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Fork In The Road

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South Pasadena’s Fork In The Road is one of the most interesting spots in the city. Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, it’s the perfect place for a photo op, and symbolizes that, no matter what road you take, the city has a lot to offer. If you’ve never seen it yourself, it’s quite straightforward: it–quite literally-is a fork in the road. It’s constructed of wood (though its silvery paint job gives it the appearance of metal) and sits at the intersection of Pasadena and St. John Avenues.

The Fork has been standing since Halloween 2009, and it has quite the history. Artist Ken Marshall and a friend of his created the Fork as a 75th birthday gift to his friend, Bob Stane. Marshall and Stane co-own the Altadena coffee gallery and showroom, and had talked about the idea a while back. One night, dressed in CalTrans uniforms (CalTrans owned the land plot), the pair snuck over late and night, dug the hole, illegally stuck in the art, and poured in 400 pounds of concrete. According to many sources, they waved at policemen who drove by during the installation.

Residents were thrilled to see the fork, and believed it added a bit of humor to the city. “People just became unglued about it,” Bob Stane told NBC News. “They just thought it was fantastic. They were so happy to have a bit of humor on the street.”

After the Fork was firmly planted, a party was thrown, and the mastermind behind the project considered the artwork not just a gift to Stane, but to the city of South Pasadena. At the party/groundbreaking of the Fork, t-shirts were handed out with the sentence, “The World’s Largest Fork In The Road.” Later research eventually found that this was not, in fact, the largest fork in the road. There is also a 31-foot fork in the road in New York. Despite this fact, it did not thwart the enthusiasm of the residents and artists themselves.

Although most people were happy to have it, the California Department of Transportation was less enthused. On June 10th, 2010, the Fork was taken down by the city, who cited safety issues as a primary concern, and noted that Marshall did not have permission to put in on the property in the first place.

“They think it’s dangerous, that it might fall over, and they’re afraid people will run across the street to be photographed with the fork and be run over,” Stane told the Los Angeles Times.

However, the removal of the fork didn’t last too long. After proper permits were granted, and residents voiced their desire for it to stay, it was re-planted in October 2011. Today, the Fork is anchored to a 2.5 foot concrete plate. Originally just a simple intersection, it’s now called “Fork Plaza.”

Since then, the Fork has had its share of fun at its permanent residence. In 2012, the Idaho Potato Commission celebrated their 75th anniversary by traveling around the country with a six-ton, 28-foot long potato. The potato visited the Fork and made for a fun, eventful, interesting day.

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It’s also a site to many local events and fundraisers, such as “Put the Fork In Hunger,” a charity event that helps feed underprivileged families in the area.

Now that the Fork is here to stay, everyone’s happy, but most especially guerilla artist Ken Marshall, who says, ““When I am not here, my kids will go by and say, my dad did that. Which is kind of cool.”

Extraordinary Estates In South Pasadena

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The city of South Pasadena has a lot to offer. The Los Angeles Times said of South Pasadena, “The city has so zealously protected its original charm and architectural character that it has become in many ways a time capsule of California living in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Their charming tree-lined streets are known for their large concentration of beautiful Arts & Crafts-era bungalows and Craftsmen homes.

The Pasadena Craftsman Weekend has displayed the best in design and architecture for over 25 years.Then there’s also the Pasadena Heritage’s Spring Home Tour, which takes visitors on a tour of some of the most beautiful homes in the Pasadena area.

Today, South Pasadena is the largest self float-builder in the Tournament of Roses Parade, as well as the oldest postseason football game in America. And although college football brings hordes of visitors in every winter, the architecture attracts visitors year-round. Here are some of the area’s most extraordinary estates:

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Image source: Atlast Obscura

Fenyes Mansion

Orange Grove Boulevard is known frequently as “Millionaire’s Row,” and it’s full of million-dollar mansions. The Fenyes Mansion is just one of them. It is currently managed by the Pasadena Museum of History and has appeared in Hollywood films, Being There and The Prestige. General tours are available to the public, and Fenya Mansion offers a glimpse into the life of those who live on Millionaire’s Row.

Robert Farquar designed the home in 1906 and 1907, where a conservatory and studio were eventually added in 1911. Four generations of relatives have lived at the estate, and many of its rooms remain they were over 100 years later. During the tour, you’ll find family heirlooms, a California plein air art collection, and much more. The Fenyes Mansion has been designated as a Pasadena Cultural Heritage landmark and a Point of Historic Interest by the state of California.

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Gamble House

The Gamble House is another staple on the “Millionaire’s Row.” In 1908, Charles and Henry Greene designed the Gamble house for David Berry Gamble, who was a second generation family member of the Procter & Gamble Company. By then, David and his wife, Mary Gamble, were frequenting Pasadena in the winter, and wanted to move there permanently. Within 10 months of meeting the Greenes, the house and initial pieces of custom furniture (five rugs in the living room were designed by Charles Greene from watercolor)  were complete. The husband and wife passed away in 1923 and 1929, but the house remained in the family until 1966, where it was deeded to the city of Pasadena through an agreement with the University of Southern California Architecture School.

The architecture of the home is well worth visiting the place. The Gambles wanted the design to pay homage to the rustic setting, and the wood home sits nestled in a grassy knoll. Vines obscure the exterior partially, making the house blend seamlessly with nature, and the interior also matches this aesthetic, with semi precious stonework, glass, metal, and wood elements. In fact, there were several types of wood used in the design: teak, Oak, maple, mahogany, and Port Orford cedar.

The overall design was inspired by Swiss and Japanese architecture. Today, it is considered a central figure and masterpiece in the “America’s Arts and Crafts” movement. It’s also had its share of big-screen fame. Where the garage once was, there is currently a bookstore, which was the site of Doc Brown’s Lab in Back to the Future. Tours of this home take at least two hours.

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Duncan-Irwin House

The Duncan-Irwin House is another Greene & Greene work of craftsmanship. The house originally belonged to a local seamstress, Katherine Duncan, who continued to make additions to the property until 1904, when she sold it to Theodore Irwin Jr., the heir on an industrial fortune.

Irwin did not need to work, thanks to his inheritance, and spent many years simply adding to his father’s collection of art and books. The property has amazing views of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Arroyo Seco Valley. The architecture is very reminiscent of the Greene brothers: it has timber terraces, overhanging eaves and exposed rafter tails, and large Arroyo boulders that are woven into brickwork of the massive pergola columns, which is one of the home’s best features. Wisteria vines bloom at different times of the year, cascading the home with green.

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Miltimore Residence

The Miltimore Residence hit the market for the first time in 66 years this March, with an asking price of $4 million. This historic South Pasadena home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was initially designed in 1911 for prosperous olive rancher, Mrs. Paul Miltimore. Since then, it has had only three owners, and looks nearly identical to when it was first built, as few upgrades have been made, which make the home in its entirety feel like an antique beauty.

It has hardwood floors throughout, French doors, two fireplaces, and tubs that are encased in magnesite. In 1914, House Beautiful magazine did a story on the home, saying its “most original feature is the play of color upon its white surface… which becomes iridescent when the sun moves across it. The texture that makes this charm is Mr. Gill’s discovery and secret.”

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The Bubble House

South Pasadena’s Bubble House is a testament to one of the most innovative architectural solutions of our time, and to the legendary architect Wallace Neff. Neff designed homes for some of California’s wealthiest people, including Judith Garland and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Several celebrities have also purchased Neff’s homes, including Brad Pitt, Diane Keaton, Madonna, and Guy Ritchie.

Neff designed the Bubble House as an answer to the housing crisis after World War II. What’s most fascinating about the space is that it can be constructed in under 48 hours by inflating a large balloon with chicken wire, spraying it with gunite, and applying a pressure house. Though 3,000 Airform houses were built, the South Pasadena home, where he lived up until his death, is the last remaining in the country. The current owners are Sari and Steve Roden, who inherited several pieces of vintage furniture upon purchase. You can drive by this historic home at 1097 S. Los Robles Avenue.

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Castle Green

Castle Green has a long and storied history. Originally built in 1898, the design was influenced by Spanish, Victorian, and Moorish architectural elements. Back then, it was called “Central Annex” and was a part of trio that included the main Hotel Green and another building that was later called the Wooster Block. There used to be a pedestrian bridge that connected Castle Green to Hotel Green. It has since been demolished, though remnants of the bridge still remain.

In the 1920s, it was converted into an apartment complex, where it housed many designers, artists, and musicians. Today, the Castle is an enchanting event venue. It is full of charm and glamour, and is very popular for wedding bookings, with its lush gardens and verandas. It’s a nationally registered historic monument that’s also ideal for corporate events, galas, and all types of soirees.

In 1924, the Los Angeles Times said of the Castle Green, “Pasadena, to whom the world concedes a leading place for her architectural accomplishments, has surpassed herself in Castle Green, which, in the transformation from a world famous hostelry to tenant owned apt. building, has accomplished one of the most striking architectural achievements of which the Southland has any record.”

Bungalow Heaven

Bungalow Heaven isn’t a single home, but a large, charming cluster of homes in Pasadena. Due to their history, they are worthy of a mention. In this area, over 800 homes span across 16 blocks of quiet, tree lined streets. Each home is a representation of the Arts and Crafts movements, and demonstrates what affordable housing looked like during that time period. The area was included in Thrillist’s “The 10 Most Beautiful Neighborhoods in America, Ranked” feature, and its received several other distinctions. It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was Pasadena’s first Landmark District and received the APA designation as one of the “10 Great Places in America.”

Everything You Need To Know About Pasadena’s Bunny Museum

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South Pasadena’s Bunny Museum currently holds the largest collection of rabbit stuffed animals than any other place in the world. This world-record holding museum originally opened in 1998, and their slogan is very appropriate: “The hoppiest place in the world.” Even celebrity Elijah Wood took a tour of the Bunny Museum. You can check out some of his videos of the experience here.

At the Bunny Museum, curators believe that bunny rabbits aren’t just an Easter occasion. According to the museum, there are bunny references everywhere: dust bunnies, rabbit ear antennas, and rabbits being pulled out of a magician’s hat. The museum is an ode to all things bunny, from the obvious Easter references, to this lesser known facts.

The museum is a non-profit corporation, and there’s so much more than just plush bunnies to touch here. For just $8 (or free for members), you can touch and feed real bunny rabbits, and even bring your own bunny if you have one. Although there is a fee for admission, visitors are still required to make a reservation in advance.

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Aside from holding the Guiness Book of World Records for largest collection of bunny memorabilia, the Bunny Museum currently holds over two dozen awards, including:

  • The Most Unusual Museum, 2015
  • The Best Rabbit Paraphernalia, 2006
  • The Best Kept Secret, 1999
  • Top Three things To See in California, 2014
  • The Most Weird Museum in Los Angeles, 2014
  • The Best Off-The-Beaten Path Museum in Los Angeles, 2016

The Bunny Museum was established in 1993, and the story of its opening is just as interesting as the museum itself. A boy (Steve Lubanski) gave a plush bunny to a girl (Candace Frazee), and they eventually became a married couple built on the foundation of the art of bunny gift-giving.

After Steve gave Candace the first rabbit as a gift (as an homage to her nickname, “Honey Bunny”), they made it a tradition to give one another a bunny-themed item every single day. As you can imagine, the tradition ballooned into quite the collection, and they eventually amassed a collection of over 8,000 bunny items. At this point, they opened their home to the public to share their collection with others.

Eventually, they moved to Pasadena to Alameda, where they currently hold over 34,000 items. The displays are currently on exhibit in “salon-style,” which means they span floor to ceiling. Though initially this style of display–which originated in Paris in 1667–may seem chaotic, there’s a particular type of order and cohesive flow that guests can easily take notice of. Thanks to the salon style of display, there’s always something to look at.

Some of the exhibitions and displays include:

  • Chamber of Hop Horrors
  • An antiquity display, which contains a 2,000 year-old ring, amulet, pendant, and fibula
  • Rose Parade Float Bunnies (nine original Rose Parade floats)
  • White House Easter Egg Roll, a display with several original wooden decorated Easter bunny eggs from their holiday event

Among the more stranger exhibits include the freeze-dried bunnies, which were once household pets that are now situated in a display case.

Guests 13 years and older who have a particular affinity for bunny rabbits can join the Paw Patrol, a daily committee that helps clean litter boxes for bunnies and cats, vacuum, groom, feed, and clean bunnies and cats. Paw Patrol takes place throughout the day in half an hour shifts. Guests can also bring fresh fruits and vegetables for the animals, although carrots are not allowed. The Bunny Museum provides carrots themselves, to prevent guests from bringing only carrots and thwarting a versatile diet for the animals.

The museum earned itself an entry in the world’s best curated book of all things unique, the Atlas Obscura. According to Atlas Obscura, the couple plans to eventually locate to an even larger space.

The Bubble House

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South Pasadena’s Airform Bubble House was designed by architect Wallace Neff, who also designed for some of California’s wealthiest, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Judith Garland. Despite his extensive architectural resume, his Airform “Bubble House” is said to be one his finest–and most proud–works.

Like many great design stories, this one has a humble beginning. In the early 1930s, the housing crisis put a halt on many promising construction sites, as companies and individuals struggled to find reliable funding. Neff was shaving at his bathroom sink when a bubble formed on his finger and he realized that if he could find a way to build with air, he could save money and build quickly, with no need for wood or nails.

The construction was therefore one of the most curious of its time. It was built using an inflatable balloon covered in chicken wire and then sprayed with gunite, which is a mixture a sand, water, and cement that’s applied through a pressure hose. The gunite then produces a dense layer of concrete, and is often used for structural repairs. Using this method, open-plan, curved homes could be built within 48 hours.

Neff tirelessly attempted to campaign and convince the U.S. government to adopt this style of design in their wartime housing initiatives. After World War II, there were simply too many people and not enough houses. Neff believed it would be the most cost-effective, efficient way to industrialize housing efforts. According to one book printed by Hennessey, another goal of his was to “resolve the dilemma of being an architect close to affluent clients and a designer for a mass of anonymous clients with low budgets.”

However, many people weren’t convinced that the igloo shape successfully optimized space, and the unconventional structure deterred large money-makers from adopting it completely. While 400,000 were originally planned for construction in the United States, only 3,000 were actually built. However, overseas Neff had better luck, and he constructed airform houses in cities around the world like Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, and Senegal.

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Today, the only existing Airform house in America is in South Pasadena, California, where the current owners take special care to maintain it. The ceilings are seven feet high and the domed ceilings stretch up to 12 feet. It was built in 1946 and the neighbors weren’t receptive to it, because at the time, it did not fit into the Period Revival aesthetic of the nearby homes.

Despite criticism of its elliptical structure, it was featured on the cover of the Los Angeles Times Home Magazine, and was eventually praised for its inventive solution to the mid-century housing crisis. The South Pasadena home is where the architect personally lived until he died in 1982.

Current owners Sari and Steve Roden, who purchased the house in 1998, said in a Los Angeles Times article that they “can’t imagine living anywhere else.” The couple also inherited several pieces of vintage furniture originally owned by the architect.

The house comes with its own share of fame and rumors. The owners have heard that Elvis once visited the house, most likely to discuss a home that he wanted Neff to design for him. The irony here is not lost: while Neff is most renowned for his elaborate designs, his heart was in simple, open, and flowing architectural spaces. Though the house is occupied, you can still drive by 1097 S. Los Robles Avenue for a look at piece of design history.

Cawston Ostrich Farm

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South Pasadena is steeped in history, and one of the greatest examples of that is the Cawston Ostrich Farm. If you’re a South Pasadena native, you’ve likely heard of it, and if not, it won’t be long before you do.

The Cawston Ostrich Farm was a nine-acre farm where visitors could ride ostriches via a carriage that was attached to their neck and body (much like a horse). This was the first ostrich farm in America, as well as the first tourist destination in California, and it provided a fully immersive experience. Not only could guests ride the ostriches, but they could also purchase ostrich-themed memorabilia, such as ostrich feathered hats, fans, and capes.

As you can imagine, starting an ostrich farm is no easy feat. Edward Cawston brought 50 ostriches from South Africa to California via Texas in 1886. However, the journey to Pasadena was extremely strenuous on the birds, and only 18 of them arrived in tact. Originally, Cawston’s primary plan was to cash out on the popularity of ostrich feathers. He had accessories and fashion items in mind, and wanted to cut out the middleman and raise the ostriches on his own farm.

After over half of the birds failed to survive the harsh trip, Cawston decided to breed his own birds with the remaining 18. Through breeding, he was able to balloon his total to over 100 ostriches total. From here, the farm, located in Arroyo Seco Valley, began to boom. Back then, it was a modern day theme park, full to the brim with roaming, able-bodies ostriches and decorated with pyramid-style structures to represent the birds native Africa.

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There was such a keen interest in ostriches and their feathers that it drew tourism for years to come. Some visitors rode the ostriches with carriages, others rode it bareback, but mostly, one of the most captivating facets of the ostrich farm was observing during feeding time. Because ostriches swallow food whole, it became quite the spectacle to see the birds swallow oranges whole.

The farm was located next to the Pacific Electric Railway, and its popularity eventually led to the creation of the Red Car trolley, which took visitors from the railway directly to the ostrich farm.

Cawston’s ostriches weren’t just a moneymaker in Pasadena. The farm was also attached to a factory, where he shipped genuine ostrich feathers and products all around the country, and other parts of the world. Visitors could also watch the animals as they are plucked to gain a better understanding of the feather-gathering process, as well as to witness firsthand the authenticity of its products in the making.

Around 1910, the market for ostrich tourism started to plummet. Around this time, real theme parks with motorized rides and entertainment began to take precedence. The factory closed down in 1935. Today, the original brick structure of the factory remains, and is an official cultural landmark (#18). The South Pasadena Public Library spent many years digitizing photos from the Ostrich Farm, which are available for viewing at Online Archive California. Today, although the farm has long since been shut down, it attracts tourists around the world.