A Morning at The Huntington

I have long been told I should visit the Huntington. It usually comes up when I mention how much I love the Arboretum. This time, I took advantage of a class assignment to visit a museum, grabbed the hubby, and we set out for a leisurely morning. The Huntington is a huge piece of land just outside of the borders of Pasadena, and is home to beautifully maintained botanical gardens, an intriguing book collection in their library, and well rounded art and furniture collections in their art galleries. Because it is such a huge, beautiful place, and because it’s so easy to take tons of beautiful photos there, I’ll just share my favorite spots with you. If you live in or are visiting the LA area, this place is definitely worth a visit. We only spent about 3 hours there, but we easily could have brought a picnic and a book and spent the entire day lounging on their grounds an perusing their galleries.

First, we paid a visit to their Conservatory for Botanical Science, and it was quite a treat. The inside is split into different climates of course, but unlike some of the others I’ve been to, this one had classrooms and information stations throughout where you could learn about different plants and their environments.

DSCN3369 DSCN3328 DSCN3316 DSCN3318 DSCN3320 This pitcher plant is much like ones we saw when we were in Costa Rica a couple years ago. They lure flies and other insects into the pitcher, where they hold a digestive liquid that, well, digests them. DSCN3321Because the conservatory is so geared toward education, and surely there are lots of field trips for kids there, just outside they had created this adorable Children’s Garden. We didn’t stay long out of fear of stepping on a small child (they were running around all over the place, care free!) but I loved the entrance to it. This door reminds me of some doorway Alice might have come across while chasing the White Rabbit.
DSCN3323Child-sized furniture inside this little garden hut made the perfect shady spot for a mid-play snack.
DSCN3326 DSCN3325 I love a good art gallery, and the Scott Galleries on the grounds held a small but fantastic collection of all kinds of art for all eras. The architecture came across quite modern, with plenty of opportunity for natural daylight to spill in through the windows out front as well as through huge skylights installed in every gallery.DSCN3329

DSCN3342The galleries really attempted to harken to the eras in which most of the art was created, all this by way of paint color choices.
DSCN3331 DSCN3350 My favorite gallery was the contemporary art gallery (although that came as no surprise to my husband, since I’m always amazed at the skill and vision that goes into abstract and contemporary art.) I was pleased to come across a couple of recognizable Andy Warhol pieces.DSCN3333 Also, I had never seen this Robert Rauschenberg painting before. I’ve long been a fan of his. (Give me a Rauschenberg, Johns, or Rothko, and I’ll be occupied for hours.) DSCN3334 And then just around the corner, we came across this room, the center dominated by beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright furniture.DSCN3349 Not to mention the surrounding pieces, like this Tiffany lamp….DSCN3347 …and this Stickley side table. When I think of Stickley furniture, I think of bulky, chunky, mission style wood and leather chairs. But this table was so delicate, almost a little Art Nouveau.DSCN3346 In yet another room, I found on display this Charles Honore Lannuier card table, which I’m pretty sure I used in a project once, designing a spec room in the American Classical Revival style.DSCN3358And I just thought this chair was interesting, designed by Samuel Gregg.
DSCN3363 They also have an entire gallery devoted to Greene & Greene, designers from the Arts & Crafts movement, but there were no photos allowed inside. I’m disappointed I can’t share it with you here, but hopefully that gives you another reason to visit the Huntington yourself. In the meantime, here’s a link to the Gamble House in Pasadena, designed by the Greene brothers. I’ve been there 3 times, and it never gets old.DSCN3365 After walking through their daylit sculpture gallery, we walked around the side of the building, through these ionic columns…DSCN3370… and past this gorgeous, inviting green field…
DSCN3375 DSCN3376 …into the Huntington’s rose garden. It was beautiful! They have created a number of different paths and series of trellises to walk through and smell the roses.DSCN3381 DSCN3382 DSCN3383 DSCN3390 I thought these were an interesting idea to file away: concrete formed to look like trees, bark and all. Great for vines to grow on.DSCN3393 DSCN3391 DSCN3396 I think one of the biggest surprises we came across was how elaborate and perfectly manicured their Japanese Garden is! It felt almost otherworldly being there, and so peaceful.DSCN3398 DSCN3400 DSCN3404 And just up the way, there was also a Chinese Garden.DSCN3407

The courtyard that welcomed us in boasted beautiful stonework.DSCN3412 DSCN3411 All of the structures in this garden surrounded a large pond, and there were plenty of spots all around where you could sit, rest, and watch the fish.DSCN3410 DSCN3415 DSCN3418 DSCN3421 I had to stop to look at these bonsai trees. (Yes, bonsai is a Japanese art form, but it originated in China, where it was called penjing… ‘learn something new every day.)DSCN3424 DSCN3425 After wondering around the grounds some more, we ended our meandering in the library exhibits, where they seemed to be focusing on sciences of all kinds. There were some incredible, and very old illustrations throughout, and we had a lot of fun looking over them.DSCN3442 DSCN3443 DSCN3445 DSCN3446 And in a little nod to my Lighting Design class, I couldn’t resist snapping a couple photos of these awesome old light bulbs.DSCN3447 DSCN3448 DSCN3449

Would you be most excited about the gardens, the art galleries, or the library?

A 1920’s California Town

One of the things I love about my neighborhood is that you can see and feel how much history there is here. Most of the houses in the area were built in the 1920’s, and while very well maintained they still show the character of that bygone era. Adam’s Hill is the neighborhood, and the people here work to preserve that history and charm.

DSCN0678

Adams Square Mini Park

Adam’s hill used to be part of a town called Tropico, although it’s now all part of the city of Glendale. Glendale was established in the 1880’s but the residential boom really happened here in the 1920’s. My next door neighbor told me that the owner of my house 2 owners ago, who had been here for 50 years, was a postman and first dreamed about moving here when it was barely developed and there were only a few houses built on the hill. It looked quite different then! 

early photo Adams Hill

DSCN0681

a view of the hill today from my front door

My favorite spot to drive through is on the corner of Adams and Palmer, where I like to imagine what it might have looked like 80 years ago. I imagine a giant Plymouth parked out front of this ice cream shop as a couple sits inside with a root beer float. 

Adams Hill

the Snowbird Ice Cream owner went on to co-found Baskin Robbins

DSCN0666

corner of Adams and Palmer today

DSCN0668

corner of Adams and Palmer today

Right across from here, the Adams Hill Neighborhood Associate was able to preserve an old gas station built in 1936 by the Richfield Gas Co, that had been abandoned for some time. In 1997 the neighborhood landmark was turned into this beautiful mini park, and there is always someone there during the day, either reading, walking their dog, or playing with their kids in the playground.

DSCN0669

the former Richfield Oil Co. gas station

DSCN0658

Adams Square Mini Park sign reuses the gas station’s original sign

DSCN0675

now the old gas station is surrounded by flowers, trees, and other greenery

DSCN0676

flowers in the park

DSCN0655

this overhang used to protect the gas pumps but now it is a shady spot for a picnic

DSCN0673

there are plenty of places to sit under a tree with a book

And just up the street is this 1928 Art Deco building saved from destruction and recently turned into a neighborhood library. It’s small, but has some basic resources, and offers all sorts of public programs, computer access for neighborhood locals, and even a few video rentals.

DSCN0661

this rescued Art Deco building is now a neighborhood library

Even though California is one of the newer states and doesn’t quite have the history of New England, I’m continually surprised at how much history there actually is here. And I love that there’s so much of it right outside my front door!

 Do you know the history of your neighborhood or town?

Resources:

Historical Downtown Los Angeles

When people think of Los Angeles, they think of glitz and glamour, expensive cars, palatial McMansions, beaches and sunshine. But rarely do they think “historical.” In fact, there’s a surprising amount of history here in LA. The city was being built up quite rapidly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the result is a city of hidden Beaux Arts, Modern, and Art Deco treasures.

This past weekend the hubby joined me on an LA Conservancy tour I have been meaning to take for quite some time, and I’m so glad we finally went. It was a walking tour, close to two and a half hours, that took us through some of LA’s greatest architectural achievements, ending in a finale of sorts at the Bradbury building, considered LA’s single most important work of architecture.

Here are my favorite highlights of the tour. If you are in the LA area, I highly recommend you take one of the conservancy’s tours on your own. They have a bunch to choose from. I personally plan to hit as many as I can over the coming year.

The Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel (not actually associated with the national Biltmore you may have heard of, but using the same name nonetheless) is a pretty perfect example of Beaux Arts architecture. With it’s columns and ornamentation at the base floors of the building and ornamentation at the very top, the architects left the majority of the center of the structure relatively simple, as is typical for Beaux Arts design. To me, this looks just like buildings you might see in a city like New York or Chicago. The Biltmore is a gorgeous hotel, and they even offer a traditional afternoon tea for a truly Victorian experience.

DSCN0479

exterior Biltmore Hotel

DSCN0481

ornamentation at the top level of the building, typical of Beaux Arts architecture

DSCN0540

original front entrance
(today, you would likely enter from the other side, an addition to the building from the 1980’s with a covered drive-up area and parking garage)

Pacmutual Center

This building was originally built when Pacmutual was still the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company. Also in the Beaux Arts style, the ornamentation pattern is similar to the Biltmore. The building still holds most of it’s original charm and decorative detailing, making you feel like you have stepped into another time altogether while you wander through the lobby.

DSCN0486

front entrance to the Pacmutual Building

DSCN0484

this was the original Pacific Life Mutual Insurance Company crest, which still sits atop the entrance

DSCN0490

ceiling ornamentation in the main lobby area

DSCN0492

the building still has it’s original marble staircases

DSCN0493

this is also the original mailbox put into the lobby when it was built in 1908

Los Angeles Central Library

The library is one of those places I have always loved and appreciated. Sadly, we’re no longer technically City of Los Angeles residents, so no more checking out books from this magical place! But it’s still a public building, so anyone can visit. Although the architect refused to admit to building in any particular style, the library was built during the beginnings of the popularity of Art Deco, and it shows. He had also just returned from a trip to Turkey, and the tile work and murals throughout clearly reflect that influence.

DSCN0494

the library sits amongst the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles

DSCN0496

tile detail on the library’s pyramid-shaped top

DSCN0495

the US Bank Tower behind the library was once called “Library Tower” because it was built by purchasing air rights from the library; the library would have been torn down were it not for the money generated by this transaction
(Library Tower’s sunburst-shaped top mimics the sunburst on the library’s tile top)

DSCN0498

on the other side of the building, philosophers welcome the library’s patrons as they enter

DSCN0500

this mural has been cleaned, but never restored , so it remains in it’s original (albeit a little faded) form

DSCN0501

the mural on the ceiling of the rotunda is a near perfect replica of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque

DSCN0503

more details mimicking the Blue Mosque in Turkey

DSCN0502

this globe hangs from the center of the rotunda

The Edison Building (now called One Bunker Hill)

This is another Art Deco treasure that makes you feel as though you have entered another era when you walk inside. The lobby boasts an incredible amount of beautiful marble work and lots of original details including carved wood elevator interiors and inset ornamentations on the ceiling. Plus, there is a mural painted by Hugo Ballin, the same artists who painted the amazing murals in the rotunda at the Griffith Observatory.

DSCN0506

the Edison Building has had a few additions and updates, but mostly remains in it’s original form

DSCN0510

gorgeous marble work and decorative details in the lobby

DSCN0511

mural by artist Hugo Ballin

DSCN0512

the original wood detail still remains in the elevator interiors

Angel’s Flight and Grand Central Market

Angel’s Flight was recently re-opened to the public, and is a treasured piece of Los Angeles history. It was originally intended as transportation for the residents of the exclusive Bunker Hill (now populated by skyscrapers and performance theaters, and no longer residential) so that they could easily go from the top of the hill to the bottom. At the base of Angel’s Flight is Grand Central Market, which was bustling with activity just like I imagine it has since it opened in 1917!

DSCN0514

Angel’s Flight

DSCN0515

Angel’s Flight in action

DSCN0516

the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Market

Bradbury Building

This was the building we all had been anxiously awaiting our arrival to. You may recognize this one from movies such as Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer, among many others. The Bradbury Building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but is an incredible feat of architecture on the inside! No one actually knows exactly who the architect was, but Lewis L Bradbury commissioned it at the end of his life so that he may leave a legacy to Los Angeles. He never saw it in it’s finished form, but it certainly is a legacy. The glass ceiling allows light to travel into nearly every corner of the building, and incredible iron work and wood panelling details cover the space unlike any other place I’ve ever seen.

DSCN0518

exterior of the Bradbury Building

DSCN0523

interior Bradbury Building

DSCN0524

incredible detail in the iron work throughout the building

DSCN0525

one angle of the open elevator shafts

DSCN0526

the glass ceiling allows plenty of light to flood into the building

DSCN0528

a front view of one of the elevator hafts

DSCN0529

beautiful wood panelling details covers the walls and ceilings

I’m hoping to jump on LA Conservancy’s Art Deco tour next, but there are so many to choose from!

Do you have a favorite LA architecture gem? Or a favorite from your own city?