By Lillian BOODAGHIANS
On Monday evening, the Center for Spiritual Living hosted the monthly meeting of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley. This month’s topic of discussion was Rockhaven Sanitarium located in the 2700 block of Honolulu Avenue in Montrose.
As one of the Crescenta Valley’s few historical sites that remains intact, the future of the location has been under much debate for the past few years, specifically following its purchase by the City of Glendale in 2008.
Joanna Linkchorst, who heads Friends of Rockhaven, a subdivision of the historical society that acts as a liaison between the community and the city regarding future plans for the facility, led the meeting. She presented a somewhat virtual tour of the site, complete with photographs and anecdotes, hoping to educate the public and build support for the efforts of Friends of Rockhaven in ensuring the site’s protected status.
The story of the sanitarium begins in 1923 when Agnes Richards, a psychologist and World War I nurse, established the facility in the hopes of improving mental healthcare for women.
“Rockhaven had six patients in 1923, 20 in 1924 and continued to grow and expand over the following years,” explained Linkchorst during her presentation. Rockhaven’s reputation would eventually grow and be so well known that the sanitarium would become home to various individuals of celebrity, including a number of Ziegfeld girls and the mother of starlet Marilyn Monroe, among others.
Linkchorst spoke of the high level of dedication and dignity that Richards provided for those in her care, qualities that not only extended to her patients but also to the nurses and others who worked for her.
“She really took care of women,” said Linkchorst, repeating what a former nurse said about Richards.
Linkchorst noted that, as a testament to the caring environment Richards created, her granddaughter Pat Traviss assumed responsibility for Rockhaven when Richards retired. Linkchorst explained that originally Traviss had no desire to work at Rockhaven. However, “Pat grew up going there, grew up with the women, taking care of them, giving them their medication, taking them shopping and there were certain things she fell in love with [at Rockhaven].”
The expansive grounds, which once featured lush gardens and a variety of statuary, were a major topic of the presentation. Linkchorst said that Friends of Rockhaven sought to protect the integrity of the property and preserve as much of it intact as possible. She expressed concern that if the land was sold to private developers, this preservation would be much more difficult if at all possible.
The City of Glendale, upon purchasing the property, had initially considered moving the Montrose library onto the Rockhaven location in order to allow for the expansion of the Glendale Fire Station 29. However, this plan was never executed by the city.
Linkchorst noted that there are currently no specific plans for the property, but mentioned that ideas from the community are welcomed by Friends of Rockhaven and will be taken to the City of Glendale. Suggestions from attendees of the presentation included converting the property to a community garden and teaching space as well as making the space a neighborhood park.
When asked about designating Rockhaven as an official historic site in order to guarantee some level of protection for the property, Linkchorst responded that, “[This] is something done by the owner of the property and the City of Glendale is the owner of the property,” and, therefore, is not something that can be pursued by Friends of Rockhaven.
The general tone of the meeting marked uncertainty for the future of Rockhaven, but Linkchorst encouraged people to become involved with the cause to protect Rockhaven and to tour the property while they have the chance.
Upcoming tour dates are Oct. 5 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
For more information or to make a donation, contact Friends of Rockhaven at