Two men who never met each other built a house. One started it, the other finished it, 45 years later. This is the story of that endeavor and of the appreciation for a dying art that grew out of it.
In 1974 Daven and his wife Brenda took their red Dodge pickup and two dogs on a road trip throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. They were looking for something: a piece of land they could afford to build a house on, a good place to raise some kids, an adventure.
They found what they were looking for when they returned home, not 20 miles from where they both grew up.
In 1975, they fell in love with the whimsical architecture of an old abandoned cabin that George Kayser began in 1934, but never finished. They bought the cabin soon after and, out of necessity, Daven’s hands quickly learned the beautiful arts of wood craft and stonemasonry, skills he would practice and perfect for the rest of his 40 year career.
The rockwork of Daven Gray and The Gingerbread House that started it all traverses eight decades starting with George Kayser and his Castle in 1927. Part Hansel and Gretel, part historical memoir, part Architectural Digest, this story has a little something for everyone. It’s a tribute to the artists, designers, and craftsmen who, like Daven, choose to do things differently.
Daven and his daughter, Mariah, began compiling the hundreds of images for this book in 2011. For Daven, not only a stonemason, but a Mt Baldy historian, this was a chance to forever record the story of The Gingerbread House, which altered the course of his life and brought him a lifetime of adventure. For Mariah, it was the opportunity to listen to stories about the good ol’ days — her favorite of all past times – and to document Daven‘s contribution to an ancient and beautiful art.
Thank you for reading and being a part of this story! Visit the Listen page to hear audio of Daven discussing some of his favorite memories from life as a stonemason.
The lithograph used to create our book’s cover was sourced from:
The Getty Research Institute, Research Library
Kunst-Kammer seiner koeniglichen Hoheit, 1866
Hefner-Alteneck, Jakob Heinrich Von and Peterson, H.
The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (92-B1352)
This inspired and inspiring book is a daughter’s eloquent and loving tribute to Daven Gray, an extraordinary craftsman who transformed stonemasonry and architecture into high art forms. The narrative begins by documenting the historical origins, and Gray’s four-year-long reconstruction, of their family home on Mt. Baldy—the “Gingerbread House.” In this first section, and throughout this stunning book, Jochai’s prose is deftly intertwined with her father’s commentary (and with his delightfully witty quips), creating a fluid and compelling narrative journey. In addition, Jochai provides a continuous visual feast, offering readers a rich gallery both of archival images and of exquisite photographs taken by Kyle Jochai, her husband. The book’s first section concludes with some fascinating examples of local rockwork, done in the past century that served as lifelong inspiration for Gray.
The book’s second section focuses on thirteen of Daven Gray’s favorite Southern California projects, which span the years between 1991 and 2007. (Gray’s professional life as a stonemason, designer, contractor, and builder began in 1974 and ended with his death in 2014.) These projects are wonderfully varied and splendidly realized, and they include his construction of magical alcoves, graceful walls, stately and gravity defying fireplaces, cobbled patios, stone garden walkways and benches, majestic columns, and spectacular houses.
This terrific book is an unforgettable testament to a memorable man who created masterfully built monuments that are simultaneously organic in structure, highly functional, and aesthetically beautiful.Maurya Simon
Incredible book about an incredible man…..Bill Baldwin
I well up with tears at the stories, the pictures, the love, talent and the ambition and dedication your father and mother shared! My heavens … this book is magical!Lisa Cascadden
Could not put the book down. I read the whole book in one sitting! A must for everyone to read. I highly recommend it!!Dee Ann Estupinian
The rockwork of Daven Gray & The Gingerbread House that started it all is a unique story that shares a little piece of Daven Gray’s life, loves and talents. Mariah Jochai’s time and effort into this book does not go unnoticed. Her exquisite attention to every detail in the book makes it a delight to read through, again and again!
The story is shared in two parts, it starts by introducing the original architect who envisioned The Gingerbread House in the late 1920s and shares a brief history along with many old black and white images. The images take you from the 1930s right into the 1970s when the Grays stumbled upon the house and began dreaming of the home it would some day become for their family. Several short stories, a little bit of history, and a love note from Brenda the year they bought the house, show just how special The Gingerbread House was and is to them. The first section continues with stunning images taken by Kyle Jochai as the home stands today; followed by photos of historical rockwork Daven found inspiring over the years. Kyle’s images capture the uniqueness not only of Daven, but also each and every detail, and all the love and time Daven put into their home over the years; the transformation of his dreams, into reality.
The skills learned along the journey of building The Gingerbread House led Daven into a career he loved as an architect, craftsman and stonemason. In the latter half of the book Daven shares some of his favorite projects over the years; homes he designed, built, and put just as much love and attention into, as he put into his own home. Daven’s love of rockwork evolved and was perfected throughout his career and became his focus later in life. He had his own style, which is shown throughout the book, and it was amazing!
This book is a treasure! If you were lucky enough to have known Daven or have his work in or around your home, you know he was an amazing individual, a master of his craft, and truly one of a kind!Kelsey Brannen
This book is a beautiful tribute and memory of a home and man I lived near while growing up. Daven’s work, as a master rock mason and home builder, is beautifully detailed in pictures, audio recordings (accessible via the book’s website) and words. His ability to create spaces that not only fit with the surroundings, but fit with his customers needs, wants, and lives, was incomparable – having had the chance to visit some of the homes he worked on, I am in awe of his talent and creativity. The book is a great balance of history, documentary, and memoir/biography. Anyone who knew Daven or his work, those in search of inspiration for a home project of their own, or someone who simply wants a good read should purchase this book.Elizabeth Flores