OLE HANSONíS DREAM
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
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
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
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.