Pasadena architecture

By Levi Clancy for לוי on
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The Golden Age of Pasadena architecture was 1850-1920.

Early Pasadena architecture was prototypical of the finest of Southern California architecture at that time. Pasadena's early settlers from the Midwest and East were conservative, restrained, cultured, wealthy and well-traveled. They had a reverence for classic styles. They wanted their architecture to reflect their Eastern lifestyles and incorporate the best of their new environment.

Prominent architects included Sylvanus Marston, Robert Farquhar, Myron Hunt, Frederick Roehrig and the Greene brothers.

Early in Pasadena's history, two cultures developed simultaneously, which strongly influenced its architecture. The architecture of Orange Grove Boulevard's "Millionaire's Row" represented the opulent lifestyle of the wealthy, conservative transplanted Midwesterners and Easterners. To these people, a person's residence reflected his social standing. The grand mansion of Orange Grove Boulevard were primarily neoclassical in style with a strong European influence.

Only three blocks to the West of Millionaire's Row, the Arts and Crafts Movement was flourishing around the Arroyo Seco. The folksy cottages of the Arroyo represent the ideal of the Craftsman Movement - to bring nature into every aspect of everyday life. THe Arroyo residents were interested in civilization and the "good life" rather than ostentation.

Rancho Style

The Rancho Style appeared in California during the years of 1780 - 1850. It is the foundation of Southern California architecture and significantly influenced subsequent periods. Adobe walls were made form local clay baked in the sun. Wide caves were required to protect the adobe from disintegration. Timber was held together with pegs and rawhide. The floor plans were in the "V" or "T" shape and always had a courtyard as well as a veranda. The veranda acted as an umbrella to protect the building from the sun.

Victorian Style

Millionaires' Row personified wealth, flamboyance and extravagance. Many of the homes built there from 1880 - 1910 were of the Victorian style. Easterners brought Victorian architecture to Pasadena. The Victorian home was a symbol of an individual's status. The pattern book was the backbone for the Southern California Victorian architecture. It was a menu of floor plans, pattern and millwork. It was the client's responsibility to select a combination of patterns from the book. The carpenter's function was to combine and realize images portrayed in the book. The Daniele-Holmes home built in 1898, which overlooks the Arroyo, is a fine example of Victorian architecture.

Beaux-Arts Classicism

Beax-Arts Classicism was prominent from 1880 - 1920's. In 1880 there were only two schools of architecture in the United States: MIT and the University of Illinois. Thus, many American architects studied in Europe. The most influential European school was the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. After studying in Paris, Americans brought French Neo-Classicism to the United States. Examples are the Fenyes Mansion designed by Robert Farquar in 1906 and the Huntington Library designed by Myron Hunt in 1910.

Pasadena City Hall beaux arts
Pasadena City Hall, 1927

Pasadena City Hall beaux arts
Pasadena City Hall, 1927

Pasadena City Hall
Pasadena City Hall

Pasadena City Hall
Pasadena City Hall

Pasadena City Hall
Pasadena City Hall

Pasadena City Hall
Pasadena City Hall

Pasadena City Hall
Pasadena City Hall

Pasadena City Hall
Pasadena City Hall

Mission Revival

The Mission Revival Style was popular in Pasadena from 1900 through 1910. The early California missions inspired this style which truly represents California heritage. The Spanish influence was dominant, though French, Italian and Moorish accents were used. The Green Hotel designed by Frederick L Roehrig is a fine example of Mission Revival style.

Spanish Revival

Spanish Revival spanned 1915 - 1930. The 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park was the catalyst for the Spanish Revival. It is characterized by limited ornamentation, white-washed walls, deep arches and recessed voids. Shadows were used to define the character of the architecture. A good example is the Pasadena Public Library designed by Myron Hunt.

Craftsman Style

Craftsman Style flourished form 1895 - 1915. Its foundation was the Arts and Crafts Movement which began in England in 1888 when William Morris started the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society. His idea was to "bring love to work through handicrafts." Gustav Stickney spread the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement throughout California with the publication of his magazine The Craftsman. The California Bungalow, a Craftsman inspiration, dominated Southern California architecture in the early 1900's. The best examples of the Crafstman style is the Gamble House built and designed by Greene and Greene in 1908.

International Style

International style, though not dominant in Pasadena, is represented in a few 1920's examples. It was the style of the sophisticates. It was new. It emphasized space and openness and deemphasized stylish veneers. The Millhard house built in 1923 is the best example of the International style in Pasadena. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose early Prairie School architecture in the Midwest is very similar to the Craftsman style of the Arroyo. Even Myron Hunt, who is noted for his neoclassical architecture, experimented with this style.


MIllard House (1923) by Frank Lloyd Wright
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MIllard House (1923) by Frank Lloyd Wright

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MIllard House (1923) by Frank Lloyd Wright
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MIllard House (1923) by Frank Lloyd Wright

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MIllard House (1923) by Frank Lloyd Wright
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MIllard House (1923) by Frank Lloyd Wright

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