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Rock Haus Revival
Dolores Davies | Crest Road and Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive

Grand opening of Rock Haus, co-hosted by the DMCC and the DMHS on February 25. Owner Ivan Gayler with the agent who had first shown him the house - Chiquita Abbott.
Photo Jeff Barnouw.
Click to enlarge.

After four to five years of painstaking renovation work, one of Del Mar’s most iconic historic houses has been been restored to its original splendor under the ownership of longtime Del Mar resident and conservationist, Ivan Gayler. Gayler purchased the 1910 Craftsman house, situated at the corner of Luneta and 15th Street in 1997, after it had been used as an inn and a bed & breakfast for many years by previous owners.

1915 Rock (Clinker) House before Rock Haus.
Courtesy DMHS
Click to enlarge.

The Rock Haus name dates back to 1981, when Tom and Carol Hauser bought the house, and converted the once stately residence to a B&B. The rock part of the Rock Haus moniker is a bit of a misnomer, however, as the chimneys and other exterior areas are constructed with clinker bricks, which somewhat resemble volcanic rock but are not actual rocks. Clinker bricks—dark and delightfully irregular bricks produced through exposure to excessive heat during the firing process—were a prominent feature of the Arts & Crafts aesthetic, best exemplified in the craftsman bungalows by Greene & Greene in the early 20th century up until the 1930s. This meticulous style, which began in England and was highly influenced by Japanese aesthetics, was also characterized by nature-inspired stained glass window designs, indoor-outdoor living spaces, and beautiful woodwork, always with an emphasis on natural materials.

Thanks to Gayler’s extraordinary eye for detail, the renovated Rock Haus is historically correct and true to its origins while embodying modern technology and sustainability features, such as the use of organic cotton for insulation. The extensive woodwork throughout the house was restored using Douglas fir, the original wood. In addition to the wood floors, the unique black pulls and hinges on the house’s extensive built-in cabinetry are also original, as is the hardware on the elegant double-hung windows. Gayler also owns the rights to the view corridors looking west over the Del Mar Plaza. He negotiated these rights when he sold the retail center, which he built with partner David Winkler in 1989.

Originally built as a residence for the Henry W. Keller family, the Rock Haus was designed by renowned Pasadena architect John Austin, who was the architect for a number of other distinctive properties in town, including the original Stratford Inn (the site of the current L’Auberge hotel), the historic Canfield-Wright house (long known as the Pink Lady), and the St. James Church building now occupied by the Del Mar Library. Keller was one of the partners in the South Coast Land Company, which developed Del Mar and other parts of North County. Keller’s partners included some of the southland’s quintessential movers and shakers, most of whom built second homes in Del Mar. Keller was also a partner in the L.A.-based K&K Brick Company, which supplied the clinker bricks for the house and St. James Church.

Besides its iterations as a private residence, an inn, and a B&B, rumor has it that the house might have been used as a speakeasy in the 1930s. It’s also been documented that the house was the site for the first religious mass in Del Mar, which attracted a large crowd, convincing the Bishop of the need for a dedicated parish, paving the way for the development of the St. James Church building. 

 

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