By Gary VanDeWalker
story: Gary VandeWalker
The Webbs' Siskiyou County Home
For some, looking across a field of brush and lava rock is an obstacle. For men like George Webb, it is an opportunity. As a young surveyor out of Redding, Webb was assisting with timber sales when he became familiar with the rugged landscapes of Siskyou County, and he fell in love with a piece of lava-strewn land. Over the years, Webb thought of his property and what it would take to build on it. Having worked with contractors, he gained invaluable skills which led him to consider building his own home. With a careful eye, Webb began to search for the materials he would need to build a unique home for his family.
The road to the house follows between constructed walls of lava rock. Paths line the property, leading to various outbuildings, all made out of native materials. A visitor is quick to assess the many hours Webb has spent just stacking rocks. The house stands on a small rise, looking north over the countryside. A two-story structure oversees the clever landscaping which uses metal headboards, a small pond and a bicycle built for two. Rough-hewn wooden doors are opened with the turn of an iron daisy wheel, which lifts the latch from inside and allows entry into the mud room. “The tile and brick, I was given and purchased from the leftovers of other jobs. All the glass for the house I bought for $10 a window when a glass company went out of business,” Webb says.
A wood stove, encased in rocks, radiates heat through the whole house in winter. Pictures of family smile down in greeting. Off the mudroom is a room with a hot tub. A ladder on the wall leads to a trapdoor in the ceiling, which gives way to a small guest room where books line the wall. “This was my wife, Thana’s, creation and is a favorite of guests,” he says.
The bottom floor is open. “I positioned the house so the south wall is filled with windows. In the summer, I have a huge roll-down shade to cool the house,” Webb says. Mt. Shasta fills the view. The walls are made with recycled lumber from various places in Northern California. Iron work supports large timbers, complimenting the black spiral staircase which leads to the loft. “My best find was the staircase. Originally, it was rescued from the rubble of a large fire in San Francisco. It was acquired by the Weed Saw Mill and I found it on a rubbish heap outside the mill,” Webb remarks. Made sometime in the 1880s, the staircase has been restored, standing diagonally across from the lamp post Webb rescued from McCloud, another logging town.
In the living room, a metal ladder ends halfway up the wall. Webb touches a button on the wall, and a large part of the upper walls begins to tilt, revealing his son Caleb’s room. Beneath is the downstairs bathroom, made of local stones with North Coast shells lodged in the mortar.
The Weed Mill gave Webb some of his most interesting pieces. Besides the large support timbers and ceramic insulators used as cabinet handles throughout the house, a large thick wooden door provides the exit from the kitchen. “This door used to be the soundproof door between the workers and the mill machinery. It was so thick, I had to cut it in half to make it manageable to be a door in the house,” Webb says.
The kitchen counters are made of clear resin, embedded with beautiful stones from across the United States, acquired from a local rock hound’s collection. A hand-painted saw hangs above the kitchen cabinets with the saying, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Along the opposite wall, a colorful quilt decorates the wall. “That was made by Thana’s great-grandmother.” Like the rest of the house, the quilt is made of different pieces of fabric gathered through the years, discordant at first glance, but when put together, a beautiful piece of art. “This quilt reminds me quite a bit of my house and the six years it took to build,” Webb says. “It’s a patchwork quilt inside my patchwork home. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”