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Photo Tour | Special Thanks to Dorothy Fuller


by Dorothy Fuller
copyright June 1996

When Ole Hanson began to develop San Clemente, his "Spanish Village By The Sea," he referred to the way he would create it by the following historic quote:

"I have a clean canvas and I am determined to paint a clean picture. Think of it - a canvas five miles long and one and one-half miles wide!"

Little mention was made of the natural artistry that lay before him that would serve as the under-painting for his dream city. Spread before him to the west was the blue Pacific Ocean, edged by a golden, sandy beach lined by bluffs sturdy enough to withstand natureís gentler forces. From the blufftops, sloping fertile soil spread gently to hills that would one day feature homes for thousands of San Clementeans happy to be living in a community abundant with the best things in life.

But Ole had envisioned it all from the time that he was 26 years old and had seen the virgin area from a train while traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego.

Ole was born in a log cabin in Racine, Wisconsin, in 1874, the fifth of six children born to immigrant Norwegian parents who taught their youngsters love and loyalty regarding their adopted homeland.

Red-headed, brilliant, daring and an insatiable reader, Ole worked at odd jobs when he was a young student. He began teaching school at age 13, then worked at night in a tailorís shop at age 17 while apprenticing a legal profession in a law office by day. He passed the bar examination at the age of 19.

Ole was unable to practice law until he was 21 years old, so he studied stenography, becoming an expert typist an acquiring work in an assayerís office. Eventually he found employment selling druggistís sundries throughout the eastern, southern and mid and southwestern areas of the United States.

While furthering his career, he had married at age 21 and was 28 years old when he decided to move with his wife and three children to Seattle, Washington, and embark on a new career. Despite severe hardships that included losing his youngest child and nearly his own life in a train wreck, Ole and family reached Seattle in 1902.

It was in that growing port city that the slightly built entrepreneur advanced a career that included owning and operating a grocery store on Beacon Hill, real estate sales and development, service as a state legislator and, ultimately, similar and dedicated service as Mayor of Seattle.

Ole not only fought vice, gambling and unfair labor practices in Seattle, he became a friend of presidents, namely, Harding, Wilson and Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt. He gained near-universal fame for his fight against Communism and for his support of The American Dream.

By the early 1920ís Ole had traveled world-wide, lectured and wrote for numerous mewspapers and periodicals, achieved record sales of Liberty Bonds for the earlier war effort (World War I) and lost two fortunes. He lost what appeared to be national support for a bid for the U.S. presidency in 1920, and another bid for the purchase of Orange County property when, in 1925, he and friend, Henry Hamilton (Ham) Cotton, gained control of property destined to become San Clemente.

By this time, Ole was older, wiser, the father of ten children (six boys and four girls) and even more determined to create his Spanish Village and his own "white house," known today as Casa Romantica.

Ole was white-haired, a dapper dresser and known throughout the country for his eloquent and influential oratory at the height of Americaís "roaring twenties." He coupled his abilities with Hamís fortunes and, with nation-wide fanfare, San Clemente was born. Its natal dress was white and red, white stucco structures bonneted by red tile.

The Hansonís home was - and is - special. It was not the white house that Ole had envisioned as a youngster, the lad whose future desire to be the countryís president had been supported by his parents. It was however a symbol of a pleasurable Spanish Village lifestyle in San Clemente, as far as the architecture and surrounding area and uses were concerned. Famed architect, Carl Lindbom had designed the casa, including its seven bedrooms and baths that Ole had requested. The finest woods, materials and building innovations were incorporated in the construction, and Ole delighted in extensive travel to gather the most elegant and tasteful furniture and furnishings his educated eyes could select to fill it, including treasures from the Orient.

The casaís design has been referred to as Spanish-Colonial, Spanish-Moorish, or revival or eclectic. Early, local citizens call it "Oleís house."

Much care was used in the planting and cultivation of the gardens surrounding the Hanson home, especially in the courtyard. Beauty not only existed in the plant life but exotic birds strolled the grounds or filled cages in the walkways, and colorful fish filled the courtyard pool. Visitors compared the area to "the garden of Eden."

Ole sought solace in his casa and the excitement of an active and vibrant family involved in a life of motion picture fantasy and the frenzied, dare-devil antics associated with the historic period.

Because of his devotion to his work, reading, and becoming a community (if not nationwide) leader, Ole sought other solace at the casa, including a more relaxed lifestyle, such as having dinner at home with the family (although few of the youngsters ever lived for any length of time at the casa), his own comfortable bed at a reasonable bedtime, his Havana Havana cigars, and a small toddy to go with a good book as night fell.

No lifestyle existed long at the casa because of the familyís interests elsewhere and the inevitable stock market plunge, yet, when the younger members of the family and their guests were present, the house was filled with laughter, music, dancing, glittering conversation, and even more sparkling attire and action. Movie stars, bankers, local dignitaries, and the Los Angeles social set settled down to the business of having fun in a beach paradise where only the ocean waves attempted to muffle the merriment.

Sadly, those days that began in 1928 with the casaís completion, lasted a mere few years, due to the fact that the property was taken in foreclosure by the Bank of America in 1932. Then in 1940, while Ole continued to seek additional locations to develop, he died. The attending physician told Oleís family that Ole had "worked himself to death."

Echoes of the past continue at the casa and stories abound that tell of a slight, white-haired old gentleman appearing at night on the bluffs overlooking the pier, then disappearing in a manner similar to the way the sunís rays vanish with twilightís close.

If the spirit oh Ole still strolls the garden of his white house at any time, it is a certainty that it is no tear-filled stroll, only one of rejoicing for the potential that still exists for the original canvas. It could be a priceless work of art.

There is still enough of a clean canvas for other unselfish visionaries to look upon the sky and ocean-filled expanse and dream great dreams and form great plans to benefit the city and its citizens. Such dreamers are most likely to be found among the individuals and groups seeking to preserve and protect the communityís priceless works of art.

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Copyright © 2002 Ernest & Allen