Growing up in California and now residing in the Phoenix area, I have been surrounded by beautiful homes, missions and buildings that have been influenced by the Spanish Colonial style.
Most individuals when passing by a structure that has white stucco walls, horseshoe arches, decorative ironwork and low pitched roofs covered in red tiles instantly associate it with Spanish Colonial, but it is so much more than these few elements.
To truly understand the Spanish Colonial Style one must travel back in time to Spain when it was under Moorish (Muslim) rule which occurred between 711 and 1492 AD. Towards the end of their rule, Moorish leaders built The Alhambra (The Red One) a palace/fortress located in Granada. The Alhambra is considered to be one of the world’s greatest forms of Andalusian architecture. With its horseshoe arches, square towers, and extensive tile work one can see how it greatly influenced the early Spanish Colonial style.
In 1492 came of conquest of The Kingdom of Granada by Ferdinand and Isabella. Indeed it was within the walls of The Alhambra that Christopher Columbus was granted an audience with the royal couple which resulted in his discovery of America later that same year. After his heroic return to Spain came the extensive exploration and colonization of the United States by the Spanish.
With their arrival in the new world the Spanish brought with them their design ideals. Not having the same building materials available they began to look at the adobe structures built by the local people and combined the two styles which resulted in what we have now come to call Spanish Colonial. The oldest governmental building in America is the Palace of the Governors located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Construction was begun on the Palace in 1610. It is one of the earliest examples of the style.
Spain also desired to spread Christianity to the local people and as a result many missions were built, often in the Spanish Colonial style. Below is the San Xavier del Bac Mission, also known as the “White Dove of the Desert”. It is located in the Santa Cruz Valley just outside of Tucson. It was built in the late 1700’s by Franciscan fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz. The high towers, large dome and rounded parapets have a Byzantine and Moorish architectural influence.
The Spanish Colonial Revival style occurred in the early 20th century as a result of the opening of the Panama Canal. San Diego was the first U.S. port of call and the Panama~California exposition was created as a celebration of the opening. The city park was selected as the exposition site and the name Balboa Park was adopted.
Bertram Goodhue was the supervisory architect and he advised using forms of neoclassical Spanish Colonial architecture. Indeed the buildings have a Spanish baroque feel.
The exposition opened on December 31, 1914 and over the next three years it was attended by over 3.5 million visitors who became enamored of the eclectic mixture of Spanish and Latin American architecture and desired to have it as their own.
Furthering the style was the town of Santa Barbara. In 1925 an earthquake leveled most of the downtown and surrounding areas. A decision was made by the city council that all new buildings conform to a Spanish-Moorish style of architecture.
While this home is a new build, architect Marc Appleton says that he was influenced by the great George Washington Smith. Smith is often credited with being the father of the Spanish Colonial Revival home. In Santa Barbara alone he designed over 80 homes many of which are now on the national register.
One home built by Smith in 1925 is the Casa Del Herrero (Home of the Blacksmith) located in Montecito, Ca. It is modeled after farmhouses that Smith had seen on his trip to Andalusia in 1914. The home is filled with 13th ~18th century Spanish furniture and is now a museum.
This is the home of Diane Keaton. It is a Spanish Colonial Revival bungalow built in 1927. Ms. Keaton is an avid proponent of saving the many Spanish Colonial homes built during this time, which are being demolished at a saddening rate. She has coauthored a book entitled “Spanish Romantica: Spanish Colonial and Mission~ Style Houses”.
Indeed many celebrities favor the look of the Spanish Colonial home. This home has previously been occupied by such legends as Bette David and Edith Head. It is now the residence of Carrie Fisher.
This 1920’s beauty belongs to Jamie Lee Curtis and her husband Christopher Guest.
This home, built by Richard Landry, has Moorish influences and features an 18th century gate of solid walnut surrounded by beautifully colored tile.
The Spanish Colonial revival style can be found throughout America, such as this gorgeous example in Schenectady, New York.
Though most of the examples are found in California, the Southwest and Florida.
If you would like to experience Spanish revival beauty firsthand book a room at The Cloisters built in 1928. It is on located on tiny Sea Island, Georgia.
This post originally ran on September 10, 2008. I hope that you have enjoyed this updated post which has allowed me to spend time with my children who are on fall break this week. Please forgive my lack of response to comments.