Thursday, December 19, 2013

Photo Essay: Castle Green Open House, Old Town Pasadena

We East Coasters have long been drawn to Pasadena.

Some of us move there to escape the blustery cold. Others, like myself, just really like to visit.

One such East Coaster, Colonel George Green, escaped to Pasadena and invested in the Hotel Green on Raymond Avenue, more or less next door to the Santa Fe Depot (now Del Mar train station). In 1893, he expanded it with a new wing across the street, "The Annex," connected by an enclosed bridge.



That new wing became known as Castle Green, which still stands across the street from the site of the original Hotel Green, demolished in 1935, though the Castle Green annex has been split into two: the Castle Green apartments, and the (new) Hotel Green.


The bridge extending across the street was demolished too, but it still extends from the sidewalk to the second floor of Castle Green.



It is a curious, hulking landmark of what is now known as Old Town Pasadena...



...an architectural beauty of steel, brick and concrete that was saved, despite falling into decline after rail travel gave way to the automobile...



...and the Great Depression hit.



Even from the outside, the Moorish, Spanish, and Victorian influences employed by architect Frederick Roehrig are clear...



...with turrets and terracotta roof tiles...



...both imposing and inviting.



Ever since I first spotted the Castle Green, I knew I had to get in.



But since it's primarily occupied by private, luxury condo owners, and rarely open to the public, I took the first chance I got: their holiday open house.



The ballroom, which was added later for the wealthiest of Easterners to party brilliantly, was decked out in Christmas decor...



...as were the offices.



The ground floor is really something to see, with original mosaic tile...



...and Islamic art influences in the Moorish & Turkish Rooms...



...whose window carvings are reminiscent of screens found in mosques.



These rooms were originally known as the "Ladies Rooms," set aside for female patrons.



In a time that electrical lighting was new and innovative, the Castle Green's rooms were not gas-lit.



The staircase leading upstairs is Carrara marble, though you may find some wainscoting that is faux painted on top of slate to appear like marble.



Looking up the stairs from the ground floor lobby, you can see straight to the ceiling of the sixth floor...



...whose celestial mural design is punctuated by a hanging chandelier.



If you start at the top and work your way down...



...at the top of the stairs...



...you find the wrought iron caged elevator...



...the oldest 24-hour manually operated elevator still operating in California.



There are other, seemingly secret stairways...



...and dark, side hallways...



...but the main hallways on either side of the elevator are lined with private condos...



...each with their own distinctive style...



...some with their original hardware...



...others with Art Deco lighting.



Some of the apartments have a view of the mountains and the bridge below, the site of the former Hotel Green just beyond...



...while others get a good view of other parts of the Castle Green building itself.






There are vacant units, available for occupancy...




...though mostly the Castle Green is full, its residents each settling into their own unique styles.



We got to see nearly a dozen of those apartments, their fireplaces and Christmas trees and setees and dogs and kitchen counters all vastly different from one another. I think that was the draw for most of the attendees, but I prefer empty spaces.



Before returning to the ground floor after my six floor descent, I did stop by the second floor gallery space, which now occupies the former enclosed bridge. There aren't many signs of the former luggage trolley, and even the windows have been changed over the years, but it is scenic. It's understandable why the veloway (Pasadena's elevated bikeway) started here.

I couldn't help but walk to the end of it, to the curb of the west side of Raymond Avenue, and picture what once was, when it used to extend all the way across the street to the main hotel, which is no longer there.

One way for visitors to get to see at least a glimpse of Castle Green - including its decorative ground floor - is by visiting the Thomas Paine Society in the basement, which does occasionally take visitors and give tours of its collection. And, of course, like many historic buildings in the LA area, it's available for movie shoots (and weddings).

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Gamble House, Pasadena
Photo Essay: Where Old Meets New at Caltech