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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Springtime at Arlington Garden

Yesterday I had a nice visit at Arlington Garden, where the woman in the photo above was enjoying a leisurely stroll.

I was there to meet with Chuck Hudson, who serves on the board of the West Pasadena Residents' Association. We had been trying to get together for some time to discuss...well, I'll save that for later.

Arlington Garden is at 235 Arlington Dr. at Pasadena Avenue.

After Chuck left, I spent an hour or so meandering through this magnificent piece of heaven on earth and Pasadena's only dedicated public garden. I hadn't been there in a few months.

Dozens of intertwining pathways lead through three spectacular acres. Whether you're a hardy hiker or need a little ADA action, Arlington Garden can accommodate you.

You'll find pleasant surprises around every corner.

Benches, tables with umbrellas, comfortable chairs and bright pots invite visitors to slow down and stay awhile.

There are several entrances. This one on the Arlington Drive side has a few steps, but if you prefer flat surfaces there are plenty of those entrances as well. 

Some brief history: Formerly the site of the Durand Estate, the land sat vacant for more than 40 years after the mansion was demolished in the early 1960s. Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison hosted a series of community meetings in 2004 to give residents the opportunity to provide input on potential uses.

When no consensus could be reached, Pasadena residents Charles "Kicker" and Betty McKenney came up with an inspired idea: create a Mediterranean demonstration garden. The City of Pasadena began leasing the land from Caltrans and students from Cal Poly Pomona created the conceptual drawings that helped guide the garden’s future direction.

Under Kicker and Betty's superb leadership and with support from Pasadena Water and Power, Pasadena Public Works Department, Steve Madison, dozens of donors, volunteers and others, the huge blank canvas was slowly and lovingly transformed into a beautiful refuge teeming with drought-tolerant trees and thousands of plant species native to Southern California or otherwise suited to our semi-arid climate.

It's now certified by the National Wildlife Federation (ducks, birds and butterflies, not bears or bobcats!).

Kicker and Betty are at Arlington Garden frequently, so be sure to say hello if you see them when you visit. (Photo credit for this shot only: Pasadena Now)

At this time of year the nearly 50 Washington navel orange trees are in bloom, which means it won't be long before a fresh batch of Arlington Garden Sweet Orange Marmalade will be available!

Beginning at the opening of the classic seven-circuit labyrinth, walk slowly and thoughtfully all the way to the center and then retrace your steps. Many find it a contemplative and peaceful experience.

Ready to take your own tour of Arlington Garden? There's an app for that!

Some words of advice:

* Clean up after Rover and keep him on a leash.
* There are no restrooms, so "go" before you come.
* Bringing food in? Take your trash out with you.
* No smoking!
* Stay as long as you like, sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year.

If you'd like to volunteer at Arlington Garden or donate dollars or materials, please click here.

Gardens help sustain us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They differ from parks in that plants and trees provide the focal point in a garden. You won’t find play structures or merry-go-rounds here. . .A middle school student wrote that she likes Arlington Garden ‘because I can hear my thoughts here.' 
-- Betty McKenney

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mystery History -- Solved!

Well, I stumped everybody this week.
In the 1883 photo above, four women wait their turn in front of the Ferndale Gallery, Pasadena's first photo studio (note the photographs on display).
The business had been established the year before by George Weingarth, Pasadena's first professional photographer. He was among the settlers who founded the Indiana Colony.
In addition to portraits, Pasadena landscapes and buildings were photographed by Weingarth and they have become iconic, including these*:
 While doing my research for this post, I learned there are no documented photographs of Weingarth. He preferred to stay behind the camera.
According to my favorite reference book about local history, "Pasadena: Historical and Personal" by John Windell Wood, Weingarth was among an impressive list of firsts:
The first drug store was the Pasadena Pharmacy, conducted by this writer.
The first postmaster was Henry T. Hollingsworth, appointed September 21st, 1876.
The first bank was the Pasadena Bank, organized November 21st, 1884. It began business January 12, 1885. P.M. Green, president.
The first "practicing" barber was A.S. Hollingsworth, who had a chair in the corner of his father's store. The first shop was opened on North Fair Oaks Avenue in 1883 by a man named Rossi, and afterwards moved to West Colorado Street; later purchased by Joe Laspada, who still owns it.
The first harness shop was owned by Harry C. Price, who opened up in 1883.
The first photographer was George Weingarth, who opened the "Ferndale Gallery" in 1882. Some of the old pictures in this book were from his photographs.
The first real estate dealer was T.P. Lukens.
The first bicycle shop was owned by Ed Braley just where his fine four-story building now stands.
The first lumber yard was started by J. Banbury. The office stood where the Metcalf Building now is -- on Colorado Street, by the Santa Fe tracks -- 1883.
* Fair Oaks looking north from Colorado, 1884; Arroyo Vista Guest House (c 1883); Orange Grove at California looking south (1883)


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mystery History

Where are we? And what's happening?

The first person to guess correctly will win lunch with me -- I'll buy yours and you'll buy mine.

Remember, leave your brief guess as a comment on this blog but don't try to give the entire back story (that's my job).

I'll have the full scoop on Thursday.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mystery History -- Solved!

Petrea wins with her 9:33 p.m. Wednesday guess "...these are students at Ambassador College, on the little bridge that crosses the waterfall..."  

In the 1985 photo above, a couple stands on a bridge overlooking the waterfall flowing into the stream that runs through the Ambassador College campus.

Founded in 1947 by Herbert W. Armstrong, Ambassador College was a four-year liberal arts college that became the headquarters of Worldwide Church of God.

Various lots were consolidated within a four-block area at the time to incorporate several mansions dating from 1905 to the 1920s along the east side of "Millionaires Row" on South Orange Grove Boulevard. These became the campus buildings.

("Millionaires Row" also includes such iconic homes as the Wrigley Mansion, Fenyes Mansion, the Gamble House and the Cravens Estate, though these are not on the Ambassador property.)

As the college population grew, more structures became necessary, including additional classrooms, administrative offices, dorms and television studios.

The architecture and planning firm Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall (DMJM) was commissioned in 1963 to develop the campus master plan that includes the mid-century modern structures we all know well today. . .

 . . .and the magnificent Ambassador Auditorium, built in 1972 and known as the Carnegie Hall of the West.

I had the privilege of seeing performances at Ambassador Auditorium by Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Cecilia Bartoli, Mel Torme, Yo-Yo Ma and so many others. (And it was the site of "Hollywood Week" during this season's American Idol.)

Landscape architect Garrett Eckbo designed Ambassador College's lush gardens, walkways, fountains and the stream, all of which are an iconic part of the Pasadena landscape to this day .

 A change in the tithing policy for Worldwide Church of God abruptly sent the funding for Ambassador College and Ambassador Auditorium into a nosedive.

As a result, Ambassador College and Ambassador Auditorium closed in 1997* and the educational functions were consolidated with operations in Big Sandy, Texas.

Worldwide Church of God put the 49-acre campus on the market in 1999,

Maranatha High School purchased part of the south portion near Del Mar and St. John Avenue in 2004 and moved there from the William Carey University campus (which is in my 'hood).

That same year Ambassador Auditorium, on St. John Avenue near Green Street, was saved when it was purchased by Harvest Rock Church, which conducts services there. It is also the venue for concerts and other events, including Pasadena Symphony concerts.

The City of Pasadena's West Gateway Specific Plan encourages thoughtful development with a focus on arts, culture and education in areas immediately west of downtown Pasadena.

Here are the boundaries of the specific plan; the former Ambassador campus is between Orange Grove Boulevard and St. John Avenue, from Green Street to the north to Del Mar Boulevard to the south.

After a series of fits and starts, including the foreclosure of one developer's interests and the scrapping of plans for a senior complex when that company pulled out, City Ventures purchased much of what is now known as Ambassador West in 2010 for market-rate residential projects.

Construction is underway on the Del Mar side near Orange Grove (I shot this photo yesterday afternoon):

Another proposed project is in the permitting phase for a portion along Orange Grove south of Green Street.

A third project, proposed near the Italian Gardens on the Green Street side near Orange Grove, is well on its way through design review.

And there is another in the initial planning stages for the Green Street side near St. John Avenue.

The Ambassador West plan, approved by the City Council in 2007, calls for the preservation of two acres of existing park-like open space as well as the stream, historic gardens and mansions plus 80 percent of the trees.

*Radio and television broadcasts of Armstrong's "The World Tomorrow" program were taped in state-of-the-art studios on the Ambassador College campus. I was wowed when I saw the studio facilities for the first time. When the campus operations closed in 1997 I literally begged Ambassador College brass to donate the TV cameras, anchor desks and other equipment to KPAS, but no such luck.

Many thanks to Pasadena Museum of History, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, City of Pasadena, West Pasadena Residents' Association and Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mystery History

Where are we? And what's happening?
The first person to guess correctly will win lunch with me -- I'll buy yours and you'll buy mine.

 Remember, leave your briefguess as a comment on this blog but don't try to give the entire back story (that's my job).

I'll have the full scoop on Thursday.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Coming to Terms

Many of my ancestors can be found in the six-volume set of books titled "Notable Southern Families."

That's great news for anyone doing genealogy research because the books include the begats as well as American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War information about hundreds upon hundreds of people.

The reason so many of my ancestors are listed in the books is that indeed they settled in what are now North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas in the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s.

If you haven't figured out where I'm going with this, here's the thing:

Many of my ancestors were slave owners.

I've seen the wills of so many of my direct-line ancestors who bequeathed African-born human beings to their wives and offspring.

For example, here's an excerpt from the last will and testament of my sixth great-grandfather, General Joseph Dickson, who was born in Chester County, Pensylvania, in 1745, settled in Lincoln County, North Carolina, in 1773 and in later life moved to Rutherford County, Tennessee, where he died in 1825:

. . .I do also bequeath and give unto my son, James Dickson, a negro woman named Nanny, and that she remain on the place where we now live, during her life time. 

I give to the children of my daughter, Elizabeth Dickson Greaves, one negro girl called Milly, which shall remain with her until the youngest heir becomes of age, for the benefit of said heirs, then they shall be equally divided amongst said heirs, or sold, and the money arising from said sale be equally divided amongst them.

I give unto my son, John Dickson, one negro girl named Phillis.

I give to my son, Ezekiel Dickson, one negro boy name Jerry.

I give to the children of my daughter, Isabella Dickson Adams, one negro girl named Harriet, making Ben Adams, her husband, their guardian until the youngest becomes of age. Then she, the said Harriet, and her offspring shall be equally divided amongst them, or sold and the money arising from said sale to be so divided.

I give unto my daughter, Peggy Dickson Henderson, one negro girl called Martha. I also will that the wagon, farming utensils, household and kitchen furniture, be left and remain in the family for their use.

Then he goes on to bequeath lands and money.

There are many other wills like this one in my family history.

One of General Dickson's sons, Ezekiel Dickson (1782-1858), filed the first deed ever recorded in Benton County, Arkansas, on Feb. 27, 1827.

But it wasn't for real estate -- it was for title ownership of humans:

Know all men by these presents, that for and in consideration of the sum of $400 to me in hand paid by James M. Dickson, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, I, Ezekiel Dickson, of the County of Benton, in the State of Arkansas, do hereby bargain and sell unto the said James M. Dickson, a negro woman named Till, about forty-five years of age, also a negro boy child named Jack, about five or six years of age, which said negroes I hereby sell and convey as slaves for life. And I do hereby warrant and defend the title of said negroes to the said James M. Dickson, his heirs and assigns forever.

None of my ancestors were the owners of vast plantations so closely associated with slavery, especially in popular culture; they owned farms and businesses, were bankers and lawyers and such. So the various wills bequeath between one and a dozen slaves. By today's standards, even one was too many.

But that was then and this is now. As a nation we have become much more enlightened and humane than our forefathers.

But how do I come to terms with the fact that my ancestors bought, sold and bequeathed human beings?

General Joseph Dickson was not an evil man. He fought for this nation's freedom during the American Revolution, leading a group of men from Lincoln County, North Carolina, in the Battle of King's Mountain; he served in the North Carolina State Senate from 1788 to 1795; served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1807 to 1811 and was the speaker of the house his last two years of service; and was one of the founders of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

And Ezekiel Dickson stood side-by-side with General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

There's much to be proud of in the many branches of my family tree.

But to try and hide from the fact that Joseph, Ezekiel and so many others in my ancestral line owned slaves would be like telling a half-truth. I cannot simply edit out this part of my family history.

Yes, I understand that I have to take into account the historical climate of the day, and slavery was a fact of life during this time period.

As a woman, knowing that five of General Dickson's six slaves were young females evokes a strong visceral reaction.

And yet he and others, while being morally challenged by today's standards, did nothing wrong in the eyes of the law.

The Civil War ended all that. Many of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy and some for the Union.

And yet 150 years later our nation still suffers from the scars of slavery.

Not long ago I came across the website, which provides a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal genealogical wounds rooted in the history of slavery in the U.S.

I joined this network of descendents of slaves and slave owners.

And so my own historical and personal journey continues.