Friday, September 21, 2012
The Mysteries of History: Not Quite Greene
With so many Greene and Greene homes in nearby Pasadena, I started wondering whether any of these lovely homes had been built in Sierra Madre. It turns out that three were built. Here's the story of the largest of the three.
According to the Greene and Greene Virtual Archives, The William J. Lawless house was designed in 1908, probably by Henry Greene, while Charles was busy at the large Gamble and Blacker house building sites in Pasadena.
The Lawless house design was reminiscent some of the Greenes’ more simple work of 1904 and 1905, but it had more spacious porches and balconies than their earlier houses. "A long terrace of stone and wood ran across the front elevation and some of the firm’s newest construction methods were used for the depth of the overhanging eaves and distinctive beam end profiles."
Mr. Lawless was so pleased with his home that in 1908 he convinced his friend and neighbor, George H. Letteau, to allow the Greenes to build a pergola and brick walk to connect their two houses.
Mr. Lawless was the Mayor of Sierra Madre in 1928-1929. According to an article written by Phyllis Chapman, of the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society, following Mr. Lawless' death his wife, Carrie Ida Lawless (a businesswoman who founded the Weaver Jackson Beauty Company), purchased the home that housed the Wistaria Vine, and kept it until her death in 1942. She was active in the community, having served as president of the Garden Club and the Woman's Club. During this time, Mrs. Lawless sponsored Vine activities throughout the year, including musicales, art exhibits, and poetry readings.
Unfortunately, the original Lawless house didn't fare as well as the vine did. At some point (realtor.com says 1960) the home was "incorporated" into an apartment house. Today, the apartment seems to show no outward signs of ever having been a Greene and Greene home. The center section of the apartment building has four units that contain portions of the original house, and it appears that the rest of the complex was built around it. I have seen an original fireplace in one of the apartments, as well as some original ceiling beams in another. It was thrilling to see these vestiges of history. It would be an understatement to say it's sad that the house is gone.
A few years ago, the current owners of the apartment did some outside renovations, giving it more of a "craftsmany" feel. The picture above shows a portion of the entrance to the building. I'm not sure whether these steps and the area in front of the building might be original.
Apparently there were several large mansions lining this section of Sierra Madre Boulevard at one time, where now there are quite a few apartment buildings. I'm very curious as to why the decision was made to keep a portion of the Lawless House, rather than just having it torn down completely to make way for the large apartment building that sits in its place. Any thoughts? Does anyone know more about this house?