Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title]. Gabriel Moulin, photog.
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].
Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].

Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara Co., California. James D Phelan [cover title].

San Francisco, California,1921. Oblong 4to (230 x 315mm) photo album, full pebbled brown leather. 43 silver-prints, each 185 x 240mm plus margins; period inscription reading “Villa Montalvo, Santa Clara County, California. September 1921. James D Phelan” on flyleaf.

California politician James D. Phelan’s personal house-portrait photo album, capturing his stunning Santa Clara County estate.

Designed by architects William Curlett and Charles Gottschalk, Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California, was built between 1912–1914 for James Duval Phelan (1861–1930), a politician, civic leader, banker, and the first U. S. Senator to be elected by popular vote in California, serving between 1915–1921. A three-time progressive mayor of San Francisco (1897–1902) prior to his role as Senator, Phelan was also a noted patron of the arts. Throughout his life, he offered generous personal and financial support to numerous artists, writers, and cultural figures, such as poet George Sterling, author Gertrude Atherton, novelist Jack London, actor Douglas Fairbanks, and sculptor Douglas Tilden—many of whom he entertained at his estate. Phelan was especially fond of Mediterranean culture and California’s Spanish heritage; he would name his Villa after the 16th century Spanish writer Garci Ordonez de Montalvo who coined the name “California.” On the other hand, Phelan was also an anti-Japanese racist. The centerpiece of his unsuccessful 1920 reelection campaign was the slogan “Keep California White”; and upon America’s alliance with Japan in 1919 during WWI he would publicly speak out against the “Yellow Peril.” He would continue to participate in the anti-Japanese movement following his tenure in public office.

The album offered here contains forty-three handsome photographs of Villa Montalvo during Phelan’s residence and is Phelan’s personal copy, featuring his gilt-stamped name on the front cover and his ownership inscription and signature on the front free-endpaper. Phelan’s Villa is in the Italian Mediterranean Revival style and is located in the foothills of Santa Cruz Mountains, boasting beautiful views, a handful of large structures, a pool, sculptures, gardens, and more. Several of the photos in this album feature Phelan socializing with visitors, inspecting his garden, and going on walks with his dog.

Following Phelan’s death, his estate was donated to California as a park. Today Villa Montalvo operates as a private, non-profit arts center under the name of The Montalvo Arts Center. Starting in 1939, the Center began offering artist residencies; in 1978, the mansion become a historic landmark and is now included in the National Register of Historic Places.

The photos in this album are credited to Gabriel Moulin (1872–1945), an eminent and innovative California photographer who was the official photographer for the Bohemian Club and whose subjects include the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which Phelan was involved in addressing as a member of the Committee of Fifty created in its immediate aftermath.

A celebrated retreat, Phelan’s house was the subject of a poem by George Sterling, At Villa Montalvo:

The hills go down to the east and the hills go

up to the west,

And here between bay and ocean is a place

where men may rest;

But the clouds and the winds they pass and the

waters change and flow,

And Beauty, even when captive, seems ever

about to go.

A fine album documenting the remarkable residence of this important California politician and patron of the arts.

CONDITION: Good, edges rubbed with some cracking, contents fine.

REFERNCES: O’Keefe, Timothy J. and James P. Walsh. Legacy of a Native Son. (Portales, New Mexico, 1993), pp. 209–231; Views of "The Pines" Estate by Gabriel Moulin, ca. 1927 at oac.cdlib.org

Item #4503

Price: $2,750.00

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