Casa Tierra--House of Earth--Exhibit
Casa Tierra, House of Earth—a new exhibit opened July 28 at the Saratoga History Museum. The Saratoga house is 13000 square feet and is the largest non-secular adobe house in North America. The unique house was built from handmade bricks from the earth it stands on by two women in 1941. The exhibit will run from July 28-November 12.
The house is located on Quito Road and is listed on Saratoga’s heritage resource inventory.
Maude Meagher, 46 and Carolyn Smiley, 51 came to Saratoga in 1941 seeking a new home to live in and a place to publish their children’s magazine World Youth. They had successfully launched and published the magazine in 1936 in Boston for five years and decided to move west.
They liked the land they saw in Saratoga and purchased two acres on Quito Road. At that time the land was surrounded by orchards. Using string and stakes made from a crate of oranges they plotted the house they wanted to build. The earth was bulldozed and soon earth mixed with straw, water and oil in a mixing machine made from an old Studebaker stripped of parts and began to make bricks. The earth was hand shaped into bricks 18x12x4 and weighed approximately 75 pounds! It took five years to complete the house. Two local men helped lay the foundation for the home.
The over 800 windows provide natural light for the house. Because of the number and irregular size of the windows, the women chose discontinued plate glass windshields from a junkyard. Using a glass cutter, they hand cut the glass needed for the windows.
Over 23,000 handmade roof tiles were used to cover Casa Tierra. These tiles were the last of the replacement tiles used on California’s Spanish missions. The replacement tiles are almost identical to those original tiles made by the Native Americans. Under direction of the Spanish builders, Native American women would form the original mission tiles on their thighs. This gave the tiles a shape of wide at one end and narrow on the other.
The Saratoga History Museum is located at 20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road in Saratoga. The museum is open from 1-4 PM Friday and Sunday and from 10-4 PM on Saturday. Admittance is free.