Recalling the Unexpected Artistic Origins of Carmel-by-the-Sea

Jack London, Ansel Adams and Sinclair Lewis once roamed the bucolic shores.

It was as early as the 19th century when the bay of Carmelo first began enchanting visitors with its secluded location and stunning natural beauty. By 1900, a team of San Franciscan developers led by Frank Devendorf and Frank Powers bought up all the land and formed the Carmel Development Company. They originally marketed the property to professors and “bohemian” types, according to KCET. This also included a handful of artists. But it was a catastrophic event that proved to be a game changer for the small enclave.

“With the great earthquake of 1906, thousands of San Franciscans found themselves homeless, and their city in chaos. Artists from San Francisco began to flock to Carmel, and soon their friends joined them. The colony, with its unpaved roads, rough cottages and temporary tents, quickly attracted many influential artists of the day.

“Two of the first artists to settle the area were the sisters Alice MacGowan and Grace MacGowan-Cooke, successful writers and literary highbrows. The poet and playwright George Sterling, author Jack London, photographer Arnold Genthe and writer Mary Austin, dubbed “the most intelligent woman in America,” would often crowd into singer Mable Gray Young’s redwood cottage after a morning of solitary pursuits. “We work in the morning, and everyone works hard at Carmel-by-the-Sea,” Austin explained. “In the afternoon we have mussel bakes, cut down boe trees, and sit on the front of the hills and look out over the sea—and we talk, always we talk.”

You can read more about Carmel’s artistic roots here.

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