Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

Posted by on Nov 29th, 2012 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Home Tour Features Historic Buildings with Good Stories

Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the  Crescenta Valley. Reach him at

Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley. Reach him at

This Saturday the Crescenta-Cañada Heritage Home Tour will open seven historic buildings in La Crescenta and La Cañada. The tour is being called “Sites with a Story,” and at each location local historians have come up with some drama that will thrill those visitors who have enough imagination to envision passion or fear reaching out from the past.

One house on the tour actually has a place in popular literature. Novelist Raymond Chandler created the character Phillip Marlow, a Los Angeles detective in the ’30s and ’40s and portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep.” In Chandler’s 1935 novella, “Nevada Gas,” his characters drive up into the almost deserted flood area of La Crescenta to an isolated stone house on Castle Road. The house is still there, a spectacular French-style stone mansion with an acre of landscaped gardens.

Perhaps the most dramatic site on the tour is the least spectacular architecturally. The American Legion Hall was ground zero of the destruction during the 1934 New Year’s Flood. The hall was a refugee center during the storm, and when the flood crashed through the back wall, it killed 12 people and injured more within the walls of the hall before carrying their bodies out the front and into the dark night.     The thrifty Depression-era Legionnaires simply moved the damaged building to a safer site on La Crescenta Avenue, and patched up the holes front and back.     Although the building will only be open from noon to 3 p.m., flood expert Art Cobery and myself will be on hand to guide you through this little known disaster site. Hopefully you won’t be disturbed by the ghosts of those who died within its walls.

One of the famous ancient stone castles of our valley will be open, high up off of Briggs Avenue. It was built by musician Emile Ferir in the ’20s. Ferir had a long and distinguished career as first violist in symphony orchestras across the U.S., finishing as the principal violist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Visitors will be allowed to climb the spiral staircase into the castle’s stone tower all the way to the top for a spectacular view of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Also on the La Crescenta side is the rambling and quirky Morrow House. It was carved out of the sagebrush above Foothill in the ’20s and stood completely alone until the tract homes of the ’50s engulfed it. The odd stone house was designed by famous architect Albert Hansen, who also designed the old portion of CV High and Glendale City Hall. The owner in the ’30s was Laura Morrow, a high school counselor, so the current owner, who is also a high school counselor, feels a special connection to her.

Moving over to the La Cañada side of the valley, we have the Lanterman family’s first house. When Jacob and Amoretta Lanterman moved from Michigan to the wild-west atmosphere of early La Cañada, they built a mansion that reminded them of home, named appropriately Homewood. Amazingly that original house is still there. Even more amazing is that this house, built in 1878, is one of the oldest houses in Southern California – located right here in La Cañada!

Open as well just a block away will be the Lanterman’s church – the La Cañada Congregational Church. It’s been known locally as the Church of the Lighted Window for the Tiffany glass window shining out onto Foothill “to cheer the passing wayfarer” as Harriet Lanterman put it after donating the window in 1925. The church was declared a state landmark in 1969 to try to preserve it from the 210 freeway which was built almost underneath it.

Lastly in La Cañada is the 1929 mansion Chula Vista, a lavish home built after George Hoag’s rags to riches climb to wealth – J.C. Penny sales clerk to vice-president in just 15 years!

All these Sites with a Story can be seen this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Buy tickets online at, or on the day of the tour at the Lanterman House, 4420 Encinas Drive, La Cañada.

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