The Lummis House

Charles Lummis seems like a pretty cool guy. He dropped out of Harvard and walked 3ooo miles from Cincinnati to California. He spent a decent portion of time in New Mexico and Arizona on his way, where he developed an interest in Spanish and Native American history. He was so enthralled by Native American culture that he had the local Navajo help him build a house.

Lummis HouseLummis House

The House was constructed along the Arroyo Seco in Los Angeles in 1896. The home contains architectural features reminiscent of the California missions and Indian pueblos with a hint of “castle”. The arroyo stones on the exterior give it the castle-like appearance and may have inspired the use of arroyo stones within homes throughout the area. (Granted, I am sure that the locals were happy to put the stones to use).

I first became aware of the Lummis House after noticing the signs along Highway 110. I consulted my trusty Frommers for information about the place but found nothing. It turns out that Frommers called the place by its alternative name “El Alisal”, which is supposed to be Spanish for “alder grove”. It sounded like a pretty interesting place, so we decided to head up the 405, then onto the 710, then north on the 5, then up the 110 to check it out.

Individuals are free to tour the first floor of the Lummis House, which consists of various artifacts such as old books, dishes, photographs, letters, and an old trunk. The first floor contained old furniture, including a rug over the concrete floors. The tour guide pointed out that the concrete floor descends within each room as you go from the kitchen out through the front door. The descending concrete allowed them to hose the place down  after large parties. It is reminiscent of the Great Gatsby while also being completely unlike the Great Gatsby.

The tour guide was very informative about the history of the house and Mr. Lummis. We were especially appreciative, since we had (unknowingly) entered the home 30 minutes before its scheduled opening time (i.e. before they were obligated to talk to us). The tour guide had a lot of stories to tell. He informed us Charles Lummis originated the term “Southwest” to describe Southwestern U.S. culture. He also founded the Southwest Museum, which was the oldest museum in Los Angeles. The museum is currently closed and under direction by the Autry museum. The Southwestern Museum folks are pretty mad at the Autry Museum folks, as demonstrated by a pamphlet on display at the house (and various articles online).

The Lummis House is free. Your visit will only take about a half hour, so you may want to follow it up with a visit to the Heritage Square Museum just across the arroyo.

Lummis House

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Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens

The “Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens” is a prominent plant-based attraction in the Los Angeles Area. The attraction is run by the city, which (presumably) endows it with certain positive and negative distinctions from the private Huntington and Descanso Gardens. The Gardens have many distinguishing features including the Weyberg waterfall, the Bauer fountain, the Hugo Reide Adobe, and the Queen Anne cottage (and barn). Any doubts on the importance of these structures should be abated by the fact that they are named after people.

Los Angeles County Arboretum Myberg WaterfallLos Angeles County Arboretum

The Gardens are noted for the predominance of peacocks. The peacocks were introduced to the Gardens in the early 1900’s by Elias Baldwin. The peacocks therefore have a long history of delighting visitors and annoying local homeowners.

Los Angeles County Arboretum PeacockLos Angeles County Arboretum

The Gardens are divided into the Tallac Knoll, Bauer Lawn and Fountain, Meadowbrook, Prehistoric Forest, Tule Pond, Baldwin Lake, and the Africa, Australia, and Greenhouse sections. The historic Santa Ana Depot is located within the Garden grounds hidden southeast of Baldwin lake. Baldwin Lake is surrounded by the historic Queen Anne Cottage, Coach Barn, and the Adobe. The Cottage was owned by Elias Baldwin. It has been featured in a handful of films, including the opening credits of Fantasy Island (read more here). Its architecture contains strong Victorian influence with a heavy emphasis on “Stick Style“. I have had very little exposure to buildings constructed in “Stick Style” but my impression is that they appear to be constructed from popsicle sticks.

Los Angeles County Arboretum Queen Anne CottageLos Angeles County Arboretum Queen Anne Cottage

The Gardens are dispersed throughout 127 acres. Visitors should bring water and be prepared to walk. You may cut down on your walking by participating in a ~30 minute tram tour on Saturday and Sundays. Tickets are $4 per person.

You can find food inside the Garden grounds at the Peacock cafe. We opted (as usual) for a pregame picnic outside the Garden grounds. Note that you must pay for admission with cash. (They do not accept credit, debit, or precious metals).

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Pasadena – Bungalow Heaven Home Tour

“Bungalow Heaven” is a collection of historic bungalow homes in Pasadena, California. The homes were primarily constructed in the early 1900’s in the spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement. The Arts and Crafts movement placed a strong emphasis on individual craftsmanship and attention to detail. The style is perhaps best represented by Pasadena’s Gamble House, but Bungalow Heaven represents the style in a manner consistent with the common Pasadena residents daily experience.

The current residents of the neighborhood were so proud of their homes that they wanted to get the government involved; they had the area designated as a Landmark District by the city in 1989, which helped impose restrictions on the kind of alterations that homeowners could perform. They convinced the U.S. Department of the Interior to include the area in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. The residents also help run the Annual Bungalow Heaven Home Tour, which provides an opportunity to tour the interiors of selected homes. The Tour is a great idea since it is otherwise not socially acceptable to walk through strangers homes.

The 23rd Annual Bungalow Heaven Home Tour took place on April 29th 2012. My wife and I were two of the many “home enthusiasts” in attendance. The Tour features the homes along North Chester Ave. and North Michigan Ave. between East Mountain Street and East Orange Boulevard. The homes have many distinctive features. The Craftsman Bungalow exteriors are characterized by their one-and-a-half-story height, slanted roof,  wide front porch, and sleeping porch. The interiors often contain built-in cabinets and seats, a California basement, and an emphasis on all things horizontal. Many of the homes along Michigan Ave. feature arroyo stones within their fireplaces and along the front porch and intricate windows within the wide front doors. These characteristics were particularly prominent in the “Living History Home” featured on the Tour. The Living History Home Tour takes you through the lives of character actors portraying the realty issues in the 1970’s. The whole experience may leave you feelin’ groovy.

Dogs need bungalow homes too:

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The Greystone Mansion

The Greystone Mansion sits near Sunset Strip in Beverly Hills California. The Mansion was constructed in 1928 by Edward Doheny as a gift to his son. Doheny was an oil entrepreneur infamous for his involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal. The Mansion cost 3 million dollars when it was built, making it the most expensive home in California at the time. The Mansion has now been surpassed in price by a number of more recently constructed homes (and the Teapot Dome scandal has been surpassed by additional scandalous scandals).

Greystone MansionGreystone Mansion

The Mansion was purchased by the city in 1965 and became a park half a decade later. Individuals are currently encouraged to stroll the grounds and peer into the windows. You can start your visit by parking at the top of the estate, were you can find nice views of Beverly Hills and surrounding areas. The Mansion is surrounded by well groomed gardens, a few fountains, and a stone courtyard. I was especially excited by the large number of turtles that were present in the ponds. They instigated mind-wandering toward the moral/philosophical underpinnings of my childhood book “Yertle the Turtle”. My wife’s mind was wondering more toward what it would have been like to get married at a place like this.

Greystone Mansion TurtlesGreystone Mansion Fountain

The Greystone Mansion has been featured in an impressive list of film and television series and its staircase is one of the most popular filming sets in the area. The Mansions two lane downstairs bowling alley appeared in the movie “There Will be Blood”. The Mansion was also featured as the home of the Green Golbin’s father in Spider Man. The outdoor courtyard appeared as the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning in the movie X-Man, and the interior of the Mansion served as the interior of the Lebowski house. Joel Cohen reluctantly included the black and white checkered floor in the film. He didn’t like it very much, but, “that was just like, his opinion, man”.

The Greystone Mansion is a nice little 30/45 minute weekend retreat. Individuals are not allowed to picnic on the Mansion grounds. They don’t want to attract those crazy “picnic folks”. You can find plenty of eating opportunities on Sunset Strip nearby.

Greystone Mansion GroundsGreystone Mansion Fountain

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The Adamson House

The Adamson House is a popular attraction along the southern coast of California. The Spanish Colonial Revival home has been called the “Taj Mahal of Tile” which helps describe its impressive display of ceramic tile and helps satisfy our innate urge to be creative with language. The house is located within the city of Malibu, which is sometimes called Bu’, which also helps satify our innate urge to be creative with language.

Adamson HouseAdamson House

The Adamson House was build in the early 30’s when the tile business was booming in Malibu. Malibu Potteries were the major tile supplier, and they were owned by May Knight Ridge, the mother of Rhoda Rindge Adamson. It shouldn’t surprise you that they were  happy to supply the 1930’s home with their “tile and tile accessories”.

The tile is showcased on the exterior by the a tile tub that the Adamsons used to wash their dogs. There is also a Peacock Fountain and Star Fountain. The Peacock Fountain is interesting because they purposefully placed one of the pieces incorrectly, since only god is allowed to be imperfect. (My experience tells me that they didn’t need to go through the trouble. There would invariably be a flaw even if they put the piece in correctly).

Adamson House Peacock FountainAdamson House dog bathtub

Tile is everpresent in the interior, as it lines walls, ceilings, and floors of many of the rooms. There are a number of everyday household items that have been “tiled” as well, including a clock and an entry table. The most popular “piece” is a 60 foot replica of a Persian rug lining the hallway. (There were no pictures allowed in the interior, as you can NOT see).

My wife and I have now visited a number of old homes touring around the L.A. area. One of the most impressive things about the Adamson House is that it essentially contains all the original furnishings. They even still have an old dishwasher that turned the dishes around in the water (instead of turning the water around in the dishes). (It was clearly a flawed design). The house is still furnished with the radio that informed the Adamsons about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Incidentally, our tour guide Glen told us that the government wanted to station some troops in the house following the attack. They ended up compromising by providing a place for them to stay nearby. Later, it turned out that the state basically took bought the house from the Adamson’s in their efforts to share and preserve it. We thought it was a little odd that they forced them out of the house, especially since some of their clothes were still in the closet!

The house provides a peaceful overlook of the ocean and impressive views of Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Lagoon and Bird Sanctuary. You can pay to park near the entrance to the house, or you can test your luck with the free parking along PCH. As usual, it is a good idea to bring a picnic. You can find some picnic tables by the beach.

The ocean from the Adamson HouseThe ocean from the Adamson House

If you visit you should also be aware that they sometimes host weddings. That means that if you arrive early (e.g. before 1 p.m or so) you will be less likely to run into individuals preparing for a wedding.

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The Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located (appropriately) next to the Pacific Ocean, in Long Beach California. The Aquarium consists of two indoor floors and a respectable outdoor section. They contain a range of exhibits which together attempt to capture the diversity of the ocean animal species. Their featured exhibits include the Arctic and Antarctic, the Ocean Science Center, the Blue Cavern, the Southern California Gallery, the Amber Forest, the Ray Touchpool, the Shorebird Sanctuary, the Lorikeet Forest, the Gulf of California, the Tropical Pacific, and the Tropical Reef. They have clownfish, which makes children happy, and sharks, which makes everyone happy.

The Arctic and Antarctic section providesThe Aquarium of the Pacific individuals with the opportunity to touch jellyfish, and to observe impressive gigantic red king crabs. The section also emphasizes the fragility of the polar ecosystem, the reduction in the polar ice caps, and the implications of rising sea levels on the California coast. (You can’t get away with seeing animals at aquariums or zoo’s without being instilled with some appreciation for the environment). The large tank at the end of the first floor features a giant sea bass and a california moray eel (among many other fish). There was a nice sea otter feeding demonstration in the “BP sea otter habitat” section. Sea otters are definitely skilled at positively interacting with humans. They are essentially the “dogs of the sea”. The habitat was sponsored by BP in a (perceived) attempt to get on the populations good side after the infamous BP oil spill. However, BP sponsored the habitat prior to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which reduced my concerns, but perhaps cynically demonstrates that they have proactive PR team.

The Aquarium of the PacificThe Aquarium of the Pacific

The shark lagoon is a popular destination in the outdoor section of the Aquarium. The lagoon features a number of different sharks, including the zebra shark (with a rounded nose) and the freshwater sawfish (with a saw nose). The lorikeet forest and ray touchpools are the other notable outdoor exhibits. You can watch individuals (that paid for nectar) feed the birds at the Lorikeet forest. You can touch rays at the ray touchpool. A young individual was there describing the rays. This serves to inform the guests about rays and provides a forum for young folks to gain public speaking skills.

The Aquarium of the PacificThe Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the PacificThe Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium has a quite large collection of fish. Unfortunately, the place is also infested with children. You may have a more peaceful visit by arriving during the earlier parts of the day (e.g. from 9-11) or during the weekdays. You should also note that the Aquarium of the Pacific is not as extensive and impressive as the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Individuals should not think of this as the MBA of the LBC. Finally, you should scour the internet for discounted admission. You might be able to find deals up to half-off the admission price (depending on how patient you are). Paying half the price may help you enjoy the place twice as much.

You will find a picture of a frog below:


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The Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is one of the most recognizable landmarks along the Los Angeles skyline. In fact, the Observatory is so recognizable that the locals are equally excited to see the Observatory as they are to see the Hollywood Sign!* Many individuals are delighted to discover that the Hollywood Sign can be pretty clearly identified from the Griffith Observatory. They are further delighted to discover that if you stand in the right spot you can spin around really fast so that you can see the Hollywood Sign at one moment, then the Griffith Observatory in the next moment, followed by the Hollywood Sign, and so on, until you engulfed in extreme tourist bliss. (And slight nausea, but tourist attractions can sometimes have that effect on people).

The Observatory has a long history in Los Angeles, harkening back to simpler times in America’s past. We are reminded of the old days when individuals didn’t have fight over parking spots, when they enjoyed a sense of pride in America’s leadership in space travel, and when they went to bed at night knowing that Pluto was still a planet. Things have sure changed.

The Griffith ObservatoryThe Griffith Observatory

One of the first exhibits that individuals encountered (way back in the 1930’s) was a Foucault pendulum. The Foucault pendulum (created by Mr. Foucault) traverses along a different plane throughout the day as the earth rotates (click here for an quick example and click here to learn some science, and to learn the correct way to pronounce Foucault). The major attraction within the Observatory walls is the planetarium, but patient individuals may also wait in line to peer through the Zeiss telescope. Recent additions to the Observatory include the Leonard Nemoy Event Horizon Theatre, and the cafe “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” (referencing the Douglas Adams novel by the same name). The Observatory contains both a James Dean and Albert Einstein memorial. You can also pay your respects to Nikola Tesla by visiting the Tesla coil. (Tesla was a pretty cool guy, as evidenced in this picture of him and Mark Twain).

Parking can be difficult during the weekend, so expect to park along the street and walk a modest distance to the observatory. Make sure you bring a flashlight if you have to walk back after dark. The observatory hosts monthly Public Star Parties, in case you are into that kind of thing.

* This claim is pure speculation and has not been empirically verified.

The Griffith Observatory

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