Music Makes Magic at the Old Mill

Aug 17, 2015

The_Old_Mill_San_MarinoBuilt in 1816, it’s been described as the first water-powered grist mill in California, even though apparently the “mechanical marvel” of Franciscan Father José Maria de Zalvidea‘s horizontal, direct impulse water wheel left the subsequent flour damp and the mill only produced for seven years before a “superior” New England-style mill with a vertical waterwheel was built adjacent to the Mission San Gabriel.

Subsequently, El Molino Viejo or The Old Mill sat idle for decades, was a hot spot for vandals, squatted upon by The Star publisher James S. Waite, the recipient of expansion in the 1860’s by Colonel E. J. C. and Frannie Kewen and the site of the Kewen’s renowned hospitality and entertaining, a storage for wine, a place to bunk for hired men, and became in the early 1900’s the clubhouse for the Huntington Hotel golf course.

In 1927, Leslie Huntington Brehm, the widow of Henry Huntington‘s son, hired a contractor to restore the mill, following which the building was rented to a series of tenants until 1963. After Mrs. Brehm’s death, the mill was willed to the City of San Marino and in 1971 it’s historical importance was recognized and El Molino Viejo added to the National Register of Historic Places.


El Molino Viejo in 1935; photo by Henry F. Withey; Library of Congress

El Molino Viejo in 1935; photo by Henry F. Withey; Library of Congress


From an article by The Old Mill Foundation and pieces throughout the decades by Liz McGuiness, Palmina Stephens, and Topsy Tinkle of the L. A. Times, here’s a colorful description of El Molino Viejo:

The mill was built like a fortress. Its lower walls are nearly five feet thick at the base, and are made of brick and volcanic tuff. The upper walls are made of sun-dried adobe slabs, and the building’s surface is covered with a lime mortar made from burnt sea shells. The pine and sycamore beams are tied with leather thongs, and the structure is also supported by large buttresses which can still be seen on building’s exterior corners. Some have written that the thick fortress-like walls were intended to allow the padres to barricade themselves in the event of “a disturbance among their somewhat uncertain converts.” (El_Molino_Viejo)


Photo: Old Mill Foundation

Photo: Old Mill Foundation


On August 22nd, “Magical Music at the Mill” concludes with a performance by the Salastina Music Society. Guests are welcome to a beverage at the event’s no-host refreshment bar, view the current California Art Club exhibition titled “California Cruising: Desert Ease and Coastal Breeze,” and stroll through the original adobe building before ensconcing themselves in the Pomegranate Patio in time for the evening’s musical program.


Esther Engelman, "The Keyhole," pastel, 24" x 18"

Esther Engelman, The Keyhole, pastel, 24″ x 18″


Salastina Music Society‘s artistic co-directors are Maia Jasper (violin) and Kevin Kumar (violin). They will be joined by Luke Maurer on viola and cellist Jacob Braun. The evening’s program reflects SMS’s “guiding principle” that “great music deserves exploration.” This “curated concert format” connects “audiences to the repertoire by helping the music tell its story.”

Magical Music program for August 22:

Antonin Dvorak: Cypresses, Nos. 1 and XI (B. 11)

Masterpiece Discovery: A Guided Tour through Debussy’s String Quartet

  • (Official text) In each “Masterpiece Discovery” concert, Salastina Music Society addresses questions such as:~ What was the composer like?
    ~ What is the story behind this particular piece?
    ~ What makes the writing so masterful on a technical level?
    ~ What are the technical elements that the composer used to convey emotion, and what makes them so effective?
    ~ What was the impact of this piece on the history of music and art thereafter?
    ~ What is a masterpiece, and what makes this piece one of them?
    ~ How does a masterpiece elevate and enrich us, its audience?

Claude Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, Opus 10



Salastina Music Society’s artistic co-directors are Maia Jasper and Kevin Kumar


Magical Music at the Mill
Saturday, August 22nd, 8 p.m.
The Old Mill, 1120 Old Mill Rd., San Marino
Cost: $15 with advance purchase, $20 at the door
Purchase tickets at Brown Paper Tickets
(Guests are urged to have dinner prior to event)


The Salastina Music Society is a project of Pasadena Arts Council’s Emerge Fiscal Sponsorship Program.

And, who was Salastina? For the intriguing possibilities, visit










Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena