Monday, February 18, 2013

The Gamble House

Pasadena's Arts and Crafts Masterpiece

The Gamble House

Between 1900 and 1910 Southern California suddenly became a very desirable destination for wealthy midwesterners to spend the winter. With first class pullman rail service from Chicago to make the trip safe, swift and comfortable, they could come and enjoy California's sunshine, citrus and beaches. Arriving in November and staying until April they could simply pretend that the winters back home did not exist.

With few residents LA County enjoyed lots of open space, lush foliage and crystalline air.

For many the migration became an annual ritual. When they departed at the end of "the season" they left a standing reservation for the next. They stayed at such exclusive resorts as Frank Miller's stunning Mission Inn nestled among Riverside's fragrant orange groves or at Pasadena's elegant Huntington. 

After a few seasons, many concluded it was time to build a second home, or perhaps simply retire and live year round in Southern California.

As a result by 1910 the permanent population of Los Angeles County had swelled to 500,000. LA's image and cachet (as the first motion picture studios began filming in Hollywood) now positioned it to begin a meteoric explosion in population.

It was a magic place to be at a truly magic time.

The Southern California land rush was on.

Pasadena became the epicenter of the "City Beautiful" movement and the birthplace of a new California style of architecture that would become known as "California Arts and Crafts". The pioneers of this style were the Brothers Greene.

Charles and Henry Greene were born near Cincinnati and grew up in St. Louis. Their father was a homeopathic physician who stressed the curative values of natural light and fresh air. The brothers completed 2 year architectural training courses at MIT and worked in a variety of architectural offices in Boston.

In 1893, at the request of their parents, they moved to Pasadena California. On the way they stopped in Chicago to see the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. It is believed that the Japanese exposition at the fair had a profound impact on them.

Once in California in 1894 they established their architectural practice and began developing a holistic style they referred to as "Ultimate Bungalow".

In 1895 David Berry Gamble, heir to the Proctor and Gamble Company in Cincinnati, retired.

In 1907, the Gambles after wintering in Pasadena for many years decided to build a home and selected a site. At some point they hired Greene and Greene to design the new residence. Perhaps they met the Greene's while they were overseeing construction of the nearby Cole House.

Together a perfect client, the right architects, and a superb set of builders and craftsman produced one of California's most splendid homes.

An Example of the "Cloud" Motif Used Throughout the Home

The Entry Lobby
(Took This Through a Window, Alas No Photography is Allowed Inside)

Gutters and Downspouts

A View From the Back of the Home

Slip Joint Fasteners
(Although Built to Include Telephones, Electric Lights and Power, it was Built Without Power Tools) 

One of its Much Copied Light Fixtures

We arrived about 40 minutes before the bookstore opened (where tour tickets are sold.) That gave us time to walk around the house and photograph it. Once the bookstore (in the detached garage) opened tickets for the first five tours sold out almost immediately.

The Bookstore (gift shop) is actually quite good with high quality items at fair prices. Great place to secure a holiday gift for anyone with an interest in architecture.

The home is owned by the City of Pasadena with tours operated by USC (two lucky USC architecture students are allowed to live in the home). Consult the website for special events.

A glimpse into a Southern California we can only now imagine.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

No comments: