Located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, Tor House and Hawk Tower preserve the former home of American poet Robinson Jeffers, operated as a living history museum open for public tours. Born January 10, 1887 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Robinson Jeffers was a noted American poet and environmentalist of the early 20th century. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from Los Angeles’ Occidental College, Jeffers enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he met his wife, Una Call Kuster.
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Jeffers rose to national prominence as a poet with the 1925 second edition of his collection Tamar and Other Poems, which drew parallels from critics to famous historical Greek tragedy authors. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Jeffers released a number of nationally-acclaimed volumes, including The Women at Point Sur, Dear Judas and Other Poems, Thurso's Landing, and Give Your Heart to the Hawks. His adaptation of Euripides’ Medea also spawned a Broadway theatrical production starring Judith Anderson and D.H. Lawrence. Jeffers was best known for his concept of inhumanism, which promoted ideas of a shift away from the human ego to the transhuman beauty of nature. Though his popularity in America declined in the 1940s as a result of his opposition to the United States’ participation in World War II, Jeffers’ legacy has endured throughout the world in countries such as Japan and the Czech Republic and through his mentor relationships with natural artists such as famed photographer Ansel Adams.
Jeffers and his family arrived in the Carmel-Big Sur area of California in 1914 and immediately felt a connection to the area’s natural beauty. In 1918, Jeffers began construction on a granite stone residence, modeled after England’s Tudor barns. He contracted Carmel developer Mike Murphy to assist with the home’s initial construction, which consisted of a plan featuring one bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and an attic space. Construction on the home was completed in August of 1919, and the house was named Tor House in honor of southwestern England’s tor granite outcroppings, which the area’s geography strongly recalled. Further additions were made to the house throughout the 1920s, including the addition of a stone garage and a tower that would be come to known as Hawk Tower. All of Jeffers’ notable poetic works were written at the residence, which contained no electrical wiring until 1949. Jeffers and members of his family resided at the home until 1999, when his son Donnan passed away.
Permanent Attractions and Tours
Today, Tor House and Hawk Tower are maintained as a living history museum, open to the public for guided tours. The home is owned and operated by the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1978 for the preservation and maintenance of the home. The Foundation is a partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operates as a community cultural resource, preserving the legacy of Jeffers’ literary works through its guided tours and public programming.
Docent-led public tours of the home and its old-world-style garden grounds are offered on Friday and Saturday mornings, lasting approximately one hour and 15 minutes and featuring showings of a short orientation film. Tours include exploration of the Tor House facility, which now includes a dining room added in the 1930s by Jeffers and an additional East Wing area completed in the mid-20th century by Jeffers’ son Donnan. The home’s original varied stonework is on display, from the rectangular cut stones of the original cottage facility to the unique pocked character of Hawk Tower, and many stones featured etched quotations credited to a number of authors and philosophers. Visitors may also climb the Tower for views of the surrounding natural areas and explore the property’s English-cottage-style gardens. Docents provide anecdotes about the Jeffers family and offer readings of the poet’s most famous works, elaborating on how the California Central Coast area’s natural beauty influenced Jeffers’ writing.
Tours are conducted hourly, with tour groups limited to six visitors at a time. All tour groups meet at the facility’s Docent Office, which is located next to the home’s garage. Though not required, tour reservations are recommended due to the facility’s limited touring hours. Group tours may also be reserved via special arrangement throughout the week. Photography is not permitted within tours, though photographs of the home may be taken from the street during times when the facility is closed. Due to the subject matter of Jeffers’ work, tours are recommended for participants ages 10 and older.
Ongoing Programs and Events
The Tor House Foundation organizes a number of public special events throughout the year related to Jeffers’ life and work, including an annual Robinson Jeffers Fall Festival in October, featuring poetry readings and live music. Periodic Jeffers Talks are hosted at the Carmel Woman’s Club, and an annual Poetry Walk is held at Carmel River Beach. In May, a Garden Party offers tea and sandwiches and allows visitors to take photographs of the house and its grounds.
26304 Ocean View Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923, Phone: 831-624-1813