In the 1985 photo above, a couple stands on a bridge overlooking the waterfall flowing into the stream that runs through the Ambassador College campus.
Various lots were consolidated within a four-block area at the time to incorporate several mansions dating from 1905 to the 1920s along the east side of “Millionaires Row” on South Orange Grove Boulevard. These became the campus buildings.
As the college population grew, more structures became necessary, including additional classrooms, administrative offices, dorms, and television studios.
The architecture and planning firm Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall (DMJM) was commissioned in 1963 to develop the campus master plan that includes the mid-century modern structures we all know well today…
I had the privilege of seeing performances at Ambassador Auditorium by Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Cecilia Bartoli, Mel Torme, Yo-Yo Ma and so many others. (And it was the site of “Hollywood Week” during American Idol’s 2013 season.)
Landscape architect Garrett Eckbo designed Ambassador College’s lush gardens, walkways, fountains and the stream, all of which are an iconic part of the Pasadena landscape to this day.
As a result, Ambassador College and Ambassador Auditorium closed in 1997* and the educational functions were consolidated with operations in Big Sandy, Texas.
Worldwide Church of God put the 49-acre campus on the market in 1999.
That same year Ambassador Auditorium, on St. John Avenue near Green Street, was saved when it was purchased by Harvest Rock Church, which conducts services there. It is also the venue for concerts and other events, including Pasadena Symphony concerts.
The City of Pasadena’s West Gateway Specific Plan encourages thoughtful development with a focus on arts, culture and education in areas immediately west of downtown Pasadena.
Here are the boundaries of the specific plan; the former Ambassador campus is between Orange Grove Boulevard and St. John Avenue, from Green Street to the north to Del Mar Boulevard to the south.
After a series of fits and starts, including the foreclosure of one developer’s interests and the scrapping of plans for a senior complex when that company pulled out, City Ventures purchased much of what is now known as Ambassador West in 2010 for market-rate residential projects.
Construction is underway on the Del Mar side near Orange Grove (I shot this photo yesterday afternoon):
Another proposed project is in the permitting phase for a portion along Orange Grove south of Green Street.
A third project, proposed near the Italian Gardens on the Green Street side near Orange Grove, is well on its way through design review.
And there is another in the initial planning stages for the Green Street side near St. John Avenue.
The Ambassador West plan, approved by the City Council in 2007, calls for the preservation of two acres of existing park-like open space as well as the stream, historic gardens and mansions plus 80 percent of the trees.
*Radio and television broadcasts of Armstrong’s “The World Tomorrow“ program were taped in state-of-the-art studios on the Ambassador College campus. I was wowed when I saw the studio facilities for the first time. When the campus operations closed in 1997, I literally begged Ambassador College brass to donate the TV cameras, anchor desks and other equipment to KPAS, but no such luck.
Copyright © 2013 Ann Erdman
Ann Erdman is happily retired after decades of loyal service to the City of Pasadena as Public Information Officer. Her blog can be found at AnnErdman.blogspot.com.