My interests are historical
railroads and Victorian architecture. As I searched the Internet for information
on the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad I stumbled across the Cliff House
Project website. I had always been fascinated by the 1896 Cliff House and was
intrigued that the original plans for the building still existed. After studying
the plans I realized that they were complete enough to guide me through the
creation of a reasonable facsimile of the original structure.
I design model railroad layouts
using a Computer Aided Design, CAD, program called 3rdPlanIt. It is specifically
designed for model railroads but is actually almost a full CAD program that
allows you to model not only railroads but buildings and landscape. I decided to
use this program to create the 1896 Cliff House.
I started my “construction” with a
thorough reading of the plans. The plans do tell us an enormous amount of
information; things such as room descriptions, stairways, floor heights, ceiling
details, wainscoting type, chandelier location, restrooms, kitchens, and boiler
room. For a description of the various floors, click here.
I studied all of the photographs on
the Cliff House Project website and became familiar with the building. My
construction is based on the plans, photographs, and a basic knowledge of
Victorian architecture. Some of what you see on the tour is pure speculation but
much is based on fact, both plans and photos.
found out early
on that the plans and the final structure shown in the photographs were not the
same. It was obvious that corners were cut and things left out. For example, the
tower roof on the plans is approximately 10 feet higher than it was constructed.
The plans did not call for windows on the First and Second floor Porches. Walls
were constructed in different places that I am sure made more sense to the
contractor. A few drafting errors show up here and there. The biggest being the
orientation of the tower floors shown on Sheet 34. The elevator floor is in the
wrong location in relation to the stairwells. And finally the Camera Obscura is
shown in a different tower than it was actually constructed.
The above image
illustrates my point. The plan elevation is how it was designed and the photo
is from down the beach. There is some distortion in the photo because it was
taken at a lower altitude but it does demonstrate what I am talking about.
Notice that the first and second floors don't have windows in the design
version. This can also be seen on the floor plans where openings are shown but
Note the height of the main tower,
and the height of the tower roof. I built my original version like the plans and
the tower roof never looked correct. I reduced it 10 feet in height and it
looked much better.
Note the width of the main tower and
the width of the large dormer (photography gallery) below the tower. In the
plans, the dormer is narrower than the tower and in the original they are the
same size. I ran across this one as I tried to construct the building. In order
to create the plan version, the interior walls on the fifth floor, including the
tower, would not be properly supported by the walls below. I decided after
looking at many photos that the contractor agreed with me and made the dormer
the same width as the tower.
After I constructed the Cliff House,
I realized as I toured the inside of the structure, that I needed something to
look at out the windows. So I began a study of the area around the Cliff House.
I studied the photographs, looked at maps, and began to create a long lost
world. The software worked very well as this is what it was designed for. I
built landforms, located roads, railroads, streetcar tracks, buildings, and
3rdPlanIt software, I
created panoramas of 103 locations, including rooms, porches, and outside spots.
First I placed the “camera” at the correct location and height.
Then I took 8 “photos” by rotating
the camera 45 degrees between each shot. These photos were entered into
which converts images to Quicktime VR movies.
Then VRWorx converts them into one
And the final result is a movie of
Then the room movies are combined
into one large movie.
After eleven months, the result of
all this work is a tour through the 1896 Cliff House. I hope you enjoy the tour
as much as I did creating it.
I wish to thank Gary Stark for his
inspiring Cliff House Project website and John Martini for use of his maps and
photographs of the area. Without these two gentlemen there wouldn't be a Tour.