A Guide to Pasadena’s Historic Homes: Exploring the City’s Architectural Heritage

With more than 500 properties listed on the National Historic Register in Los Angeles Country, you can imagine the number of them you’ll find in Pasadena. With more than 100 on the list here, the Los Angeles suburb is a historian's dream. The famous Arroyo Seco Parkway Historic District contains many of the homes on the list, offering a drive that is as aesthetically appealing as historically educational.

Each of the historic Pasadena homes offers a set of unique charms and styles, helping the city with its reputation of having some of the most eclectic assemblages of dwellings in southern California. Whether on the National Historic Register or not, you’ll find a wide variety of homes that will sometimes be listed, perhaps leading you to become an owner of a historic Pasadena home.

The Gamble House—a Craftsman masterpiece

American craftsmen Charles and Henry Greene designed and constructed the Gamble House in Pasadena in 1909. Built to be the home for the son of Proctor and Gamble founder James Gamble, the home is no longer a private residence. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark and is open for tours to the public.

The home was built arguably as a tribute to Greene's love of nature. The various building materials that include brick, stone, and stucco, blend in with natural river rock and creeping fig. The interior rooms contain multiple varieties of wood, giving a sleek look from the past.

As outdoor spaces were popular at the turn of the 20th century, the grounds surrounding the Gamble House are lush and expertly landscaped. Boulders make up garden walls that encase greenery that is host to small ponds. Brick pavers lead you on winding paths throughout the grounds in one of the most exquisite yards in the area.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Millard House

Acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright finished his Pasadena masterpiece in 1923. The Millard House was built for Alice Millard and quickly became known as one of the most unique Pasadena homes. Though not well-received by residents at the time of its construction, this block-style dwelling has garnered positive attention and acclaim in the decades since its construction and represents one of the first of its type designed by Wright.

Known also as La Miniatura, the Pasadena Millard House is a 2,400-square-foot structure built using a series of blocks. What it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in character. A departure from the previous designs that Wright became famous for, the block homes he designed for a period in the 1920s serve as a reminder to Wright’s versatility and unique style of craftsmanship that spanned multiple styles and inspirations.

Robert R. Blacker House

Henry and Charles Greene constructed this home in 1907 for Robert and Nellie Blacker. Also known as the Blacker House, this custom-designed home contained rich interior woodwork and ornate inlays that rival other luxury homes from the same era.

At some point in the latter part of the 20th century, a previous owner of the Blacker House removed much of the original woodwork and fixtures, selling them to collectors. Since then, the home has been in better hands. The current owners have worked diligently to restore the Blacker House to its original glory, beginning a new era for one of Pasadena’s most beloved residential dwellings.

The property owners had their work cut out for them. Years of neglect and deferred maintenance created some serious structural issues that needed to be mitigated if the home was to be saved. But their hard work and dedication paid off.

Those who have toured the home might recognize the interior from a hit Hollywood film. 1985’s Back to the Future shot numerous scenes inside the Blacker House, as it was used for the character Doc Brown’s residence.

The Cordelia A. Culbertson House

In what might be considered Charles and Henry Greene’s architectural masterpiece, the Cordelia A. Culbertson House is a mansion that commands all of the eye’s attention. Built for the sister of an Illinois businessman who had a previous relationship with the Greene’s, the U-shaped mansion was completed in 1913. It has an architectural blueprint absorbing more than 8,500 square feet of living space built on a lot exceeding 30,000 square feet. There are a total of seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, each one uniquely styled. A garden room, formal sitting room, and a ballroom are all on the main floor, lending to the idea that the original owners had lavish entertainment in mind when the home was designed.

The exterior still reflects Greene's original design. The mature persimmon and ginkgo trees follow along tiled walkways that wind throughout the spacious grounds.

The home is privately owned, having been listed as recently as 2017 with a price tag shy of $7M. It’s in a neighborhood with many other opulent Pasadena homes for sale, a stone’s throw from the Rose Bowl. The Cordelia A. Culbertson House is also included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ready to purchase your own piece of history?

The decision to purchase any type of real estate is one that should be taken with serious consideration and planning. If you are exploring the idea of purchasing historic property, you will certainly benefit from the guidance of a real estate agent who has expertise in this market niche. The skilled agents at BR Real Estate have experience with historic properties that will best serve you in your quest to own a piece of yesteryear in Pasadena. Consider a consultation with BRCO before you begin the search for the historic property of your dreams.

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock


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