Monterey House Style

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Larkin House, 1835

Thomas Oliver Larkin House, 1835, set standard for a Monterey Colonial Style
Thomas Oliver Larkin House, 1835, set standard for a Monterey Colonial Style. Photo ©David McSpadden, D&S McSpadden on Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Thomas Oliver Larkin is often credited with combining East Coast architectural designs with the Spanish building materials found in the West and Southwest to create a new architectural style.

  • T. O. Larkin was born in Massachusetts, 1802, where two-story structures were common for colonial houses in New England.
  • As a young man, Larkin lived in North Carolina, where sweeping porch balconies on the Tidewater style houses dominated the landscape.
  • When he first arrived in Monterey, California in 1832, Larkin found one-story pueblo adobe homes. Until 1846, California was controlled by Spain and then Mexico, which explains the Spanish architectural influences of the region.

Larkin's design is a basic two-story New England colonial house, blended with the wide wooden balconies found in the Tidewater, and all built upon the local Spanish-influenced adobe dwelling. This combination became known as Monterey Colonial Style, or simply Monterey Style. Larkin's new East meets West blend is often said to be the first two-story house style in California. The design was copied, replicated, and modernized in the 20th century, and Monterey Revival homes can be found throughout the U.S.

"...the combination of sturdy and well-insulated Mexican adobe with the tensile airiness of wood make the Larkin house unique for its time."—G. E. Kidder Smith FAIA, Sourcebook of American Architecture, Princeton Architectural Press, 1996, p. 186.

Historic Marker:

The adobe-and-wood Larkin House was built in 1835 by Thomas Oliver Larkin, a Yankee merchant who came to California in April 1832. Since Larkin was the only U.S. consul to California under Mexican rule, his home became the American consulate from 1844 to 1846, and it was also used as military headquarters by Kearny, Mason, and Sherman.

Source: Monterey, Office of Historic Preservation, State of California [accessed December 23, 2013]

Next: Cooper-Molera Adobe >>>

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Cooper-Molera Adobe, 1824+

Monterey style Cooper-Molera House c. 1823
Cooper-Molera House c. 1823, Monterey, CA. Photo of Cooper-Molera House by Jerrye/Roy Klotz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Unlike the double-porched Tidewater houses in the Eastern U.S., or even the Double Gallery style houses found in New Orleans, the Monterey house has no need for a first floor porch. The privacy of a second floor balcony in the Pacific breeze is all an occupant would need.

John Rogers Cooper, a New England ship captain, settled in Monterey, California and married into a wealthy Mexican family, the Moleras. Cooper began building this adobe house and storefront around 1824.

Thomas Oliver Larkin is said to have stayed here with Cooper, his older half-brother, when Larkin first moved to Monterey in 1832. The second floor balcony may have been a joint concoction of the brothers, and a new style of architecture was born. Unlike Larkin's House, Cooper's balcony is cantilevered wood—perhaps an addition, or perhaps a remodeling when steel reinforcements were added in the preservation years.

Sources: Emporis; "Cooper-Molera Conditions Assessment" prepared by Architectural Resources Group for California State Parks, February 2012 (downloaded from [accessed December 3, 2013]

Next: Pacific House >>>

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Pacific House, 1835-1847

Monterey style Pacific House, Cannery Row, Monterey, CA constructed for Larkin in 1847
Monterey style Pacific House, Cannery Row, Monterey, CA constructed for Larkin in 1847. Photo © Ed Bierman on, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Pacific House is a clear example of the popular style overtaking Monterey, California in the mid-1800s. Characteristics included:

  • Second floor porch / balcony accessible only from the interior
  • Low pitched roof hangs over the second story porch
  • Thick, whitewashed adobe and wood construction materials

For this house, Scottish-born architect David Wright may have copied Thomas O. Larkin's new house design or James McKinley, a Scottish sailor-turned-merchant, may have requested this style. The tell-tale Monterey style porch, usually supported by wooden posts, seems to be cantilevered as is often the case in the 20th century Monterey Revival. This design may have been Wright's modification of the Larkin House.

In Monterey, the Pacific House was well-known as a hotel for seamen, run by another Scot, David Jacks.

Sources: Monterey, Office of Historic Preservation, State of California; Emporis; Land King: The Story of David Jack by Kenneth C. Jack, Monterey County Historical Society [accessed December 3, 2013]

Next: Old Custom House >>>

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Old Custom House after 1841

Monterey style Old Customhouse 1841 by Larkin, Monterey, CA
Old Customhouse 1841 by Larkin, Monterey, CA. Monterey Customhouse by Kristen (Krimp) Fuentes (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monterey was the capital of Mexican California when the Mexican government built this public building in 1827. Used to collect government-imposed cargo ship duty (customs tax), the Old Custom House was a two-room, one-story adobe structure—a public building in the local style of a pueblo adobe home.

Between 1841 and 1846, the Mexican government hired Thomas 0. Larkin to expand and remodel the structure. The Larkin House was complete and a successful model for the the neighborhood, so Larkin adapted his own house style to public architecture:

  • Thick whitewashed adobe, typical of Larkin's Monterey Style, was expanded and extended to enlarge the structure to 135 feet long
  • A second story was added
  • Low-pitch hip roof, with clay tile roofing, maintained the look of a typical Spanish colonial house style
  • The roof extends over the second-story porch, which is supported by wooden posts (Monterey Revival porches generally were cantilevered)

The Old Custom House is a fine example of Thomas O. Larkin's influence on the architecture of Monterey, California.

Source: National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form (PDF), prepared by James Dillon, April 26, 1976 [accessed December 3, 2013]

Next: Vasquez Adobe >>>

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Vasquez Adobe, c. 1840s

Adobe Vasquez House in Monterey, CA second floor added in Monterey style
Vasquez House, 546 Dutra St. in Monterey, California, was a single story adobe house. Photo by Kristen (Krimp) Fuentes (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1830s, Guadalupe Cantua de Vasquez bought a typical one-story adobe house in Monterey, California. As was common in the 1840s, Vasquez expanded and renovated the house to have characteristics similar to his neighbors. What did he do to get the Monterey Style?

  • maintain the Spanish adobe construction of the first floor
  • add a second floor of stuccoed wood
  • create interior access points (doors) to the second floor wraparound balcony
  • build a low-pitched roof that overhangs the second floor balcony
  • maintain the Spanish flavor with red clay roof tiles on a hip roof
  • support the second floor porch with wooden posts (Monterey Revival porches generally were cantilevered)

This remodeling is typical of many homeowners in Monterey, led by Thomas Larkin's remodeling of the Old Custom House.

Source: VASQUEZ ADOBE, Historic Monterey, City of Monterey [accessed December 3, 2013]

Next: Casa Soberanes >>>

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Casa Soberanes, c. 1840s

Casa Soberanes, House of the Blue Gate, Monterey Style House at 336 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA
Casa Soberanes, c. 1840s, House of the Blue Gate, Monterey Style House at 336 Pacific Street. Photo © Greg Balzer on, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Known as "the House of the Blue Gate," Casa Soberanes was built by Don José Estrada in the 1830s. On this house, the second-floor balcony, a striking trait of the Monterey style, is said to be a cantilevered addition dating back to 1842. This type of construction, common in the Monterey Revival houses of the 20th century, is unusual for historic Monterey style houses. Wooden post supports are more common throughout Monterey, as seen on the balconies of neighboring structures like the Old Custom House and Vasquez Adobe.

The Soberanes family lived here from 1860 until 1922. Ezequiel Soberanes Jr. was a gardener at Mission Carmel and created much of the landscaping around Casa Soberanes. The landscape architecture of this home is as significant as its historic Monterey style.

This house has been called a Mexican-colonial style adobe, but its second-story porch, accessed by wide interior doorways, and its Monterey location point to this house being a Monterey Colonial—an American architecture developed under Mexican rule.

Sources: Monterey, Office of Historic Preservation, State of California; Casa Soberanes, Monterey, California Gardens by David Law, September 1, 2011; Casa Soberanes, California Department of Parks and Recreation [accessed October 17, 2013

Next: Larkin House, Monterey Style Beginnings >>>