Janet W. of Garfield Heights gives us a Tour through Pasadena’s 2nd Oldest Landmark District

At ThaWilsonBlock Magazine, we find local heritage fascinating! For our 4-year anniversary issue on February 10th, 2017, we wanted to try something new. For years, having growing up in Bungalow Heaven, I developed a genuine appreciation for the craftsman style home. I've been walking Pasadena streets for over 15 years and began to take notice of the different landmark districts throughout town. It gave me a sense of belonging. Pride. After months of wanting to learn more about these districts, we reached out to Garfield Heights Neighborhood Association to learn more about the richness of historic preservation within the neighborhood. And what we learned was amazing! We caught up with Janet Whaley, a member of the Garfield Heights Neighborhood Association, who gave us a tour through Pasadena’s 2nd oldest landmark district...

“The things that drew us to Garfield Heights are the diversity, the historic character of the neighborhood, and the friendliness of the neighbors.”

Mistah Wilson: Greetings, Janet! We are honored and very excited to have you here with us for this exclusive interview with ThaWilsonBlock Magazine as a representative for Pasadena’s Garfield Heights Neighborhood Association. How are you?
Janet (GHNA): I’m great, Mistah. Thank you so much for contacting our neighborhood association to find out more about Garfield Heights.

Mistah Wilson: What makes Garfield Heights exciting is that much work during the peak of the Arts & Crafts movement (1890-1920) was being done in this neighborhood, amongst various places around the country. What led locals to the formation of the GHNA?
Janet (GHNA): I think the neighbors in this district realized what wonderful historic resources they had in the houses in this area, and wanted to make sure they were protected for future generations. It’s the same thing that motivates most historic preservationists – the hope to preserve and protect our architectural heritage.

Mistah Wilson: On the tour you and Steve hosted us on, we learned that Los Robles Avenue was unsuccessful in formally being a part of the neighborhood. What happened?
Janet (GHNA): Unfortunately, this was before we moved to Garfield Heights. From what I understand, in 1998 the residents undertook a very intensive effort to contact property owners for all the streets in the proposed district. Some of the properties, like the ones on Los Robles and Washington, are predominantly multi-family rental units; and it was difficult to reach the property owners directly to explain the benefits of having their property included in the landmark district. In addition, some property owners specifically did not want their property included in the district. Because the formation required approval by 51% of the property owners, properties on Los Robles were not included in the district.

Mistah Wilson: One thing that stood out to us about GHNA was the fact that it’s an all-inclusive organization. Virtually any resident living in the neighborhood can be involved, not just homeowners or owners of historic landmarks within the district. What inspired GHNA to foster a diverse community?
Janet (GHNA): Like my husband and myself, many of the people who live in this neighborhood, along with those moving here, really value the diversity and inclusiveness of this neighborhood. We are richer for the many cultures represented in Garfield Heights; and we want to make sure that everyone here, property owners and renters alike, feels that they have a stake in maintaining and improving Garfield Heights

Mistah Wilson: In comparison to surrounding landmark districts, GHNA welcomes renters and homeowners alike. What type of things does GHNA do to welcome new residents in the neighborhood?
Janet (GHNA): We all keep an eye out for home sales and new people moving into the neighborhood. Our Board of Directors has a dedicated committee that prepares a “Welcome Basket” for new residents, which includes information about Garfield Heights and discount coupons for local businesses. Committee members personally deliver these baskets to new residents to welcome them to the neighborhood, encourage them to take an active part in the GHNA, and take advantage of the activities and programs we sponsor. 

Mistah Wilson: In GHNA, most homes with historic significance can be found on which streets?
Janet (GHNA): We are extremely lucky that in the Garfield Heights Landmark District, every street has homes with historic significance. Traversing the streets in the district, one will find hundreds of homes built between 1880 and 1925, with a variety of architectural styles including Craftsman, Victorian, Spanish Colonial Revival and Classical Revival

Mistah Wilson: Who are some respective architects responsible for most historic sites in GHNA?
Janet (GHNA): Some of the prominent architects who built homes in the Garfield Heights Landmark District are Sylvanus B. Marston, Alfred Heineman, Roehrig & Locke (Frederick Roehrig was the architect of the Castle Green in Pasadena), and Arthur B. Benton (who also designed the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse). We also have a home built by Henry M. Greene (of Greene & Greene) in 1924, as well as a Greene & Greene home that was moved onto a lot in our historic district in 1999.

Mistah Wilson: Let’s talk Block Party! To be Pasadena’s 2nd oldest landmark district, GHNA’s Block Party has come some way! Would you mind telling us more about the Block Party and how it is organized differently each year?
Janet (GHNA): The GHNA sponsors a neighborhood Block Party every year in June. The party is free to neighborhood residents (thanks to the many sponsorships we’ve cultivated), and features music, games, food, and informational booths from our community partners and City departments. We’ve had our local Fire Station show up with their engine, which is always a hit with the kids; and the Pasadena Police Department is also represented. To keep things interesting, we have the Block Party on a different neighborhood block each year. That way, we get to involve different areas of the neighborhood in this annual event. 

Mistah Wilson: What would a Landmark District and Neighborhood Association be without a recurring home tour? Unlike other local districts, GHNA hosts their Home Tour every other year. Why is this?
Janet (GHNA): Ask anyone who has ever worked to put together a Home Tour; it’s a BIG effort. Last December, GHNA hosted its 10th Home Tour; and it was a huge success, drawing 450+ attendees. Guests came from as far away as Palm Springs, San Diego, and Santa Barbara to tour six different homes in the district. We had a hard-working committee who spent close to a year planning this event, securing the homes to be open for touring, developing a printed program, recruiting docents for the houses and publicizing the event. In order not to burn out our volunteer committee, we have chosen to host our Home Tour every other year, with the next tour scheduled for 2018.

Mistah Wilson: What is GHNA’s relationship with Pasadena Heritage and how do you work together for the common cause of the community?
Janet (GHNA): Many of our residents are also active members in Pasadena Heritage, as we have shared goals in historic preservation. Pasadena Heritage was supportive in the formation of our Landmark District, and has also provided advocacy for individual preservation projects within the district. We have publicized Pasadena Heritage’s annual Craftsman Weekend and programs, and they have helped publicize our Home Tour. The educational programs provided by Pasadena Heritage on preservation incentive programs like the Mills Act have been invaluable to helping our neighborhood residents learn how to successfully apply for this program. 

Mistah Wilson: In what ways have GHNA worked with Grandview Foundation to help create a healthy relationship in the community?
Janet (GHNA): The Grandview Foundation (www.grandviewfoundation.com) provides residential recovery services for men suffering the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction. One of their sober living homes is in the middle of our Garfield Heights neighborhood. We’ve formed a wonderful working relationship where they host our quarterly General Meetings in their historic Craftsman home. Their residents have also been a huge help to us in preparing and moving equipment for our Block Party and Home Tour events. We feel that we have a great partnership, and have been able to educate our residents about the good works that Grandview does in our community.

Mistah Wilson: So our audience can gain a clear understanding of typical neighborhood association functions, what are some key responsibilities of GHNA as a Landmark District?
Janet (GHNA): We’ve outlined the key purposes of the association in our By-Laws:
a. Preserve the historic and architectural integrity and identity of the neighborhood known as Garfield Heights;
b. Foster an inclusive community that reflects and promotes the economically and ethnically diverse make-up of our neighborhood;
c. Encourage residents to improve the quality of life in our neighborhood, including the safety of people, animals and property;
d. Provide a forum for communication among residents of Garfield Heights with adjacent residential and business communities and with officials of the City of Pasadena;
e. Provide a means for residents to be represented in city government based on issues important to the Association;
f. Monitor adherence to the zoning regulations and design guidelines in the Garfield Heights Landmark District; and
g. Pursue the beautification of our neighborhood.
The Board pursues these aims via standing committees, with volunteers who work on the various aspects such as Safety and Crime, Beautification and Preservation, and Social Events. We host an Annual Block Party to bring neighbors out for a fun event and get them interacting with each other. We host the biennial Home Tour as a fundraising event, and to showcase the homes preserved by our residents. We also have social events like Movie Nights, Happy Hours and a Holiday Cookie Exchange to bring neighbors together. On a regular basis, we host educational meetings for our residents on important issues within the city, preservation incentive programs, and native plant landscaping. 

Mistah Wilson: What has kept GHNA from being formally listed in the National Register of Historic Places?
Janet (GHNA): Listing an entire district of homes on the National Register of Historic Places would require more comprehensive documentation on each individual home. If listed individually, homeowners would need to adhere to the more restrictive Secretary of the Interior Standards for any rehabilitation or restoration work. While residents may always undertake the process to have their own homes listed on the National Register (thereby accessing Federal tax incentives), it would be very difficult to get the hundreds of historic homes in Garfield Heights listed as a complete “district” (like the way the commercial district of Old Pasadena has been listed on the National Register). It would also require City Council action, and approval from the State Historic Resources Board. In Pasadena, we have found the preservation tool of forming a landmark district to provide a sufficient level of preservation protection.

Mistah Wilson: GHNA resident, writer, monologist and KPCC Public Radio host of "The Loh Life" Sandra Tsing Loh, had her home featured on GHNA’s 2010 Home Tour, and wrote and performed this amusing episode "Don Booties" about the experience. How have her contributions benefitted the neighborhood?
Janet (GHNA): We are lucky to have Sandra Tsing Loh as a resident of Garfield Heights. Not only did she open her home for the 2010 Home Tour, and serve as the Emcee for several of our annual Block Parties, she’s raised the profile of Garfield Heights on her radio show. In June, 2016, her one-woman show “The Madwoman in the Volvo” was performed at the Pasadena Playhouse. As a neighborhood activity, we were able to get group tickets for our residents to attend a performance, and have a special reception with Sandra. 

Mistah Wilson: Tell us about the artist community within Garfield Heights like Lisa Mann, who welded grocery carts into a map of Pasadena, California. Very admirable work…
Janet (GHNA): Part of the beauty of Garfield Heights is a community of artists who work in many different mediums. We showcased three of our artist/residents as part of our 2016 Home Tour; and they opened up their home studios to our tour guests so that they could see the creativity this neighborhood inspires and encourages. Lisa Mann (www.lisa-mann.com) has a sculpture in her front yard of steel grocery carts welded into a map of Pasadena to call attention to the homeless experience. Lisa also featured many Garfield Heights residents in her recent animation project, “ROTO Pasadena,” which projected images directly onto City Hall, the Police Station and Central Library. Denise Seider transformed unwanted found and recycled materials donated by her neighbors into totem-like sculptural pieces that honored creative reuse and community collaboration. These sculptures were on display at our 2015 Block Party, and many still stand in resident’s yards. Meriel Stern is a ceramic artist, mixed media sculptor and educator. Her art work is centered on the morphology of the natural world and its relationship to the narrative of human experience. These are just several of the many artists who make their home in Garfield Heights.

Mistah Wilson: There has been an increase in drought-tolerant yards and landscapes in Garfield Heights. Has it become part of GHNA’s conservation plan?
Janet (GHNA): Landscaping is not included in the GHNA Conservation Plan; we leave those choices up to the individual residents. But in an effort to explore landscaping options and provide educational tools for our residents, GHNA did sponsor a program in December, 2015 with a representative of the Theodore Payne Foundation who spoke on California Native Plants and Planting a Native Garden. Following that program, and with the drought conditions that existed last year, we did see an increase in landscaping changes to native and drought-tolerant plantings throughout the district.

Mistah Wilson: We were very honored to learn about the history behind 1143 Douglas Los Robles Avenue. Can you tell us how the home got the name “Adelaidia”?
Janet (GHNA): My husband and I purchased our home in 2004, fulfilling a long-held dream to live in an historic home. And doesn’t every good historic home have a name? As a housewarming gift, our realtor gave us a “House Biography,” which was researched and written by Tim Gregory, The Building Biographer. This introduced us to the home’s first owner, Adelaide Mahan, who was an 18-year-old student in
1912, when she first lived in the home with her mother and younger brother. But the house was in her name; which we found very unusual for that time period. So we decided to honor the home’s first owner, and call it “Adelaidia.” We’ve done a lot more research on Adelaide since then. We found she was a graduate of Pasadena High School, and rode on the school’s float in the 1911 Rose Parade with her high school sweetheart, whom she would later marry. And through researching her family on Ancestry.com, we were able to connect with Adelaide’s grand-nieces, who live in Long Beach, and have been out to see the home. They knew their “Aunt Ad” had lived in Pasadena, but never knew the location. They shared photos of Adelaide and her family members with us. A few years after they visited, they came across a photo of the home, circa 1912-1917 when Adelaide lived here, and sent that to us. It’s a part of the house history we treasure, along with an intact liquor bottle from the Melczer & Company Wholesale Liquor and Wine Merchants in Los Angeles. This was found when we restored the front porch foundation. Further research has indicated this company was in business in 1912 when the home was built.

Mistah Wilson: What would you say are three of your most favorite things about the Garfield Heights neighborhood?
Janet (GHNA): The things that drew us to Garfield Heights are the diversity, the historic character of the neighborhood, and the friendliness of the neighbors. These qualities are in abundance in Garfield Heights; and we’ve found it to be the most welcoming place we’ve ever lived. 

Mistah Wilson: Where can people go to learn more about Garfield Heights, Historic Preservation, and how they can get involved?
Janet (GHNA): To learn more about Garfield Heights, our Neighborhood Association, how you can get involved in our committees and activities, how to be on the mailing list for our next Home Tour, or view photographs of our many, lovely historic homes, go to our web site: www.garfieldheights.org
To learn more about historic preservation, contact:
Pasadena Heritage – www.pasadenaheritage.org
City of Pasadena – Design & Historic Preservation Section – www.cityofpasadena.net/Planning/Historic

Mistah Wilson: Janet, thank you so much for taking this time to tell us about Garfield Heights! We really enjoyed the tour and interview. We look forward to attending the upcoming block party as well. If there are any references, or shout outs J you’d like to mention, let’s hear it!
Janet (GHNA): I’ve been honored to serve as the spokesperson for this interview; but the efforts and successes of Garfield Heights are really attributable to our dedicated Board of Directors, and the many volunteer residents who help us with our projects. Our nine-member Board meets monthly to plan, direct and manage the activities of the Association. Without their commitment of time and financial resources, this neighborhood would not enjoy the prominence it does. If you’d like to contact any of our Board members with your comments or ideas, you can drop us an e-mail.


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