By Mary O’KEEFE
A documentary about the Rockhaven Sanitarium in Montrose was awarded an Emmy at the 63rd Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards.
Producers Vicki Gardner and Jessica Houston along with associate producer Derek Martin on Aug. 6 were awarded for their work on “Rockhaven: A Sanctuary From Glendale’s Past.”
“I was so excited. I thought [the win] was fantastic. Amazing,” said Houston.
The documentary captured the special mix of the serenity of the grounds and the eerie loneliness of the now empty buildings.
In its early history, the Crescenta Valley area was known for their sanitariums, rest homes and hospitals. Many of them were typical facilities except for one, Rockhaven. Started in 1923 by a young nurse, Agnes Richards, the sanitarium housed women and treated them with respect and dignity.
“[Rockhaven] was a great tribute to human dignity,” said Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley. “ This is [also] a great tribute for the progress of women. It was a woman owned business.”
Lawler, who was interviewed in the documentary, praised Houston and Gardner for their dedication and their research.
“They were able to get interviews with people I had been trying to talk to for years,” he said.
One of the main voices in the documentary is Richards’ granddaughter Patricia Traviss who was at Rockhaven for many years.
“That was the most amazing part of the whole [film]. We couldn’t have done this without her,” Houston said. “To share all those stories was amazing.”
The production included first person interviews with Traviss who worked alongside her grandmother from 1956 to 2001. She started as a visiting child to becoming the director of the facility. There were also interviews with nurses and the groundskeeper Ivan Cole, who maintained the facility’s beautiful gardens.
“This was really a unique place,” Houston said. “Just the property itself, not only because of its beauty but the way patients were treated.”
The film includes the history of how Richards started with the rental of a rock house on Honolulu Avenue. The facility grew as she began to purchase surrounding homes and how, with the help of then-Glendale Councilmember John Drayman, the facility was saved from being torn down and condos built in its place. Rockhaven was purchased by the city of Glendale and, in its original plan, is to house a library and be a community center.
The film captured the rich history of the treatment of women, including the movie stars and famous who stayed at Rockhaven including Marilyn Monroe’s mother.
There was a lot of information.
“I have notebooks, two inches thick with interviews and transcripts of various versions of the script,” Houston said.
Houston, who has been working in the film industry since high school, had to make the hard choices of what to leave on the (digital) cutting room floor and what to include.
“I went to the University of Hawaii, I am from Hawaii. I took a lot of film and production classes,” she said.
On this production she worked as a producer and editor but also got a chance to do some camera work as well.
“I think this was exciting because it was in Crescenta Valley. My family lives in La Crescenta,” she said.
When the city purchased the property and first walked through the grounds, it was as if the residents had just left. Several items were left behind, including a Mother’s Day card and dried flowers. This eerie feeling of abandonment was also captured in the film.
“Rockhaven is a rare time capsule of the first and most important industry of the Crescenta Valley, the sanitarium industry,” Lawler said.
To view the video visit, http://glendale.granicus.com/mediaplayer.php?view_id=18&clip_id=2559.