Fenyes Estate, 1907

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Eva Fenyes' core estate in Pasadena is the Fenyes Mansion.

Commissioned by Eva Fenyes, construction began in 1905 and Eva, her husband Dr. Fenyes, and their servants moved in in 1907. The home was inhabited for four generations by Eva (with her husband Dr. Fenyes); her daughter Leonora; her granddaughter Babsie (with husband Yrjo Paloheimo); and her four great-grandchildren Ava, George, Nina and Eric. The home was vacated in 1965, donated in 1970 and opened as a museum in 1970. A caretaker originally hired by the Paloheimo's still lives in a secondary house on the property.

Land-use history

Originally the region was Indian land.

The valley then came under control of the San Gabriel Mission and then in the Mexican era it became subdivided into large ranches. It was the site of an earlier mansion that burned down and was replaced in 1905 with Eva Fenyes' mansion.

Dr. Willian Francis Channing (January 22nd 1820 - March 19th 1901) was a founder of the Unitarian religion, an inventor of the modern fire alarm system and a co-inventor of the telephone.

His father was William Ellery Channing of Boston, MA (1780-1842) of Boston, Massachusetts. His children were Grace Elery Channing Statson and Harold S. Channing. Dr. Channing, his wife and his daughter (Grace Ellery Channing) moved to Pasadena for Grace's health. He bought four acres at 470 West Orange Grove, on the corner of Orange Grove and Walnut, and hired architect Charles Willard Saunders to build a two story house on the property. The family lived there from 1884-1900, then followed Grace back east. On the adjacent eastward property, Saunders built a home to share with his wife. Eva Scott Muse Fenyes bought from him the land for her future Fenyes Mansion. Harold S. Channing volunteered at the U.S. Weather Bureau as an observer, and was a meterologist. He dug a water well on his parent's property to a depth of 120 feet. Son of William Francis Channing.

Jesse Yarnell was the first known white owner of the land where the Fenyes Mansion would later be built.
1874Charlie Watts bought the fifteen acres from Jesse Yarnell.
The property transferred to Dr. William F Channing. He left Pasadena in 1900.
1901Eva bought Channing's land. She had intended to remodel and inhabit Channing's mansion, but it burned to the foundation.

Fenyes Estate (1907)

Eva Fenyes lived down the street and decided she needed a smaller home for her later years.

The residence was nonetheless spacious, with 6 bedrooms and 5½ bathrooms; after an addition a few years later it was 21 rooms and 10,162 ft2. The entire property also had two greenhouses and an insectarium. There were full-time hardeners and also Adelbert spent much time working in the garden. Adelbert tended a thriving vegetable garden and dedicated the lower end of the property to farming pursuits -- there were turkeys, geese, chickens and even a jersey cow named Pansy.

The Fenyes Mansion is quintessentially beaux arts.

Fenyes Mansion

Fenyes Mansion

The home is divided into public, personal and service areas.

Fenyes Mansion drawing room
Drawing room in the Fenyes Mansion

Downstairs was for entertaining, kitchen and servants' quarters (with an addition built in 1915 for even more entertaining space). Upstairs is the area where they slept and had personal space.

1905Eva Fenyes commissioned Robert D Farquhar to design her new mansion, using the extant Channing foundation to save money. Mrs. Fenyes had interviewed the Greene Bros, but chose Farquhar even this was one of Farquhar's first commissions after establishing his own firm in 1905. The home was a Beaux Arts design, but avoided some of the more ostentation Beaux Arts trappings. General contractors Ellsworth & Co built the mansion. Original construction costs were just over $20,000. Eva worked with dealers, collectors and designers across America to furnish her new home.
1906 May 04A notice was published in the Pasadena Evening Star to build a 2 story, 12 room, frame and plaster house at a cost of $20,325.
1907The Fenyes Mansion was ready for habitation, although there were many leaks.
1910-12=17A notice was published in the Pasadena Evening Star that an addition was to be built onto the Fenyes Mansion. Eva had hired architect Sylvanus Marston (perhaps Farquhar was unavailable) to add a two-story conrete addition with a solarium and studio on the upper floor, and a study and laboratory space on the garden level. The studio was the site of Eva's salons and was also on occasion transformed into a concert hall. And the light from its northern facing windows was ideal for Eva's own artistic endeavors.
1911The addition was completed.
1948 - 1964Fenyes mansion is Finnish consulate.
Like their contemporaries, the family enjoyed entertaining.

Their Moorish-Algerian/Moroccan estate had its ballroom. They downsized to the 21 room (after addition) Fenyes Mansion, but kept a large entry hall, drawing room, dining room and studio which were all formal and specifically designed for entertaining. They were public spaces. Visitors would not enter private spaces such as the kitchen or bedrooms unless specifically invited to stay as a guest. The Fenyes Mansion's contemporaries included the Gambles' Greene and Greene house which was built across the street in 1908.

Dot Bernard Explains Charms of Motion Picture Work to Julia Murdock Out in Los Angeles, where the public was familiar with the motion picture work, the actors were permitted to come and go as they pleased. People gladly gave them the use of their grounds, and one of Miss Bernard's most pleasant recollections of her work with the Biograph Company was the time the entire company were guests of the Countess Fenyes, at her beautiful home in Pasadena. In the sunken Italian garden of this beautiful estate, several pictures depicting classical scenes were taken, with Miss Bernard in the leading role. The Washington Times, 1913-05-08

Curtin House (1915)

Curtin House

1912-04-13Mrs. Fenyes purchased an adjacent lot at 160 N Orange Grove Avenue (Pasadena daily news, 1912-04-13).
1915-04-09A notice to build was published. Eva commissioned Sylvanus Marston to build a separate French-style house for Leonora on the property.
Following Eva's death, the families resided in the Fenyes Mansion. The Curtin House is inhabited by the caretaker Inga Rosenquist and her granddaughter.

Finnish Tupa (1949)

Finnish Folk Art Museum

1949Yrjo Paloheimo brought over a Swiss carriage house and converted it into a guest house, Finnish tupa and Finnish sauna.

Museum era (1970)

Pasadena Historical Society then Pasadena Museum of History.

Fenyes Mansion
Fountain, donated 1972

They built a museum and archives.

1964Pasadena Cultural Heritage Landmark.
1965The property was vacated around this time. Four generations had lived in the Fenyes Mansion: Eva and Adelbert Fenyes; her daughter Leonora; her granddaughter Babsie; and her four great-granchildren.
1970The Paloheimo Foundation retains ownership of the land and structures, but the estate was put under the management of the Pasadena Historical Society, today the Pasadena Museum of History (which owns all contents of the land and structures).
1985National Register of Historic Places
1993California point of historical interest.
Renovation (2010 - 2012)

Extensive work, albeit not obvious to most visitors, was done to keep the mansion open for many more years.

Film work

Being There1979Interior of house where Chance works as a gardener. movie-tourist.blogspot.com
Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years1977White House scenes. imdb.com

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