January 22, 2017

Photo Essay: A Museum in a House That Was Never a Home

At first, it doesn't look like much.

And I've got so many places saved to my map, I sometimes forget what it is that first drew me to them.

Sometimes, the only thing I know is to go to a place—and once I get there, I start figuring out what the story is.

Usually, a place will eventually reveal itself to me...

...though it might take some time.

Occasionally, I've got to have someone explain it to me.

"Where am I?" I'll ask—and they'll start to tell me I'm at, say, a koi pond, or at such-and-such place, or in such-and-such town.

So, I'll interrupt them and say, "No, I mean, what is this place?"

And they can't figure out what brought me there or how I found myself on their doorstep—but if it's someplace that doesn't get many visitors, it doesn't matter to them what brought me there...

...only that I showed up.

Such was the case with the Edward-Dean Museum and Gardens in Cherry Valley, CA—16.5 acres of an eight-square-mile community that most people just pass through on their way to Oak Glen or Palm Springs.

I'm a sucker for statuary.

I tend to sniff out a good rose garden.

The Legacy Rose Garden has both of those...

...but elsewhere, the museum has so much more.

You'd think a formal garden like this would have sprung out of the great landscape designers and park planners of the turn of the 20th century (or really the turn of any prior century)...

...but actually this museum wasn't created until 1957...

...and it wasn't gifted to Riverside County until 1964.

Both on the outside and the inside, it does a pretty good job of masquerading as a centuries-old historic estate... maybe a 19th century English manor or an Italian villa.

Behind a bay window with ornate iron grillwork, you'll find decorative arts from the 16th through 19th centuries...

...collected from Asia, India, and Europe.

Multiple cultures, societies, and religions are represented in the collection—from Christianity to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism.

It's a rare place where they all seem to be able to peacefully coexist.

These were all part of the art collection of designers J. Edward Eberle and Dean W. Stout, who'd traveled the world together and needed a repository for the artifacts they acquired while they wee running their design business on La Cienega.

Somehow they managed to inherit 17th century Stained Norwegian pine paneling that had been rescued from the "Gold Coast" estate that Hearst had built for Marion Davies—before it was demolished in the 1950s.

In fact, the partners' timing was so good that they could built their "Pine Room" to its exact dimensions.

The art collection at Edward-Dean has actually grown since the museum was gifted to the county, as others tend to donate pieces that might fit (including a 19th century stained glass window pane relocated from Pittsburg).

When Eberle inherited a Spanish-style estate with grounds at the base of Mt. San Gorgornio, known  at the time as Peach Tree Hill Farm, he and Stout moved in to the extant buildings and commissioned local architect Ben Rabe (who also designed the the Redlands Daily Facts building) to build a gallery down the hill.

But the gallery was meant to look like a home, though they never actually lived inside of it. Although visitors are asked not to touch the precious and sometimes priceless pieces, you can walk on the Oriental rugs. Your passage isn't restricted by velvet ropes.

Because sometimes you need context to really understand something.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Annenberg Community Beach House, Hearst's Lost Gold Coast
Photo Essay: Hearst Castle

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