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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.