2101 La Mesa Drive
Santa Monica, CA 90402

Zimmers House (John Byers Adobe)

Known As: Zimmers House
Architect: John Byers
Built: 1924
Designated: May, 12 2008

This property is a one-story, single-family residence reminiscent of the rustic adobe dwellings once found on haciendas during the Mexican Colonial period (1821-1846) in what is now the American Southwest. Designed and built by renowned local architect John Byers in 1924, the residence effectively represents the Mexican Colonial Revival architectural style in its massing, materials, and architectural elements. Constructed of hand-made adobe bricks finished with plaster, the house is capped by a low-pitched hipped and side-gabled roof covered with hand-made red clay tiles. Indeed, the hand-made aspect of the adobe bricks and roof tiles was very important to John Byers. In a 1946 article on adobe houses he writes:

“This type of house can only be arrived at successfully if one builds them much in the same manner as the old days one hundred years or so ago. The adobes should be made by hand, and laid up preferably by Mexican labor… They can only be done economically if the adobe bricks are made right at the building site with the soil at hand.”

He then carefully explains how to properly fashion hand-made adobe bricks. Regarding roof tiles, he states later in the article, “These tiles, to be in character, should definitely be hand-made.”

Of the handful of Byers-designed adobe houses highlighted in the article, an entire page is given to the Mrs. E.W. Zimmers adobe, with an exterior photograph of the east end of the primary elevation and a photograph of the rear court, the latter with the caption “Note emphasis of extended eaves”.  The eaves to which the caption refers appear to have been slender tree branches with rough-cut ends that extended far beyond the porch roof prior to being sheared off at a later date. The Zimmers House initially appeared in the May 1925 edition of Architect and Engineer and depicted the entire primary (south) elevation and a portion of the west elevation.  Remarkably, the exterior of the house as seen from the street appears much the same today. An interior photograph of the living room also appears in the magazine.

Typical of Byers’ adobe structures, the dwelling’s exterior elevations, which are finished with plaster, exhibit the rounded corners and uneven “bumpy” appearance of being hand made. A wide, recessed front porch sheltered by the main roof occupies the center bay of the almost symmetrical building’s primary (south) elevation. A trio of stucco-covered wooden posts supports the porch roof. Wrought iron railings between the posts enclose the space. Within the porch area are three deeply recessed full-height openings of which the westernmost serves as the dwelling’s main entrance. Wood-framed casement windows fronted by ornate wrought iron grilles front the porch’s other two openings. Visible fenestration punctuating the building’s east and west wings consists mainly of wood-framed casements set within deeply recessed, irregularly shaped openings.

A shallow interior chimney with rounded corners emerges from the ridgeline near the east end of the main roof.

Sources:

  1. Byers, John Winfred, A.I.A, “Adobe Houses” Architect and Engineer, October 1946, pp.17, 24, 19.
  2. “House for Mrs. E. W. Zimmers”, The Architect and Engineer, May 1925, pp. 104, 105.