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Painting Los Feliz Adobe

Dec 8, 2014
Los Feliz Adobe as painted by Eva Scott Fenyes on November 23,1914.  Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). Griffith Park - Los Feliz Ranch, Los Angeles, California. Watercolor on paper, 4.3 x 5.4 in. (Courtesy Pasadena Museum of History, FCP Papers ESF.011.2888)

Los Feliz Adobe as painted by Eva Scott Fenyes on November 23,1914.
Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). Griffith Park – Los Feliz Ranch, Los Angeles, California. Watercolor on paper, 4.3 x 5.4 in. (Courtesy Pasadena Museum of History, FCP Papers ESF.011.2888)

“She was never so happy as when motoring and looking for adobes.”[1]

One hundred years ago this fall, sometime around the end of November and the beginning of December, Eva Scott Fenyes made a study of an old adobe ranch house in Griffith Park. Her watercolor sketches of the adobe bear November dates and the photographs December dates, so we might suppose she made two auto trips to the site which was about ten miles from her home in Pasadena. She sketched the adobe working en plein air, as was her usual process, and “she did not use an easel but sketched on her lap.”[2]

Eva probably painted these on-site watercolors to record her selected palette and took the photographs to record structural detail and setting. Later in her studio at Fenyes Mansion, she used the images to compose the watercolor paintings that she would eventually donate to the Southwest Museum. The paintings and photographs that follow here demonstrate her fieldwork in the autumn of 1914.

 

West and south facing facades of Los Feliz Adobe. Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). Griffith Park, Cal. - Los Feliz Ranch, Los Angeles, California, 22 November 1914. Watercolor on paper, 4.4 x 5.4 in. (Courtesy PMH, FCP Papers, ESF.011.2886)

West and south facing facades of Los Feliz Adobe. Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). Griffith Park, Cal. – Los Feliz Ranch, Los Angeles, California, 22 November 1914. Watercolor on paper, 4.4 x 5.4 in. (Courtesy PMH, FCP Papers, ESF.011.2886)

 

West and south facing facades of Los Feliz Adobe. Eva Fenyes labeled this photograph: “Old Griffith Homestead  Griffith Park. L.A. Dec 1914” “Los Feliz Ranch House” (Courtesy PMH, FCP Papers, FCP.40.2)

West and south facing facades of Los Feliz Adobe. Eva Fenyes labeled this photograph: “Old Griffith Homestead Griffith Park. L.A. Dec 1914” “Los Feliz Ranch House” (Courtesy PMH, FCP Papers, FCP.40.2)

 

West facing facade of Los Feliz Adobe. Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). Griffith House - Los Feliz Adobe, Los Angeles, California, November 1914. Watercolor on paper, 6.9 x 9.9 in. (Courtesy PMH, FCP Papers, ESF.011.2901)

West facing facade of Los Feliz Adobe. Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930). Griffith House – Los Feliz Adobe, Los Angeles, California, November 1914. Watercolor on paper, 6.9 x 9.9 in. (Courtesy PMH, FCP Papers, ESF.011.2901)

 

West facing facade of Los Feliz Adobe. Eva Fenyes labeled this photograph: “Old Griffith Homestead Griffith Park. L.A. Dec 1914” “Los Feliz Ranch House” (Courtesy PMH, FCP Papers, FCP.40.2)

West facing facade of Los Feliz Adobe. Eva Fenyes labeled this photograph: “Old Griffith Homestead Griffith Park. L.A. Dec 1914” “Los Feliz Ranch House” (Courtesy PMH, FCP Papers, FCP.40.2)

 

Still standing today, Los Feliz Adobe is home to the Park Ranger Headquarters and is located in front of the Griffith Park Visitors’ Center at 4730 Crystal Springs Drive. One of the Center’s very appealing and informative exhibits tells us that Jose Paco Feliz “built the Los Feliz Adobe in the mid-nineteenth century. No architects assisted him; no building permits were required; no official records were kept. This small cottage, used by the ranch hands, is the only surviving structure from the Rancho Los Feliz era.”

During successive periods of Spanish, Mexican, and American ownership, Rancho Los Feliz and the land on which the adobe stands gave rise to a compelling and complex history. Eva Fenyes, who spoke and read Spanish, studied the genealogies of the old California families and the stories of their adobe houses. While a complete record of her research has not been found, she probably learned that at the end of the 18th century, during the Spanish era, California’s governor Pedro Fages issued to Jose Vicente Feliz the land grant named Rancho Nuestra Señora de Refugio de Los Feliz honoring his many years of service as a soldier and comisionado of the Los Angeles pueblo. By the time Eva studied and painted Los Feliz Adobe one hundred years later, the original 6,647 acre ranch had undergone a long succession of inheritances, subdivisions, and acquisitions. Names that are prominent in this history include Maria Verdugo, Antonio Coronel, Mariana Williamson Coronel, James Lick, Thomas Bell, and Griffith Jenkins Griffith. In Eva’s day, Los Feliz Adobe had become part of Griffith Park which was established on December 16, 1896 after Griffith donated 3,015 acres of his Rancho Los Feliz holdings to the City of Los Angeles.

 

The west facing side of the Park Ranger Headquarters at Griffith Park Visitor’s Center. This photograph was taken on November 22, 2014 exactly one hundred years to the day when Eva Scott Fenyes propped her sketch pad on her lap to capture the shape and colors of the crumbling old adobe. Photograph by Tom Stires.

The west facing side of the Park Ranger Headquarters at Griffith Park Visitor’s Center. This photograph was taken on November 22, 2014 exactly one hundred years to the day when Eva Scott Fenyes propped her sketch pad on her lap to capture the shape and colors of the crumbling old adobe. Photograph by Tom Stires.

 

The east facing side of the significantly altered Los Feliz Adobe as viewed from the patio outside the Griffith Park Visitors’ Center. Photograph by Tom Stires.

The east facing side of the significantly altered Los Feliz Adobe as viewed from the patio outside the Griffith Park Visitors’ Center. Photograph by Tom Stires.

 

From Griffith Park to the Fenyes Mansion to the Southwest Museum, Eva Fenyes’ paintings of the mid-19th century Los Feliz adobe ranch house have returned to Griffith Park. Today they are housed at the Autry National Center about a mile down the road from Crystal Springs where the old adobe still stands and where you can imagine the same general outline of the structure that Eva Fenyes photographed and painted one hundred years ago this fall.

Images of the Los Feliz Adobe watercolors that Eva painted at her Fenyes Mansion studio and donated to the Southwest Museum, now part of the Autry National Center, can be viewed at the following links:

The Griffith Homestead at Griffith Park (FEN.305)

An Old Adobe of Rancho Los Feliz (FEN.112)

 

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

 

Sources:
Kielbasa, John R., Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County. Accessed online at LAOkay.com/halac/RanchoLosFeliz

Masters, Nathan, “How L.A. Got One of the Country’s Largest Urban Parks,” August 22, 2012. KCET.org/updaily/socal_focus/history/la-as-subject/griffith-park-history

 ~~~

[1] “Eva S. Fenyes: Interview with her daughter, Mrs. Thomas E. Curtin and her granddaughter Miss Leonora Curtin,” February 20, 1931. Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Papers, FCP.100.5, Pasadena Museum of History Archives, Pasadena, California.

[2] Ibid.




1 Response for “Painting Los Feliz Adobe”

  1. Laura V says:

    Wonderful article, as always. Love the comparison images.

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