Stone Barn Nature Center Opens to Public Fanfare

Visitors to the Nature Center can learn about the history of Deukmejian Wilderness Park.
Photo by Susan BOLAN

The community gets a long awaited peek at the completed interior of Deukmejian Wilderness Park’s Stone Barn Nature Center.

By Justin HAGER

After 40 years of planning, fundraising and relentless hard work, the Stone Barn Nature Center finally opened its doors to the public on Saturday. Glendale Mayor Paula Devine cut the ribbon at the space that is known to almost everyone in the region but, after sitting unoccupied since 1960, had been seen by so few. With a final price tag of $11.3 million, Devine said the project is “worth every penny.” Monies came from private donors, grants and Los Angeles County Improvement funds.

The Stone Barn Opening in Deukmejian Wilderness Park is celebrated by the posting of colors. Looking on at the Boy Scouts’ right is Glendale City Council member Vrej Agajanian and Glendale Mayor Paula Devine on Saturday.
Photo by Ruth SOWBY

As part of the ribbon cutting, Jeanette Stirdivant was recognized with an award from the City of Glendale on behalf of her late husband, environmentalist Marc Stirdivant, who donated hundreds of hours to the project and was among its greatest cheerleaders.

Jeanette Stirdivant accepts an award from the City of Glendale on behalf of her late husband environmentalist Marc Stirdivant. Joining her at the podium are, from left, Glendale Mayor Paula Devine, Glendale City Council member Ardy Kassakhian and Stirdivant’s daughter Kimberly Stirdivant Wason.
Photo by Ruth SOWBY

Other state and community leaders present included State Senator Anthony Portantino, State Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Glendale City Council members and the great granddaughter of Le Mesnager, Denise Le Mesnager. The children of former California Governor George Deukmajian, who donated the first $2 million for the project and for whom the park is named, also sent their regards via a letter, saying, “We share in your excitement.”

At the Stone Barn opening, State Assembly member Laura Friedman gives a certificate of appreciation from the California Legislature to Henrik Sardarbegian, Parks Commission president.
Photo by Ruth SOWBY

Anne McNeill is a longtime resident and Park volunteer who hikes the trails of Deukmejian Wilderness Park and attended Saturday’s ribbon-cutting.

“The ribbon-cutting was perfectly executed,” she said of the expertise of City staff at the unveiling and the work done on the barn. “Every detail was considered. The exhibits are beautiful, fascinating and very informative.”

Glendale Mayor Paula Devine cuts the ribbon for the public opening of the Stone Barn Nature Center in Deukmejian Wilderness Park on Saturday. Joining her, from left, are Glendale City Council members Vrej Agajanian, Ara Najarian, Parks Commissioner Stephen Meek, State Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Parks Commissioner Regina Alcazar and Parks Commission President Henrik Sardarbegian.
Photo by Ruth SOWBY

The barn and nature center’s new interior, designed by Tom Hartman, is a beautifully conceived marriage of the barn’s historic roots as a mountainous vineyard and its future as a modern urban research and education facility. It’s the nexus where “nature and the urban landscape share space,” said Hartman. Although the park covers 709 acres, the stone barn and surrounding vineyard-related sites are the only 12 acres that have been developed.

The interior of the Stone Barn boasts exhibits of wildlife that are commonly found in the park including a bear, cougar, deer, bobcat and butterflies, among others. Interactive exhibits are available so visitors can learn more about Deukmejian Wilderness Park. Most interior exhibits are movable to accommodate social events, like weddings.


Photo by Susan BOLAN
Photo by Susan BOLAN

The Stone Barn is considered the entryway to Deukmejian Wilderness Park. Originally constructed by Louis Le Mesnager in 1898, it was built of stones from the property, each of which was hand placed. It was used for winemaking until 1920, when Prohibition forced the Le Mesnagers into the water industry. Then in November 1933, just one month before Prohibition ended, a massive fire damaged the barn and destroyed its roof, winemaking equipment and most of the smaller outbuildings. The barn was rebuilt with a unique arch roof and residential quarters on the upper floor where the Le Mesnager family lived until 1960.

After the ribbon-cutting, the public was invited to take a self-led tour of the Nature Center filled with exhibits chronicling the region’s history, wildlife exhibits and labs for studying insects and plant life. In the final planning stages is a nature-themed day camp. 

Photo by Susan BOLAN


Deukmejian Wilderness Park is located at 3429 Markridge Road, between Dunsmore and New York avenues. The Stone Barn Nature Center is open to the public Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. During the week it is expected that school field trips will be taken to the Nature Center.

“Everybody at the opening was so thrilled with the Stone Barn Nature Center,” said McNeill. “The barn has been empty for so long. The City did such a fabulous job.”

Ruth Sowby also contributed to this story.