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By Andrea Swayne
The winding, tree-lined streets of Capistrano Beach give the neighborhood an eclectic feel, having welcomed countless architectural styles of homes throughout the years. Tucked in among the houses—from sleek, angular, modern structures to the prevailing styles of more than eight decades—are some of the most historically significant, and most beautiful, homes in southern Orange County. On Sunday, Oct. 11, the Dana Point Historical Society’s 15th Annual Home Tour and Reception will offer the public a look at six such properties that live up to this year’s theme, “The Historic Homes & Hidden Treasures of Capistrano Beach.”
The homes and gardens on this self-guided driving tour will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a reception from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the newest of the homes, a mid-century house, beautifully decorated with treasures the owners collected while living in Asia. Situated atop a steep hillside, the outdoor spaces are reminiscent of a wooded forest, including a waterfall leading to a stream at the bottom of the canyon the house overlooks. Built in 1954, the home has undergone a number of additions and renovations, today making it very livable, and with numerous indoor and outdoor living spaces, well-suited for entertaining.
The other five properties are homes built as part of Capo Beach’s original 1929 development by Ned Doheny.
Tour headquarters, guest registration/ticket sales, program guides with a tour map, historical displays and a boutique will be located at the home of Karen and Steve Abraham, a 1930 Doheny home on Camino Capistrano. Over the years, the house has doubled in size through additions and renovations, but retained the charm and style of the Doheny era, with features such as hand-stenciled beams and a wrought iron bannister.
The Abrahams bought the house about three years ago and said they both fell in love with it for its charm and historical significance.
“The fact that it was a Doheny property was really of interest and we especially liked the Spanish Colonial style,” Steve Abraham said. “We were really drawn to the architectural details of the period—the stucco, terra cotta tiles, wrought iron and especially the cupola details.”
Karen Abraham agreed, adding that they have continued to make improvements to the house since purchasing it, careful to retain its historical features in the process and mindful of making changes that enhance and fit with the original architecture. Examples of this can be seen in the home’s outdoor entertaining courtyard, where terra cotta tiles replaced grass and eyebrows above arched doorways retain the home’s character.
“I love the 80- to 100-year-old reclaimed wood that we added in the kitchen and my husband’s library,” she said. “I love the architectural detail of the original star-shaped windows designed to help circulate the air in different directions—kind of an early form of air conditioning. We just love it.”
When asked why they agreed to open their home for the tour, both agreed that Doheny homes are such an integral part of local history to be shared, experienced and appreciated.
“Karen and I both have a love for historical properties and we feel that we’d like the public to be able to enjoy the house as much as we do,” Steve Abraham said.
Registration/ticket sales will also be offered at Doheny House No. 1, recently fully restored by owners Dr. Dean and Joyce Clark. Built in 1928, the home was the first built in the Doheny Capistrano Beach development and sits on Camino Capistrano, atop the palisade bluff overlooking Capistrano Beach.
Authentic 1920s furniture and fixtures were carefully researched making the home’s recent renovation true to its historical beginnings and the large lot offers an immense, panoramic view looking out to sea toward the Headlands.
Guests should note that, unlike past years’ tours, registration and ticket sales will not be offered at the Historical Society museum. Tickets are $30 for Historical Society members and $35 for non-members.
Three more restored and beautifully furnished 1929 Doheny homes and gardens in the Spanish Colonial style on the tour will offer guests the chance to explore a cottage rescued from demolition twice, one with an original fireplace uncovered from behind a stone façade and restored, and a 1920s workman’s-style cottage transformed into a decorator’s showcase.
This cottage sits on a double street-to-street lot with a large magical maze of a hidden garden and the 1980-built combination lecture hall and home, Gep’s Folly, built in 1980 by former owner was well-known antiquarian Gep Durenberger. The garden—with its pool, outdoor rooms, summer house, aviaries, sculptures and fountains—was created by well-known designers James Yoch and “The Garden Lady” Carole McElwee.
Now owned by interior designer Eric Guenther—proprietor of Whim Home, a design store and studio in San Juan Capistrano—the cottage, Gep’s Folly and the gardens have become a beautifully furnished stage for his talent and creativity where he enjoys entertaining both friends and clients. The property has been featured in design magazines such as, World of Interiors, House Beautiful, House and Garden, Victoria and Southern Accents.
Guenther said the historic significance of the Doheny cottage also drew him in, however having been owned, designed, and in the case of the Gep’s Folly house, built by fellow decorative arts practitioner Durenberger, played a large role in his strong affinity for the property.
“The historic significance of a Doheny house was very important to me, but the person who owned it prior to me and his contribution to the decorative arts, was enormous,” Guenther said. “He started the decorative arts movement in Orange County and set up a facility to kind of support that. His contribution was significant and therefore his expression of his craft here was very significant.”
Guenther said his interior design philosophy is not about decoration for decoration’s sake but instead an expression of self and the home—a treasure trove of beautiful collections curated into artful vignettes—is the quintessential form of self-expression, both in what he has done and what Durenberger and the others before him did on the property.
“These homes are an important part of the history of this city and a true expression of California, both through the decorative arts movement and the style of architecture, embodied in what people like the Dohenys were trying to do,” Guenther said. “I feel that the homes are much bigger than we are. They’ve been here longer; they represent a lot to a lot of people. They represent a combination of multiple talents coming together. I don’t feel like this home is just mine to possess. I feel a responsibility to show it to other people so that they may enjoy and appreciate people’s past contributions to it.”
Historical Society President Barbara Johannes, who co-chaired the tour with Sandie Iverson, said the event is the society’s biggest annual fundraiser, raising money that enables the group to host city and special historical occasion events and to bring the community together to learn about and preserve the city’s heritage.
“We would like to thank the six homeowners, 80 sponsors and 100 volunteers who helped organize this tour,” Johannes said. “In Capistrano Beach and Dana Point we have two of the earliest planned communities along the coast, and the homes that have been preserved here speak to our history in the 1920s and ’30s, a history we are eager to share.
“Personally, I’m a historian, a history major and a decorative arts minor, so it’s everything I’m interested in,” she added. “And of course, when you’re interested in something, you want and hope other people will like it too.”
With the selection of beautiful homes on this year’s tour, it shouldn’t be a difficult sell.
For more information, including a ticket order form, visit the Historical Society website at www.danapointhistorical.org.