Friday, April 17, 2015

Photo Essay: The House of Chewing Gum and Roses

I'm not one for house tours, usually. I prefer dilapidated and vacant to repainted and furnished (especially when the house contents aren't original, but replicas or "period-appropriate" substitutes).

But the Wrigley Mansion is different. It's not a house museum.



It's the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses, the folks behind the Rose Bowl football game and Rose Parade, whose floats and bands and horses march down Orange Grove Avenue (also known as "Millionaire's Row"), right past the house.



In the quiet months before things start really ramping up for New Year's Day – February through August – you can actually visit the inside of the mansion...



...which was one of several homes of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., who did most of his candy business out of Chicago but liked Southern California so much, he bought the island of Catalina (and also called that home).



Wrigley didn't actually commission the construction of his mansion: he purchased it from architect G. Lawrence Stimson, who built it for his family to live in. Eight years later when it was finally complete, children had grown and they no longer needed a residence of that size, so they sold to Wrigley.



Stimson's architectural legacy is still evident in the house, with three of his characteristic design elements: exotic woodwork (like on the four-inch-thick mahogany front door)...



...ornate molded plaster ceilings...



...and elaborate fireplaces, a unique one in every room.



Only one room contains furniture original to the Wrigley family's residency here, the dining room...



...featuring a large, hand-carved, Italian dining table and two sideboards...



...relocated to Pasadena from Catalina for fear of the potential damage done by the humid sea air.



Every room's ceiling bears its own design...



...and in the living room, you can see faces and bodies and maybe even demons in the black swirls of the Circassian walnut walls.



Most of the wall coverings at Wrigley Mansion are new (including the whimsical fabric walls of the soundproofed telephone booth)...



...except in the solarium, where the Wrigleys' silver foil wallpaper – there was always one room with silver wallpaper in each of their houses – is a reminder of the silver gum wrapper from which they gained their fortune.



The original layout of Wrigley's mansion included many open air areas – patios, sun rooms, porches, balconies, etc. – which have since been enclosed, or closed off for additions built by Tournament of Roses.



No visit is complete without a concert given by an organ that plays itself...



...whose pipes are hidden underneath the staircase leading upstairs, a screen and grille turning it into one large speaker.



Upstairs has seen the most dramatic conversion, where bedrooms are now offices...



...and showrooms for Rose Parade memorabilia.



Even if you've never actually attended the Rose Parade (like me), visiting the Tournament of Roses headquarters gives you a tremendous sense of the pageantry...



...through photos...



...and the crowns of Rose Queens of yore...



...which, unlike today's pearl and diamond crowns, are just costume jewelry.



Each year, the Queen of the Tournament of Roses and the six princesses in her royal court get ready in their own dressing room and bathroom...



...but maybe they'll get the chance to pop into the preserved washroom (including the 300 pound original pedestal tub) of Wrigley's widow Ada...



 ...who died in the Wrigley Mansion in 1958, over 25 years after William passed away.



Ada nicknamed Wrigley Mansion "The Shadows" because no natural light could make it into the house through all of the trees that Stimson had planted.



Many of those sun-blocking trees have since been removed, but the gardens that were built on a neighboring property purchased by Wrigley remain...



...and are open as a public park.



The gardens are maintained by the Pacific Rose Society (a member of the Tournament of Roses Association)...



...though they also include camellias and annuals, in addition to the roses.



The Tournament House is one of the more modest of the mansions that were built along Millionaire's Row. It's also one of the ones that remain after the mid-20th century rezoning of Orange Grove – an effort which demolished many historic homes in favor of multi-unit dwellings. If the Wrigley family hadn't donated it to the Tournament of Roses after Ada's death, it likely would have been razed, too.

The Tournament of Roses Association is a fascinating organization, entirely run by its volunteer members – who not only do not get paid (even the president, for whom it is essentially a full-time job), but actually have to pay membership dues and buy a $300 white suit if they don't already have one. Despite all of this, there are always more applications than open membership slots, which keeps the Association at full capacity – 935 members – all of the time. I'd like to see what the Tournament House is like when it's bustling with activity closer to the end of the year. Too bad I'm too old to apply to be Rose Queen.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Floats of the Rose Parade, 2015
Photo Essay: Rose Parade 2014 Floats, In Progress
Photo Essay: The Horses of the Rose Parade
Photo Essay: Rose Bowl Stadium, Renovated Again, and Open for Tours!
Photo Essay: Gamble House, Pasadena