Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Open Floor Plan


South Pasadena's Craftsman and Victorian homes in the historic neighborhoods will capture your attention, of course. And with good reason. But if you explore the hills above town you'll stumble upon this curious house. (Well, maybe. If you can find it with all the no outlet signs and cul de sacs.)

I had to stop and take a picture of this place. It's like a hobbit house ... for a midcentury hobbit who was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright. And it appears to come with a science fiction cloaking device back there behind the front doors!

Just where do those doors lead, anyway? Middle Earth? Another dimension?

28 comments:

Vanda said...

Wherever it leads, they have to take the trash out too, apparently. Maybe the house is underground.

Blognote said...

I would be curious to know what the house behind that entrance looks like. Intriguing!!

Kim said...

OOoooo the inner sanctum! Looks like their font gate leads to an exterior courtyard. Okay, now I'm thinking the garage burned down and rather than rebuild, they extended the glass walls and gate under that long header. Really cool find, Laurie.
-Kim
Seattle Daily Photo

Zip said...

Way back in the past, the end of this street was open to traffic flow to El Sereno..., people used to drag race up VDR. Good thing it is now blocked off!
Behind the wood doors is an extremely relaxing garden, japanese style. If you can make your way up above, (Hanscom Dr.), you can see the garden...bring your binoculars.

Yakpate said...

Those doors already ARE in another dimension... South Pasadena!

altadenahiker said...

Knock on the door Laurie. (Love that tree)

barbra said...

Turning a garage into a Japanese courtyard - what an idea. Thanks for the inside info, Zip. I didn't know that El Sereno used to go through.

Hope said...

Wow, this is different! Look at all those trash cans lined up!

Trish said...

Zip beat me to the punch. I used to know the people that lived in this house...ahem, 35 years ago, k, am feeling old on that comment. anyway....

VDR used to be a raceway, both for cars and for thieves to mar the beautiful SoPas neighborhood of the Altos. So in a big flourish of bureaucratic paperwork, VDR was blocked off into El Sereno. ES residents took offense. Then it was pointed out trash, drunks and thieves were working their way north into SoPas and lowering property values and such. First just a wall was thrown up there. It was a sad day---made the trip to anywhere south a minimum 10 minute longer trip and the plain wall was nothing but boring. They did eventually put in trees and vegetation that you see now. Looks like it has always been that way, right? Amazing what 30 or so years will do.

There are a bunch of houses in the Altos that if you look carefully, you will see the effort put into them to make them something special, not just a tract house, thrown up 40-45 years ago.

LSaeta said...

Thanks for letting me know where this house is located. I was about ready to head out searching!!!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I don't know about some of these comments. El Sereno referred to as the land of drunks, thieves and trash? Gee, no offense taken.

San Diego Farmgirl said...

Behind those doors is a teenager who doesn't yet appreciate how cool that house is. All he/she knows is you have to walk through that friggin' garden to take out the trash! LOL

Judy Williams said...

This is one you truly cannot appreciate without looking at the BIG fill-the-screen version. It almost has a painterly (a la Monet's garden) feel. I really love the intricacies of the different species of flora with that terrific mix of the FLW architecture!!! I want to come visit soon and we can drive around, ok???

Cafe Pasadena said...

I think for a time SoPasa was also trying to keep out the inflow of artistic types.
As we can now see, they failed miserably.

Mister Earl said...

Interesting photo, Laurie. Your mention of a Hobbit house reminded me of a house in Hillsborough, CA, near where I grew up, which I always thought was a Hobbit house. A google search reveals that it's known, among other things, as The Flintstone House. Check it out:
http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/californiapictures1/ig/Unusual-Houses/Flintstone-House.htm

Anonymous said...

Apologies for going off topic, but this photo brings back lots of memories about that wall. I grew up in the Monterey Hills, and reflecting on the El Sereno blockade, it's definitely a double edged sword. Via del Rey certainly wasn't designed to be a high traffic throughway to connect one city to the next, but rather a "collector" street for the Altos de Monterey homes. In addition to pollution and crime, it would have been a huge traffic and safety issue for Monterey Hills School, which already has bottleneck traffic in the morning and afternoon. Not to mention lots of children running around.

But back in the day when the divider was just a wall, it really sent out the message that we were "trying to keep the riffraff out". Let's face it: from a socioeconomic and demographics standpoint, South Pas and El Sereno have little in common. Things became so tense that when they tore down the wall to construct a park, many South Pas residents thought the divider was being reopened, and they wrote letters to City Hall complaining about it. THAT's how big of a deal it was.

There actually used to be a divider at the end of Alpha Ave (those who are familiar with the Alpha terminus probably have wondered why that intersection is so unaligned). They took that out about 10 years ago.

Petrea said...

I'm intrigued by the tag on the door and wish I could zoom in on it!

dbdubya said...

Here's a little more history on the VDR barricade. When the tract was laid out in the 60's, it was never designed to be a major thoroughfare. But, as soon as it was finished, it became a busy street because it connected to Van Horne in LA which continued to Huntington Drive. Commuters to downtown chose it instead of Fremont or Monterey. And, it's a winding, hilly street that goes by a school. Los Angeles liked it so much they put in a signal and left turn lane at Huntington and Van Horne to channel traffic through South Pas. So, the City installed a barricade reulting in years of law suits. Los Angeles retaliated by installing the barricade at Alpha that Anonymous mentioned. They eventually took it out.

This becomes a hot issue about every 10 years when someone complains that it's there to keep the residents of El Sereno out. In reality, there are 13 streets connecting LA and So Pas and only one is blocked. The last time this came up was in 2002 when LA Times columnist Al Martinez wrote that it was racially motivated. The City Council addressed it during an emotion packed meeting. They concluded it was necessary to keep the street safe from dangerous traffic and decided to remove the wall and make it into a small park. It's now a nice little oasis used by people from both cities.

And now you knwo the rest of the story.

barbra said...

I learn so much here!

And Mister Earl, I know that "Flintstone house" well, although when I was living up there the house was white. It reminded me more of the house Luke Skywalker grew up in on that desert planet - it never reminded me of the Flintstones.

Tash said...

What an interesting discussion you've prompted, Laurie - with one little interesting gate. I had no idea about the controversy. El Serreno was always more upscale the HP when I was growing up, so who knew.

Laurie said...

Hey all,

I had no idea about any of the Via Del Rey controversy -- but I did wonder about that little park, and why it looked like they built a park over a roadblock. (I guess that's exactly what happened.)

Pasadenaadjacent, I understand why you would feel slighted by some of the comments. I have family in Highland Park. And for many of my almost 21 years in Los Angeles I lived in the marginal areas outside of the fancy parts of town: Hollywood right next to West Hollywood, Venice Beach right next to Santa Monica, Palms right next to Cheviot Hills. In all those places, I guess I was part of the riff-raff the other places wanted to shut out. Dbdubya's explanation about traffic makes the most sense as to why the wall was actually built on Via Del Rey. But it makes me sad to know some South Pas residents at the time thought of it as a gate to block out surrounding communities. (I grew up in Texas. When people mentioned lowered property values there, it was almost ALWAYS a racist code phrase.)

I must say, I'm charmed by the hillside communities both in South Pas and Highland Park and Garvanza. They remind me of the Hollywood Hills, in a way. But the views are even better.

Thanks, everyone, for chiming in and also for giving me the history of the area. I can always count on you guys to give me the scoop. I just passed my first anniversary as a South Pas resident. Before you know it, I'll be an old timer!

Until tomorrow...

Pasadena Adjacent said...

OK Dbyuba

But if I recall awhile back you didn't have a problem telling the folks about a shortcut to the 210 freeway from the Pasadena freeway that involves an equally hilly neighborhood with children and a park (and me) that ignores a very nearby thoroughfare called Figueroa (our version of Fair Oaks). We on the other hand did not put up a barricade but a traffic signal. I'd also argue that it was Al Martinez who exposed San Marino as taking state funds to operate Lacy Park and yet imposing a fee for non residents on weekends.

dbdubya said...

I apologize, PA, for obviously hitting a sore point - no offense intended. I was merely trying to explain some history of the VDR barricade since there are many myths about it's existence. The biggest one is that it's there to keep the people of El Sereno out. That's patently not true - the street was blocked off to prevent large amounts of through traffic from traveling through a residential neighborhood not designed for the volume of traffic it was experiencing before it was closed. This is a common practice used by many cities, including Pasadena, Alhambra, San Marino, and Los Angeles. What made this controversial is that it exists at a location that separates two very distinct neighborhoods and provides fodder for those who want to divide people based on ethnicity and socio-economic status. Sometimes the reasons decisions are made are much simpler - to protect people from dangerous traffic. That's what happened here.

I'm not aware of the suggestion about a shortcut to the 210 freeway. When you use the term "you" I assume you mean the people associated with South Pasadena. I've only been around and active for 7 years and have never heard that story. (Note to Laurie - it will be decades before you are an old timer). No doubt there have been many creative ideas put forth by South Pasadenans in their effort to keep the freeway from destroying the town and this may have been one of the arguments many years ago to justify the position that the freeway isn't necessary.

As for Al Martinez, he was one of my favorite columnists and I'm sorry to see he retired (or was furloughed) last month. I didn't always agree with him, especially on this issue. But, he was on target about Lacy Park. I lived in San Marino briefly as a child and there was this wonderful park open to everyone. Now it is fenced and gated and is no longer open to all. It's a bad symbol for that city and Martinez was right to expose it.

Trish said...

Mr E---the "Flinstone house" is well known in the Bay Area. Neon orange---you can't miss it when you're on 280, nearly in the dark it glows it seems! Actually, several of the houses along 280 are ahem, unique, shall we say!

Sorry if my tongue-in-cheek response was offensive to folks---that was not the intent. City big wigs puffed out chests to "save SoPas" at the time. That was not the feeling of all in SoPas.

The one thing I did not mention is that after the barricade went up on VDR, thefts, break ins, assaults, TCs and vandalism dropped in the Altos. Not just nearby the barricade, but throughout the hills. I had a friend on Camino del Cielo (near that house L took a pic of with the statues) who had a bike stolen---some time later it was recovered and yup, it was a groups of kids just over the border in El Sereno charged for that and several other crimes. Not saying ALL the crime was due to ES residents, but the barricade sure seemed to calm the Altos down in terms of crime and created a much more small-town feel.

Alpha----what a story. Anyone remember the stop signs, up and down hill? In the middle of...well, for no apparent reason at all. At the time, several people had diesel cars and stopping on the way up the hill, for no reason was not popular and could take for freekin' ever to get up the hill. I do remember the first time my mother went down Alpha after the signs---she nearly blew it, and of course, a lovely SPPD officer was sitting, waiting to hand out tickets. She only got a warning, thankfully. The barricades at the bottom of the hill on Alpha made life interesting. To try to get down the hill to Alhambra for any reason, which drove more traffic through other tiny SoPas streets---not really the intent, but it seemed to slow things down a bit.

What I find troubling is the attitude that the barricades were racial. I remember the discussions amongst families. Perhaps there were some people with racial motives, but the primary thing was to keep the children of the Altos safe. To keep homes safe. To keep things calm, not a drag strip. It truly, for the people we knew, had nothing to do with race. Whites, blacks, Jews, Asians, Hispanics and all sorts of flavors---all lived right near the barricade, and throughout the Altos---and were all for it. There were folks in ES that were happier with the traffic calming in their neighborhood as well---but they were loudly out shouted by the folks who seemed to think it was a racial divide. That saddens me. I grew up going to MHS not seeing the color differences, just having a host of friends who all looked a little different from one another. Things like these remind me of "Carefully Taught" from South Pacific.

Cafe Pasadena said...

Too often people who use the simplistic racist explanation as the reason 4 this or that are just too quick to prejudge. If it's done by pols then it may be done for political advantage & division. In this area, keeping out traffic in tight 25mph residential streets is big.

I'm not a So Pasa but I want small towns protected from anything that would remove their charm, or worse increase crime. Besides, we her in Pasadena certainly want to be protected from any negativity from the So Pasa's, El Serenoer's, San Mawino's, and AltaDena dairies's! For one thing, these communities could increase their stauts by feeding my fellow dogs a much higher class of dog food.

Alex said...

I agree with Trish! I grew up in the Altos and went to Monterey Hills School as well, and it was always funny to see residents with their old Merc diesels trying to make their way up the stop sign haven.

What outsiders to South Pas don't realize is that it is actually a very diverse city, both racially and socioeconomically. The Altos is admittedly a very nice neighborhood that nowadays would be difficult to move into if you're not at least upper middle class, but the city as a whole runs the gamut from pricey gated homes near Marengo to much more modest bungalows.

I'm about to open another can of beans here, but growing up, I often debated with non-residents about the Interstate 710 extension. Nearly every single person I talked to had similar impressions of the city: that South Pas was wealthy, white, educated, and elitist. Many seemed to believe that everyone owned posh Greene and Greene craftsman homes. I don't disagree with the fact that overall, SP is well-to-do, but to say that everyone here is rich disregards those who lead much more modest lives. I had classmates in middle and high school whose immigrant parents could barely afford renting an old apartment in South Pas. They did so with the goal of providing their kids with good public schools. My classmates came from all different backgrounds. Looking back at my high school class graduation photo, I am glad that I grew up a diverse and tight knit community that few people really understood.

Laurie said...

Welcome, Alex! What you describe is exactly the reason my husband and I were so intent on settling down and raising our daughter here. I love and treasure the diversity of our town.

Anonymous said...

This picture doesn't do justice to the love and effort that this family puts in daily to their garden. To my best recollection this is the original family, but my 43 years of living in the Altos maybe fogging my memory. Yes there were accusations of racism, but it seems even today that the cry of Racism to be the "knee jerk" response from those who know nothing of about a controversy. Many of the facts stated here are accurate on why VDR was temporarily blocked then finally closed around 1979. Alpha was closed by the City of LA as a response (some say retaliation) for the closure of VDR, but really it was to reduce traffic from Alpha toward Huntington right by a Grammar School. LA Times columnist Al Martinez did write in 2002 a series of two articles about the "Barricade" in which he called South Pasadena a "predominately White city". This was taken as labeling our community racist. The then mayor tried to address this false protrayal of South Pasadena by offering to reopen the street. Well as history now shows, he was ousted the following year. The closure area was an embarrassment to the city and has been remodeled to the mini-park it was intended to be. Both residents on the Via Del Rey side and those on Van Horne both stormed SP City Hall to keep the streets closed and traffic free. Both communities embraced the positive effect of quiet and safe streets.
but since we can throw out other topics.......
What do you South Pas residents and surrounding bloggers think of this Tunnel vs a surface freeway?...