The History of the Rockhaven Property

Looking Back

Joanna Linkchorst of Friends of Rockhaven.

“Men make history and not the other way around.

In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

~ Harry S. Truman



Just before the Crescenta Valley Weekly opened its doors, the City of Glendale purchased the property of the site of the former Rockhaven Sanitarium. Local historian (and so much more) Mike Lawler explained:

“In 2006, Rockhaven Sanitarium went out of business. It was to be bulldozed and apartments would take its place. The community was outraged and then-Councilman John Drayman proposed a clear plan. Glendale would buy the site for a new library and community center and restore the historic buildings with the lease money being made from the city-owned Montrose Trader Joe’s property. Almost immediately after buying the site in 2008, the economy crashed. Soon after, state redevelopment funds, which Glendale relied on for large projects, were shut off. The Trader Joe’s money turned out to be a drop in a very empty bucket. All plans were shelved and since then Rockhaven has been in mothballs, attended by city gardeners and a small band of volunteers.”

This paper has shared the Rockhaven saga starting with this event announcement from the Little Landers Historical Society (in nearby Tujunga) on Dec. 25, 2009:

“The Little Landers Historical Society presents ‘The History of Rockhaven Sanitarium.’ In 1923 Rockhaven provided a safe and restful place for women recovering from mental illness. The property was purchased by the City of Glendale in 2008. The speaker for this presentation is Robert McFall, assistant manager for the City of Glendale. McFall will take the audience on a photo tour of Rockhaven, reflect on the facility’s colorful history and provide information on what the city has planned for its future.”

Lawler wrote this on March 24, 2011, in CV’s Place in Women’s History:

“Yes, it’s true. CV was the site of something special in women’s history and, actually, for human dignity. Thanks to the vision of a strong woman, Agnes Richards, founder of Rockhaven Sanitarium in 1923, the lives of women with mental disabilities were immeasurably improved.”

In his introduction in August 2013 of the Friends of Rockhaven, Lawler said, “This year the historical society spun off a separate group, the Friends of Rockhaven. It’s led by CV native Joanna Linkchorst who is full of energy and optimism. She feels the site is a monument to Agnes Richards’ goal of dignity and grace for mentally impaired women, and that the lush oak-covered property should be treated with as much respect as Richards had for her own patients. The Friends of Rockhaven will continue to care for the interiors, research famous residents, and educate the community about the gem that Rockhaven is. As well, Joanna hopes that her new organization can be the catalyst to help Glendale move forward with its plans for the property.”

As the City progresses with preliminary plans to finally develop the property, Linkchorst looks back with continued optimism, tempered with experiences she describes as both amazing and disheartening.

“The peace that is still to be found in the beauty of this remarkable spot,” she wrote it “will not be what it was supposed to be, but it’s also not as bad as it might have been. And we will continue to be caretakers of these stories and images we have gained over this time.”

Mike Lawler sums up where things stand currently.

“It appears that the long, drawn-out saga of Rockhaven, which was already going even before this newspaper was formed, may finally be drawing to a close with the City opting for a commercial use of the property. Although it is not the park and community center that was first proposed for the three and half acre oak-covered parcel, it is certainly not the worst outcome. The current developer, if indeed he does become the principal developer, appears to be in tune with the historic nature of the property. The Friends of Rockhaven hope this works out well to preserve the legacy of the last intact sanitarium in our valley, a woman-owned sanitarium for women-only, a business that was created by women for women.”

To learn more about possible future plans for the properly, visit

Additional Rockhaven resources/information can be found at or email

The award-winning documentary “Rockhaven: A Sanctuary from Glendale’s Past” can be found online at