No Place Like Home: The Workman House in the 1920s

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Here from the Homestead’s collection is a remarkable view of the Workman House during the 1920s, probably taken by Thomas W. Temple II, son of Walter and Laura Temple, builders of La Casa Nueva.  Thomas was an avid photographer and it is thanks to his hobby that we have so many documentary images of the Homestead during the era.  Otherwise, the documentation would be pretty sparse.

This photo was taken from the southeast of the historic landmark, of which the center core is an 1840s adobe and then the corners and second floor, along with the exterior decorative work, date from about 1870.  All this work was done by William and Nicolasa Workman, Thomas’ great-grandparents.

Workman House South Elevation ca 1920s 99.5.8.189

In the late 1910s and early 1920s, the Temples modernized the home, adding plumbing and electricity, for example, including the solar panels on the bottom of center gable of the roof.  These panels were used to heat the water for the home’s bathrooms, a feature also introduced for the second floor restrooms at the family’s La Casa Nueva, completed in 1927.

Interestingly, the porch features decorative posts, but not the balusters and rails that were there in the circa 1870 remodeling of the house and which have were recreated during the late 1970s restoration of the structure.  The steps leading to the porch appear to be poured concrete.  This was probably a response to the southern exposure which damaged the original wood stairs.  Again, the restoration effort included a recreation of those stairs, but we also have ongoing issues with exposure to the elements.

Also noteworthy is the landscaping in the rear yard, including the grape-covered arbor, of which the trellis work and vines are visible between the two large dark-green trees, which may be oranges.  Just behind the chicken wire fence are smaller plantings, though it is unclear what they are.  At the lower right, behind the newly planted palm tree is a sliver of the driveway that ran along the east side of the house–this is still maintained as a walkway leading to the house today.

This view is not possible now because of the 1940s stuccoed wall around the rear yard and the late 1970s cast-iron security fence that encircles the historic area of the museum.  Visitors, however, can stand near the location where the photo was taken, approximately where our picnic area is situated, and get a general comparative view.

Look for other “No Place Like Home” posts showing the Workman House and La Casa Nueva in the not-too-distant future.

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