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Archive for the ‘Alhambra’s Architecture’ Category

The.Granada.Present.Day

This year we are focusing on 1920s Alhambra. In this issue, we shine the spotlight on three 1920s-era buildings that are still standing in Alhambra and retain many of their defining characteristics, almost a century after they were built.

Architecturally, the 1920s introduced Art Deco, Neo-Gothic, and Beaux-Arts and many other styles of architecture to the world. It was no different in Southern California. Here in Alhambra, the Roaring Twenties was a time of tremendous growth and change as our young city welcomed a huge influx of new residents and businesses; a decade in which the local population tripled in size. It was the Jazz Age, when “Anything goes!” was the mood and everything seemed possible. Construction exploded and Alhambra saw the design of buildings that ranged from a Carnegie-funded Greek Revival-styled library to an Egyptian-themed movie theater. Sadly, many of these 1920s-era buildings have either been razed or altered beyond recognition.

Despite significant losses through the decades, Alhambra still has a number of outstanding examples of 1920s-era architecture. These buildings should be preserved, protected and celebrated. The Granada, formerly the LA Gas and Electric Corporation headquarters; the Carmelite Monastery on Alhambra Road; and The Alhambra, formerly the C F Braun & Co. headquarters, are shining examples of how the architecture of the 1920s touched the lives of Alhambrans a century ago and how that architecture still influences us today.

The Granada, formerly the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation

The.Granada.Present.DayConstructed in 1929 at a cost of $160,000, the building was designed by LA Gas Company architects and engineers to evoke the period of the Italian Renaissance. Arched window and door openings predominate, with a glazed terra cotta base surmounted with varied-colored brick in harmonizing shades.

On September 7, 1929 the company held an “open house” at its handsome new office building. The public was invited to visit and to view the beautiful new offices. Music was furnished for the occasion by the company’s own orchestra, comprised entirely of Gas Company employees. Refreshments were served, and Manager Roy C. Gardner was on hand to greet the public as host of the gala event.

The.Granada.1930sNewspapers of the day raved about the impressive design and architecture of the building. The first floor contained the main lobby and corporate business offices, manager’s office, investigation room, vault, and distribution department offices.

Of beam and girder design, the interior featured floral decorations in pastel shades ornamenting the soffits and molds of the beams. In the northeast corner of the lobby was an enormous fireplace with a mantle of onyx inserts. The frontage on 1st Street was divided into large display windows, which were flood-lighted for the display of various household gas appliances. The main public stairs leading to the mezzanine floor featured a balustrade of ornamental ironwork. A mezzanine bordered the south and west walls and served as the display and demonstration area for the new gas- and electric-powered household appliances. The woodwork and doors on the first and mezzanine floors were of mahogany, as was the main public stairway leading to the second floor.

At one end of the lobby, a raised platform showcased the installed, fully equipped model tiled kitchen whose purpose was to introduce the public to the uses and benefits of natural gas, “The Modern Fuel.” The demonstration kitchen at the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation was in frequent use as the venue for cooking classes and “household expositions” conducted by Florence Austin Chase, a nationally-known authority on home economics who also wrote a “women’s column” in the Alhambra Post-Advocate.

The Gas Company maintained offices at this location until 1965 when the building was sold to the West San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. Today it is The Granada, a dance studio, nightclub, and event facility.

The Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite.Monastery.Main.Photo

The Carmel of St. Teresa in Alhambra was established in 1913, when five Carmelite Sisters left St. Louis, Missouri to establish a cloistered monastery in the Los Angeles area. Led by their Prioress, Mother Baptista, they lived in rented houses for 10 years until the present monastery could be built in Alhambra—the first one of their order in California. The cornerstone for this building was laid in June of 1922, with members of all Catholic orders in the Los Angeles area present at the ceremony.

A dignified Mediterranean Renaissance Revival building clad in red brick and capped by gabled roofs of red clay tile, the residence and sanctuary reflect their inspiration—cloistered European convents of the 16th and 17th Centuries. An outstanding example of Carmelite.Loggiasthis type and style of architecture, the convent was described in the Pasadena Post upon its opening on June 24, 1923 as “one of the finest in the United States”. A classically articulated portal of pre-cast concrete defines the monastery’s entrance. The first floor of the convent is defined by loggias at the south and west elevations, which overlook a broad expanse of lawn and garden.

The convent’s sanctuary faces Alhambra Road. Reached by two flights of shallow steps, the entry is framed by columns that are surmounted by a classical entablature, consisting of an elaborately molded architrave and frieze and a broken scroll pediment. The name of the convent is chiseled into the frieze. Centered above the entrance, a deeply inset circular window is adorned by a quatrefoil reveal of cast stone. This site, at the corner of Monterey Street and Alhambra Road, was selected for the convent because of its particular beauty. Originally an orange grove, the site’s location provided an unrestricted view of the San Gabriel Mountains to the east, with snow-capped ranges just beyond.

John_C._AustinAlhambra’s Carmelite Monastery was designed by one of Southern California’s most prominent architects. John C. Austin was born in England in 1870, immigrating to California in the 1890’s. He established an architectural practice in Los Angeles in 1895. Austin was very active in local civic affairs, serving as President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Southern California Historical Society, and the Jonathan Club, as well as the California Board of Architectural Examiners. He designed some of the most famous and easily-recognized landmark buildings in the Los Angeles area, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among these distinguished buildings are the Los Angeles City Hall, the Shrine Auditorium, and the Griffith Observatory.

The Alhambra, formerly the C F Braun & Co. Headquarters

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Carl Franklin Braun, the founder C F Braun & Co. was a man who was always looking forward. Born in Oakland, CA in 1884, the son of California pioneers of Swedish and Danish descent, Carl Braun grew to be a man of many talents — an engineer, a salesman, a bibliophile, a teacher and an author. He studied mechanical engineering at Stanford University and started C F Braun & Co. in 1909 with a few associates and $500 capital. His firm would go on to become a 20th century leader in petro-chemical engineering, making substantial contributions to the World War II effort by working around the clock to build plants that produced aviation-grade fuel and synthetic rubber.

Braun Portrait.1954C F Braun & Co. moved its international headquarters to Alhambra from San Francisco in 1921. The complex included towering brick walls, 22 buildings and a landscaped plaza on 36 acres. The primary building material for this “modern office complex” was brick – all purchased from the same San Francisco manufacturer. Braun was a practical man, an engineer, who didn’t hesitate to move or modify buildings — or to build new ones — according to the nature of the work in which the company was involved and the functional needs of its various manufacturing projects. The significance — and the beauty — of this campus is that, through dozens of modifications and 92 years of operation, purposeful attention to architectural character and detail has preserved the integrated whole.

Braun.interior Office Complex.1952-1C F Braun & Co.’s interior offices featured wood paneling and were “pleasingly appointed and well-lighted” as described in a promotional brochure. It had every amenity needed for a modern manufacturing plant including a state-of-the-art engineering library, woman’s lounge, men’s locker room, a restaurant and a medical office staffed by an on-site physician. Mr. Braun’s goal was to “provide comfortable and pleasant surroundings for its workers, of every class, that they may have pleasure in their work and pride in their plant and product.” He took a great deal of pride in the “modern workplace” that he created.

The Granada, the Carmelite Monastery and The Alhambra are an integral part of Alhambra’s story. They inform Alhambrans about what life was like and how people lived and worked during the 1920s – a time of intense growth in our city. They offer a visual history. Their designs were thoughtful. Their materials and workmanship reveal the artistry, industry and aesthetic of the people who built them and the time in which they were built. When we allow historic buildings to be demolished, we sacrifice those touchstones that, by revealing our past, can help to inform decisions about our future.

Alhambra Preservation Group continues its work to protect and preserve Alhambra’s local historic and architectural landmarks and to celebrate their unique and irreplaceable contributions to our city’s community and culture.

A special thank you to Chris Olson, former president and board of member of Alhambra Preservation Group, for her assistance in writing this article.

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Easter.EggsMany of you may be familiar with Easter eggs. No, not the kind filled with candy that children go hunting for this time of year. The Easter eggs we’re referring to are hidden features, messages or images in a video game. With the holiday weekend upon us, we thought it would be fun to highlight some of Alhambra’s architectural Easter eggs – those architecturally significant structures and/or features that may be easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. Here are just a few – waiting to be found by you!

Millard.Sheets.muralMillard Sheets Murals at Mark Keppel High School – In the late 1930s, as Alhambra’s Mark Keppel High School was being built, Millard Sheets – a Chouinard Art Institute graduate and leading figure behind the California Style watercolor movement – created three exterior enamel and stainless steel relief murals. The murals remain today. The three murals depict the history and culture of early California with one showcasing the state of California, the second featuring Los Angeles County and the third showing three groups of people who populated early California. (Mark Keppel High School, 501 East Hellman Avenue, Alhambra)

DSC_0755Neon “Alhambra” Welcome Signs – At the western, eastern and southern entrances to the city of Alhambra, you’ll find “Alhambra” neon signs, which welcome visitors to our city. Currently only the southern sign on Valley Blvd. is working. Neon signs and their rich history date back to the early 1900s. The French chemist, inventor and engineer Georges Claude introduced the first neon lamp to the public in 1910; he introduced neon signs to the US in 1923. In addition to its welcome signs, Alhambra has two historic businesses that use neon signs. The Hat on Valley Blvd. and Bun N Burger on Main St. both feature vintage neon signs. Alhambra’s Arts and Cultural Events Committee is considering the restoration of Alhambra’s neon welcome signs. APG applauds this idea. (Alhambra’s neon signs – Huntington Blvd. at the border of El Sereno, Main Street at the border of San Gabriel, Valley Blvd. at the border of Los Angeles)

Joe.Candalot.1926Joe Candalot & Sons Building – Just east of Alhambra’ neon sign on Valley Blvd. at the terminus of the 710 Freeway, you’ll find a simple non-descript two-story brick building with the words “Joe Candalot & Sons – 1926” imprinted near the roof. In 1899, Sylvestre Dupuy – the original owner of Alhambra’s Pyrenees Castle – married Anna Candalot, a young Frenchwoman and accomplished chef. They raised four children – a daughter and three sons – in Alhambra. After the Dupuy’s moved into the Pyrenees Castle in 1927, the couple began developing lots on present-day Valley Blvd. Mr. Dupuy set up his sons in the tire business, naming it Y Tire Sales, which is still located on Valley Blvd. and is still owned by the Dupuy family. Whether this building in southwestern Alhambra was at one time the offices of Y Tire Sales has yet to be proven. And who was Joseph Candalot? Anna Candalot Dupuy’s father? Her brother? We’re still researching this branch of the Dupuy family. But the fact that the Candalot name features prominently on the building’s edifice links it to Alhambra’s Pyrenees Castle somehow. (Joe Candalot & Sons Building, 3078 Valley Blvd., Alhambra)

Olson.1930sAlhambra’s Millionaire’s Row – In the early 20th century, many cities had neighborhoods that came to be known as “Millionaire’s Row.” These were streets lined with mansions owned by wealthy and influential city leaders. Alhambra was no different. During the 1920s and 30s, Alhambra’s elite lived on North Almansor Street in the Orange Blossom Manor tract, which featured homes with revivalist architectural styles ranging from English Tudor to American Colonial, from Dutch Colonial to Spanish Colonial. The homes were owned by such Alhambra luminaries as Victor Clyde Forsythe, renowned southwest Plein Air painter; Frank Olson, a lumberman who owned Olson Lumber and whose stunning English Tudor Revival home remains today; and Elmer Bailey, an experienced citrus orchardist who established the Golden Pheasant brand. Homes on Alhambra’s Millionaire’s Row have been featured on home tours and in movies. (Alhambra’s Millionaire’s Row, North Almansor Street north of Main Street)

43.Main.St.FacadeFormer Home Furniture Company Building Façade – As you drive east on Main Street just past Garfield Avenue, look to your left and you’ll discover a building that looks decidedly different than its neighbors. Several years ago, the 1970’s façade of this building was removed and an early 20th century storefront was discovered underneath. This building was the original location of Alhambra’s Home Furniture Company, which was Alhambra’s preeminent furniture store in the early 20th century. Boasting more than 32,000 square feet of furniture display space, the Home Furniture Company saw several owners during its lifetime. Today the façade that remains features decorative pillars and ornamental urns adorned with garlands of fruit and ribbon. (Former Home Furniture Company Building, 43 East Main Street, Alhambra)

We hope you enjoyed reading about a few of Alhambra’s architectural Easter eggs and the stories behind these gems. There are many more to be found in Alhambra, which is why a citywide historic resources inventory is overdue and necessary. We simply don’t know where all of our city’s architectural Easter eggs are hidden. It’s time to find them all and discover Alhambra!

Note: If you do decide to visit these locations or look for additional architectural Easter eggs in Alhambra, we ask that you not disturb business owners, residents and students. Happy hunting!

Did we miss any of Alhambra’s architectural Easter eggs? If you’re aware of any, please tell us about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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208.Beacon.StAlhambra is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in Los Angeles County. From elegant Victorian homes to classic Mid-Century Modern houses, from a hilltop castle built by a Frenchman to a rustic log cabin built by Boy Scouts, Alhambra boasts more than 25 different architectural genres and sub-genres in a mere eight square miles.

Meet Alhambra’s oldest residences – its Victorian homes. Many are familiar with the white Queen Anne Victorian home located at 403 South Garfield and recognize it because of its location on a major thoroughfare and Alhambra Preservation Group’s work to save this local landmark. But did you know that Alhambra has a dozen other Victorian homes throughout the city? Read on to learn more about Alhambra’s grand old Victorian’s.

1885.Victorian.Garfield.403 South Garfield – Easily Alhambra’s most recognizable Victorian home, this three-story Queen Anne Victorian home has stood at 403 South Garfield since the mid-1880s and was home to multiple families before it was even 50 years old. This house was home to the owner of a printing company, a teamster, a salesman and served as a boarding house called The Garfield during the 1920s. Listed in the 1984 Alhambra Historic Resources Survey, this home would qualify as local landmark status. A little known fact is that famed San Gabriel Mountains conservationist and hiker Will Thrall lived across the street from this home at 400 South Garfield during the early 20th century.

208.Beacon.St200, 204 and 208 Beacon Street – If you travel east on Beacon street from the Queen Anne Victorian home at 403 South Garfield, you’ll discover a trio of Victorian homes on the south side of the street. Brightly painted like Easter eggs, these Victorian homes are listed in Alhambra’s 1984 Historical Resources Survey as qualifying as a historic district. The two-story blue Queen Anne home located at 200 Beacon Street is especially significant to Alhambra’s history as it was the original home of Claude Adams – the son of George Adams, one of Alhambra’s earliest settlers. This home was originally located at the corner of Chapel Avenue and Main Street. It was moved to its current location on Beacon Street in the early 20th century.

Shorb_home300 North Granada Avenue – This was the home of one of Alhambra’s founding fathers – James DeBarth Shorb – and his large family. James DeBarth Shorb’s wife was Maria, the eldest daughter of Alhambra’s founder, Don Benito Wilson. Rumor has it that this home may have been moved in the early 20th century from San Marino to the home’s current location on North Granada. Built in 1888, this house, which was built in the Italianate style, features characteristics that one would find in this Victorian-era architecture. The two-story house is sheathed in shiplap siding and features a truncated roof with bracketed cornices at the eaves line.

F.Q.Story.house502 North Story Place – Francis and Charlotte Story built the home at 502 North Story Place in 1883. Its matching carriage house can be found a few doors down Story Place. Francis Q. Story was among Alhambra’s first leaders and played a huge part in the success of California’s fledgling citrus industry by creating the Sunkist brand of oranges that endures today. Mrs. Story was key in establishing Alhambra’s first library.

If you drive past this house, the first thing you’ll notice is that it faces north. The reason is because when this house was built in the late 1800s, its long, grand driveway began at502.N.Story.Place the corner of present day Almansor Street and Alhambra Road! Mr. Story’s citrus orchards stretched from the arroyo on the east to present day Main Street on the south.

Unfortunately, this home was significantly damaged in a fire in the mid-20th century and was greatly altered as a result. Today, it sports a more Federalist style than its original exquisite Queen Anne Victorian design. In its glory days, this was one of Alhambra’s finest homes!

Graffen.Grayscale2391306 West Pine Street – Located in the northwest corner of Alhambra, on the border of South Pasadena, this two-story Foursquare home was built in 1905 and was the original home of Adolph Graffen, an orchardist whose land holdings included the area from this home south to Alhambra Road and east to Atlantic Boulevard. A fun fact is that when Mr. Graffen subdivided his land in the early 20th century, present-day Marguerita Avenue was named after his daughter, Margie.

117 North Stoneman Avenue – Built in 1886, this Victorian home is located on the corner Elgin-Stoneman_1of present day Stoneman Avenue and Elgin Street. Elgin, Illinois was the birth place of Claude Adams and this may account for the naming of this small street in Alhambra. This was the home of Samuel and Emma Crow in the early 20th century. The Crows, in partnership with William Drake, owned Crow and Drake Grocers, which was located at 4 East Main Street, catty corner from the Alhambra Hotel. No doubt they did a booming business as “Dealers in Groceries, Hardware, Tinware, Provisions, Fruit, Flour and Feed” as their 1903 advertisement boasted.

2114.San.Clemente2114 and 2118 San Clemente Avenue – Tucked away on the corner of San Clemente Avenue and Date Avenue, just west of Alhambra’s Granada Park is a pair of transitional Victorian homes built in 1905 and 1910 respectively. Transitional Victorians were popular during this time and often included a mix of Victorian and Arts and Crafts characteristics. Built long before the Midwick Country Club was constructed, the owners of these homes were probably two of Alhambra’s earliest farmers or orchardists.

212 South 6th Street – When this farmhouse was built in 1890, it would have been located on the western outskirts of Alhambra. Sixth Street’s former name was Ynez Street, named for James DeBarth Shorb’s second daughter, Ynez. In 1903 the only house listed on South Ynez Street was a home at 202 South Ynez. It was the residence of Charles Bixby, his wife and four children. While we can’t be 100% certain that this is the home, there’s a pretty good chance that this was the original residence of the Bixby family and that its address has simply changed over the years.

These homes are Alhambra’s oldest residences and deserve to be identified, celebrated, preserved and protected. It is time for Alhambra to adopt a comprehensive historic preservation program including a citywide inventory of historic resources as well as a historic preservation ordinance to provide the protection these grand old Victorian homes deserve.

We invite you to take a driving/windshield tour of Alhambra’s Victorian homes. Which one is your favorite? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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