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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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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.
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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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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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 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 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.”