Snaps to the king and queen of pink bathrooms — Nancy and Thommy. You may recall, Nancy’s pink poodle bathroom is world famous, not just here at Retro Renovation but also as headliner of the New York Times pink bathroom story. Now, our daring duo has served up a pair of pink potties from the Leo Carrillo Ranch, an historic site in one my original home towns, Carlsbad, California.
I talked to Gerry Streff, the archivist from the Leo Carrillo Ranch, and she said that the bathrooms were built at the same time as the house. She checked the financial records — receipts for items purchased for the construction — and followed up with me:
I did check the date and the tile was purchased from Gladding McBean in October, 1938 (Hermosa Tile division.) Carrillo also has checks from the company doing the bathroom construction in 1938.
I consider myself the nation's pre-eminent expert on the history of pink bathrooms (umm, I know of no challengers), and while I have anointed Mamie Eisenhower founding-mother of the pink tsunami that washed over America in the 1950s, to be sure: We had pink bathrooms before that. I don't know exactly when the color started to seep into bathroom consciousness. I'm guessing as early as the 1920s... and that the key to this certainty will be found in tile history and to a lesser degree, in bathroom fixture history. In any case, I continue to hypothesize that pink's dominance in the loo did not ensue until World War II was over -- when home construction reignited after the long Depression malaise ... and after the massively popular Mamie spread the love.
Interesting fact about the pink bathrooms at the Leo Carrillo Ranch: They are in the bedroom wings of the house — which are separated from the kitchen-living room-dining area via outdoor walkways around an interior courtyard. Yes, that means: No bathrooms — not even a half-bath — within the main living areas. You must walk through the courtyard back to the bedrooms. Gerry explained that this design placement was part of mimicking true “rancho” style: Living was oriented toward being outdoors. Numerous elements from this outdoor-orientation were carried through to “ranch-style” houses of the 1950s and beyond, and is the leading hallmarks of the style.
Notice also, the bathrooms both appear to be a classic Mamie pink, trimmed in deep burgundy. I would call this a “deco” palette — we saw this kind of pastel-matched-with-a-dark-jewel-tone carried on through the 1940s. Remember this color palette: Toilet seats from 1938 (art: My collection.)
About the Leo Carrillo Ranch
The Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park sounds like a really special place to visit. Leo Carrillo came from a well-to-do San Diego (his grandparents once owned the island of Coronado). Carrillo was an actor and preservationist. He had roles in about 90 films, but probably is most remembered for his role as Pancho, the sidekick to the Cisco Kid. The show was the first television series shot entirely in color and was enormously popular. Carrillo started building his rancho as a retreat, during the height of his Hollywood career. Today it is owned by the city, and is a place for visitors and special events.
- Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Site - visitor information
- Friends of Carrillo Ranch — much more extensive historical information
- Article about Joan and Alan Kindle, who in 1985 launched the campaign for the Ranch’s restoration.
Finally: Looks like you can see all episodes of The Cisco Kid on Hulu. I tried to watch one, but I found the pace, acting and Hulu ads torturous.
See all our stories about historic mid century homes you can visit here.