Rockledge, Fred Briggs Architect, 1975

Original plans from the hand drawn era

Original plans from the hand drawn era

Construction of concrete structure, framing and deck beams being installed, 1975

Construction of concrete structure, framing and deck beams being installed, 1975

Deck reconstruction and resealing of Mahogany wood siding, 1999

Deck reconstruction and resealing of Mahogany wood siding, 1999

Ramp to move 35 foot beam weighing 1500 pounds down to deck level

Ramp to move 35 foot beam weighing 1500 pounds down to deck level

Beam set in place with three hand lifts that are supported by thirty foot of scaffolding below

Beam set in place with three hand lifts that are supported by thirty foot of scaffolding below

New 2 1/2 inch thick Teak decking being installed with weatherproof blind connection from below

New 2 1/2 inch thick Teak decking being installed with weatherproof blind connection from below

Installation under way

Installation under way

Completed deck and glass rail with Mahogany resealed, 1999

Completed deck and glass rail with Mahogany resealed, 1999

Recent photo from the Villa Rockledge 

Recent photo from the Villa Rockledge 

I was cleaning my shop the other day and came across this set of plans. 

It was 1975 and I was the youngest man on a crew of forty that built the Boyd Jeffries house. It was designed by Fred Briggs and was one of the largest houses being built on the California coast at the time. It was a hard edged modern design with no trim. The glass was run into formed channels in the concrete vertical columns rather than using traditional glass stops. The concrete forms were lined with 1X6 clear re-sawn western cedar to give the concrete a wood texture. 

The wood siding was Mahogany and the window and doors were Teak and also storefront anodized aluminum. 

There were twenty craftsman working on placing the rebar and pouring the concrete. There were another twenty craftsman building the forms, lining them with the 1X6 cedar and setting the forms and then stripping them after the pour. 

The concrete work and framing were done to perfection and all work was checked with string lines and spacer block gauges so that the work was within no more than 1/16" variation in 50'+ runs. 

The general contractor was Harry Wanket out of San Diego County and he specialized in building very large houses. 

There was an on site wood shop with complete milling operations for both the Teak and the Mahagony as the Teak dulled the blades due to a high sand content. 

Working with this crew was a great opportunity as a young craftsman and taught me early in my career as a carpenter and future builder the techniques to build to the exacting standards necessary to build the incredible modern houses that are being designed today. 

That was 1975 and I was 21 years old. 

Then 26 years later I was called by a construction management company out of Utah to come repair the automatic Teak car gate. They had been referred to me and heard I was knowlegable about Teak. 

Once I was on the site fixing the gate they asked if I could repair / replace the 2,000 square foot deck that sat 35 feet above the beach. I had been a part of the crew that set these beams and the 2 1/2" X 5 1/2" Teak boards to make the deck in 1975. 

This was now 1999 and the deck was over 25 years old. The glu-lam beams had rotted like all deck joists do but these were 6X24 and 6X36 beams that we had set with our yard crane when the job was built.

I thought about how to do the job for several days. 

I considered a large crane from the highway but decided against trying to work with Cal Trans and close a lane for several days. 

We considered a barge from the ocean and a helicopter. 

I then talked to the neighbor to the north in the old Villa Rockledge. I proposed I remove a row of his pine trees to get the crane down off the highway and on to a shared back driveway and then plant new trees when we were done. It was going to work, but then he decided against it. 

So I went back to all I learned from the old timers I had worked with and built a ramp from the back driveway down to the deck area. We built a scaffold up from the beach to satisfy the new safety requirements that have changed quite a bit since we built the deck in 1975. 

The lumber truck delivered the beams to the lower driveway, we slid them onto the ramp and eased them down the ramp and rolled them onto 3 hand cranes, or Genie Lifts, that can each lift 500 pounds and lifted the biggest 35' beam into place. It weighed 1500 pounds. 

We then attached a continuous stainless steel "L" angle to the side of the beams and the bottom of the decking to make the connection from below  resist the water intrusion that had caused the beams to rot.  

Prior to attaching the Teak down, we ran Bituthene rubber that covered the top of the beam and the angles on each side and about 1/2" more to create a cover so that the water would not work it's way into the structural beams or the Teak decking as it had before. 

It was a real treat to be back working on that site and reliving all the memories of the initial construction. 

I recently toured Villa Rockledge and was able to get some current photos of the house. 

About 15 years ago I was able to work with Fred Briggs again remodeling the first house he designed when he graduated from USC Architecture School. 

It was a very small house in Corona Del Mar but was treated as just as important as all the big jobs he had done. He had Jana Ruzicka design the landscaping and Claire Robinson design the interiors. The owner was the librarian from USC and I remember talking to her about the break up of the USSR as that was just about to happen. 

I always learn many thing on many levels working on these jobs. 

The one thing Fred kept repeating to me as we were working on the little job, that really stuck with me, was "defer, defer, defer. Always defer to the architect". 

But I already knew that from the Rockledge job.