Villa Rockledge has been an object of adoration, from its inception to the present. Frank A. Miller, a renowned developer in Southern California, began construction on the estate—a gift for his wife, Marion—in the winter of 1918 and completed it in 1921 (a unit in the northern wing was added in 1929). He named the Victorian Arts & Crafts meets Mission-style estate “Mariona,” and it was later renamed Villa Rockledge.
The residential complex in Laguna Beach, California, is comprised of eight units, which total approximately 8,100 square feet. It sits high atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, its façade combining elements of Mediterranean and Spanish Revival design. Miller brought together the same crew to work on the project that had successfully implemented his vision for his earlier master build—the Mission Inn in Riverside, California, a Mission-style hotel that hosted such prominent figures as Theodore Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller. Miller and architect Arthur Benton carefully supervised the execution of the construction details, many of which were similar to those of the Mission Inn, such as leaded glass windows and unusual tiles. However, Villa Rockledge broke from its predecessor’s style by including English eclecticism in the form of Cotswold doors and whimsical chimneys. Other eclectic elements were added to the mix, such as a Mission bell and an Indian rain cross.
Fashioned with an appreciation for its surroundings, the two-story structure’s L-plan conforms to the coastline. Its imposing façade seems all the more impressive when you consider that all the construction work was done by hand, from building the thick foundations and retaining walls to placing heavy beams and sanding the mahogany floors. Striking features such as an adobe tiled gable roof and two stone towers—one with a conical roof—ensure that while the massive structure blends well with its landscape, it does not blend into it.
The interior of Villa Rockledge was given as much attention to detail as the exterior. None of the 23 rooms in the eight-unit structure are exactly alike, a testament to the planners’ boundless creativity. One of the things that each guest can be assured of, however, is that every room has a breathtaking view of the ocean. Other commonalities that add rustic charm to the rooms include stone fireplaces, beam ceilings and doors made of wood embedded with brass stars. The Indian rain cross symbol is again seen as part of the door latches.
A walk around the grounds of Villa Rockledge conveys a sense of its balance with the structure that anchors it as well as being a relaxing expanse in which to enjoy natural beauty. Walking paths invite visitors to explore the area, while benches and terraces provide a place to rest and reflect. Mature gardens and vegetation grow freely, softly framing the large estate.
Check back tomorrow as the Villa Rockledge story continues here at victorianhomesmag.com.
By Meryl Schoenbaum
Photography by Mark Tanner