TREASURES OF THE VALLEY

Memories of Villa Esperanza – Part 1

I’m continuing a streak of reprinting the memories of early CV residents. Some might call that plagiarism but, in my defense, who better to write about the past than those who were there? And often eyewitness accounts, like the flood description I reprinted a couple of weeks ago, carry a personal touch that just can’t be duplicated.

This particular recollection is from Marjorie Faddis who wrote of her memories of the large mansion named Villa Esperanza (House of Hope) in the early 1900s. The mansion was built in the late 1880s at the southeast corner of Rosemont Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, where Rosemont Veterinary is today.

The two-story Victorian was the retirement home of Professor W.C. White. He had taught languages at Wabash College in Indiana and was most noted for editing the novel “Ben Hur” for his friend Arizona Gov. Col. Lew Wallace. Wallace was his first guest at Villa Esperanza and was followed by famous Los Angeles civic leaders and opera stars who came for the clean dry air of the valley. Professor White was a contemporary of Dr. Briggs and others in the valley he knew from Indiana.

The ornate mansion became the cultural center of the valley. Professor White hosted the valley’s first lending library and two literary clubs – one of which, the “Ladies’ Shakespearian Club” was the origin of today’s La Crescenta Woman’s Club.

It appears that after Professor White died, the Nye family created a resort hotel/boarding house of which there were several in the valley. Marjorie Faddis relates charming details of their day-to-day life at Villa Esperanza:

“My father, Elmer E. Nye, owned the property from around 1909 to 1912. When my father purchased Villa Esperanza (located at the corner of Michigan, now Foothill, and Rosemont Avenue), it was called La Crescenta Mt. Villa and my parents accepted a few paying guests which were needed to augment the small income from a few acres of oranges and seven acres of grapes. We also had two cows, two aged horses, about 50 chickens, two dogs and 21 cats. It took most of the milk from one cow to supply the cats, [that] would all gather round at milking time to get some direct squirts of milk.

“The house was very old, even then, and had been remodeled and added to many times and many more since. It had eight or 10 bedrooms but only one bathroom containing a very splendid tin tub decorated in carved wood, a fancy marble wash basin and an ultra-modern water closet with wooden tank attached to the ceiling.

“Of course, each bedroom had its own water pitcher, wash bowl and slop jar in matching elegant design, which were all filled and emptied each morning. The central hall had some beautiful gas chandeliers, but they were not connected while we lived there. I believe they were put in for the future. I don’t believe there was even electricity in the valley at that time. We used to gather up all the kerosene lamps all over the house and father had a huge table in the patio where he filled, clipped wicks and polished chimneys each day.

“He also washed out both outhouses each morning. Ours were a little fancier than most of the neighbors’ having three holes of assorted sizes, like the three bears, and each fitted with a snug lid. There were two Montgomery Wards catalogs fastened securely with a stout chain. The family and regular guests used the outhouses and not the bathroom.

“The most beautiful thing I remember about the old house was the cherrywood banister on the stairway. It kept a beautiful gloss from the constant buffing by the seat of the pants of many youngsters. The many porches with comfortable rockers and real old-fashioned hammocks were kept in constant use.”

It sounds like it was a wonderful place (except for the outhouses!). We’ll continue Marjorie’s vivid descriptions of Villa Esperanza next week.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at lawlerdad@yahoo.com.