February 10, 2016

A Pasadena Mansion Plays the Role of Plantation

It was nice to find out that the Fenyes Mansion in Pasadena was chosen as the setting for part of Beyonce's new music video, "Formation."

After all, Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills seems to get all the wedding and film shoot bookings.

Closed for three years for interior and exterior restoration, the Beaux Arts mansion reopened to the public in 2012.

Although it poses as a Southern Gothic plantation straight outta New Orleans in the new music video... was actually custom built in 1905 for Dr. and Mrs. Fenyes along Pasadena's "Millionaire's Row."

It was designed by architect Robert D. Farquhar, also of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library and Beverly Hills High School.

Tucked away behind and maintained by the Pasadena Museum of History, the Fenyes estate isn't usually top-of-mind when it comes to LA's mansions...

...but, of course, given its proximity to Hollywood, this isn't the first time it's been caught on film.

It was first used as a filming location in 1912 for D.W. Griffith's When Kings Were the Law, but it was also used in The Social Network, Newsies, and even The West Wing.

One thing's for sure: It is not just another mansion along Millionaire's Row. Dr. Fenyes was a medical doctor, but he was also an entomologist—and he maintained an "insectorium" in the gardens where he could further his studies.

The house stayed in the family for four generations, having been passed down from Dr. and Mrs. Fenyes' only daughter, Leonora, and then to her daughter Babsie, who married a Finnish diplomat in 1946. It subsequently served as the Finnish Consulate for 17 years, which explains the adjacent Finnish Folk Art Museum in an anachronistic Swiss chalet.

What does any of this have to do with contemporary pop music, Louisiana, or politically-charged racial protest?

Well, nothing.

But the houses in LA are actors, just like the people. They can play any role—with the right dressing, lighting, and camera angles.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The House of Chewing Gum and Roses
Photo Essay: Gamble House, Pasadena

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