The Clarke Estate was built as the home of Chauncey and Marie Rankin Clarke in 1919. A wealthy, socially prominent couple, they hired architect Irving Gill to build their country home on 60 acres of citrus groves in Santa Fe Springs. Gill built this elegant house in an unusual style for the era.
Using the feeling of Mediterranean and Mission Revival architecture, he designed this house without ornamentation. In describing his design philosophy, he wrote that architects "must have the courage to fling aside every device that distracts the eye from structural beauty." As a result of his philosophy, he became one of the most influential architects of this century.
Completed in 1921, the 8,000 square-foot home is constructed of poured-in-place reinforced concrete. The home is built around a central courtyard edged with Tuscan-style columns and graceful arches. The Clarke Estate, like many Irving Gill buildings, has an exterior pergola (covered walkway), casement windows, cubist structure, concrete construction, and unadorned surfaces.
The interior of the house has rounded corners and flush, unpaneled doors intended to deter the collection of dust. In a concession to decoration, leaf patterns appear in the walls and walkways, and an Egyptian motif was painted on the fireplace. This was probably due to the influence of Mrs. Clarke.
The Clarkes, who made their fortunes in distilleries and gold mining, were widely traveled. Antiquities from their travels to Asia and Greece were displayed throughout their home. The Clarkes lived in the home for a short time before the discovery of oil on their land led them to move to a less industrial environment. Before their departure, Mrs. Clarke made an important contribution to the arts. She acquired land for the construction of the Hollywood Bowl and oversaw its establishment. When Mrs. Clarke died in 1948, the home was left to her secretary's nephew, James Siemon, who lived in it until 1986. Over the years, very minor changes were made to the building. In recent decades, many of Gill's buildings in Southern California have been destroyed, and this estate may be the best intact example of his work in existence.
The recent restoration by the City of Santa Fe Springs includes improvements in the mechanical systems, landscaping and interior decoration. The estate is now available for weddings, receptions, meetings, and special events.