Friday, September 26, 2008

South Pas Up Close

If you look closely at South Pasadena – and I mean really closely, sometimes with your nose right up to the surface -- you’ll find some historic little details. While much of Los Angeles (and much of the United States) has boomed with the philosophy of “New is Better” -- South Pasadena and much of the neighboring San Gabriel Valley have stuck to the idea that old is cool.

Look closely around here and you might notice an Eastlake door hinge or some innocuous Batchelder tile around a fireplace. You’ll walk across a segment of sidewalk marked 1928, visit neighbors whose kitchens sport 1930s Wedgewood ovens or Roper stoves. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a porch with an authentic Stickley chair or spot a perfect Judson stained glass window. For our friends around the world who live and work among centuries old buildings, pointing out a tiny detail left over from last century may seem slightly absurd. But for those of us weary of seeing a new GAP take over a corner bookstore, places like South Pas are a haven. Even the town improvements are kept within old style guidelines. Mission Street has new reproduction “antique” streetlamps, and it is a city violation here to install vinyl windows.

That’s why this little sign on my range hood makes me smile. We’re modern here – of course we are – just spelled with an old fashioned font, with a little paint peeled off and a little rust showing through…

24 comments:

Webradio said...

Hello Laurie !
You are right : The old is more beautiful...

Cute photo...
See You later !

Hope said...

The older I get the more I find myself yearning for those simpler times and the beauty of things from the past. And I'm only in my early 40's!

Laurie, I enjoyed this post so much! Your writing is wonderful! Love the photo, too!

Mister Earl said...

Laurie,

I'm sure you've been to that store that sells those old refurbished ranges. I think it's Chuck's Appliances. I have a Magic Chef from the 40s or 50s that I made them leave here when I bought my 1927 house. It's small, with four burners and a griddle. One side is the oven, and the other side is a cupboard. The guy from Chuck's came out about a year ago to make sure everything was working properly. Although mine is smaller than the typical ones in his store, he said the configuration was unique enough to make it worth restoring.

Speaking of Batchelder, I've been told that a certain house that is on the east side of the Arroyo between here and Rose Bowl, was the Batchelder House. You can tell because there's a tile on the chimney with a big "B" on it. I could point out the house, but as I sit here, I can't tell you where it is from memory. I've also heard that the Batchelder Tile factory was down near the Cypress Park Gold Line station. This all comes from my friend Dan who is a local history buff.

I've heard the city is a bit nuts with their no vinyl rule, and sometimes they take the "old" thing too far, but old is definitely cool. Do you ever wonder what our cities would look like if the preservation craze had started in 1935?

Judy said...

Life is seriously in the details isn't it? I adore fonts/text and when it is in combination with anything else, it really appeals to me. I love the fact that you took something so minimal, yet so important in the scheme of things, and let it shine. That little pop of red really pulls me to it along with the inclusion of the brick shaped subway tiles. I adore your kitchen. If it had human qualities, it's ears would be burning all the time, as I talk often of how much I love that room in your house. :~)

Petrea said...

Keep electing those like-minded souls to your city council, and you'll keep your town beautiful. I love the no-vinyl rule! I wish we had it in Pasadena, but I guess with a bigger town you can't...quite...it would be nice, though. sigh.

Sharon said...

Bravo for South Pasadena for keeping the integrity of cities architecture. Phoenix has similar rules, but only in certain historic area. I actually live in one of those areas and there are restrictions on what changes or improvements you can make to your property.

Yak Pate said...

In South Pas it's a city violation to install vinyl windows?

You mean, elected officials actually enact principles of good taste? I bet that means they're reasonably competent at applying common sense, too.

WAH! I wanna live in South Pas!!!

Stéphane Kardos said...

I love this photo. When my wife and I arrived here in L.A from Europe, it was a shock, we were looking at buying a house, and everything was so "new", I mean all the buildings around looked so recent.
That's why we loved Pasadena and Altadena, a place that looks a bit older, with history, and we then purchase our house from 1914 which we love; some people here would tell us that we live in a very old home, my Mum in France would say that our house is very new...it's all relative :)
Oh, and no vinyl windows for us, we are looking at replacing few windows, and we are making a point keeping them in wood true to the originals.
Have a lovely weekend.

Petrea said...

Haha, Stephane, I think I understand! We had vinyl windows in our Van Nuys house. Couldn't wait to get ourselves into this drafty old thing in Pasadena, with wood framed windows and wavy glass.

JAMJARSUPERSTAR said...

I'm of the logic "what goes around comes around" so anything that's old and uncool today will be totally cool in a few years - then South Pasadena will be THE place to be!
Ciao

http://scarletsculturegarden.blogspot.com

USelaine said...

I love it. I once lived in a magical old apartment building, where the kitchens still had built-in ice boxes, and old stoves. It's gone now, but I'm glad to have been able to live with it until then.

Steve Buser said...

The old is new again.

ken mac said...

excellent post, commentary and photo. That is your range? Must be from the 70s?

Mister Earl said...

Vinyl Windows - I think the rule only applies to older houses. Not sure of the details. Where it gets a little nuts is not allowing a vinyl window in a shower in the back of a house that no one will ever see. My neighbor has a detached stucco garage that she wanted to remove. It's nothing but four stucco walls. Has no artistic, aesthetic or historical value at all, but it was probably built in the 20s or 30s and they won't let her touch it.

Columbo said...

I love old...maybe because I am. Ha! In Whittier I bought a 1916 Craftsman house, my parents bought an 1889 Victorian house in Salem, Oregon when they first moved up there. They don't make the homes they way they used to. Bravo for South Pasadena.

From de Cafe said...

Columbo, agree on Whittier.
It used 2 have a lot more nice old houses before the Whittier earthquake hit last century. Sad.

Come 2 think of it, Whittier, the Quaker city, may be the closest thing to another Pasadena in our area. They've done well to fight off development from creeping up into their surrounding hills.

Shanna said...

Judson Studio is still with us ! Though across the arroyo from South Pasadena, it is alive and well and still making stained glass. It also has shows of contemporary art - very good stuff - and a great place to visit.

ryanpainting said...

I realize now that it is the all the little things that all add up to give South Pas a certain "feel". Thank you for pointing out - through your eye and lens - those little things to us!

I replaced my newer stove with a Wedgewood 1940 model. I have had most of the parts refinished and it sparkles like one those cars at a vintage car show. Lots of chrome and shiny white paint.

The Batchelder House is now occupied by Robert Winter, a renowned architectural historian. I interviewed him there for an oral history project. R. Winter is a great guy - and what a house! The fireplace is covered in goergous tiles to the ceiling. I still have a copy of the video tape.

Thank again for the great photos! It is your kind that makes So Pas a unique place to live.

Laurie said...

Greetings all,

Welcome ryanpainting! Thank you so much for your kind words. I have an old 30s Wedgewood gas stove, too. And I just love it. In fact, I've had old stoves in many places I've lived and I just think they cook better than new ones. :-)

I have driven past the Batchelder house many times and I always slow down to look at that tile on the fireplace. (Mister Earl, it's just south of California on Arroyo if I'm not mistaken.) I'm so glad to know that an architectural historian lives there -- that is the perfect person to care for such a historic home.

Stephane, Colombo and Petrea -- we all share the same love of old houses, don't we? I have always loved older homes with their creaky floors and squeaky door hinges. Personally, I love the fact that South Pas has said no to vinyl windows. They have become a blight on the west side of Los Angeles. I always shudder when I see someone take out the old wood frame sash double-hung windows on the bungalows over there and replace them with... vinyl grid ones. I'll take the energy inefficiency and draftiness of old wood windows any day. (Petrea, we have that wavy glass, too. I love the way the world looks through it.)

Hope, I've always had a thing for old stuff. You should have seen me trying to look like Lauren Bacall when I was in high school right down to the wavy side part and 40s dresses. (By the way, nobody even knew who Lauren Bacall WAS at my high school!)

Judy, you and I both love fonts and text in pictures. And I'm so glad you love my kitchen! I can't wait until your next visit when we can use that great new vintage series mixmaster you gave me. (Don't be too jealous, Altadenahiker...)

Elaine, my first apartment in Los Angeles was in Hollywood, just south of Sunset. It was built in the early 20s and had a great old stove and all of the original light fixtures and doorknobs. I could always envision Charlie Chaplin hanging out there, since it was right down the street from his first studios.

From de cafe -- I'm so loving your new nickname!

Shanna, I'd love to visit Judson studio with you sometime! It's conveniently located "Pasadena adjacent" as our friend Pasadenaadjacent would say...

Thanks for letting me include a little shot from my own personal South Pasadena space. Oh and Ken, my stove is from the 30s, but the range hood is from the early 1960s.

Til tomorrow, guys...

Laurie said...

I just realized I used the word love about ten thousand times in my post above. Guess it's a love fest over here today, folks! :-)

Mister Earl said...

OK, Laurie, the way you put it, you've convinced me that vinyl should only be used for old records!

Drive down Meridian about 3/4 miles south of Monterey. There's a flaming orange house for sale. Ever since they painted it that color, my friend calls it The Frida House. As you're driving south, you will see a vinyl sliding window facing north. It was just installed, I'm sure without permission.

-K- said...

Wonderful photo and the fact that it's there in your house makes even more poignant (not quite the word I'm looking for...)

Sally said...

There are many similarities in thinking between California and Sydney, and here I also live with the blight of "rip it out, bulldoze it, concrete over it". Sometimes it is migrants who have left behind the "old country" and have no use for the old, with the belief that 100 years isn't really old anyway, and who want to be able to show their friends, neighbours and family at home they have "made it" in the new country.

Vinyl windows I am not familiar with, but here the blight is aluminium frames. Wooden frames do take more upkeep to be sure.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

My stove is older then my house but not as old as my mother. The B house is over by the entrance to casting pond. The palm stump is near Judson studios.