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75 South Grand Avenue: 1896-1949

Oct 27, 2014

PHS16-1c Eva - Adalbert 1896Before they married, Eva Scott Muse and Adalbert Fenyes had decided to settle down in California. If there were choices at the time, their list might have included: Egypt, where they had met and where the Doctor practiced medicine at the Helouan Hotel near Cairo; Hungary, the Doctor’s birthplace and where the couple would marry; New York, Eva’s birthplace and family home; or maybe even the New Mexico Territory, in Santa Fe where Eva owned property. But for reasons as yet unknown, they chose California and Pasadena in particular.

On November 12, 1896, the “Pasadena Brevities” column in the Los Angeles Times announced the newlyweds’ arrival. “Dr. Adelbert [sic] Fenyes, wife and daughter of New York City are recent arrivals in Pasadena, and have taken the Darling house on Grand avenue for the winter. Dr. Fenyes was born in Egypt and lived in that country until recently.”[1] True they had taken the residence on Grand Avenue, not true that Adalbert was born in Egypt. Thankfully the column was vague when it referred to Eva and Leonora as “wife and daughter,” because Eva Fenyes was a woman with a complicated past.

Eva had been married once before. On November 19, 1878, in the Church of the Centurion at Fort Monroe, Virginia, the post chaplain Osgood E. Herrick presided over the marriage of Miss Eva Scott and Marine Lieutenant William Sulivane Muse. Their daughter Leonora, born October 2, 1879 at White Plains, New York, was baptized in the same church in 1880. Thereafter, the family lived in the eastern United States until 1888 when Muse was transferred to Mare Island near San Francisco. About a year after their arrival in California, Eva, for reasons as yet unknown, left her husband and filed for divorce in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1891, with her divorced secured, Eva took her daughter abroad, and for the better part of four years Eva lived in Europe (France, Switzerland, and Italy) and North Africa (Algeria and Egypt) studying language and art, and sketching and painting all she saw. Now 46 years old, she had married 32 year old Doctor Adalbert Fenyes, in Budapest, Hungary on April 25, 1896. Within months, Eva, her second husband, and her seventeen-year-old daughter Leonora Muse would return from abroad to start their new life in California.

 

Adalbert and Eva Fenyes’ wedding photograph, 1896. (Photograph by Strelisky, Budapest, Hungary; Courtesy Pasadena Museum of History Archives, PHS 16-1c)

Adalbert and Eva Fenyes’ wedding photograph, 1896. (Photograph by Strelisky, Budapest, Hungary; Courtesy Pasadena Museum of History Archives, PHS 16-1c)

 

On November 12, 1896,“Eva S. Fenyes” and “A. Fenyes M.D.” applied their signatures to a lease with Henry A. Darling owner of “the premises known as No. 75 Grand Avenue, Pasadena, California, including Furniture and Furnishings…” for a monthly rent of $150. An inventory describes a house with five bedrooms, including one servant’s bedroom, and it was indeed fully furnished with items tallied right down to the nutmeg grater in the kitchen.[2]  Several years of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps outline the general shape of the structure, but we may never find a street view of the original house. The only known photograph of this house is a tiny part of a wide aerial view taken in 1933 in which a hip roof peeks out from among the treetops. Fortunately, the family took a few snapshots on the premises in January 1897, and these at least give us a sense of the Fenyes family’s household.

 

"Chi lo sa and Non se sa" January 1897. The family dogs sit on the porch steps at 75 South Grand Avenue.  Translated from Italian their names mean “Who knows” and “We don’t know” respectively.  Chi lo sa traveled abroad with Eva during the 1890s.

“Chi lo sa and Non se sa” January 1897. The family dogs sit on the porch steps at 75 South Grand Avenue. Translated from Italian their names mean “Who knows” and “We don’t know” respectively. Chi lo sa traveled abroad with Eva during the 1890s.

 

“Mrs. Fenyes. ‘Chilosa’ and ‘Non se sa’ ” January 1897. Wearing black, Eva Fenyes followed traditional mourning practices for her recently deceased mother.

“Mrs. Fenyes. ‘Chilosa’ and ‘Non se sa’ ” January 1897. Wearing black, Eva Fenyes followed traditional mourning practices for her recently deceased mother.

 

“Isabelle – our Maid with ‘Non se sa’” January 1897. The house in the background could be the house at 75 South Grand Avenue, but it could also be the house next door.

“Isabelle – our Maid with ‘Non se sa’” January 1897. The house in the background could be the house at 75 South Grand Avenue, but it could also be the house next door.

 

“Barnett our Coachman & Daisy” January 1897.

“Barnett our Coachman & Daisy” January 1897.

 

“Our Laundress” January 1897.

“Our Laundress” January 1897.

 

“Lee, our Chinese Cook” January 1897.

“Lee, our Chinese Cook” January 1897.

 

Pasadena, California was now Eva Fenyes’ home. While she was settling in, hiring servants, enrolling her daughter in school, introducing Leonora to Pasadena society, and planning a Moorish style mansion on her newly purchased South Orange Grove property, she lived in the rented house at 75 Grand Avenue. In the midst of this busy life, Eva, an accomplished artist, also took up her paint brushes and watercolors, explored her new surroundings, and began an important phase of her artistic work, painting California en plein air.

 

Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). “Apl 1897.” Unidentified location. Watercolor on paper, 14.5 x 20.25 in. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP Papers, FCP.65.29)

Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). “Apl 1897.” Unidentified location. Watercolor on paper, 14.5 x 20.25 in. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP Papers, FCP.65.29)

 

Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). “Near Eaton’s Canyon,” 1897.Watercolor on paper, 27.2 x 37.5 cm. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP Papers, ESF.008.1941)

Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). “Near Eaton’s Canyon,” 1897.Watercolor on paper, 27.2 x 37.5 cm. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP Papers, ESF.008.1941)

 

Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). “Wilson’s Lake,” 8 May 1897.Watercolor on paper, 10.2 x 15.3 cm. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP Papers, ESF.008.1945)

Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). “Wilson’s Lake,” 8 May 1897.Watercolor on paper, 10.2 x 15.3 cm. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP Papers, ESF.008.1945)

 

Eva and Adalbert leased the Darling house for about a year before Eva bought the property.[3]  She rented it to one Samuel Cupples of St. Louis, Missouri, but was soon signing a lease with a new tenant.[4] Over the coming decades, tenants would come and go and ownership would transfer, and it was these changes that gave 75 South Grand Avenue its distinct place in Pasadena’s history.

Just a few doors south of their Grand Avenue home, the Arroyo Vista Hotel, originally named the Arroyo Vista Guest House and locally known as Mrs. Bangs’ “boarding house,” was offering guests “…a quiet, somewhat secluded spot for rest and meditative contemplation…”[5] Emma C. Bangs had established her guest house in 1882, and the location she chose, a singular spot perched above the magnificent Arroyo Seco, was destined to become the site of one of Pasadena’s grand hotels.

The change from idyllic to grand began when Emma Bangs died in 1903. After her death, Crown City Investment Company purchased the property, and they in turn sold it to the Vista del Arroyo Company in 1905. The latter was able to build a hotel complex with bungalows overlooking the arroyo and annexes north, south, and east of the main building by absorbing the surrounding properties.[6] Eva Fenyes may have sold her Grand Avenue property to one of these firms because the lot disappears from her financial records after her 1903-1904 tax bills. Consequently, 75 South Grand Avenue, Dr. and Mrs. Adalbert Fenyes’ first Pasadena residence, passed out of their lives to become a few brief references scattered throughout their family papers. The property itself, however, enjoyed a sustained and lively history.

The original Darling-Fenyes house, as well as a remodeled version, and subsequent buildings, are clearly delineated on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps dating from 1894 until 1951. The 1894 and 1903 maps show the same single family residence in which the Fenyes family lived, while the 1910 map outlines a slightly altered structure which is labeled “Annex Hotel Vista del Arroyo – Rooms.”

 

This side-by-side composite of the 1894, 1903, and 1910 Sanborn maps shows the house (in lavender) and property over a period of sixteen years. By 1910, 75 South Grand Avenue had become part of the Hotel Vista del Arroyo.

This side-by-side composite of the 1894, 1903, and 1910 Sanborn maps shows the house (in lavender) and property over a period of sixteen years. By 1910, 75 South Grand Avenue had become part of the Hotel Vista del Arroyo.

 

Twenty years later, 75 South Grand Avenue is still labeled “Rooms” on the Sanborn map and has become part of the North Annex of the sprawling and fully developed Hotel Vista del Arroyo. Pasadena’s era of grand hotels was flourishing under the California sun. The picturesque scenery, the healthy climate, enticing business opportunities, and a community thriving on elegant gatherings and wholesome outdoor activities lured and accommodated the world’s wealthy elite. The success of the hotels brought money to Pasadena and for several decades the city grew and prospered. But times and fortunes changed. The Great Depression of the 1930s weakened the city’s economy and its era of grand resort hotels waned. Yet during those years, the Vista del Arroyo remained successful and solvent and may have continued so when World War II brought a stunning change.

 

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, p. 151, 1931 edition. (Courtesy PMH Archives)

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, p. 151, 1931 edition. (Courtesy PMH Archives)

 

In 1943 the United States Government acquired the property for use as an army hospital. In his book Pasadena: Resort Hotels and Paradise, Thomas D. Carpenter describes the takeover. “On the morning of February 3, 1943 the guests of the hotel read the sudden and upsetting news that, effective immediately, the government was taking possession of the entire property. Done under the War Powers Act of 1942, the acquisition was an immediate reality, impossible to dispute, and the guests were given a day and a half to find new accommodations. Dwellers in the apartments, villas and bungalows on the grounds were a little more fortunate, being given four days in which to relocate…”[7] Within the new facility under the command of the Surgeon General of the Army, “75” became the residence for the nurses who were taking care of the country’s recovering war wounded. After the war ended, the Vista remained an army hospital for a few more years until it was decommissioned in 1949. Beyond 1949, a history of many changes can be followed in Thomas Carpenter’s book which is available in the Reading Room at Pasadena Museum of History. The continuing history of the main hotel building can be followed in Ann Erdman’s Hometown Pasadena article “9th Circuit Court History Mystery.”

 

This Sanborn map, updated in 1951, labels 75 South Grand Avenue (structure in lavender) as “NURSE-QTRS.”  The lower right label reads, “McCornack General Hospital / U.S. Gov’t / Vac. & not in operation September 1949.”

This Sanborn map, updated in 1951, labels 75 South Grand Avenue (structure in lavender) as “NURSE-QTRS.” The lower right label reads, “McCornack General Hospital / U.S. Gov’t / Vac. & not in operation September 1949.”

 

In 1896, the Fenyes family made their first home in Pasadena at 75 South Grand Avenue, first leasing, then buying, and finally selling the property. This investment was just a beginning for Eva Fenyes who understood the value of Pasadena real estate. She built two mansions on Orange Grove Avenue and bought many properties within the city’s business district. As a successful business woman, she would have followed the Grand Avenue changes and the development of the Vista del Arroyo. As an artist and world traveler, she would have enjoyed comparing the Vista and its picturesque setting with the many hotels and health resorts she had visited at home and abroad. As a cultural and historic building preservationist, she would have been pleased to know that the Vista’s main hotel building would be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Eva died in 1930 and Adalbert in 1937. Only Leonora witnessed the changes to their first Pasadena home when the United States Government acquired the property[8] and converted “75” to the nurses’ quarters at the army hospital. Eva may not have seen the changes to her home beyond the grand hotel era, but her memory echoes there today at 75 South Grand Avenue where she first came to live, build her fortune, and paint in California. In 2007 this address became home to the Pasadena-Los Angeles Chapter of the California Art Club, a serendipitous occupant for the very spot where Eva Scott Fenyes began her work as a Pasadena, California artist.

 ~~~

Many thanks to Bob Bennett, PMH volunteer, for his discovery of the only known photograph of the house at 75 South Grand Avenue in a 1933 aerial photograph.

Photographs courtesy of the Archives, Pasadena Museum of History. Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Papers, FCP.46.2; Main Photo Collection, PHS 16-1c.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps accessed online at Pasadena Public Library.

Julie Stires
Pasadena Museum of History
470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena CA 91103
PasadenaHistory.org

~~~

Now on exhibit at Pasadena Museum of History: Contemporary Masters, Artistic Eden IV.

Contemporary Masters, Artistic Eden IV is the fourth biennial fine art exhibition featuring scenes of the greater San Gabriel Valley by nationally recognized representational artists. The exhibition is on view Wednesdays through Sundays from 12:00 to 5:00 pm in the Museum’s Kathryne Beynon Foundation Exhibition Hall through January 11, 2015. (Official text)

 

Joseph Stoddard, Pasadena Train Station, watercolor. 2012 Museum Purchase Award.

Joseph Stoddard, Pasadena Train Station, watercolor. 2012 Museum Purchase Award.

~~~

[1] “Southern California News: Pasadena,” Los AngelesTimes, 12 November 1896. Accessed Pasadena Public Library, ProQuest, Los Angeles Times Historical.

[2] Lease, Henry A. Darling to A. Fenyes M.D. & Eva S. Fenyes, 12 November 1896, FCP Papers, FCP.14.1. PMH Archives.

[3] “News from Southern California Towns: Pasadena. Two Excellent Real Estate Transactions,” Los AngelesTimes, 3 February 1898. Accessed Pasadena Public Library, ProQuest, Los Angeles Times Historical.

[4] Lease, E. S. Fenyes to Samuel Cupples, 9 March 1898, FCP Papers, FCP.14.1, PMH Archives.

[5] Pasadena: Resort Hotels and Paradise, Thomas D. Carpenter. Castle Green Times : Pasadena, California, 1984, p 103.

[6] Pasadena: Resort Hotels and Paradise, Thomas D. Carpenter. Castle Green Times : Pasadena, California, 1984, p 105.

[7] Pasadena: Resort Hotels and Paradise, Thomas D. Carpenter. Castle Green Times : Pasadena, California, 1984, p 166.

[8] The United States Government still owns the properties at 55, 65, 75, and 85 South Grand Avenue




1 Response for “75 South Grand Avenue: 1896-1949”

  1. Anuja navare says:

    A great pleasure read! Beautifully written and could not have been more thoroughly researched!

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