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Russian Village, Claremont, CA


A Village of River Rock Homes

It has been my goal for a few years to take pictures of one type of home in the Inland Empire of California, the river rock home. For many years I have been interested in the river rock house.

With digital cameras I can take pictures of anything I like. At first, I was crazy for neon, and I am still working on that image collection, but the river rock house is more unique and is something new on the Internet.

Here is my contribution on a river rock house study. Roaming the neighborhood led me to this area in Claremont and a story about a man with river rock at his feet and a pickup truck as his conveyance. Visit his village and the river rock house as one of the original local materials home.

River Rock Homes Claremont, CA

River Rock Homes Claremont, CA

What is The Russian Village?

A Czech by the name of Steve Stys built the first house in this area of Claremont, California and dominated the construction of many of the thirteen on this two block tract. Later in the century the owners had to fight city hall to keep the stone curbs and the original width of the street. The neighborhood prevailed and a dense shady, rustic atmosphere prevails.

One house burned, was rebuilt in the same style and fits beautifully in to the setting.

That house of a stone first floor and wood second floor is shown here. Notice that the size of the rocks are smaller than of old. The stone entrance is original and built by Stys.

For this information on Russian Village I would like to thank Georgia who was so kind to show us her Stys built house. She has lived there since a child of 8 years old.

Original Stone walkway built by Stys

Original Stone walkway built by Stys

The New House in Russian Village

Claremont, California

The green house above right incorporated Stys original walk entry and stone planters.

Mr. Stys had a thick old country accent and had an old pickup truck that served as his hauler. The truck was used to haul river stones from the local river alluvial, collect railroad car siding, and broken concrete from a Holt Avenue resurfacing job.

All materials were brought back to this two block area of Claremont. One set of apartments were built with sandstone from a courthouse demolition.

The homes are arts and crafts style bungalows that were so popular in the twenties and thirties in California.

Arts and Crafts Reading Material

One company in southern Califronia called Ready Cut made bungalow kits. A hired carpenter or yourself could build your new home from this pre-cut wood kit with the included set of instructions. Over 40,000 kits of arts and crafts homes were built in southern California at the beginning of the 20th century.

I noticed that most reviews for the Arts and Crafts books offered on the market have 5 star ratings. People feel passionate about this movement and it reflects in the work.

river rock bungalow

river rock bungalow

Original Stys

The next house going south on Mills brings you to the first house made by Steve Stys.

He picked up the rocks from the foothills just north of this location and hauled them with his pick up truck. It was about 1928. It is estimated that he spent about $35 dollars on one of his first homes. Rocks were free then and cement was 10 cents a bag.

This house is vacant but owned by a contractor. Many months of boundary finding has put major work on hold.

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river rock home in Claremont, CA

river rock home in Claremont, CA

Mr. Stys used recycled railroad car siding as a form to guide the stones as they were laid with cement. When the rock wall was finished the siding was removed and that surface became the inside walls. The walls inside of the house were cemented smooth, filling in and covering the stones creating a surface similar to lathe and plaster.

This house has top of the line insulation.

The bottom of windows and the covers on porches were cement slabs on most stone houses.

South side of the same house.

Stone lined neighborhood sidewalk, Russian Village, Claremont, CA

Stone lined neighborhood sidewalk, Russian Village, Claremont, CA

Stone Lined Side Walks

Original side walks designed by Steve Stys, ca.1928.

The curbs are very large rocks and look similar.

The curbs would have been destroyed if not for the work of the neighborhood to keep the area as built in the thirties.

The walk is maintained with crushed concrete.


Stys Designed House

I was fortunate to see the inside of this home. For the living room Mr. Stys used an inverted "v" and aged the wood planks and beams with a torch. The other homes along the block and across the street are not built by Stys except the 4-way apartment built of recycled court house sandstone.

River Rock walls

River Rock walls

Patio off the dining room.

Russian village in Claremont, CA

Russian village in Claremont, CA

Claremont, CA

Wall and gate made by Steve Stys about 1928-35.


Walking South

Duo of pictures of a two story house with rock construction for the first floor.

River Rock House

River Rock House


WebPages on River Rock Construction in the Inland Empire

Through the years I have collected many photographs of my locale's river rock structures. I found the images amassed needed to be split between webpages. Organizing in that manner helped me narrow down the sensory load for myself and work put the locations into specific "files."

Other locations to explore are available below.

If you should visit Southern California keep in mind the sprawl has treasures to find.

© 2009 Sherry Venegas

Did you enjoy this river rock house story?

Aladdins Cave from Melbourne, Australia on April 18, 2014:

Very interesting. I like the idea. I wonder how thick the walls are ? In Europe they would have been 2-3 feet thick. Love it, thank you

anonymous on May 23, 2013:

Beautiful, unique homes. Very interesting community.

Rose Jones on October 24, 2011:

Fascinating stonemasonry. I am glad that these houses are being used.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on December 21, 2010:

@anonymous: Oh yes, you were lucky. I was immediately taken with the neighborhood and the uniqueness of the homes.

anonymous on December 21, 2010:

I lived at 345 S. Mills Avenue for many years... I dearly treasure the memories of beautiful living in a beautiful home. Lucky Me.

jolou on June 19, 2010:

Love the homes, and you've done a great job with the photos.

ohcaroline on May 21, 2010:

He was so ingenious. I go for those river rocks. Thumbs up!

WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on May 21, 2010:

Very interesting type of rock work. Lots of homes here decorate their outside chimneys with flat rocks. Some of the newer homes are beginning to decorate columns, pillars and front walls. It was sure nice a relative commented on your lens! Thanks for sharing. :)

Delia on May 13, 2010:

I remember these and have always liked them...I loved Claremont...great lens!

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on May 03, 2010:

@anonymous: Hello Stephan,

Please let me know if I do not have the facts straight. My friend and I enjoyed what Ms. Warden told us about the neighborhood. It is so charming. Your grandfather sounded like a very busy man with lots of ideas to carry out.

anonymous on May 02, 2010:

My name is Stephan Stys and This was my great grandfather. I will tell my about what you have done he would love to see it. We have a long line of carpenters in our family.

norma-holt on March 04, 2010:

What a great lens. Beautifully illustrated and interesting subject. Top marls, lenrolled to and featured on Fun in the Great Outdoors


Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on February 09, 2010:

These stone houses are truly works of art. I love natural materials. What a beautiful combination of rock and wood. These houses remind me of Cauley Square in Miami and Chester, Vt. villages of stone houses.

Lensrolled to Vermont Stone Walls

anonymous on November 11, 2009:

Oh i truly love river rock constructions..they truly reflect a combination of nature and creativity

poutine on August 27, 2009:

Great idea for a lens.

I have always loved stone houses, in fact my grandparents

had one in the province of Quebec.

anonymous on August 26, 2009:

Fantastic! I love this architecture! The rocks are just so cool!

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