The Fantasies of Ole Hanson, San Clemente's Founding Father
On top of a bluff in San Clemente, the former mansion known as Casa Romantica stands as history, metaphor and a mirage.
An Andalusian arch frames the front entrance. Whitewashed stucco walls and Spanish-style red tile roofing surround a resplendent courtyard that played host to concerts, movie nights and wedding receptions in better times. A back terrace offers a picturesque view of the San Clemente Pier, a sought-after backdrop for newlyweds. To enjoy its splendor amid a pandemic, a sign advises guests to wear a facemask, sanitize their hands, and keep six feet apart.
Casa Romantica is the lodestone of San Clemente, the landmark that embodies the South Orange County city’s grandiose sense of self. By law, its first residents lived in homes similarly fashioned in its Spanish Revival style, the architectural genre that imagined a California where Mexicans didn’t exist but their fiestas and señoritas did.
Read more on my long-form history article for Gustavo Arellano's Weekly: