Happy Chinese New Year!

Monday, February 8, 2016, marks the beginning of the Year of the Fire Monkey; in the Chinese calendar the year is 4714. The Chinese New Year bring celebrations that include firecrackers, parades, fish, dragons, lions, and lucky money in red envelopes. The Los Angeles Public Library’s photo collection contains images of such holiday celebrations held in Chinatown and other areas of Los Angeles.

Chinese New Year Parade, Monterey Park

Miss Monterey Park waves to the crowd during a Chinese New Year parade in the San Gabriel Valley. (Shades of L.A. collection; photo by Steven Gold, 1992 [Year of the Monkey])

Dragon in Chinese Parade

A golden dragon rings in the Year of the Boar in L.A.’s Chinatown. (Herald-Examiner Collection, January 30, 1971 [Year of the Pig])

Clown in Chinese New Year Parade

Wally the Clown leads children at a New Year festival in Chinatown. (Harry Quillen Collection, February 15, 1958 [Year of the Dog])

Man and niece enjoy Chinese New Year

Eugene Yee and niece Susan celebrate Chinese New Year with balloons and firecrackers. (Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Howard Ballew, February 13, 1964 [Year of the Dragon])

Beauty queens in Chinese New Year parade

Beauty queens in Chinese New Year parade. (Gary Leonard Collection, 1995 [Year of the Pig])

Flute and Fiddle for the New Year

Chung Fook (left) and Luke Chan (right) play music to usher in the Chinese New Year. (Herald-Examiner Collection, January 27, 1941 [Year of the Snake])

Family enjoys Chinese New Year

The Wong family prepares to enjoy a traditional Chinese New Year’s feast. (Herald-Examiner Collection, February 5, 1965 [Year of the Snake])

Lion of Good drives away evil spirits

Tsweje, the Lion of Good, drives away evil spirits during this celebration of the Chinese New Year. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, January, 1925 [Year of the Ox])

A stroll through L.A. gardens . . .

Los Angeles boasts a number of beautiful gardens and with winters being much milder in Southern California than other parts of the country, you can take a garden stroll anytime. That said, there will be times you can’t get to the garden – bad cold, sick kids, a backlog of work. If you’re stuck indoors and dreaming of relaxing amongst lush foliage, fragrant flowers, or spiky cholla, the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library can help you escape. As with everything in the City of Angels, Los Angeles gardens (present and past) boast plenty of variety.

Japanese Gardens

SuihoEn (garden of water and fragrance), situated on the grounds of the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, is an authentic Japanese garden designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana and fashioned after the stroll gardens built during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese feudal lords. It features a karesansui (dry Zen meditation garden), a wet garden featuring waterfalls and ponds, and a chashitsu (tatami mat teahouse).

Japanese Garden in Van Nuys

Japanese Garden at Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California (Photo taken by Stephen Callis, 1991)

The Botanical Gardens on the grounds of the Huntington Library in San Marino also feature a Japanese garden, complete with koi ponds and an authentic Japanese House considered to be one of the best examples of early twentieth Japanese architecture in the United States.

Huntington Japanese Gardens

Japanese Garden at Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino (Photo taken by Herman Schultheis, ca. 1937)

The Bernheimer Estate, built overlooking the ocean in Pacific Palisades in the early 1920s, featured Japanese gardens with a pagoda housing the vast collection of Oriental art acquired by Adolph Bernheimer. The Bernheimer Gardens were a popular tourist attraction until 1941, when public opinion changed due to Pearl Harbor and World War II. The property suffered erosion and two major landslides and was vacated in the late 1940s; the structures were demolished in the 1950s.

Bernheimer Bronze Elephants

Bronze elephants stroll through the Bernheimer Japanese Gardens. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1939)

Cactus Gardens

The weird and resilient beauty of the cactus is on display in the Desert Garden of The Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, which showcases more than 2,000 species of desert plants in one of the largest cactus gardens in the world.

Huntington Gardens Cactus Gardens

Visitors from Detroit admire the many varieties of cacti in the Desert Garden  at Huntington Botanical Gardens (Herald Examiner Collection, ca. 1965)

Will Keith Kellogg,(commonly known as W.K. Kellogg), the breakfast cereal magnate, bought acreage in Pomona, California, in 1925 on which he established an Arabian horse ranch. The land has passed through many owners (including the University of California system and the U.S. War Department) and is now the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The grounds have changed over time, but a stroll down memory lane will show its beautiful gardens, including a huge cactus garden.

Kellogg Cactus Garden

Cactus garden at Kellogg Arabian Horse Farm (WPA collection, ca. 1930)

The Kellogg estate gardens also featured a pond complete with water flowers and water fowl.

Kellogg Garden Duck Pond

Garden and pond at Kellogg Arabian Horse Ranch in Pomona (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, date unknown)

Rose Gardens

If you are aching to smell the roses, Exposition Park Rose Garden (located just south of the campus of University of Southern California) is open to visitors from 9:00 a.m. to sunset. Unfortunately, you will have to wait for spring as the Rose Garden is closed from January 1st through March 15th every year for maintenance (time to prune the roses!)

Exposition Park Gardens

Roses in Exposition Park in Los Angeles (Herman J. Schultheis Collection, ca. 1937)

Expo Rose Garden seen from Museum steps

Rose Garden as seen from the steps of the Museum of History, Science and Art in Exposition Park (Herman J. Schultheis Collection, ca. 1937)

French-born artist Paul de Longpre?, who painted flowers and floral scenes in watercolor, came to Hollywood in 1899 and had a home built on three acres close to what is now the intersection of Cahuenga Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. (A nearby street, De Longpre Avenue, was named after him.) He maintained a garden on this property that at one time boasted 4,000 roses. The residence, which included art galleries in addition to gardens, became a popular destination for tourists and local visitors before being demolished in 1927.

de Longpre Rose Garden

Rose Garden at estate of artist Paul de Longpre (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, date unknown)

 

A Historic House through the Years: El Alisal

Renaissance man Charles Fletcher Lummis (1859 – 1928) designed and built his Highland Park home over a period of some 13 years beginning in 1897, diagnosis doing much of the labor himself. The name he gave his homestead was El Alisal, sales place of the alders — or sycamores — or California sycamores. The actual meaning is a bit lost in translation, tadalafil but the important thing is it was a Spanish name and Lummis loved the Spanish influence in California. He also loved Native American culture and dedicated a portion of his very active life to preserving both.

Much has been written about Lummis the man. We’ll confine ourselves to describing him as a collector, writer, preservationist, founder of the Southwest Museum, advocate for Native American rights, and booster for all things Old California.

One of Lummis’ day jobs was Los Angeles City Librarian. Despite lack of any formal training, Lummis was appointed to the position in 1905 based on his reputation as a “noted scholar and practical leader (Blitz). In five years Lummis worked to build the library’s collection of rare books and manuscripts, particularly, of course, those reflecting the city’s Spanish heritage. He also found himself embroiled in a boatload of office politics which led to his resignation in 1910. He left behind him the well-established and respected Department of Western History Material.

In addition to collecting books, terra cotta pots and Indian blankets, Lummis collected friends….local and national luminaries from the worlds of art, letters, music, and politics.  And he held court at El Alisal.

Exterior 1905

Security Pacific National Bank, Image #00062061

A Man’s Home

The Los Angeles Public Library’s digital photographic collection contains a number of images of El Alisal over a century of life. Most of the photos are from the Security Pacific Bank Collection and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection. The image above, dated February 5, 1905, taken while the house was still under construction, shows the castle-like embellishments Lummis craved: towers, crenellations, slit windows.

Lummis’ taste for romantic and vernacular architecture is apparent. His design for El Alisal was part medieval castle, part California rancho, part Native American pueblo. Much of his building materials were locally-sourced, including river rock taken from the nearby Arroyo Seco and discarded railroad telegraph poles used as ceiling support beams. The nomination form that successfully placed El Alisal on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 described it as “a rambling 2-story random rubble stone, masonry and concrete structure,” and noted that the building did not “meet present day requirements of the Los Angeles City Building Code.”

Security Pacific Bank Collection, Image #00062064

Security Pacific Bank Collection, Image #00062064

The dining room at El Alisal, 1910, displays an eclectic assortment of china and artwork, as well as a pair of muskets mounted on the wall. Many of the pictures and objects displayed in the house were created for Lummis by his coterie of artist friends. Others Lummis collected on his travels throughout the Southwest.

 

Security Pacific Bank Collection, Image #00062066

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00062066

This 1905 photograph shows the backyard courtyard of the home, including a large sycamore and the central lily pond traditional to California rancho style. The kitchen wing is on the right.

 

Image # 00062058

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image # 00062058

An undated photo of the front room at El Alisal, plentifully adorned with photos, artwork, mission style furniture, and Indian rugs. A portrait of Lummis by Gerald Cassidy, now at the Autry National Center, hangs on the far wall. Lummis was very much a part of the Arts and Crafts movement in California which championed rusticity, natural materials, and folk art.

 

Image # 00062058

Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, Image # 00047541

This 1949 photograph is an excellent study of the fenestration at El Alisal. Lummis enjoyed designing windows; some windows were placed at child’s-eye level. The same year the Southern California Historical Society took up the idea of turning the derelict building into a museum. Although things did not pan out that way at first, in 1965 the society finally was able to acquire use of the house as their headquarters, in an arrangement with the city that lasted 50 years. SCHS offered docent-led tours of the home’s exterior and a few interior rooms. Safety concerns and the need to use some rooms for offices made a full tour impossible.

 

Herald-Examiner Collection, Image #00050164

In the 1980s the exterior of the Lummis Home took on a different look as the group Friends of the Lummis Home and Garden took on responsibility for landscaping and maintaining the surrounding acreage. Lummis’ rough two plus acres were transformed into a demonstration garden of drought tolerant plants. The image above shows an editor’s crop marks indicating that the photo was destined for publication, probably in the Herald-Examiner.

 

Security Pacific National Bank Collection Image #00062085

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00062085

An undated interior shot of the ground floor tower niche shows Lummis’ own glass photographs used as small window panes. The photographs in this set of windows are now gone; however, others exist in the main room of the house and make fascinating viewing (below).

 

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Security Pacific National Bank Collection Image #00031210

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00031210

The King in his Castle

Lummis in his “Lion’s Den”: the framed photo of him with Teddy Roosevelt taken during the president’s visit to Los Angeles in 1912. This image was probably captured toward the end of Lummis life; he died in 1928 at the age of 69. His home survives in the care of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and is open for public tours. There have been changes since the City of Los Angeles took over direct management of this cultural treasure and the Historical Society of Southern California moved out early in 2015. To check it out, see http://www.laparks.org/dos/historic/lummis.htm.

 

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Special thanks to the welcoming and friendly Saturday docents who gave us a wonderful tour January 23, 2016!

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