January 30, 2015

Photo Essay: In the Footsteps of the Pioneers

Sure, you can read books and articles. You can attend lectures, and chat with historians.

But the best way to see how people really lived in the past is to walk in their footsteps.

Thankfully, there are enough preservationists out there to save some of the historic homes of the early Los Angeles pioneers – whose legacy includes some unique architectural structures, gardens, art, and, of course, burial grounds.

One such site is the Workman-Temple Family Homestead Museum, a six-acre site where you can explore LA history in the century between 1830 and 1930.

The gazebo is actually a relatively recent addition to the property...

...which is now just a fraction of the original Rancho La Puente.

The Workman family, led by English-born William Workman (ancestor to the former LA mayor), were cattle ranchers that also had successful vineyards.

Workman, an early settler, is known to have led a group of pioneer wagons overland from New Mexico to Southern California via the Old Spanish Trail.

The family took a simple three-room adobe house built in the 1840s, and started adding on to it,
by 1870 transforming it into a traditional American home of the time (with its adobe beginnings almost unrecognizable unless you examine the thickness of the original exterior walls).

Adjacent to the Workman House is the 1920s Spanish Revival La Casa Nueva...

...was built from the wealth of oil discovery by Workman's grandson, Walter Temple.

The home has been restored to a period-appropriate condition...

...despite having been repurposed between the 1930s and 1960s: first as a boys' military school, and then for nearly 30 years as the El Encanto Convalescent Hospital.

Students and patients who stayed here over the years were treated to a tremendous amount of interior ornamentation...

...thanks to wrought iron, carved wood accents, ceramic tiles, and nearly 50 stained glass windows.

Many of them depict familiar scenes of the pioneers... well as the scenery of the time, including the oil derricks that brought the Temples some of their fortune.

Others provide architectural glass portraits of the cultural and artistic luminaries of all time, like Handel...

...and fellow classical music composers Liszt...


...Bach, and literary figures like Shakespeare, Milton, Cervantes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

It is one of the largest public collections of its kind in California, many (if not all) custom made specifically for this house.

Although Mexican tiles are used exclusively in the house's larger gathering rooms, American tiles are used in the bathrooms, each with their own colors and patterns.

The outdoor vine-covered walkway is also tiled on its concrete floor...

...and some can be spotted on the exterior, especially upstairs along the balcony outside of the museum's archives...

...and in contrast to the red clay Spanish tile roof.

Perhaps the most intriguing structure at the museum is Walter Temple's Tepee...

...a separate retreat from the Temple's main house...

...consisting of an enclosed, windowed single room...

...adorned with tiles, textiles, a dramatic chandelier, and the requisite mounted taxidermy.

It's Walter's version of a 1920s man cave.

Walter was originally interred at San Gabriel Mission Cemetery, and later moved – and now he and the rest of the Temple and Workman families are buried at the private cemetery on the property, El Campo Santo ("the cemetery," or "sacred ground" in Spanish), one of the oldest of its kind in Southern California.

The mausoleum at El Campo Santo also contains the remains of Pio Pico, the last governor of California while it was under Mexican rule, but there are many unmarked graves in the plots behind it, many markers reading simply "At Rest."

Even though the homestead was not such a bad place to live, and, in fact, not such a bad place to die and spend eternity, there is a real sense of sadness and loss to this place – a cherished home that multiple generations of two different families could not manage to keep in times of financial ruin.

After William Workman came all this way, crossing the entire country to (eventually) get to California, his moderate success was overshadowed by his failed banking business. Owing an unpayable debt to Lucky Baldwin, Workman lost his homestead, and, in 1876, shot himself at age 76.

According to the Los Angeles Herald, "...In a moment of wild despair he sent the bullet crushing through his brain." It was "...a deplorable circumstance..." that "...cast a gloom of sorrow over the entire valley."

Hopefully he is now at rest.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: A Day at the Rancho, A Step Back in Time
Photo Essay: The View from a Famous Mapmaker's Estate
Photo Essay: Compton's Historic Urban Garden Oasis
Photo Essay: The Unseen Buried at Pioneer Cemetery
Photo Essay: Savannah Memorial Park Pioneer Cemetery, Memorial Day

January 29, 2015

Four More Years?

I keep saying that I can't believe it's been four years since I moved to LA.

But I'm lying.

Time doesn't fly.

It's been a long four years.

It's been a long four years without my best friends.

It's been a long four years eating dinners alone.

It's been a long four years sleeping alone.

And now that I've made it four years, and I'm hovering somewhere on the fence between being new in town and settling in.

But it's hard for me to imagine another four years in LA. I'm exhausted. I know I can't go back – and I wouldn't want to – but in what condition is the road that lies ahead?

I feel like I'm back in my car, stuck in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest, with no option but to keep moving forward.

But what happens if I do?

I still have this schoolgirl mentality that I should be awarded something after four years of hard work – some certificate or diploma or degree or congratulations or scholarship or something. But Tuesday came and went without pomp. Just the usual circumstance.

And so here I am, underemployed, under-appreciated, underwhelmed, struggling more than ever, dodging bullets left and right. I can't seem to catch a break.

I still don't know what I'm doing here in LA.

I still don't know what I'm doing on this planet.

But at least this town is a nice place to camp out while I figure things out. I guess I'll just wait to see how bad they can get, before they start getting better.

Related Posts:
My God, What Have I Done?
A Year in LA
The Best Life?

January 28, 2015

Photo Essay: Saving Sturtevant Camp

Someone recently asked me what I do in my "down time." I said, "There is no down time."

After all, pretty much everything I enjoy – art, recreation, nightlife, history and culture – is documented here on this blog. Sure, there is some late night pizza that I might not have that much to say about, but you can visit my Instagram to live vicariously through much of my food and beverage adventures.

So while I knew I would enjoy a guided hike through Big Santa Anita Canyon and a tour of Sturtevant Camp co-hosted by my favorite hiking blog, I couldn't help but seize the opportunity to make something out of it.

Of course I would write about it here. But it turns out, this event – which was held to raise money to buy the camp and save it from its floundering state – was also an opportunity to publish my first article for KCET's SoCal Wanderer blog.

This is a real news story which I'm happy to have broken, but I'll let you read all the details over at KCET's website.

This, below, is my experience of the event.

We met at 7:30 a.m. at Adam's Pack Station, a famous rest stop at the Chantry Flats trailhead which I'd somehow missed when I'd come to hike to Sturtevant Falls the last time, despite my love for donkeys and mules (and beer).

It was an ungodly hour for me, out of shape, out of the habit of getting up early to hike the mountains with the Sierra Club and other groups.

But I was drawn to this area for its history: there was the destination of the camp itself, of course...

...but also plenty to see along the way, like the oldest operating telephone system in the U.S. (a crank-style phone that can get Adam's Pack Station on the line)...

...and the ruins of the four other resorts that used to flourish here.

There is the added benefit of the scenery, which is spectacular.

I'd been on the Gabrielino Trail before, but I had stopped at the falls...

...not realizing what lie beyond.

And when I arrived on Sunday morning, I also didn't realize that the only way to reach our destination, Sturtevant Camp, was to hike at least four miles in...

...and, of course, at least four miles back out.

But the lure of exploration for me is tremendous, and the opportunity to peek inside these historic structures...

...including the 1897 Swiss Dining Pavilion, which was once open-air...

...and now is enclosed with original wood, with painted mule shoes hanging from the beams.

Overnight visitors at Sturtevant Camp can cook in the communal kitchen...

...whether they stay alone, as a couple, or in a family or other group... a cabin...

...or a bunkhouse.

The donkeys and mule can be rented from the pack station to bring food and belongings up the pack trail...

...while you get a moment of peace in the middle of the forest...

...or opt for adventure...

...on the camp's own zipline.

There were so many of us who attended the fundraiser that we were split into four different hiking groups: advanced with Modern Hiker, two intermediate groups with volunteer hike leads, and "at a donkey's pace" behind the pack. Given my recent physical condition, I opted for the intermediate group hiking the shortest distance, hoping to not overestimate my ability as I have done in the past.

After all, we weren't there for sport. We weren't there for fitness or weight loss. We'd come for leisure, to recreate the spirit of the Golden Age of Hiking, and to learn about history – all in hopes of saving a historic site.

I knew it would be educational, but I didn't know I'd have so much fun. I didn't think I would laugh so hard.

I never went to church camp or day camp or sleepaway camp as a kid. My parents tried their hardest to keep me indoors, inside the house, at all times. As an adult, I've only gone actual camping once, in the sweltering desert. So this day trip up to cool, shady Sturtevant Camp was just a little taste of something that was completely foreign to me, a woodsy getaway that ended all too quickly.

And then I had a long walk downhill before I could head home.

Further Reading:
Friends of the San Gabriels Mount Fundraising Efforts to Save Historic Sturtevant Camp (KCET / SoCal Wanderer)

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Gabrielino Trail, Chantry Flats to Sturtevant Falls
Photo Essay: Mountain Oaks Resort, Abandoned & Illegally Subdivided
Recap: A Beginner's Journey Into Desert Camping