Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Conifers go to the Fair

The 1915 California Nursery Company Catalog is a departure from the previous years' simpler text catalogs. It looks like something special is going on this year.  The front cover is beautifully designed. The catalog is filled with photos: Norfolk Island pines, Monkey Puzzle Trees, deodars, Irish Junipers, spruces, weeping Sequoia, and Irish Yew.  There are pictures of how the Spanish pines are dug and boxed. And that's only the first 15 pages of about 130 pages.

The Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened in 1915 and the California Nursery provided most of the palms and many other plants for the Exposition.

On one of the last pages of the 1915 catalog, the company proudly announces:

Medals and Certificates looked list this.

On the last page is this intriguing photo of their Medal of Honor exhibit:
"Our exhibit of 100 species and varieties of conifers
Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Awarded Medal of Honor"

Volume 4, Chapter LVIII, "A Garden of Exhibits", The Story of the exposition: "The California Nursery Company of Niles, California, made a wonderful exhibit of conifers in 93 varieties. This is one of the great orchard stock nurseries of the State, and its exhibits attracted much attention."

One hundred species of conifers are well displayed in the California Nursery Company exhibit. And not only that, it looks like there are two enormous redwoods in the middle of the exhibit. Where did those come from?

And what is that unusual building behind the California Nursery Exhibit? I really had to find out.

Solving the mystery of the log building

There are scads of PPIE publications - official, architectural, tourist, and souvenir booklets specific to industries like International Harvester. Google books has a good number of them.

After much enjoyable searching I found the next photo in the Redbook of Views of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

On the right hand side of this photo, is one of the giant redwoods seen in the California Nursery Company catalog picture. This photo is taken from the left side of the exhibit, apparently before the conifers were set up for the conifer exhibit. And now we get a better view of this building. The caption partially solved the mystery of the building. It is the "House of Hoo-Hoos". (If you are a little bit immature, like me, you probably find this an amusing name. I will tell you in a bit what it means, but for now, just read about this house.)
"In planning the Exhibit palaces of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, provision was not made for a Palace of Forestry, but a board of local lumbermen, all members of the lumbermen's social order, the Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo, decided to put up a building with the co-operation of other Pacific Coast lumbermen, which should combine the purposes of hospitality, exploitation of the Pacific Coast woods, and sociability among local lumbermen. The interior is as beautifully finished as the exterior is rough and unhewn."
Quite appropriately the lumbermen organization got an elegant rustic house of wood for the PPIE.

The Great Exposition: The Panama Pacific International Exposition show us the other side of the "House of the Hoo-Hoos" and this was taken after the California Nursery conifer exhibit was set up.
The caption on the picture is not very readable, but says something like this "This building which is one of the most artistic on the grounds was designed by B.R. Maybeck who also designed the Palace of Fine Arts. It is constructed as the outside of redwood and pine logs with enormous columns made of strips of redwood bark. The inside of the building is made of the different kinds of native and Coast woods, slightly polished but left in their natural colors. This is a meeting place for the lumbermen of the United States, who have an organization under the name of the "Concatenated Order of the Hoo-Hoos." The membership embraces all those who are associated with the lumber industry, work as mill men, supply men, and lumber newspaper men."
Now I was impressed, because B.R. Maybeck (Bernard Maybeck as he is better known now) is one of the best known Bay Area architects. His Palace of Fine Arts is one of the only remaining buildings from PPIE. It's a landmark and many of us passed by on our way to the Exploratorium for years.

So the California Nursery exhibit is in the front garden of Maybeck's House of the Hoo-Hoos!

Rustic building with classic design?

I kept thinking that this building looks very odd to me. And then it struck me. It looks like this House of Hoo-Hoo is a very fun rustic architectural nod to the Palace of Fine Arts. The building looks like a portion of the colonnade. Four columns of different tree species on the house of Hoo-Hoo are topped with a planter box of logs. We are only missing the weeping maidens. What do you think?
Palace of Fine Arts

Compare with this detail here from the SF Public Library.
Notice the cat logo above the door? 
That's the black cat of the International Concatentated Order of  Hoo-Hoo.

Ah ha, the book, 
The Architecture and Landscape Gardening of the Exposition,
also mentions the similarity.

What's a Hoo-Hoo?

Ok, now, you are still wondering what is a Hoo-hoo? It's not what you think and it's not that other thing either.

The International Concatentated Order of Hoo-Hoo is still around today and is one of the oldest service organizations formed for the benefit of the workers in the lumber industry. They are a serious organization, in spite of the names that their officers are given: Grand Snark of the Universe, Seer of the House of Ancients, and Supreme Hoo-Hoo, Senior Hoo-Hoo, Junior Hoo-Hoo, Scrivenoter, Bojum, Jabberwock, Custocatian, Arcanoper and Gurdon.

If you go to their official website and read their brochure, you will find out that the "term 'Hoo-Hoo' had been uttered for the first time only a month earlier by Johnson to describe an alarming tuft of hair that grew on top of the otherwise bald head of lumberman and friend, Charles H. McCarer, who later became Hoo-Hoo’s member #1 and the group’s first Snark."

Landscaping Plan

Amazingly, the plan for the landscaping around the House of Hoo-Hoo is available.
Landscape plan for the House of Hoo-Hoo from Calisphere
in the Bernard Maybeck Collection.
Click on the picture for larger image.
You can see those two really large redwood trunks
at the bottom of the plan.
See all of the plans for the Hoo-Hoo House on Calisphere.

Where can I see this House of Hoo-Hoo (100 years ago)?

Where was this fabulous building at PPIE? Thank goodness for panoramas, because I couldn't find it on a map. As you can see from this panorama photo from the Library of Congress, the House of Hoo-Hoo is almost directly in front (or behind) the Horticulture Palace. And you can see that the redwoods are really only the bottom portion.  That was clever picture taking, for sure, but those redwoods are still impressively large. Here's a snippet of the panorama:

This photo helped locate it on the Exposition map (or better, more complete map). Now that we know there is something called the House of Hoo-Hoo, we can see it is almost illegibly listed as the "Hoo-Hoo Bldg.", between the Redwood Building and the Sugar Pine Building.

Here's the portion of the map that contains the exhibit. You can see that these three buildings are nestled in an elbow of the giant iceplant hedge that runs from Baker to Pierce Street (more on that later, too).

What's there now?

No, I was not really hoping it would still be there, but this four-story building is at the corner of Chestnut and Broderick, approximately where the Hoo-Hoo House is located:

More and more on the Hoo-Hoo House as I get it. Check back later. A big hint is that the Hoo-Hoo House was dis-assembled, barged down to Alviso, moved to Monta Vista (now Cupertino), and enjoyed a couple more years of life as a roadhouse/dancehall/speakeasy? before burning down.

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