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If you’re holding onto childhood dreams of living in or walking through a fairy tale cottage, the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea could make those dreams a reality. A do-it-yourself handyman and amateur architect named Hugh Comstock created dozens of the storybook Carmel cottages, some of which you may be able to tour next month.
The History of Carmel’s Storybook Cottages
Comstock was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1893. He spent his early years learning to build and repair structures on his family’s ranch. Later, Comstock moved to Santa Rosa, CA in 1907 with his family and was tutored at home for his formal education. When he was 31, Comstock went to Carmel to visit his sister and met his wife, Mayotta Browne. Browne was the designer of a popular felt and rag doll called Otsy-Totsy.
Hugh and Mayotta settled in Carmel, and Hugh created the first fairytale cottage, called “Hansel,” as a showroom and sales center for his wife’s dolls. Comstock purposely didn’t use a level when building so that details were just a bit skewed. Shortly after, he built a companion cottage on the same parcel and named it “Gretel.”
At the time that Comstock began building these cottages, the mid-1920’s, Carmel was a hotbed of artists and writers. The artist community in Carmel was home to Mary Austin, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and Sinclair Lewis. Not only was the quirky design of these homes attractive, but the cottages were cheap to build and were often put on land that was bought for as little as $100. Today, these homes sell for about $4 million.
Furniture Embodying the Whimsy of Carmel's Cottages
Famous Carmel Storybook Cottages
In addition to Hansel and Gretel, there are dozens of cottages throughout the city that showcase Comstock’s unique style and flair for creativity. For example, “Obers” was Comstock’s own home, which he built in 1925 after completing Hansel and Gretel.
The “Cottage of Sweets” is now a candy store in town, which was a Comstock cottage built in 1922. Other private residences are called “Snow White’s Summer Place,” “Our House,” “The Birthday House,” and “Honeymoon.” A cottage named “The Studio” was at one time Hugh Comstock’s workplace and later became the residence of Mayotta Comstock.
Experience These Storybook Cottages at a Unique Event
People come from all over the world to visit Carmel-by-the-Sea, and many take the opportunity to walk the streets just to get a bird’s eye view of these unique cottage-style homes. As such, maps and walking tours are available, which will allow you to see the outside of some of these iconic homes. Now, visitors have the opportunity to step inside many of these homes for a tour beyond the gates.
The Carmel House & Garden Tour takes place on June 24, 2017, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. Visitors and residents can purchase tickets for this self-guided tour. They will then have an opportunity to step inside some of the most iconic and eclectic Carmel cottages. The tour is sponsored by the Carmel Heritage Society, which is the custodian of the First Murphy House and an advocate for sharing and preserving the historic legacy of Carmel.