MAPQUEST won't be able to find it. The mail carrier may ignore it. But who wouldn't want to be invited to Wit's End, Best Rx or even a place called Somewhere?
Giving a house a name adds instant character and is a winsome tradition in many laid-back beach towns. Long before some surfside communities had streets and addresses, houses just had names. Seasonal cottages often were slapped together in a few weeks, furnished with castoffs and bestowed with playful monikers that poked fun at the architectural styles -- quite unlike the serious name game that goes on with grandiose estates.
One of the oldest beach shacks on Balboa Island, the ivy-wrapped Toyon Boat Club, looks like something from "Gilligan's Island." On the other side of the island is the Widow's Watch House, a turreted wooden structure that has a female mannequin mournfully looking at Newport Bay.
Names have been descriptive: Petite Maison or Jam Inn. Garden inspired: Rose Cottage or Bougin Villa. Mysterious: Lucky Strike or EEEE (translation: "For Ease"). Historical: Aero, a nod to an ancestral home in Aeroskobing, Denmark.
"You name things that you have an affection for," says Mary Hardesty, who moved to Balboa Island in 1969 and lives in a white stucco cottage with steeples called the Fairytale House. "These homes have a spirit, their own personality. When I first came over the bridge onto Balboa Island in my teens I thought I had arrived on Main Street, Disneyland because I was taken by the whimsy of storefronts and clever storybook houses."
Her 1940 black-pitched cottage, which seems straight from the tales of the Brothers Grimm, has a ceramic plate near the front door that reads "Dream: Fairytale House" and another plaque on the rear apartment promises "Fairytale Continued."
Some of the names, like the houses, have been passed on through generations. But when Ray and Jeannie Gerbi decided to live full time on the island in 2001, they bulldozed her parents' rickety two-story known as the Dock, which teetered over a long sandy frontyard. In its place, they built a three-story house with a tower and porthole windows that they named the Lighthouse. The sobriquet is on a ceramic nameplate near the front door and is also printed on the couple's personal calling cards and envelopes. Some homeowners put their house's name on brass, slate or wood nameplates, invitations, napkins, even checks.
Bob McCaffrey is just moving into Casa Revilo, his new Spanish Revival villa on the island. He spent years looking for the right tile for the winding staircase, the grand courtyard and the letters that spell out the name that appears above the front door.
The name has a story, of course: In 1945, his parents rented a beach trailer in Huntington Beach, and sickly Bob gained 10 pounds over the summer. His parents then borrowed $500 for a down payment on a Newport Beach house that was a former bordello. "It serviced the roustabouts who worked in the oil fields in West Newport," he says. Etched into glass on the front door was the name, Casa Revilo. McCaffrey says he was told by his parents that it means "House of Revelry."
He saved the glass when the house was torn down and hung it over his living room fireplace. "It is the theme for this new house," he says. "A little bit of old history still lives in Newport Beach."
W.S. Collins, who dredged and created the island in 1906, built the Castle, a concrete rook for one of his four wives and the elegant White Swan for another.
In the 1920s and '30s, city escapees and set designers working on movies filmed on the island lived in makeshift chalets, thatched huts and log cabins. They sometimes painted names -- Eat-a-lot Inn, Done Movin', Whodathunkit and Wee Bit Hoosie -- across facades, making it easier for visitors to spot from the water.
In 1927, Balboa Island and other areas of Newport Beach were required by the city to use street numbers to receive mail. As one story in The Times read: "No longer will a house be known only by its cleverly worded motto or name painted, scratched, dug or gouged on a piece of rustic wood, and nailed over the door." So the post office no longer recognized Resthaven, Kewpie Cottage, Ramboo Lafalot, Driftwood and other houses without an address. But residents did.
Tagging houses with witty names, according to longtime residents and news clips, was a gentle poke at bluebloods who gave their estates self-aggrandizing titles such as tobacco magnate Richard J. Reynolds' Reynolda in Winston-Salem, N.C., and George Vanderbilt's Biltmore in Asheville, N.C.
The Balboa Island version of honoring a family name with a house? The Last family's cottage was the Last Resort; the Brooks family's was Babbling Brooks.
Janet Eastman can be reached at janet.Eastman@latimes.com
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For some ideas about nameplates and where to find them: