to another Laguna Beach resident,
“In its original form, the home came equipped with a boiling cauldron that could be swung into and out of the large stone fireplace – presumably to save the Witch’s back when boiling children. Another unusual feature was the crookedly arranged and timed stone steps of the claustrophically narrow stairway leading up to the small bedrooms. These rooms had warped blown glass window panes and dramatically crooked ceilings. The ‘distortion theme’ and the authenticity of ‘Witch’ elements throughout the design were beautifully conceived, and very unique in their graphic authenticity. The home has had a few fires over the years and many owners. Because of its authenticity of concept, It has never been very livable so certainly there have been a few owners who made changes to the home that the community didn’t like – and maybe even the house itself didn’t care for. But to all the Lagunatic kids who first saw this house inside and out, it will always be remembered fondly as the Witch House where we all wanted to live.”
Laguna Beach’s legacy is in large part due to work of the early plein air artists who came to Laguna to paint in the style of California Impressionism. Edgar Payne, Granville Redmond, William Wendt are some of the men whose unique style of painting was to paint “the quality of light” and not necessarily the objects that make up the landscape. Their execution gives the paintings unique style. The Redfern Gallery paintings are in high demand and cost a very pretty penny these days. Many streets in Laguna are named after these pioneers. You can see these paintings on- line, but you should see them in-person to experience the true colors and artistic style of the brush work. The best way to see many important works both old and new are at Redfern Gallery, 1590 South Coast Highway. You will leave with a new appreciation for plein air master works. If you so choose, you can buy one and take it home. You can’t do that at the museum.
This painting titled “Canyon,” painted by Roderick Reed, is an example of California Impressionism.
The Laguna Greeter
The Greeter, Eiler Larsen, is an iconic symbol of Laguna Beach. He had a daily habit of greeting every car that passed by from 1942 till about 1970. The shaggy hair, heavy bearded Eiler stood on the corner of Coast Highway and Forest Avenue with his booming salutation of “halloo-oo-oo. In 1964 the mayor proclaimed him the official greeter of Laguna Beach.
Larsen did odd jobs around town and even worked at the old Pottery shack. Some say that the friendly culture of this town is the result of Larsen. There are two statues of Larsen in town. One at the northwest corner of Forest and Coast Highway and the newest was placed at the corner of the former Pottery Shack, 1492 South Coast Highway.