Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Pasadena Bonus - Greene and Greene

This post is a follow up to my first commentary about my experiences at the Rose Bowl and Parade in Pasadena.  On my first trip over to the Rosemont Pavilion, where the floats were being assembled, I looked out the shuttle window and noticed that we were passing by a house I recognized.  It was the home of Doc from Back to the Future, where Marty first encountered him and his Delorean time machine.  It is otherwise known as the Gamble House by the brilliant California arts and crafts period architects Greene and Greene.

Their houses were inspired by their trip through Chicago on their way to California, where they saw the Japanese pavilion at the World's Fair, and also some of the early Prarie Style work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

What I most appreciate about this and the other houses is their amazingly beautiful attention to craft in the detailing.  The edges of the supporting beams and rafters are all rounded, and the joinery is all very intentional.

The craftsmanship also carries over into related areas like the woodworking and stained glass in the main entry doors.  Where the glass in Wright's Oak Park houses is very geometric, the patterns here are much more natural and organic.

Seeing the Gamble House, first from the bus window, and later as I walked back into town, I was inspired to walk back over the next day to see all of the Greene and Greene houses in the neighborhood.  They are  really beautiful and wonderfully preserved examples of the best architecture of the period, and i was fortunate to have a beautiful day to visit them.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to tour the interior of the Gamble House, as it was closed the days I was there, but that house is open to the public, and well worth seeing.  All of the others I saw are still private homes, but you can walk around the fronts and see the amazing details firsthand.

There is a large group of homes located on Arroyo Terrace, right off Orange Grove, just before arriving at the Gamble House.

My favorite of the houses I saw is called the Duncan Irwin house, and it's located at one of the corners of Arroyo Terrace, with great views out into the surrounding valleys.  The colors, forms, and details are similar to those of the other homes, but the corner site enabled them to do an incredible composition, and the entry way, with large natural stone posts and climbing vines, is really nice.

Brothers Charles and Henry Greene had an architectural practice in Pasadena in the late 19th and early 20th century.  The Gamble House was designed in 1908, and is their largest project.  They also designed the Thorsen house in Berkeley that how houses the Sigma Phi fraternity.


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  2. My children were born in 1968 and 1970 at home in the house that you show in the 5th and 6th photos of this blog post. We lived in the above ground basement apartment at 370 Arroyo Terrace and became great friends with the owners of the house, Marie & Don Duffy. I had grown up in NE Ohio and though I knew about the Arts & Crafts movement because of my father’s interest in crafts and wood working, I had never seen a Greene & Greene house until I moved to Pasadena in 1966. I used to walk all through that neighborhood, passing the Duncun Irwin House every day. We didn’t have two nickels to rub together at that point in our lives, but wow, what luck we had stumbling across that apartment in that neighborhood!