Sunday, March 6, 2011

Photo Essay: The Gamble House, Pasadena (Updated for 2017)

[Ed: Some editorial content and photos added 7/30/17 10:41 AM PT]

Pasadena was founded in the 1870s by families from Indiana looking to escape Midwestern winters, and since became a destination for Middle American industrialist magnates like William Libbey of Libbey Glass. They built winter homes that occupied a large horizontal footprint, but from the outside appeared almost modest—despite the tremendous investment they required.

And so Pasadenans are known to say, "If you're not comfortable in Los Angeles, you'll be comfortable here."

And I, being from a town as Midwestern as Central New York can get, feel very comfortable in Pasadena, too.


circa 2017

One of its many architectural marvels is The Gamble House, commissioned by David Gamble of Proctor & Gamble.


circa 2017

Most people would recognize The Gamble House as the setting for Doc Brown's house and workshop in Back To The Future (particularly the garage).


circa 2017

The garage once housed several (electric!) cars at the time of the Gamble family—but now it's the visitor's center and gift shop where the house tours begin.



It was designed by the architectural partnership of Charles and Henry Greene in 1908, at the height of the Arts & Crafts movement...



...which was somewhat of a predecessor to Art Deco, but with a focus on open-air and outdoor spaces.



Many of its characteristic designs are quite geometric.



But there's also an embrace of elements of nature—particularly Asian flowers and trees (like gingko, dogwood, and other Japanese plants).


circa 2017

These themes are repeated not only in the art glass doors and windows...


circa 2017

...but also the lighting fixtures designed by both Greene & Greene and Louis Comfort Tiffany.


circa 2017

Electricity was still relatively new at the time of the Gambles' arrival to Pasadena, and no one was entirely sure how safe it was. Most bulbs were of a low wattage, and most of the fixtures either directed the beams away from people's faces (and up towards the ceiling) or provided some kind of shield.


circa 2017

The low lighting and mixture of deep brown woods (maple, Honduras and Santo Domingo mahogany, black walnut, etc.) make the inside of the house incredibly dark—so much so that the Gambles couldn't find any prospective buyers for it who didn't want to paint everything white to brighten it up.


circa 2017

So, to preserve the integrity of the interior, the Gamble family initiated the process of converting their private home into public property...


circa 2017

...gifting it to the City of Pasadena in 1966.


circa 2017

Its educational activities now as a house museum open for tours are managed by USC, whose strong ties to the California Arts & Crafts Movement along the Arroyo Seco date back to the late 19th century.


circa 2017

The Arroyo was pretty wild back at the turn of the last century—but now, the area of Westmoreland Place and Orange Grove Boulevard (a.k.a. "Millionaire's Row"), just 0.3 miles from the "dry river," has been tamed into manicured lawns and lotus ponds.


circa 2017

A red-eared slider turtle is about as wild as it gets now.


circa 2017

The Gamble House is one of many Craftsman homes in Pasadena, enough worthy for a whole walking tour of the neighborhood.


circa 2017

But on its own, the Gamble House is so huge and its design is so intricate, you've got to tour it several times just to see everything.


circa 2017

I've been twice, and I still feel as though I've only scratched the surface.

But fortunately, the photography restrictions have recently been softened—which means I'll be back.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Mysteries of the Pasadena Magic House & Museum
A Pasadena Mansion Plays the Role of Plantation
Photo Essay: The House of Chewing Gum and Roses 
Photo Essay: The Time Capsule That Is Lanterman House