Tor House and Hawk Tower – Carmel-by-the-Sea, California - Atlas Obscura

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Tor House and Hawk Tower

One poet's handmade, anachronistic home. 

Nestled between the golf courses and swanky homes of Carmel, California is a home that is both striking and strikingly out of place: a stone house reminiscent of an English Tudor cottage, with a two-story stone tower, almost cartoon-like because of the giant stones, standing alone in the center of the garden.

This house and tower were built by a poet named Robinson Jeffers in the 1920’s. He chose the rugged, wind-battered but beautiful coastal land to settle with his wife Una and their two sons. Robinson decided to be the apprentice to the contractor of the house so that he could build the tower by himself. He collected the stones from the beach below his house. The end result was passionate, irregular, and rather heroic.

Robinson Jeffers’ wrote mostly about nature. Carmel-by-the-Sea, sparsely inhabited at that time- and next to the wild, untamed mountains of Big Sur was the homestead he needed for continued inspiration.

It was in the house that Jeffers wrote much of his poetry, including a famous poem called Tor House, an ode to “the wild sea-fragrance of wind,” “sea-worn granite,” and “evenings strung in the throat of the valley like a lamp-lighted bridge.” Jeffers left his legacy in words and stones, writing that his ghost is nestled between the granite rocks of Tor house: “my ghost you needn’t look for; it is probably Here, but a dark one, deep in the granite.”

Take a tour of Tor house and join the ranks of the like of those who have visited before you: Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, George Gershwin and Charlie Chaplin.

Know Before You Go

Traveling on Highway 1 south to Carmel, go past the Carmel exits to Rio Road and make a right-hand turn onto Rio Road. Follow Rio Road about ½ mile past the Carmel Mission. The second street after the Carmel Mission is Santa Lucia. Make a left-hand turn onto Santa Lucia. Follow Santa Lucia all the way down to the ocean until you come to Bay View Avenue and make a left-hand turn onto Bay View Avenue. Follow Bay View Avenue three blocks to the end and make another left-hand turn onto Ocean View Avenue. Follow Ocean View Avenue about 100 yards. On the right side of the road, you will find Tor House at 26304 Ocean View Avenue. You can park in the neighborhood. Walk up the open gated driveway to Tor House. The tours start in the Docent Office next to the garage. The tours start promptly on the hour.