FROM: Carmel Residents Association July 2001 Newsletter
The Seven Arts Center by Connie Wright

A Carmel Original - The Seven Arts Building

[Seven Arts Building] One of the buildings in the commercial district that everyone should note is the handsome Seven Arts Building, on the southwest corner of Ocean Avenue and Lincoln. Two-storied, it extends on Ocean Avenue from the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company to the Carmel Bay Company and on Lincoln to the shops, the Seven Arts Court and another court. Ground was broken in 1925. The owner, Herbert Heron, desired it for space to display books he collected as a professional dealer. The architect was Clay Otto, the builder Percy Parkes, and its decorators were landscape painter George Seideneck and his wife, Catherine Comstock Seideneck, a leather sculptor and sister of Carmel builder Hugh Comstock.

Made of stucco over Thermolite brick, the building is dark gray and is thoroughly Arts and Crafts in character, with steep gable roofs, oddly shaped windows, Dutch doors and wrought iron ornamental lamps, gates and grills. The shops have been remodeled, but the space on the northeast corner of the second floor, now occupied by the Carmel Bay Company, remains essentially unchanged, with two large windows, exposed beams and unfinished wooden siding. The Seven Arts Court on Lincoln contains a six-sided wishing well, luxuriant planting, including wisteria cascading from the second floor, and contemporary benches. The entrance to the second courtyard, now occupied by the Carmel Pipe Shop, was originally the entrance to the Herons' private living quarters.

Herbert Heron was a professional actor from Los Angeles who first moved to San Francisco and then to Carmel after hearing of the Bohemian spirit of the village. Here he wrote verse dramas and poetry and founded the Forest Theater, where he produced and acted in many plays and was its guiding spirit for decades. He was also a City Council member and mayor of Carmel from 1934 to 1938. A tireless worker, at the age of 80, he climbed the roof of the Seven Arts Building to repair it.

Heron also was the landlord of the Carmel Art Association, formerly the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club. Association members had long searched for a gallery in which to display members' work. Tourists got lost trying to find artists' studios located off trails and paths. The Association rented part of the second floor from Heron for $30 a month, later raised to $40. The Association in October 1927, held its opening show. According to the Pine Cone, throngs attended; 40 artists entered 58 pictures--oils, pastels and watercolors. Among the artists who showed were Josephine Culbertson, Percy Gray, Myron Oliver, Gene McComas, Mary DeNeal Morgan, Lillian Nicholson, George and Catherine Seideneck and John O'Shea. Unfortunately, there was always a lack of funds and, with the depression, the Association was forced to terminate its rental in 1929.

The next notable tenants were Armin Hansen, distinguished seascape painter, then an Associate of the National Academy of Design, and two friends, Paul Whitman, an etcher, and his wife, Kit, a painter, who formed the Carmel Art Institute in 1937. In 1939, Hansen became ill and sold the Art Institute to John Cunningham, a Carmel Art Association member, and his wife, Pat, an oil painter and muralist. Artists who taught or lectured at the Art Institute included Alexander Archpenko, Benjamin Bufano, Salvador Dali, Fernand Leger and Jean Varda. Other tenants of the building included photographer Edward Weston, painter Luis Mora, brother of Jo Mora, and Charles Thomas, longtime director of the Art Association.

The exterior of the Seven Arts Building has remained the same for seventy-six years. Polk's Monterey County Directory of 1926 states: "The Seven Arts Building was the original of Carmel's famous shops ... the first devoted to things of beauty and utility instead of utility alone."


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