This weekend, I escaped to Yerba Buena Island. I am a frequent visitor and I love to take mini hikes when the weather is warm. This time, I decided to walk down the hilltop to Quarters One, also known as the Nimitz Mansion. Built in the early 1900’s as a Naval Officer’s residence on Yerba Buena Island, it was recently restored by the owner of a small catering business, who saw potential in the property. Quarters One is a classic revival wood frame rectangular house of about 5,886 square feet. The estate was once home to World War II hero Admiral Chester Nimitz, for whom it is named.
The Nimitz edifice is next to a row of 5 structures that also served as senior officers quarters. They were all built in the same classic revival architectural style, but they have been vacant for years and remain in primarily original condition. Each building is marked with a small number located above the back door. The quarters immediately to the left of the NM, house number 2, is in poor condition. It is this house that I was most interested in. The front entrance is in desperate need of restoration. The balcony is caving in, the railing has broken away from the foundation and there are moldings missing around the windows. The once gleaming white exterior is turning yellow. Even though the building appears to be coming undone, there are still beautiful design elements everywhere you look. As I wandered around house number 2, I was reminded of how much I love imperfect beauty. The building is far from pristine, but it is this unfinished quality that I find so appealing. A brand new house is a wonderful thing, but it lacks the history, the untold stories and the general allure that older homes have. As I peered into the foggy windows (grubby from their exposure to the elements) I tried to imagine who lived there and what their lives must have been like.
The first photograph above was taken from the Nimitz Mansion looking toward building number 2. It looks as if the glowing light is coming from in between the houses. Even from a distance, the exquisite architectural features can be appreciated: the intricate pattern of the windowpanes and the white ceramic star on the old brick chimney. However, the focus for me is the small, urn-shaped planter set against the deep green, almost black, juniper-esque shrubbery.
The second picture is a detail from house number 2. There is something so sweet and innocent about the tiny square plaque with the 2 on it. It poses an interesting juxtaposition with the mysterious; dirty lace window covering that had been left behind. It looks almost as if, at any moment, a hand might draw back the old lace curtain just before the metal hinge begins to creak, as the door begins to open…
There are many different kinds of beauty, but I have a fixation for hauntingly beautiful imagery. It is particularly evocative and it is that relationship between emotion and beauty that fascinates me.