When Ole Hanson began to develop San
Clemente - his “Spanish Village by the Sea,” he referred to the way he would
create it by the following historic quote:
“I have a clean canvas and I am determined to paint a clean picture. Think
of it – a canvas five miles long and one and one-half miles wide!”
Little mention was made of the natural artistry that lay before him that
would serve as the under-painting for his dream city. Spread before him to
the west was the blue Pacific Ocean, edged by a golden, sandy beach lined by
bluffs sturdy enough to withstand nature’s gentler forces. From the
blufftops, sloping fertile soil spread gently to hills that would one day
feature homes for thousands of San Clementeans happy to be living in a
community abundant with the best things in life.
But Ole had envisioned it all from the
time that he was 26 years old and had seen the virgin area from a train
while traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego.
Ole was born in a log cabin in Racine,
Wisconsin, in 1874, the fifth of six children born to immigrant Norwegian
parents who taught their youngsters love and loyalty regarding their adopted
Redheaded, brilliant, daring and an insatiable reader, Ole worked at odd
jobs when he was a young student. He began teaching school at age 13, then
worked at night in a tailor’s shop at age 17 while apprenticing a legal
profession in a law office by day. He passed the bar examination at the age
Ole was unable to practice law until he
was 21 years old, so he studied stenography, becoming an expert typist and
acquiring work in an assayer’s office. Eventually he found employment,
selling drug-gist’s sundries throughout the eastern, southern, mid-western
and southwestern areas of the United States.
While furthering his career, he had
married at age 21 and was 28 years old when he decided to move with his wife
and three children to Seattle, Washington, and embark on a new career.
Despite severe hardships that included losing his youngest child and nearly
his own life in a train wreck, Ole and family reached Seattle in 1902.
It was in that growing port city that the
slightly built entrepreneur advanced a career that included owning and
operating a grocery store on Beacon Hill, real estate sales and development,
service as a state legislator and, ultimately, similar and dedicated service
as mayor of Seattle.
Ole not only fought vice, gambling and
unfair labor practices in Seattle, he became a friend of presidents, namely,
Harding, Wilson and Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt. He gained near-universal
fame for his fight against Communism and for his support of the American
By the early 1920s, Ole had traveled worldwide, lectured and wrote for
numerous newspapers and periodicals, achieved record sales of Liberty Bonds
for the earlier war effort (World War I) and lost two fortunes. He lost what
appeared to be national support for a bid for the U.S. presidency in 1920,
and another bid for the purchase of Orange County property in 1925 when he
and his friend, Henry Hamilton (Ham) Cotton, gained control of property
destined to become San Clemente.
By this time, Ole was older, wiser, the father of ten children (six boys and
four girls) and even more determined to create his Spanish Village and his
own “white house,” known today as Casa Romantica.
Ole was white-haired, a dapper dresser and known throughout the country for
his eloquent and influential oratory at the height of America’s “Roaring
’20s.” He coupled his abilities with Ham’s fortunes and, with nationwide
fanfare, San Clemente was born. Its natal dress was white and red — white
stucco structures bonneted by red tile.
The Hanson’s home was — and is — special. It was not the white house that
Ole had envisioned as a youngster, the lad whose future desire to be the
country’s president had been supported by his parents. It was, however, a
symbol of a pleasurable Spanish village lifestyle in San Clemente, as far as
the architecture and surrounding area and uses were concerned.
Famed architect Carl Lindbom had designed the casa, including its seven
bedrooms and baths that Ole had requested. The finest woods, materials and
building innovations were incorporated in the construction, and Ole
delighted in extensive travel to gather the most elegant and tasteful
furniture and furnishings that his educated eyes could select to fill it,
including treasures from the Orient.
The casa’s design has been referred to as Spanish-Colonial, Spanish-Moorish,
revival or eclectic. Early local citizens call it “Ole’s house.”
Much care was used in the planting and cultivation of the gardens
surrounding the Hanson home, especially in the courtyard. Beauty not only
existed in the plant life, but exotic birds strolled the grounds or filled
cages in the walkways, and colorful fish filled the courtyard pool. Visitors
compared the area to “the garden of Eden.”
Ole sought solace in his casa and the excitement of an active and vibrant
family involved in a life of motion picture fantasy and the frenzied,
daredevil antics associated with the historic period.