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House Built of Bridge Timbers in Big Sur

In 1968, I moved from Mill Valley to Big Sur and worked as foreman on a job building this house out of bridge timbers. The architect was George Brook-Kothlow. George had purchased all the bridge timbers from the town of Duncan’s Mills on the Russian River; they tore down the redwood bridge to build one of concrete, and George had hand-hewn 12 × 12 posts, 16-foot-long 6-by-16s and 16-foot-long 8-by-22s.

Carpenters Paul and Seth Wingate went down with me and we lived on the site, Rancho Rico, a 400-acre ranch with two private beaches. We remodeled some chicken coops for living quarters.

I spent about a year on the project. It was a struggle. We had to splice together two 2-by-8s for the 32-foot-long rafters, and lift them into place with a boom on the back of the ranch backhoe. There were 11 concrete pours for the foundation, each one coming 40 miles down the winding coast from Monterey. I quit after we got the building framed.

About 10 years ago, I went down for a visit. The family had moved into the chicken coops and they were renting the house for $13,000 a month.

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