“Millionaires Row” Side Trip.

Millionaire’s Row: 1-4 hours (depending on whether you spend time within the museum).

This is a 2-mile, all-walking Side Trip, all of it over flat terrain, most of it through a beautiful, tree-lined residential neighborhood. 

What you’ll see

  • The Tournament of Roses Headquarters building (Wrigley mansion)
  • Stately mansions on Grand Avenue and “Millionaires Row”  
  • Craftsman-style homes
  • The Norton Simon Museum
  • The historical markers and monuments
  • The historic Colorado Street Bridge
  • The former luxury resort, the Vista del Arroyo Hotel   

This Side Trip is wheelchair accessible.

The Side Trip:

Begin at St. John Avenue, the westernmost point of the “Pasadena Adventure” tour. To help you find your way, the main sights are alphabetically listed (“A,” “B,” “C,” etc.) and noted on the map.

This is a tour through a residential neighborhood. Homes listed on this Side Trip are their original, not current, owners. Those who live here today are used to visitors and photographers but please, respect their property.  

–> A) At St. John Avenue continue westward along Colorado Boulevard. 

Across to your left, at 400 W. Colorado Boulevard, what looks like Mount Vernon is the Pasadena Lodge 672 of the Benevolent Power of the Order of the Elks. Designed by Myron Hunt and Harold Chambers (together they also designed the Malaga Cove Library in Palos Verdes) and completed in 1911, the building makes a fine, though somewhat incongruous statement near the top of the boulevard. Colonial Virginia in Pasadena?

A) Norton Simon Museum. To the right is the Norton Simon Museum (Thorton Ladd and John Kelsey, 1969). One of the most photgraphed (if not photogenic) museums in the world, the museum is at the backdrop for the annual Tournament of Roses Parade. Beginning life as the Pasadena Art Institute in 1922, the museum moved into a Victorian home located at about its current site. Later it moved to where today’s Pacific Asia Museum is located (seen earlier on the main tour) and returned here, opening in late 1969. 

The museum, designed by the local firm of Ladd & Kelsey, added significantly to its collection but also added to its debt. Norton Winfred Simon (of Hunt-Wesson Foods, McCalls Publishing, Canada Dry, Avis Car Rental) stepped in and took on the museum’s financial obligations. In return, in 1975, the building took on his name. Frank Gehry  oversaw a major interior renoavation in the late 1990s.  

At any given moment, about 1,000 art objects – Asian, 14th – 19th century European, Modern and Contemporary – are on display in the museum’s galleries and gardens. Closed Tuesday. Admission is $10.00 (62+ is $5.00). Click here for more information about the Norton Simon Museum. 

–> Continue up Colorado Boulevard to the intersection with Orange Grove Boulevard.

B) Pasadena Memorial Flagpole. At the corner to the right (northeast corner) rises a flagpole. Originally sited within a small traffic circle smack in the middle of the intersection, city planners wisely moved the Pasadena Memorial Flagpole to its present, safer, spot. No ordinary flagpole, this, it was designed by Bertram Goodhue – the same architect who executed downtown L.A.’s Central Library and Nebraska’s state capitol. The sculpture are the work of Lee Lawrie who partnered with Goodhue at that library and the capitol. 

The 115-foot pole honors Pasadena’s fallen soldiers from World War I and was dedicated in 1927. The photo at right shows the flagpole in the 1940s, soon after being moved out of the traffic flow.  

–> At Orange Grove Boulevard, turn left, crossing Colorado Boulevard.    

You’re standing at a challenging corner – the first real test of the mobility of the Rose Parade floats. Were this parade day, you’d be surrounded by bleachers and television cameras, all facing the passing scene. This is where the bands play loudest, the marchers march absolutely in synch, the smiles on the Rose Queen and her court are broadest and all horses and floats cooperate. Millions are watching on TV. 

Floats, some over 100-feet long, navigate the sharp turn. Unless “retractable,” none can be over 17 feet tall – not because of a Rose Parade restriction but simply because a singular freeway underpass, 5 miles distant, limits the height. As anyone knows who’s ever watched the event, designers regularly go way beyond that height limit (some floats have topped out at almost 100 feet) incorporating hydraulics to lower the over-sized portions to clear the underpass.

–> Cross Orange Grove Boulevard. 

C) Founder’s Monument. The small park you’re standing at hosts two monuments: Founder’s Monument – a stone wall and bench erected in 1954 from stone saved from the demolished Old Public Library that once stood in Memorial Park, and “Defender’s Parkway Plaque” – a stone monument with a plaque which honors U.S. war dead from the Revolutionary War to World War I.

First, the Founder’s Monument. A bench faces the wall whose face includes the Pioneer Plaque, listing the names of Pasadena’s 27 original settlers who arrived here in 1874, most of them from Indiana. 

There’s also a “Heliport Plaque” here within the park marking the spot where a heliport once stood. Actually, the heliport and its plaque were near today’s Norton Simon Museum; the plaque survived but the heliport didn’t. 

–> Follow the cement path leading west, into the park (towards the valley).

Nobody really knows how this monument got here, or when it arrived. We do know to whom it’s dedicated and that it’s made of granite, standing almost like a tombstone within the park.

–> Continue through the park, passing the cul-de-sac at the end of S. Grand Avenue.

–> Follow the path to the pedestrian entrance to the Colorado Street Bridge.

D) Colorado Street Bridge. The Colorado Street Bridge (named before the route was renamed a boulevard) dates from 1913 and formed an important westward link for the city. Bigger and faster bridges have since been built over the Arroyo Seco but none are more beautiful than this one. Designed and built by the Kansas City firm of J.A.L. (John Alexander Low) Waddell, the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Walk on out along the 1,467-foot bridge (it was retrofitted and renovated for its 100-year anniversary) for some great views up and down the valley. The bridge’s sweeping curve is not for beauty but for purchase in the bedrock below. Notice that the Ventura Freeway Bridge (formerly Pasadena Pioneer’s Bridge) complements the Colorado Street Bridge’s arches – a nice touch. Notice too the high fencing along the walkway. Locals sometimes called it “Suicide Bridge” and although the added barrier reduced the number of jumps, the nickname stuck. 

The Colorado Street bridge has starred in over a dozen movies and TV shows including “Seabiscuit,” “Rumor Has It,” “Being John Malkovich,” and “Fear Factor.”   

E) U.S. Court of Appeals (former Vista Del Arroyo Hotel). The large Spanish Colonial Revival building off to the left is the former Vista Del Arroyo Hotel (the original two-story section by Marston & Van Pelts, 1920; the remodel and multi-story addition by George Wiemeyer, 1931). During World War II the hotel was converted to an Army Hospital, ending its hotel years. Today it’s the Richard H. Chambers United States Court of Appeals – Ninth Circuit

There’s more coming up on the Vista Del Arroyo Hotel.

–> Return through the park to S. Grand Avenue (the cul-de-sac) and turn right, following Grand Avenue to the south.

The main entrance to the former Vista Del Arroyo (“View of the Stream”) is at 125 S. Grand Avenue. Today a courthouse, access is available only to those with business at the facility. But it’s easy to take in the grandeur of the hotel even from here, without the views.  

Recognizing a good spot when she saw one, Emma C. Bangs opened a small, two-story wood-frame hotel on this site back in 1882, just a few years after the city’s founding. Although on the outskirts of town today, the hotel was just one block from the city’s main thoroughfare of the time: Orange Grove Boulevard.

“Main thoroughfare” is almost a misnomer as back then, Pasadena was mostly citrus groves. But as the town expanded, businesses, shops and churches moved eastward to present-day Old Town and the groves along Orange Grove Boulevard gave way to at the mansions of Pasadena’s rich and famous.

–> Continue down Grand Avenue.

F) Robinson HouseThis house at #195 S. Grand Avenue was designed by the famous brother team of Charles and Henry Greene and completed in 1906. Despite its overall Craftsman-style organization and roofline, the facing recalls Tudor Revival with its decorative half-timbering, rather than the prevalent (for the Craftsman style) shingles or rustic stone. Imagine the views they have!

G) Freeman Ford House. From the street you can’t see the Greene and Greene-designed home at #215 but you can appreciate the landscaping. It’s a product of Robert Gordon Fraser, the principal landscape architect for Busch Gardens (Pasadena). The 1907 home, the excellent Freeman Ford House, was pictured as the home of James Cobb, the architect portrayed by Leonardo DeCaprio in “Inception.” 

Just about every home on this street is attractive but two more deserve a second look: the Staats House  at #293 (Marston and Van Pelt, 1924) – a stately French Provincial home pictured at left; and the Tod Ford House at #257 (Reginald D. Johnson, 1919) – a Mediterranean-style gated mansion pictured right. 

–> Continue to Arbor Street.

(If you’re curious for more interesting-looking homes, check out #360 and #390, just a half a block past Arbor Street.) 

–> Turn left on Arbor Street and walk block to the side steps leading up into the Tournament House grounds.   

H) Tournament House. The “Tournament House” is the official headquarters of the Tournament of Roses Association. Big as it looks from the boulevard, this was once a 22-room “winter home” of the Wrigley family – just one of six homes owned by man who made his millions from chewing-gum. The Wrigley House (G. Lawrence Stimson, 1906) cost $170,00 when they bought it “used” in 1914 – a tidy $3.7 million sum in today’s dollars.

This wasn’t their only winter home, either – the William and Ada Wrigley owned three: a 24-room “Winter Cottage” in Phoenix and a Catalina Island getaway (now an inn) perched atop a hill overlooking Avalon. And although this home was relatively modest by Orange Grove Boulevard standards, the Italian Renaissance-style mansion suited Mrs. Wrigley just fine; she loved watching the flower-bedecked carriages and horses assemble out front to begin their parade through Pasadena. Ada Wrigley made certain that upon her death the house would be presented to the Tournament of Roses Association. So it was written and so, in 1958, it was done.

Inside the Tournament House are Rose Parade and Rose Bowl exhibits and photos. Outside is the 4.5-acre Wrigley Gardens, home to over 1,500 varieties of roses. Blooming begins in late March and continues into December.

–> Walk out to the corner of Arbor Street and Orange Grove Boulevard. –> Turn left and walk up Orange Grove Boulevard to Del Mar Boulevard. 

I) Starting point of the Rose Parade. You’re at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade’s  “Mile Zero.” Look closely into the middle of the boulevard – you should be able to make out the rose-colored stripe runnning up the middle of it. The stripe doesn’t end for another 5.5 miles – the full run of the parade route. From her front lawn, Ada Wrigley enjoyed watching the parade set up before moving down the boulevard; a century later the assembly point remains in roughly the same place.    

The Gambles, of the Proctor and Gamble firm, were “shy,” moving to the northern edge of Orange Grove Blvd., as did the wealthy Fenyes family. The Bissells’ (of carpet sweeper fame) anchored the south end of the boulevard, just across the line in South Pasadena. In between were dozens of stately – some would complain “ostentatious” – homes, earning the boulevard the nickname “Millionaires’ Row.”

Most are long gone as the area’s wealthiest have since relocated to other, tonier neighborhoods. But the boulevard remains elegant, now filled in with high-end condominiums and apartments. The Tournament House is one of the few mansions that remains.

–> Cross Orange Grove Boulevard and walk east on Del Mar Boulevard for half a block.

J) Mead and Bolton Houses. At #370 is the Bolton House. This is a 1906 design by Charles and Henry Greene. The bumped-out, glassed-in stairway was added by the accomplished architect Garrett Van Pelt in 1918. Next door at #380 is the Mead House (Louis B. Easton, 1910), another fine example of the Craftsman style of architecture, pictured below. The porte cochere is relatively recent but the restored home looks as beautiful today as ever.

–> Return to Orange Grove Boulevard, turn right, and continue north to Green Street.

K) Scoville House. The pale yellow home on the corner is the Scoville House (Frederick L. Roehrig, 1909). Roehrig’s name is associated with some of Pasadena’s most imposing structures, Castle Green being the best-known. Born in 1857 and passing away in 1948, Roehrig saw a lot of architectural styles come and go, from Victorian to Craftsman to Moorish and beyond; he designed in most all of them. This one, a “Craftsman-meets-Prairie” home, reflects those varied influences. The “Queen Anne-meets-Richardsonian Romanesque” home across the street (pictured right) is his design, too.    

–> Continue up Orange Grove Boulevard to the former Ambassador College.  

L) Site of former Ambassador College Campus. The entrance location (let alone your entrance ability) to the former Ambassador College site is unclear at this writing. Founded in 1947, the “Worldwide Church of God” campus incorporated a cluster of mansions erected in the early 1900s, as well as the modern buildings you see here, most dating from the 1960s and 70s. A local church purchased a 13-acre portion of the property, including the Auditorium (Daniel, Mann Johnson & Mendenhall, 1974). A private development company purchased a 10-acre portion with plans to demolish the 1960s-era student housing structures and replace them with a 70-unit complex of townhouses. Yet another section of the former campus is owned by yet another entity.

It goes without saying the future here isn’t certain; try to see it while you can. As of April 2011 the site remained open for snoopers so go ahead and snoop! Within the grounds are an attractive Italian-style garden and reflecting pool (minus its water) and the Merritt House (W. F. Thompson, 1906) – an Italian Renaissance mansion whose front portico and staircase is a popular spot for wedding photos.     

–> Continue up Orange Grove Boulevard to Colorado Boulevard. 

This concludes the Orange Grove Blvd. Side Trip.

Thanks for walking along with us.

If you found those Craftsman-style homes interesting, think about adding on the Gamble House Side Trip. You can pick it up right here at this corner. 

Rejoin the conclusion of the “Pasadena Adventure” tour and follow the directions to return to the Gold Line Memorial Park station. 

We suggest you take the south side of Colorado Boulevard on your way back to the station so you can more easily check out the shops along Green Street, one block south of Colorado Boulevard.

Side Trip Note: For more information about these and other architectural gems of the entire Los Angeles area, check out the excellent book by David Gebhard and Robert Winter entitled “An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles.”  

 

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