The history of California is—naturally—one of land development and real-estate speculation. In the early 1900s, Ole Hanson, former mayor of Seattle, envisioned a utopian city by the sea while travelling between San Diego and Los Angeles by train. Twenty-five years later, Hanson—the son of Norwegian immigrants—purchased the same 2,000 acres of land to develop San Clemente, the first master-planned community in Orange County.
Hanson described "a place where people can live together more pleasantly than any other place in America. I am going to build a beautiful city on the ocean where the city will be one great park; the architecture will be of all one type, and the homes will be located on sites where nearly everyone will have his wonderful view preserved forever." He immediately began work on a housing development, a clubhouse, buildings for offices and restaurants, and park trails. And in 1927, he commissioned Carl Lindbom (the architect of La Casa Pacifica, Nixon's Western White House) to design Casa Romantica, Hanson's seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom house overlooking the Pacific.
Today, Casa Romantica is south OC's first cultural center and hosts a diverse array of public programming: school-outreach initiatives, artistic workshops and a library program. The center also hosts the Casa Romantica Poetry Series, a monthly event featuring distinguished poets and novelists from OC and beyond. This month: NEA award winner Dean Bakopoulos, a novelist and essayist whose work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Believer and other publications.
Dean Bakopoulos at the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, 415 Ave. Granada, San Clemente, (949) 498-8720; www.casaromantica.org. Wed., 7 p.m. Free.