The architectural walk for this weekend is actually part drive and part walk, because to see Altadena’s most significant houses, you have to cover a lot of ground. If you part at Woodbury and Santa Rosa, you can walk north on Santa Rosa to Mariposa and Madison to see three of the houses.
Wild, wonderful, eccentric and unincorporated Altadena has it all. As one might anticipate, many of its large estates and ranches have long since been subdivided, and it is almost as though the homes themselves are longing for the wide-open spaces of yore. Nevertheless, it is a very fine place to live in the 21st century, and the tremendous range of architectural styles, from Neutra to Roehrig to Greene, have attracted an equally diverse cast of characters. During the holidays, Christmas Tree Lane, the stretch of Santa Rosa Avenue between Woodbury and Altadena Drive, is a nighttime must-see for children of all ages. Note that while you can walk between some houses (McNally, Woodbury, Case Study # 20), to see them all you’ll need a car.
Beard House (1934)
1981 Meadowbrook Lane
Built by Richard Neutra for Caltech professor Richard Beard, this small, all-metal house was inspired by Neutra’s fascination with the machine as icon. The sliding metal patio doors were an architectural innovation at the time.
Case Study House # 20 (1958)
2275 N. Santa Rosa Ave.
One of the prototype homes built between 1945 and 1966 and photographed by the great Julius Shulman.
McNally House (1888)
654 E. Mariposa St.
Andrew McNally partnered with William Rand to create Rand-McNally, a successful business that produced maps and globes out of Chicago. As was the case with many of his well-to-do compatriots, McNally staked out his territory in sunny California and had Frederick Roehrig design this vast Queen Anne house. McNally’s grandson, Wallace Neff, would become a highly regarded architect in California.
Williams House (1915)
1145 Sonoma Dr.
Charles and Henry Greene left their mark on Altadena as well as Pasadena. This house, unusual for the Greenes, is covered with gunite, a blown-on cement that also covers the pillars of the rear porch.
Woodbury House (1882)
2606 N. Madison Ave.
To see a photograph of this house, circa 1882—with the mountains behind it, and nothing but 937 open acres surrounding it—is to know Altadena’s Woodbury Ranch before the turn of the century. John Woodbury was the first to use the name “Altadena” for the subdivision he planned to develop.