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Frank and Irene Crespi House

The Frank and Irene Crespi House sits at 64 South Main Street in Angels Camp.  Three extant buildings are located on the property: a residence and garage and stone cold storage building.  The residence and garage were constructed in 1936 by Frank and Irene Monte Verda Crespi, who resided there until the 1900s.  Frank Crespi was a local county supervisor and shop keeper.  It is unknown exactly who constructed the stone building, but probably either the Drury family in the late 1890s, or the Branch or Seamans families in the early 1900s.

Residence.  This one-half story Craftsman residence was built in 1936, and its plans may have been purchased from a pattern book of the era.  The building has a low-pitched side gable roof with a front shed-roofed dormer and a cross gabled rear entry roof.  The roofs feature exposed beams and are covered with modern standing seam metal.  The walls are clad in stucco, and the building has a concrete perimeter foundation.  A two-story chimney is attached to the south elevation.  A full-width porch is located on the primary northeast façade.  It has a concrete floor and steps and a metal stair rail.  The porch is supported by four square brick piers; the two end piers support large battered wood columns, while the central two have simple square posts.  A porch railing of square wood posts courses between the piers.  Primary entry is via the front porch, through a frame paneled door flanked by sidelights.  The entry is flanked by tri-partite windows, with large lights beneath multi-lights.  Other fenestration consists of multi-light sash over one large light; 1/1 frame sash, double-hung; and an industrial metal casement window in the laundry room.  The dormer features three ribbon windows, each with three lights above one large light.  A secondary entry is located on the rear of the house, via a concrete patio and stair.  The signature “Frank 1903” is etched into the concrete; it denotes the birthdate of Frank Crespi.  

The interior consists of a large living room with yellow fire brick fireplace flanked by built-in Craftsman cabinets with glass doors.  A large arched opening provides access to the dining room, and a door to the kitchen beyond.  Floors in the primary rooms are dark oak.  A hallway on the north side of the interior leads to three bedrooms and features built-in cabinets.  A central enclosed stairway provides access to three rooms on the upper story.  All doors are wood frame and feature their original hardware and glass knobs.  In addition, Craftsman sconces are located over the fireplace, and an original light fixture is in the kitchen ceiling.  The building is in original and excellent condition.  

Garage.  A frame garage is located to the southwest of the residence and accessed by a driveway from Main Street.  It consists of a single-width front-gable garage with a shed-roofed workshop addition to the northeast; the roofs are covered with composition shingles.  The original asphalt siding has been covered with manufactured stone on the primary northeast façade.  Windows are aluminum frame and the floor is concrete. The building is in fair condition.  

Stone Cold Storage Building.  This structure is a simple one story, one-room rhyolite tuff building with one door and one-blocked up window.  The exterior measures 15 ft. 11 inches x 11 ft. 11 inches, and is 6 ft. high.  Rhyolite blocks on the primary northeast façade are dressed, but most are roughly formed; the walls measure approximately 15 inches in width.  The stones were affixed with Roman cement mortar, but repointed with modern Portland cement.  The floor is earthen.  The building has a modern front-gable roof covered with corrugated metal, and extends above the original ceiling with upper walls clad in pressed steel rock face siding.  It appears to have been built for cold storage and predates the residence by many years, and was probably built in the 1890s for use by an earlier homeowner on the site.  These rhyolite tuff cold storage and creamery buildings were fairly common in the Angels Camp and Murphys areas in the late 1800s, as the stone was readily available, easy to cut when first quarried, and provided excellent insulation.  The builder is unknown, but it was probably erected to the rear of a residence located to the front of the property.

Architectural Contexts

Craftsman (1900–1935). The most popular residential architectural style of this era was the Craftsman home, which reflected the prosperity of California as a whole. This style was particularly suited to Southern California topography and climate, which was demonstrated by the use of outdoor spaces for relaxation, entertaining, and living. Pergolas, screened porches, and other shade-producing elements were designed into the properties to connect the houses to the landscape. It was during this period also that the strong commitment to street tree planting, especially of “borrowed” exotic trees such as palms, was established.  The Craftsman movement, named after a magazine published by Gustav Stickley, was the American counterpart of the English Arts and Crafts Movement. In part a reaction against the excesses, both aesthetic and otherwise, of the Victorian era, Craftsman architecture stressed the importance of simplicity, of adapting form to function, and of relating the building to both its designer through the incorporation of craftsmanship and to the surrounding landscape through its hugging of the ground, massing, and siting. It was an outgrowth of the Shingle Style and certain variants were influenced by Japanese architecture. 

The Craftsman bungalow was usually characterized by a rustic aesthetic of shallowly pitched overhanging gable roofs; earth-colored wood siding; spacious, often L-shaped or full-width porches; windows, both casement and double-hung sash, grouped in threes and fours; extensive use of natural wood in the interior and for front doors; and exposed structural elements such as beams, rafters, braces, and joints. Cobblestone or brick was favored for chimneys, porch supports, and foundations. The heyday of Craftsman design was the decade between 1906 and 1916; after that the Craftsman style was simplified, often reduced to signature elements such as an offset front gable roof, tapered porch piers, and extended lintels over door and window openings. In many cases, the Craftsman style incorporated distinctive elements from other architectural styles, resulting in numerous variations.  Based upon the idea that a human habitation should harmonize with its surroundings, as well as with life indoors, the style made California with its moderate climate the perfect location for the establishment of the style.  The Craftsman idea was broad enough to include farmhouses, suburban houses, mountain cabins, and commercial buildings, but by far its greatest application was for residential "bungalows."  

Many dwellings built in this era in California were just simpler adaptations of the Craftsman style, usually those found in pattern books and purchased as kits from catalogs such as Sears Roebuck & Co., Wardway Homes, Aladdin, and others.  Many of these simplified styles continued through the 1930s in California.  

Excerpted from: Historical Evaluation Report For The Frank and Irene Crespi House by Judith Marvin


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