Sunday, August 2, 2009

Zane Grey Estate, Altadena

Such a beautiful place! Built in 1906 by Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey for an inventor dude named Arthur Woodward. Who was he? Well, he joined the Intermatic Company in 1895 and became its president a few years later. Intermatic made fare collectors--those coin drops on trolley cars and buses. Woodward, ever the tinkerer, invented things like machine gun sighting mechanisms. To this day, the Intematic Company makes timers for lights, security, pools, etc.

But who cares? In connection with this house, Woodward's contribution is mainly insisting that the house be as fireproof as possible. His wife Edith had survived the terrible Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903 (571 people died in it!) so they insisted the house be fireproof. That's why the place is largely poured-in-place concrete.

Zane Grey (here's his bio) bought it in 1920 and added a second floor with a 3000-square-foot library and office. This is the view from that office. You can just see one of the southwest/Indian sytlized paintings that decorates the concrete, to the left of one of the current owners.

This room is where Grey did most of his writing until he died in 1939. His son Romer inherited the place after Grey's widow died, and he sold it to a family named Rudicel in 1970. Apparently, it was quite a mess then. "The house smelled of cigars and sardines and was covered with over sixty tons of vines growing into the windows and choking off all natural light," according to a printed handout. Given the size of this window, that's a lot of vines.

The Rudicels say they had to camp outside for a week before they could get even one of the bathrooms in working order! Yikes. To look at the house now, you'd never guess that it hadn't been cared for like a museum piece over the last hundred years.

Anyway, the second generation of Rudicels live in the house now. It's a work-in-progress; solar panels provide all the electricity, a green-roof installation is scheduled this month, and rainwater collection and storage is planned, along with other ecological improvements. They even have goats!

More professional pictures can be seen at Unreel

Just shows you can teach old dogs new tricks, and you can bring old homes into the 21st century without sacrificing beauty and history.


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