As early as 1917, the Pasadena Garden Club was looking to engage with the beautification and restoration (after forest fires) of the Arroyo Seco. There seems to be no mention of Club plans for almost a decade. In 1932, discussions are had about a wildflower sanctuary that would be created by unemployed construction workers and using “Block-Aid” funds.
Architect Myron Hunt and his wife Virginia Pease established Bock-Aid because funding for building construction having dried up during the Depression. The concept was to have “a volunteer in each block of the city (apply) to neighbors for funds to employ out-of-work construction workers.”
In the fall of 1932, Mrs. Caroline Munro was named Chairman of the Wild Flower Sanctuary Committee and at “a garden fair for unemployment relief” mention is made of “proposed shelter to be erected in the Arroyo” and that the Club would “cooperate with the City in putting up this building. This building became La Casita del Arroyo.
“In order to give these unfortunate people something to do, [the Hunt’s] and others conceived the idea of building a much-needed small community meeting hall on city-owned land in the Arroyo, and Hunt designed the building…pro bono publico. (Baxter Art Gallery, p. 51). (LaCasitaDelArroyo.org)
To be clear, the “pavilion,” as it’s been called, or the “clubhouse,” would not be used for dances or parties, Park Superintendent Gilbert I. Skutt said, “but will be used solely for more serious events.”
In January 1933 with $3,500 donated by Garden Club members, construction of La Casita del Arroyo was begun.
The building’s walls include boulders from the Arroyo, and the original roof shakes were cut from fallen trees in the upper canyon. Virtually all the lumber came from the bicycle track built inside the Rose Bowl for the 1932 Olympics. (LaCasitaDelArroyo.org)
Incredibly, four months later, on April 28th, La Casita celebrated its opening with an orchid show, followed by a series of Sunday afternoon art exhibits “with hostesses serving tea.”
In the spring of 1985, just when restoration plans were to begin (designed by Isabelle Green, granddaughter of celebrated architect Henry Greene), a fire significantly damaged the clubhouse. “The building was gutted.”
It would take nearly $150,000.00 to repair the building that was built and furnished with $3,500.00. Momentum for the project continued due to the untiring effort of Lisa Clement. She convened the La Casita Restoration Committee…Salvaged materials from the original structure were used in reconstruction including some of the wood from the 1932 Olympic Velodrome. The kitchen and bathroom were upgraded and fire prevention measures were installed.
This year’s restoration began in February—including restoration of the “historic bicycle velodrome wood paneling” says Ann Erdman—and the grand reopening is Tuesday, July 29th.
Stroll through the butterfly sanctuary, the geranium garden, and the so-called “Grey-Green” garden; savor the view of the Colorado Street Bridge; and enjoy a late afternoon at Pasadena’s historic, rustic “community meeting house.”
La Casita del Arroyo Grand Reopening
Tuesday, July 29th, 4 p.m.
177 S. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena 91105
Parking available along the street
Admission: free; refreshments will be served
Normal visiting hours: daily, dawn to dusk