Gamble House Side Trip

Gamble House Side Trip: 1.5 – 2 hours. This is an easy-going, mostly-level stroll of about 2 miles  – most of it through tree-shaded residential streets.  

What you’ll see:

  • The Gamble House, designed by Pasadena’s own Charles and Henry Greene, is one of the country’s finest examples of the Craftsman style. 
  • Other Craftsman-styled homes, most designed by the Greenes (including Charles Greene’s own home.
  • A variety of residential home styles: Tudor, Queen Anne and Dutch Colonial.
  • The Norton Simon Museum,
  • The historic Colorado Street Bridge.
  • Long forgotten (or ignored) monuments

This Side Trip is 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.

The house names 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. 

The residential area is peaceful and quiet but be careful at crosswalks up near the Colorado Boulevard/Orange Grove Boulevard intersection and the Ventura Freeway on and off ramps.

–> From St. John Avenue continue walking 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. This intersection is makes for an odd, seldom-visited depository for Pasadena plaques, markers and monuments. You’ll stop by the other three corners on the return leg of the Side Trip. Here on the right (the northeast corner) rises a flagpole. Originally sited smack in the middle of the intersection within a small traffic circle, the city wisely moved the Pasadena Memorial Flagpole to this corner. 

No ordinary flagpole, this. It was designed by Bertram Goodhue – the same architect who executed downtown L.A.’s Central Library. The sculpture’s base is the work of Lee Lawrie who partnered with Goodhue at the library, too.  

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

–> Turn right and walk across the Ventura Freeway (134) bridge to Holly Street.

–> At Holly Street, turn left, crossing Orange Grove. Continue down Holly Street to Grand Avenue.

–> Turn right on N. Grand Avenue and continue walking.

C Halstead House. The second structure on the right (#90) is the Halstead House (Greene and Greene, 1905). It’s the first of many Craftsman-style homes seen on this Side Trip. The Halstead’s had the Greenes add a full story to their original 1½-story home.

OK – here’s what to look for in the Craftsman-style homes. Not all exterior components are present in all homes but generally you’ll see:

  • 1, 1½ or 2-stories
  • Low-pitched roofs
  • Deep eaves
  • Exposed rafters with decorative knee braces
  • Deep, covered porches
  • Stone or clinker brick columns/walls/chimneys
  • Wood construction, usually painted or stained in dark, natural tones 
  • Double-hung windows (upper window with small or multiple panes; lower with single, larger pane)   

Next, at 130 N. Grand Avenue, is the Park House (below left), a brilliant white Colonial Federal Revival home. It’s an exception in the neighborhood as is the Newcomb House (its gatehouse – that’s just a gatehouse! – is pictured below, center), a Tudor mansion (Architect unknown, 1910). The Hutchins House (Architect unknown, circa 1895) is in the Queen Anne-style (at right), coming up in just a minute.  

–> Cross Live Oaks Avenue (on the right)/Arroyo Terrace (to the left) and continue on N. Grand Avenue. 

D) Myron Hunt House. At 200 N. Grand (pictured below right) is the Myron Hunt House (Myron Hunt, 1905), the former home of the noted architect by the same name. Myron Hunt’s works – the Huntington mansion – now the library, art collection and botanical gardens available as a WalknRideLA “Pasadena Adventure” Side Trip; the Elk’s Lodge you passed earlier on this Side Trip; the Rose Bowl, also a Side Trip option; and the Pasadena Public Library seen on the main tour, are located throughout Pasadena. He also had a hand in a house just down the street, coming up soon.    

That’s the Hutchins House, a Queen Anne home at 202 N. Grand Avenue (circa 1887, pictured above right with the Colonial and Tudor homes). It was moved here from across the street where the elusive Culbertson House now stands (the house behind the ivy-clad privacy wall).  

E) Van Rossem House. At #210 is another Greene and Greene Craftsman-styled home: the Van Rossem House (1904). A fan of the Greenes, you’ll see another house built for Josephine Van Rossem on the next street. Here, try to see how many of the components of the Craftsman style you can locate.

F) Speirs House. The Speirs House (Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey, 1904) at #230 N. Grand Avenue is not a Craftsman-style home but a beautiful example of Dutch Colonial Revival. You’ll see far more Dutch Colonial homes on the east coast, particularly in the New York City area where early Dutch colonization made this style a bit more relevant than here in Southern California. Still, it’s no less inviting. The left dormer is part of a seamless extension; the original house had but three.   

G) Duncan-Irwin HouseAt 240 N. Grand is another Green and Greene structure, the Duncan-Irwin House (1900, 1906). The two dates refer to two phases of construction: a single-story bungalow was built in 1900 and expanded six years later to the handsome home you see today. To many, it rivals the Gamble House as the finest of the Greene brothers’ work.

The Craftsman style could be called “organic” in that some homes feel and look supremely comfortable on their site – almost as if they’ve grown from the ground. Here, notice how the retaining walls, steps and chimney, all stone and all covered in ficus vines, appear to emerge from the earth. Asian stone lanterns and light fixtures blend well, too; Asian design influenced the Arts and Crafts movement as well as homes that embody the Craftsman style.        

–> Turn right onto Arroyo Terrace.

H) Charles Greene House. Charles Greene himself lived here at 368 Arroyo Terrace – in a Craftsman-style house, of course. Built over a thirteen year period (1901-1914), the Charles Sumner Greene House represents the style nicely. Again, notice how the rock of the hillside moves into the rock of the retaining wall and then into and up through the house itself – and its chimney. And don’t miss the one-car garage which seems to tunnel into the hillside. The garage door woodwork and stone and clinker brick patterns above it are noteworthy. 

“Clinker” bricks were the bricks that lined the interiors of firing kilns. Constant exposure to high temperatures changed the chemical make-up of the bricks, rendering them far more dense and heavy; the heat also changed their color and texture. Typically, they were discarded when kilns were rebuilt. But Craftsman architects – Greene and Green among the first – saw beauty in those clinkers! And so, here they are.   

Speaking of the hillside, check out the views into the Arroyo Seco Valley below. In the distance is the Rose Bowl; in front of the bowl is Brookside Park. Both can be visited as a Side Trip. If you’re doing this Side Trip on a clear day the mountain views can be spectacular.   

I) White Sisters House. Notice the home at 370 Arroyo Terrace. Charles Greene married Alice White in 1901; her sister lived here in what is now called the White Sisters House (1903). It’s of the Greenes’ design, of course, though the second floor’s shingles were replaced with stucco. The rocks you see were pulled from the ground and used in the home’s retaining walls and first floor. As with Charles’ own house, clinker bricks are mixed with the stones creating a rustic, organic composition. Clearly, Asian architecture has had a strong influence on the Craftsman style.       

J) Van Rossem-Neill House. The clinker brick and local stone of the front wall at the Van Rossem-Neill House (400 Arroyo Terrace, Greene and Greene, 1906) was added by the home’s second owner, James Neill. It makes almost as strong a streetside impression as the house itself. It wouldn’t bother the Greenes to hear that; they were both architects and landscape architects for most of their commissions. 

At #408 is the Hawks House (Greene and Greene, 1906). Check out the driveway. Like so many walls on the street, it’s of boulders and clinker bricks.  

K) Willet House. But maybe it would bother the Greenes to know that their Willet House (424 Arroyo Terrace), built in the Craftsman style in 1905, was remodeled as a Spanish Revival home some years later. Though a fine home here, the differences between the styles are clearly evident, now that you know a Craftsman when you see one!

L) Ranney House. Finally, at the corner (440 Arroyo Terrace) is the Ranney House (Greene and Greene, 1907). Mary Ranney worked as a draftsperson for the Greene and Greene firm and it’s believed much of what you see came from her drawing board. The right portion of the house was a later addition. The landscaping (from the 1980s) includes flowering nectarines, in bloom for this photo.  

–> Turn left at Orange Grove Boulevard. 

M) Cole House. The woodsy grounds of the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church on the corner (Whitney Smith, 1972) make a good neighbor to the area’s Craftsman-style homes. The church property encompasses a Greene and Greene home, the Cole House (1906). Feel free to wander onto the property and take a closer look at the former home’s exterior; it’s now a church campus building.

Notice the taper of the chimney as larger stones give way to smaller and smaller stones as you pass through the roof, eventually revealing a smooth stucco surface at the top.  

–> Continue down Orange Grove (the adjoining service road is called Westmoreland Place) to the Gamble House.

N) Gamble House. If you’re visiting the Gamble House (4 Westmoreland Place, Greene and Greene, 1909) on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you’re in luck. One-hour docent-led tours ($10) are provided between 12:00 and 3:00 pm. Gorgeous from the outside, the Gamble House is particularly noteworthy inside, too. The Greenes designed the interiors, furnishings included.

Pasadena wasn’t new to David and Mary Gamble (that’s the Gamble of the “Proctor and Gamble” name) when they decided to move here in the early 1900s. Like so many others, they had left northern winters behind, visiting Pasadena from their home in Cincinnati numerous times. Like so many others, they checked into Pasadena’s luxury resorts and like so many others, the area grew on them and they decided to move here permanently.

The Gambles may have considered building their home on “Millionaires’ Row” – that exclusive stretch of Orange Grove Boulevard running south from Colorado Boulevard into South Pasadena. Instead, they chose this large lot to the north of Colorado Boulevard. They sought out the Greenes and in 1907 the planning began – plans that would include custom furnishings designed to best complement the Gambles’ treasured art pieces.

By the first month of 1909 the Gambles had their home. It remained in the family until 1966 when deeded to the city of Pasadena. 

Click here for more information about the Gamble House and tours.

–> Step back to Orange Grove Boulevard, turn right, cross Arroyo Terrace and continue towards Walnut Street. 

–> Cross Orange Grove Boulevard at Walnut Street and continue to the Pasadena Museum of History entrance. 

O) Pasadena Museum of History. What was once the neoclassical private home of Eva Scott Fenyes is now owned by the Pasadena Museum of History. Designed by Robert Faquhar (well-known for his design of the beautiful California Club in downtown Los Angeles) and completed in 1906, the Fenyes House is worth a stop. Eva Scott Fenyes had a good eye and a penchant for fine china, furnishings and art – much of it remaining within the house.

At this writing, the Fenyes House is under renovation. The completion date is set for 2012.  Still, you’re welcomed to take in its dazzling white exterior. You can also visit the museum’s exhibits and gift shop, located within a separate building on the site. There’s also a small garden and a Finnish Folk Art Museum on the museum grounds.  

Click here for more information on the Pasadena Museum of Art. 

–> Retrace your steps to Orange Grove Boulevard, crossing the boulevard at the corner of Walnut Street.

–> Turn left and continue up the boulevard, crossing over the freeway bridge once again. Continue to Colorado Boulevard.

On the corner to your right is one of seemingly forgotten plaques arranged around the intersection. This one – the “Pasadena Pioneers Bridge” was dedicated in 1953 to the freeway bridge it overlooks. The bridge has since been incorporated into the Ventura Freeway (134).

–> Cross Colorado Boulevard to the small park on the corner. 

P) Founder’s Monument. Within the park is 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. The bench faces a plaque (Pioneer Plaque) listing Pasadena’s 27 original settlers. There’s also a “Heliport Plaque” here in front of the bench 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. 

–> From the Founder’s Monument, take the cement walk heading west, deeper into the park.

You’ll see the “Defenders Parkway Plaque” fixed atop some stone slabs on the left. Dedicated to war dead of the American Revolution, Civil, Spanish-American and First World Wars, nobody really knows how it got there, who put it there or when it was put there. Being of solid granite, it’s not likely those slabs are going anywhere soon.

–> Continue on the path past the Grand Avenue cul-de-sac and then on to the Colorado Street Bridge.   

Q) 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.”   

R) 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 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

For more information about the historic hotel, visit the Orange Grove Blvd. Side Trip.  

–> Retrace your steps back to the intersection at Orange Grove and Colorado Boulevards. Cross Orange Grove Boulevard.

This corner (the southeast corner) is purposely empty of plaques or poles. It’s here where the Rose Parade’s main grandstands and TV commentator booths are erected each year. It’s also the sharpest, most challenging corner for Rose Parade float operators. Maybe it looks easy enough for cars but picture a multi-ton, 100-foot-long-plus parade float maneuvering through the turn.

–> Continue down Colorado Boulevard to N. St. John Avenue. 

This concludes the Gamble House Side Trip.

Thanks for coming along!

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

We suggest you continue on 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.

If you want to see more of Pasadena’s beautiful homes, consider adding the “Millionaires Row” Side Trip to the this one. You’ll see more Craftsman-style homes and the former Wrigley mansion (now the Tournament of Roses headquarters). You can pick it up at this corner. 

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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