A Night I Will Never Forget

The first time I met Randell Makinson I didn’t even notice him.

It was February 17, 1988, and he was standing at the front desk in the Great Hall at the Grove Park Inn.

All I could do was stare at his briefcase.

It was handcrafted from mahogany and assembled with square ebony pegs. It looked as if it had been designed by Charles and Henry Greene for David B. Gamble, heir to the Proctor & Gamble fortune, for whom in 1908 the two brothers had designed and furnished what is now known as one of the “ultimate bungalows” — the Gamble House.

In 1988, Randell was the executive director of the Gamble House, a designated historic landmark which under his direction had been carefully preserved and restored. Along the way it had become, along with the Roycroft Campus, Craftsman Farms, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio, and the Grove Park Inn, an Arts and Crafts mecca. A destination all Arts and Crafts devotees someday hoped to visit.

Randell had journeyed from Pasadena to Asheville for the inaugural Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference, despite having no idea what to expect either from the hotel or the conference organizer. In his characteristic fashion, Randell enthusiastically agreed to serve as a moderator of a round table discussion entitled “The Struggle To Preserve Our Arts and Crafts Heritage,” capping off a successful weekend that has since continued for the past 26 years.

Before leaving Randell pulled me aside, handed me his business card, and asked me to call him anytime I would be headed to Pasadena. Two years later I picked up the phone and called him. “That’s wonderful,” he beamed. “I’ll meet you at the house.”

Of course, he meant the Gamble House.

As I stepped out of the cab with my overnight bag in hand, I was simply overwhelmed by the site of the Gamble House, spread across the rolling lawn, its iconic, low roof line, sleeping porches, outdoor terraces, bands of windows, and shingled exterior stating quite simply and directly, “This is an Arts and Crafts bungalow.”

Randell met me at the front doors (there are three of them, each filled with stained glass panels depicting the spreading branches of a eucalyptus tree), and immediately showed me to a small bedroom off to the side where, I assumed, the tour would begin. Instead he said, “This is your room for the night.”

It was getting late in the day, so Randell introduced me to Hugh, the University of Southern California graduate student who was the night watchman and who slept in a small bedroom in the basement. After a brief dinner, Randell brought me back to my room, one that had originally been a bedroom and bath for one of the Gamble family’s domestic staff, and said as he was leaving, “Make yourself at home, and just go anywhere you want.”

And there I stood, in the grand foyer of the Gamble House, all alone for the night.

I slipped off my shoes and for the rest of the night padded around in my stocking feet, marveling at the craftsmanship inherent in every post, beam, window, mantle, stairway and piece of trim, not to mention all of the original Greene and Greene furniture. I never saw Hugh, and have no idea if he was able to track my whereabouts or not. A few times I made myself lie down in the bed, but sleep was impossible. Each time I soon arose and padded back out into yet another room, sensing that this was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Dawn found me on one of the second floor outdoor terraces overlooking the valley below. A short while later the brief blast from a horn signaled the arrival of my cab. I let Hugh know I was leaving, and walked back down the path to the street, knowing that this had been a journey I would never forget.

Thank you, Randell.

For everything you have given all of us,

And for a night I will never forget.

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!


Photo credits: Forbes.com. and GambleHouse.org.