Hearty Christmas Greetings! However…before I present a selection of Dr. & Mrs. Adalbert Fenyes’ historic holiday greeting cards, I am going to comment on a curious phenomenon. So often when I mention the names Fenyes, Fenyes Mansion, and Pasadena Museum of History, my listener dons a puzzled expression or gets a strange sleepy look in their eyes. Before you too become puzzled or sleepy, let me explain these names.
Fenyes (1849-1930) built Fenyes Mansion in Pasadena in 1906 and descendants occupied the house until 1970. In that year, as a family bequest, Fenyes Mansion and gardens became home to Pasadena Museum of History (the one and only official Pasadena Historical Society). As a result, the people of Pasadena have an abundance of historical treasures sitting at the corner of Orange Grove Blvd. and Walnut St.; yet, only the fully initiated—members, volunteers, and staff—seem to know this. Others, who nod knowingly at the mention of Gamble House or Huntington Library, look bewildered at the mention of Fenyes Mansion and its legacy. So here’s the long story short.
Fenyes Mansion, all white with pillars and balusters, is built on a rise overlooking North Orange Grove Blvd. and the western end of Walnut St. The house was designed by noted architect Robert Farquhar in the Beaux Arts style at the request of Fenyes who was a real estate investor, artist, and historical preservationist. Born in New York City in 1849, Fenyes eventually settled in Pasadena in 1896 after years of world travel and two marriages. At the age of fifty, Fenyes started buying property in Pasadena, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, all the while continuing to travel, paint, and advocate for the preservation of the Native American, Spanish, and Mexican cultures of the American Southwest. Notably and importantly, Fenyes was a woman, Eva Scott Fenyes. Her second husband Adalbert was a Pasadena physician and internationally renowned entomologist; yet, despite skepticism and preconceptions about women’s roles in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was Eva with her business expertise, artistry, and intellect that built the family’s legacy.
Eva’s daughter and granddaughter also participated in and continued Eva’s work; and, recognizing the significance of their family’s heritage, donated a portion of the Fenyes estate to the Pasadena Historical Society, now known as Pasadena Museum of History. The fully furnished mansion, recently renovated, houses magnificent examples of Victorian and Edwardian decorative and fine arts, all collected by the family. Docent tours are available.
The History Center, situated in the gardens of this historic property, preserves impressive textile and artifact collections that focus on Pasadena’s diverse and significant past. The Research Library and Archives, located on the lower level of the History Center, houses an astounding collection of Pasadena books, scrapbooks, photographs, ephemera, newspapers, periodicals, and manuscripts (including the Fenyes family papers). All are accessible at no charge to the public in our warmly appointed Reading Room.
The History Center also offers educational youth programs/events for school children as well as events and programs for the larger community. Event spaces and planning for private parties can be arranged through the History Center offices. And finally, the History Center hosts changing exhibitions in two galleries on the main level near the Museum Store. Current exhibits are Kites, Wings & Other Flying Things: Pasadena’s History of Flight through Science, Art, and Design and The Colorado Street Bridge: Centennial Exhibition.
Now back to where I started. Hearty Holiday Greetings! Just as Pasadena Museum of History welcomes visitors to our museum with its library, programs, exhibits, and event facilities, so too the Fenyes family welcomed visitors to their home and participated in Pasadena culture and society. Following are just a few examples of holiday greeting cards selected from the many that are preserved in the Fenyes family papers.
Julie Stires, Project Archivist
Pasadena Museum of History
470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena CA 91103