This Gamble Pays Off

In the movie Back to the Future, there’s a memorable scene shortly after Marty McFly time-travels back to 1950s California. Marty looks up Doc Brown in the phone book and heads over to his house. Doc doesn’t recognize Marty when he opens the door but he drags him inside anyway.  The scene is memorable because Doc’s house (the exterior, at least) is recognizable to any student of American architecture. Welcome to Pasadena’s Gamble House.

Greene and Greene’s Gamble House

Maybe you guessed this Gamble wasn’t won in a wager (although it would’ve been a handsome payoff!)  Rather, it was built for a member of the (Proctor &) Gamble family who liked the look of his next-door neighbor’s place.  That house, and many others on the same street, was designed by sibling architects (Charles) Greene and (Henry) Greene.  The Gamble House is perhaps their most famous design.

Front doors and foyer

The Greene brothers, who studied architecture at MIT, made a significant stop on their journey to the West Coast.  They spent time at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  While there, they picked up design influences from the temple look of the Japanese pavilion (wood construction, tiled roofs, open verandas).

Dining area

The Greene and Greene “ultimate bungalow” look, with its liberal use of dark wood slats and panels, became known as the Craftsman style of architecture.  This label was all the more fitting because the Greene brothers also studied furniture design, and incorporated many custom pieces into their houses.  Even more impressive, the finished look relies on elegant leather straps and wooden pegs as fasteners; not a nail or screw in sight.

Main staircase

The Gamble House is 6,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor living, in concert with California’s mild temperatures.  You can tour the house courtesy of the USC School of Architecture students who get to live there every school year (luckies!)  A separate tour walks you through the neighborhood to see other Greene and Greene designs.  But the Gamble remains their masterpiece.  And if you ever see this inviting residence, you may wish you owned a time-traveling DeLorean to take you back to its heyday in the early 1900s.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Now for the latest on LEGO Fallingwater…


LEGO Fallingwater – Update #3  (Read how this project got started in Perfect Harmony)

I find it funny how this Fallingwater model is “rising” off of its foundation at the same time the water below is “falling”.  It’s like I’m going in opposite directions at the same time.  20 pages (or 22%, or 83 minutes) into the build, this is what we have.

As you can see, the stream is now “built” from the front of the house all the way to the back, with the modest waterfall front and center.  We also have our first piece of “landscape”, that dark green strip you see on the left.  Otherwise, we’re still at the foundation level.  I expect the house to rise dramatically in the next few chapters of the build.

LEGO “wrench”

Here’s something unnerving about this model.  You don’t really understand what you’re building as you go.  You’re putting together very small pieces which look like, well, LEGO blocks, until you stand back and take the whole model in.  For this reason, you have to build very, very carefully.  I still got the location of a few pieces wrong and had to utilize my handy-dandy wrench to yank them out.  It’s like pulling teeth.

Tune in next Thursday as construction continues!  Now for another nod to Frank Lloyd Wright…

Petttit Memorial Chapel

Over five hundred structures were built from the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, but only one of those five hundred is in a cemetery.  That would be the Pettit Chapel in Belvidere, Illinois.  Dr. Pettit was a beloved physician of his time, and his sudden passing prompted his wife to hire Wright to design a graveside chapel as a memorial to the man.

Pettit Chapel

The design of the “petite” Pettit is very much in line with Wright’s signature Prairie Style.  The low roof lines, broad eaves, and high horizontal bands of glass are typical.  Wright used the shape of a cruciform – common in medieval cathedrals – to house the smallest of sanctuaries, as well as two open-air porches and a central fireplace.  He then added storage, restrooms, and a furnace so the chapel could be used for public functions.

The Pettit Chapel has survived since its construction in 1906, thanks to restorations in 1977 and 2003.  The chapel is open to the public, and, like many structures designed by Wright, included on America’s National Register of Historic Places.

Some content sourced from The Museum of Lost Things website article, “The Real ‘Back to the Future’ House”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to "Life In A Word".

21 thoughts on “This Gamble Pays Off”

  1. I’ve heard of the Gamble House primarily because of its connection with Proctor & Gamble. It looks like a beautiful dwelling. I’m enjoying your progress with your Lego structure. Glad you’re doing that and not me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The LEGO brick tool can work as a doorstop too. Good thing to know – I have quite a few of them now.
    I watched a video about the 5 ways to use the tool and there are times when you need to use two tools!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I had a LEGO angel on my shoulder Margy, because my brick tool was in a bag of clean-out-my-home-office trash headed for the street when I began the Fallingwater model. Thank goodness I rescued that little guy from the leftovers of the Grand Piano!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the Gamble House Dave. It looks cozier than any of the futuristic-type (or over-the-top-type) residences of multi-millionaires like the Gamble family would be. It looks to be in perfect condition as far as I can tell from the photos. I am watching the progress of the Clara and Henry Ford Estate mansion on Facebook. I followed their site after literally stumbling upon the Estate and its grounds during a 5K event in 2019 which route led us right past the Estate. There is a team of people restoring everything in the mansion and they show the updates. They would have been done by now, but for shutting down the restoration efforts for a year or so due to COVID. You are progressing with your latest Lego – when might we see it finished in all its glory?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoyed your coverage of the Ford Estate, Linda, and I expect you’ll visit again when the restoration is further along. Can’t imagine the budget on that massive project. I can’t get enough of the Gamble House, especially those warm, rich interiors. Greene and Greene’s style is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. LEGO Fallingwater should be completed in another seven weeks, according to the way I’ve divided up the work. Frankly (Lloyd Wright – ha!), from the look of what I’ve already completed I’m surprised it’ll take even that long.


      1. I was at the Ford Estate again this past Fall Dave but haven’t written about it yet. I had never been in the Fall and wanted to see the trees on the Estate grounds – it was beautiful. By the time I write about it, it will be Spring at the rate I’m going. I have not been in Winter yet. The Estate used to conduct tours before the restoration. They are really going all out to recreate how it looked when the Fords lived there. Fun pun! You are a pro after finishing the Lego Grand Piano!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. If USC architecture students are anything like my peers from Notre Dame, they’re a pretty tame bunch and aren’t bothered by no-partying restrictions (and they’re too busy working on their design projects anyway). Back to the Future never gets old. Kinda wish they hadn’t made the less-satisfying sequels because the movie stands on its own.


    1. I figured you in particular would appreciate the Japanese influences in the design, Ruth. It really is a beautiful structure. Can’t believe they allow college students to live in it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank goodness I saved that little orange guy from the Grand Piano set. Would’ve paid good money for one on Ebay to get through Fallingwater. LEGO pieces might as well be superglued once they snap together.

      Liked by 1 person

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