unemployment insurance and library cards


The Adamson House is located next to the Malibu Lagoon in Malibu, CA. From Wikipedia:

The Adamson House and its associated land, which was known as Vaquero Hill in the nineteenth century, is a historic house and gardens in Malibu, California that has been called the “Taj Mahal of Tile” due to its extensive use of decorative ceramic tiles created by Rufus Keeler of Malibu Potteries.

The house, built in 1930, is a combination of Spanish Colonial Revival and Moorish Revival styles. It was built for Rhoda Rindge Adamson and Merritt Huntley Adamson.

I took some pictures and tried my best to remember the narrative of my slightly cantankerous tour guide.


Rhoda Rindge was the daughter of Frederick Hastings Rindge, a wealthy Boston businessman who relocated to Los Angeles. The Frederick Hastings Rindge House (shown below) located in the West Adams district of Los Angeles was built in 1904 and is also listed on the National Register of Historic places (1986), just like the Adamson House (1977).

click to embiggen


Frederick Hastings Rindge bought the Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit, a 13,316-acre Spanish land grant, in 1891. Adding more acreage, he eventually ended up with the Rindge Ranch. When he bought the land, he paid about $10 an acre. Thirty years later, it became the most valuable single real estate holding in the United States. Today, it is the city of Malibu (and then some).


At that time, there were no roads to Malibu. Everyone and everything came by horseback, boat, or horse-drawn wagon over packed sand, at low tide. Rindge incorporated his own railway line in 1903 to bring in supplies and ship out hides and grain.
Frederick died in 1905 at the age of 48. His wife, May Knight Rindge, took over the ranch.
For the next 20 years, May tried to keep Malibu a private estate by vigorously fighting any attempts to build public roads through the property. Lawsuits are expensive, and soon, May was greatly in need of money. She found clay on her property while searching for oil and founded Malibu Potteries in 1926 as a source of income.


The factory was run by Rufus Keeler, an innovative ceramic engineer, who worked with local artisans to design decorative art tile, employing more than 100 persons in the late 1920s. Malibu Potteries was highly influential, producing authentic versions of Mayan, Moorish, Moroccan, Saracen, and Persian designs.

Eventually, May lost the fight to keep out the public when the county and state obtained a right-of-way, and the Roosevelt Highway, now the Pacific Coast Highway, opened in 1926.


May gave her only daughter, Rhoda, thirteen acres from the ranch and Rhoda decided to build a beach house for her family which would eventually become their permanent home.
Many of the house’s windows were crown-glass windows set in lead frames for an aged look. Crown glass was one of the two most common processes for making window glass until the 19th century at which point machine manufactured plate glass became economical and there was no need for handblown window glass.
The Adamson House was built during the peak years of Malibu Potteries (which was located less than a mile east of the house) and the signature brightly colored tiles are in every room of the house, whether on the floor, as wall trim, embedded in ceilings, on tables and countertops, in sinks, tubs, or even on clocks.
Rhoda ran an efficient house on tight schedule and her children were expected to be exceptionally punctual.
Meal times of exactly 7:00 a.m., noon, and 6:00 p.m. were strictly enforced. Once the family had all gathered in the dining room and were seated, Rhoda would press a button on the floor with her foot. This would alert the kitchen the family was ready to be served.
Since the children were not allowed in the kitchen, a tiny “snack kitchen” was built for them on the second floor, next to their bedrooms. If they were hungry outside of meal hours, they could fix themselves something to eat. The snack kitchen had a tiny stove, tiny sink, tiny icebox, and was tiled in mint-green.
This “Persian rug” is incredibly detailed and includes pieces of tiled fringe.
Certain tiles and tile items were produced solely for the house. Rhoda Rindge had two daughters and a son. The girls’ bathrooms were tiled floor to ceiling in floral tiles and tiles with coral tree designs. Her son’s bathroom was tiled in blue with custom-made tiles depicting different ships to reflect his love of boats, which he picked up from his father.
Different minerals were used to color the tiles. Cobalt for blue, copper for green, and iron for various shades of yellow and brown, among others.
In the Adamson kitchen, the vibrant red tiles were colored by uranium.
According to the guide, if you put a geiger counter up the red tiles, you will get a few “clicks” but it has been determined the radioactivity levels are not high enough to threaten health.
(You can read about radioactive Fiestaware, if you like.)


A fire destroyed large areas of the tile factory in 1931. The Depression happened soon after. In 1932 Malibu Potteries closed permanently, after having been open only six years.



Malibu Potteries tile were used in City Hall, the Mayan Theater, Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Malibu Potteries tile is still popular with collectors and designers. Original Malibu Potteries tiles seem to average about $150 per tile. These days, there are many modern workshops that produce tiles in the style should you want to tile the heck outta your little bit of home heaven (I wish I could afford it).

The courtyard and fountain below show the Moorish Revival style.



We didn’t get to go into the courtyard so here is a Wikipedia photograph of the fountain from the front. You can see another star-shaped fountain in the back, off to the right. I didn’t get a picture of that one, either, but it was lovely as well.



Rhoda Rindge’s husband Merritt Adamson who, by the way, founded Adohr Farms (Adohr is “Rhoda” spelled backwards), one of the largest dairies in the country, died in 1941 at age 61. Rhoda took over the business and continued living in the house until she died in 1962 at age 69. Her heirs planned to build a resort on the grounds while preserving the house as a historical site. The state filed eminent domain in 1966 and bought the property for $2.69 million with plans to demolish the house for a beach parking lot.

Various historical associations battled against the state for the next ten years to preserve the house.

When the state bought the property, the house’s furnishings, down to its drapes, books, and knickknacks were included. All these items were catalogued and packed into storage while the house’s fate had not yet been decided. During the wait, the house was leased to Pepperdine University as a residence for its chancellor (the Adamson-Rindge heirs had given 138 acres to Pepperdine for their Malibu campus).



In 1976, preservationists won a victory when Herbert Rhodes, the director of the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation, overruled staff recommendations to use the land for beach parking and recommended preservation of the entire property. Money donated by Sylvia Rindge Adamson Neville, a granddaughter of Frederick Rindge, and the Malibu Historical Society helped pay for restoration.



Related Posts along the Pacific Coast


thanks to Wikipedia, AdamsonHouse.org, and the Internet for the fun facts
yeah, it’s travel week over here
come along, why don’t you

4 Replies to “unemployment insurance and library cards”

  1. Love this piece. One of many places I enjoyed during days as a student of architecture. Thanks for bringing back memories!

Comments are closed.