Fawnskin History: Architectural Roots & Town Motto

Above: Postcard of Grout Bridge in Fawnskin

The following article is part of a new series in the Fawnskin Flyer. Today Fawnskin remains home to a large number of artisans–which seems to mirror the early history of the town. You’ll discover the “sister community” that inspired some of the flair found in Fawnskin and also learn the early motto of the residents who called themselves “Fawnskin Folks.”

One of my favorite things to do in Fawnskin is to take a stroll and look at the architecture of the older homes and buildings. The styles of the older cabins are uniquely beautiful and often not seen in other parts of the valley.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times and Fawnskin Folks (1924) these designs were not by accident. The design of the homes, the town’s businesses and even the Theater of the Stars came from a western town in New York.

According to one newspaper article, two musical composers, Arthur Farewell and Fannie Dillon, had composed some of their best work in Fawnskin. It was from their great success that the idea of having Fawnskin become a community similar to the western town of Chautauqua, New York became a reality.

Lewis Miller and Dr. John Heyl Vincent, a Methodist minister, founded Chautauqua (1874), now Chautauqua Institution, a summer retreat for the arts and continuing education near Lake Chautauqua in New York.

Above: Arches leading into the Chautauqua Amphitheater Ravine in New York

As one of the first non-profit communities, they believed that everyone should have access to the arts, not just the wealthy. Every summer they would have concerts and speakers.

Trivia: Mr. Miller’s daughter Mina, was married to Thomas Edison and had a home in Chautauqua.

The community of Chautauqua has many different types of buildings and homes. One of the public areas looks like it could be in Fawnskin, with its tree branch rails and rustic appearance. This style and community spirit would serve as the design for the new town of Fawnskin.

The developers of Fawnskin, Cline and Miller, and later Waybright and Thompson, became committed to this idea. They hired Farewell upon Dillon’s suggestion, to select the site and direct the performances for the Outdoor Theater. The residents of Fawnskin were proud of their little artist colony and new theater.

Above: Miller Park in Chautauqua, New York

The first residents wanted the designs of the homes and businesses to reflect the spirit of the colony. The design was so important to these residents that they began an architectural department for the town.

Fawnskin Folks took the time to remind home and businesses owners that Fawnskin was a distinctly artistic community and that all homes/businesses must be in harmony with this ideal.

At the time there were three styles of suggested siding for the exterior, vertical, horizontal logs and board and bat. Many of these early homes still exist today.

The Fawnskin founders also had a slogan that I think represents the spirit of the town both past and present, “It shall be done.”

Next time, the town developers, William Cline and Clinton Miller what a legacy they have left behind for all of the current residents of Fawnskin.

About the Contributor: Eileen Downey bought a home in Fawnskin as a retreat from the fast pace of the big city. Living here she has found inspiration, a renewed spirit, an endless amount of creativity and curiosity. Off the mountain, Eileen is an elementary teacher for children with autism but for the last three years, her passionate hobby has been to collect, read, and sort through the history of Fawnskin and its founding settlers. She hopes you will enjoy her series and be inspired by the first Fawnskin residents who called themselves “Fawnskin Folks.”

If you have any additional information you would like to share, or have questions about the history of Fawnskin, please comment below.



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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 3rd, 2008 and is filed under Fawnskin Folk, Fawnskin History, Mountain Lake Resort.

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