...Continued from Part 1
to Part 1 ---
From an architectural standpoint,
there was plenty of open space in this low-density semiagrarian
environment. That may be the reason that Witmer & Watson
decided upon a Mediterranean plan of a type which basically goes back
to Classical times. This consists of two contiguous rectilinear
courts (figs. 3 & 4) enclosed by colonnaded porches around their
entire periphery--i.e., cloisters (frontispiece). The plan lent
itself perfectly to southern California's sunny climate where people
need architecture that mingles them with elements.
4. 1947 aerial photograph of the
School (Krump 1947).
Entrance to the courts is by way
of an arched opening in the center of the W.7th Street elevation
(figs. 5 and 6) and by way of arched east-west oriented passageways
at each of the four corners. All arches open into
barrel-vaulted passageways which connect with the cloisters on the
interior courtyards. However, the barrel vault of the central
main entryway opens to a groin-vaulted, gable-roofed bay on the
interior court. This bay interrupts the repetition of the
cloisters and serves to accentuate the location of the main entry
from within the southern courtyard (fig. 7). Each entry is
secured by wrought iron grille gates designed according to
specifications in the original plans (fig. 8).
Figure 5. Main entry arch on 7th St. Passageway leads to
The eaves of the gable roofs
which cover the wings are extended on the interior (courtyard) sides
to cover the "cloisters" (the term used by Witmer &
Watson) or canopy-covered colonnades. The roof covering
consists of Spanish "S" tiles. Roofs covering
interior spaces are sheathed under the tile but the cloister canopies
have no sheathing except under arches, passageways to the outside,
and the proscenium or stage in the southern court. Otherwise,
the tiles of the canopies were simply nailed to rafter and "sleeper"
Figure 6. Northwesterly view of the southern elevation of the
Fenestration consists of various
configurations of industrial steel sashes containing wire-reinforced
panes. Outer walls contain expansive multi-light industrial
sashes with operable awning segments (fig. 9). Cloisters
contain small steel sashes placed high on the walls. Round
apertures, typical of Witmer & Watson structures, decorate the
Figure 7. Main entrance to southern courtyard looking
northern and southern courtyards are separated by a central E-W row
of classrooms. Most of the northern courtyard is filled by a
T-shaped building which houses separate girls and boys showers and
dressing rooms (Alva 1999:pers.comm.). Because the entire
school is gable-roofed except for the deck-roofed T-shaped building,
the latter looks somewhat out of place. It's placement within
the middle of the northern courtyard is also curious. These
factors led Degenkolb to think that the T-shaped building is a later
addition (Degenkolb 1997:6). However, Witmer & Watson's
plans show that the T-shaped building is original.
8. Drawing of wrought iron grille gates
from the original
Witmer and Watson plans.
very pleasant feature of the central E-W wing is an outdoor
proscenium set into the center of the cloister directly opposite the
main entry (fig. 10). The stage is framed by Doric capped
pilasters and flanked by bays, the interiors of which are lit only by
rectangular masonry grilles (fig. 11; another favorite element of
Witmer & Watson). The bays could be used to shelter
speakers or performers from the audience until they were due on
grade of the Ramona School has been aptly summarized by Degenkolb
building, rectangular in plan with long one-story wings surrounding
enclosed courtyards, is ...very reminiscent of the California
Missions. The floor and roof levels of the east and west wings
of the building step up in one foot intervals as one moves north, so
that the north wing of the complex is approximately two feet higher
than the south wing." (Ibid. 5).
Figure 9. West elevation of school showing industrial steel
& Watson's plans show that the foundations of the school comprise
poured concrete footings reinforced with 5/8" steel rods.
The floors of the rooms consist of reinforced concrete slabs.
Exterior walls and all supporting walls are built of 8" concrete
"stone tiles" or concrete bricks, each containing two
hollows or "mullions," laid in alternating header and
stretcher courses. At three-foot intervals, 1/2"
steel rods were placed in the mullions which were then filled with
concrete. The rods connected with the footing reinforcement on
the bottom and the continuous tie beam that capped the walls at the
top. The texture of the mortar is very gritty and this,
combined with texture of the cement bricks, conveys a strong
impression of adobe construction. This is a good example of how
Witmer & Watson used concrete construction to mimic a traditional
Figure 10. Stage in center of northern wing of southern
courtyard looking northwest.
special interest are the arches of the passageways which comprise
steel reinforced poured concrete arches which spring from the stone
tile walls (fig. 12). These arches serve not only as
passageways but also as discrete buttresses. In classic Witmer
style (see below), the form board marks in the concrete have been
left showing. The board marks blend with the courses of stone
tiles so that the fact the arches are poured panels is hardly
Figure 11. Photograph of proscenium (stage) showing
belfry (Hill 1929).
second interesting concrete feature of the school comprises the
gables which, like the arches, exhibit strongly showing form board
marks to make the gables appear to be continuations of the stone tile
courses of the walls. Finally, a reinforced concrete bond beam
caps all of the masonry walls. Together with the arches and
reinforced stone tile walls, these features have given the school the
structural integrity to withstand the effects of settling and seismic
activity for more than 75 years. Apparently, several cracks in
the corridor floors are the only damage the building has sustained
from seismic factors.
Figure 12. Reinforced concrete arch entry to proscenium
Note doric cap on pilaster and form marks in
concrete above arch.
continue to Part 3 ---