When brothers Russell and Loch Crane began building a house 66 years ago in the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego, CA, people thought they were crazy. There were no neighbors and there was no street—just a dirt path leading up to the cul-de-sac where they were building a house hanging off the side of a hill.
What people couldn’t see was the brothers’ vision. An architect who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, Loch wanted to design a home with an organic look and with sprawling ocean and harbor views from a patio cantilevering over the hillside. The home would be a bachelor pad for his brother.
Now, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is up for sale for the first time since it was built in 1950. It’s listed at $ 879,995.
“It was a unique home for its time,” said Shannon Crane Wehsener, Russell’s daughter, who grew up in the home.
This postwar-era modern home is made of wood, concrete, and glass. It was “cutting-edge architecture with Wright’s influence,” Wehsener said.
The 1,985-square-foot home has been on the market only a few days, but it already has attracted seven offers, according to listing agent Rachel Friedman.
Perhaps most striking about the home are its incredible views—a major reason why Loch picked the spot.
Sprawling decks on two levels provide a place to admire the Pacific Ocean and Mission Beach or the curve of San Diego Bay. Breezes from both the bay and the ocean flow through the balcony.
Inside, the house has a Mid-Century Modern style. Redwood beams span the ceiling, and most of the rooms are wide and spacious—there are no long hallways. Built-in furniture includes a sofa and mahogany buffet and bar. The walls are made of gumwood.
The brothers nicknamed the house “Betatakin,” a Navajo word meaning “hang-over house.” The name wasn’t inspired by any boozy shenanigans—it simply refers to the home’s perch over the cliff.
Built on a budget, home is now opulent
Of course, it wasn’t always a bachelor pad. Russell married in 1965, and soon after, Shannon was born. He eventually added a master suite and family room, adhering to his brother’s philosophy with the additions.
“My uncle was a firm believer in adding onto your house, in changing your house to meet your current needs,” Wehsener said.
Her father wrote “Bachelor Quarters” and “Russell Crane and Futures” on the building plans.
While the redwood beams are a sign of splendor now, that wasn’t always the case. Loch and Russell, both pilots during World War II, had money from the GI Bill—but they were still on a budget.
“They didn’t have the luxury of sending off for materials,” Wehsener said.
So Loch went to a local lumberyard and found a bunch of redwood lumber that had just been sitting there for the duration of the war. The lumber was so dirty it looked black, and the owner of the lumberyard pretty much said, “Yeah, you can have that,” Wehsener said.
Her uncle designed four or five other houses in the neighborhood, so she never really grasped how unique the home was until later.
“That was my world,” she said. “I thought everyone designed and built their houses, and architects knew how to build.”
As a teen, she knew her house was different from those of her peers and she found it embarrassing back then. Now, she’s heartbroken to have to sell it due to personal circumstances.
“It’s sad because I’m taking away layers of memories,” she said. “My favorite spot is sitting in the living room, sitting on the built-in couch, looking at the angles and the overhang of the roof, and looking out the window at the sunset. It’s perfection to me.”
House ‘bred creativity’
Years ago, the house had decorative pieces with Native American, Spanish, and Victorian influences.
“It all worked … this creative, eclectic décor with this modern, Mid-Century Modern background,” Wehsener said.
Now an interior designer, Wehsener credits her creative side to the house.
“It bred creativity,” she said. “There was always some piece of wood or some kind of rock you could find around the house to build something with. I loved the angles and converging shapes; there are so many angles in these homes, and they were all around me.”
The house needs some TLC—some of the wood will need to be replaced—and the new buyers might want to update a few areas.
“It has great bones,” Wehsener noted.
“It needs to be sold to someone who appreciates it,” said Friedman, who is also a childhood friend of Wehsener.
If it were up to Wehsener, she’d keep the home.
“It’s very hard for me to part with,” she said softly. “The more people appreciate it, the harder it is for me. It was a well-loved house. The people in it … loved it.”