Friday, September 30, 2011

Temple of Kwan Tai

Mendocino County, July 29, 2010

Not far south of Fort Bragg and rolling down highway 1 on a typical cool, grey sky morning, we turn off into the small town of Mendocino, where time and architecture seem to stay fixed in a Steinbeck setting, as modest rows of artist-bait houses peer out from the bluff over the south facing bay. It’s down the second row we find the Temple of Kwan Tai, and except for bold paint, it looks like just another wood framed home along the narrow and quiet non-curbed road.

In the scheme of qualifying to be a California state landmark, it has to be first, last, biggest, smallest, or somehow of significance to the state's history, and the Temple of Kwan Tai fist in by being the oldest original Chhinese Joss House in rural California.

Kwan Tai, the God King was an actual person who lived roughly between 161 to 219 AD. “With a rank equal to that of Confucius, Kwan Tai is a Taoist symbol of integrity and loyalty. People pray to Kwan Tai for assistance, or to have something done. He was chosen as patron by the merchants of the guild, and as one of three patrons of the men of letters. In Hong Kong, where his birthday is celebrated each year on June 15, he is recognized as the patron of Hong Kong's police...and also of the gangsters.” – Temple of Kwan Tai website.

Plaque inscription: NO. 927 (N) TEMPLE OF KWAN TAI - One of the oldest of California's Chinese houses of worship in continuous use, the temple may date back as far as 1854, though its documented history reaches only to 1883. The Chinese built many temples in California, but most have been destroyed, and no others remain on the North Coast.
Location: 45160 Albion St, Mendocino 95460
GPS 39.304824,-123.803258

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fort Bragg

Mendocino County, July 29, 2010

The fort had a seven year run with the purpose of both controlling and safeguarding Mendocino Indians. In September of 1864 many of the military units in the Humboldt region were ordered south, including this encampment. The reservation was dissolved in 1866 and lands offered for sale a few years later. As in other military operations in northwestern California, the Army ended up spending most of their time policing the behavior of some settlers and Native Americans, and with the Army relying on volunteers for much of their manpower, and those very volunteers being the source of problems, it was hard to accomplish their mission.

During the Civil War there was a movement to change the name of the fort for it was felt Braxton Bragg became a traitor by joining the confederacy, even though he had left the Army prior to his enlistment. 

About the coolest thing one can do while in Fort Bragg is to hop on the Skunk Train and head back in time on a route over and around the Noyo River through the coastal mountains with their redwood forests and inland over to the town of Willits …considered one of the ten most scenic train rides in North America.

Originally the railroad was built for logging but steam passenger service began in 1904 and ran till 1925 when they came up with a cheaper solution; self powered rail cars. These contraptions ran on gasoline and folks said ‘you can smell ‘em fore ya see ‘em’ …..hence the name ‘Skunk Train’. No extra charge for brain damage from carbon monoxide. 

Back then, people were spoiled by steam locomotives for passenger trains running fairly clean smokeless coal, and with the windows down, go down the track not wearing black. You might remember the pop singer Phoebe Snow, well the name she took was actually an advertising character that a rail line first to use smokeless coal had. Phoebe wore white.

Plaque inscription: NO. 615 FORT BRAGG - The fort was established in this vicinity June 11, 1857 by 1st Lieutenant (later Brigadier General) Horatio Gate Gibson, 3rd Artillery, U.S. Army, who named it in honor of his former company commander, Braxton Bragg, later General, CSA. The fort was abandoned in October 1864.
Location: 321 Main St, Fort Bragg 95437
GPS 39.444984,-123.806144

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ukiah Vichy Springs Resort

Mendocino County, July 29, 2010

From Son House it’s on to the warm and grassy outskirts of Ukiah and the Vichy Springs Resort, named so after the spa town in central France for its similarity in mineral springs, and not because they sympathized with Nazis. Actually, the Nazis used Vichy as a capitol for its location, good roads, rail, an advanced phone system, and plenty of rooms. But let’s get out of Yurrup and back to California.

Pomo Indians had been using the springs for thousands of years by the time William Day came along and set up a small resort as the gold rush began. Apparently, Mr. Day didn’t own the property and its operation went to William Doolan in 1865, who built it into a resort that could handle up to 200 guests.

“Though never closed completely since 1854, the reopening of overnight rooms in 1989 created once again the only destination resort in Ukiah since Vichy Springs was last fully open in 1941. Over 45,000 visitors used Vichy Springs in 2003, up from 100 in 1988. The naturally warm and carbonated “Vichy Baths” are once again being used by Californians and guests from all over the world to relieve the stresses and strains of urban and city life. Guests enjoy hiking to Chemisal Falls, walking the pathways through oak and madrone woodlands, picnicking, and sharing romantic interludes as they have for 150 years at Vichy Springs.” – Vichy Springs Resort.

“My favorite summer home” – Jack London

Plaque inscription: NO. 980 (S) UKIAH VICHY SPRINGS RESORT - Frank Marble discovered these springs in 1848, and William Day established a resort here in the 1850s. Ukiah Vichy represents one of the oldest and one of the few continuously operating mineral springs in California. Its waters remain among the most important of the thermal, alkaline-carbonated waters once so highly valued by both European and American believers in hydropathy. It is the only mineral springs in California that resembles the famed Grand Grille Springs of Vichy, France.
Location: 2701 Vichy Springs Rd, Ukiah 95482 go to 2605 Vichy Spring Rd…actual resort

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sun House

Mendocino County, July 29, 2010

From what is now Frog Woman Rock it’s northbound on the 101 to the first of two landmarks in Ukiah and without spellchecking, thinking this one in town has something to do with the legendary bluesman Son House (1902-1988). Visions of time spent visiting as a youth at Uncle Bill’s cotton plantation in Tchula, Mississippi, sitting out on the loading dock of the ice house with the presence of inside air reaching our backs on a hot and humid afternoon while slowly savoring a Moon Pie and a Nehi Orange soda, with echoes of ‘Dry Spell Blues’ weave and bounce off the sporadic building walls of the small town as someone warms up for juke joint gig. Visions that quickly fade when the realization comes that this landmark is about the architecture of a home, and that maybe it’s some sort of Zen thing. One really should read up a bit on a landmark before going there

As it turns out, John and Grace Hudson lived a modest bohemian lifestyle out of Sun House, collecting, traveling, entertaining, photographing and painting.Sun House is now the home of the Grace Hudson Museum, which is principally devoted to local art and First Nation artifacts, and with a new wing addition, there’s a lot to see.

The Hopi sun symbol was adapted by the Hudsons as their family symbol…thus the name ‘Sun House’

Born to renown photographers in their own right, Grace was an awarded artist by the age of sixteen, and was lucky enough to enjoy that rare feat among artists; fame and recognition throughout her lifetime.

Plaque inscription: NO. 926  SUN HOUSE - This house, constructed in 1911-12, is a unique Craftsman style redwood building which incorporates northwestern designs into its architecture. The Sun House was designed by George Wilcox and John W. and Grace Carpenter Hudson. Dr. Hudson was a recognized authority on American Indians, and especially California Pomo Indians. Mrs. Hudson, an outstanding artist, became widely known for her paintings of Pomo life.
Location: 431 S Main St, Ukiah N 39° 08.863 W 123° 12.339  beyond wooden fence, east side
GPS 39.147968,-123.205984

Friday, September 16, 2011

Frog Woman Rock (Squaw Rock)

Old road

Mendocino County, July 29, 2010

With 65 state landmarks yet to go in Los Angeles County and at least 800 more overall throughout the state, this might be a good time to throw a dart at the California map and drift over to where it lands for awhile. Looks like we’re headed up the coast to Mendocino County, where in 2010; seven out of eight landmarks were experienced from the confines of a white VW Beetle rental from Santa Rosa. So, we leave order and chronology behind and head to Squaw Rock and begin a counterclockwise loop around the county.

Heading up Highway 101, which at this point is following the old road, and before that, the old trail, and before that, the Native American path, we pass right by the first landmark six miles below the town of Hopland. It turns out that a lot had happened in the last year and Squaw Rock has become breaking news in California landmark-dom to not only be renamed, but its story and text removed and replaced as well. Folks, give a big howdy to Frog Woman Rock!

Imagining early miners and settlers on the trail and slowly passing this volcanic outcropping, you can also imagine them making up stories of a lover’s leap to tell the kids while in the rock’s shadow. What we know for sure is that since this landmark was dedicated, local First Nation people have been saying the story of a lover’s triangle between a maiden, a faithless chief, and the ancient equivalent of the cable guy, was complete BS.

The other thing that has disturbed local Native Americans is the term ‘Squaw’, which was not a term used by any tribe or nation in the west, and is considered demining. Nationwide, nearly a thousand place names have had the word ‘squaw’ removed and replaced by another, and nine states now have laws that will eliminate the term entirely. Squaw Valley’s days are numbered.

Not to worry though, there’s a local legend that’s as good or better.  Early southbound travelers when passing by noted the upper portion of the rock resembled the profile of a woman’s face. To the Pomo people that face was the precipice of a cave where a giant creature that was part woman and part frog lived and call it ‘maatha kawao qhabe’, which translates to Frog Woman Rock. She was the wife of Coyote, and could leap 100 feet and snatch a man whole and devour him. Another legend has her as the wife of Obsidian Man. Either way, the story is solid and any day now, the change to Frog Woman Rock will be official.  

Pomo dancers - 1928

Former plaque inscription (no plaque at site): NO. 549 (M) SQUAW ROCK - This early landmark, also called Lover's Leap, is associated with the purported legend of a 19th-century Sanel Indian maiden, Sotuka. Her faithless lover, Chief Cachow, married another, all three were killed when Sotuka, holding a great stone, jumped from the precipice upon the sleeping pair below.
Location: Approx 6 mi S of Hopland on Hwy 101 (P.M. 5.1)
GPS: 38.913643,-123.055791 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pacific Asia Museum

Los Angeles County, September 3, 1996

From the Pasadena Playhouse we hop in the black Olds Silhouette and motor about 4 blocks east to what was once Grace Nicholson’s Treasure House.

As a museum, they’ve been in operation over 40 years. The original focus of Grace Nicholson’s  emporium and residence that began in 1924 was a mix of First Nation and Asian art. Then, when the city operated the facility that became an anchor for the Pasadena art community, they showcased contemporary art. Since 1971, the Pacififculture association has held the reins with a focus entirely on Asian and Pacific Island art.

Grace Nicholson was born on December 31, 1877 in Philadelphia. After her parents and grandparents died and with a modest inheritance, she moved alone to California in 1901 and soon after set up a small curio shop on Raymond Avenue in Pasadena. In short order she became an authority and collector of Native American art and weaving, at a time when craftsmanship was without parallel. She hung out with the likes of John Muir, and on trips for new acquisitions, documented with photos the people and experience. Though she was especially fond of the Klamath River region, she traveled all of the southwest.

In 1909 Grace Nicholson was awarded a silver medal for her ethnological collection exhibited at the Alaska-Yukon- Pacific Exposition in Seattle. She was 29 years old. Someone should make a movie of this woman’s life.

Every piece of art in Nicholson’s home was auctioned off to raise money for scholarships to Pomona College.    

NO. 988 PACIFIC ASIA MUSEUM (GRACE NICHOLSON'S TREASURE HOUSE OF ORIENTAL AND WESTERN ART) - Grace Nicholson, a noted collector and authority on American Indian and Asian Art and artifacts, supervised the design of her combination gallery and museum which was completed in 1929. It has been called an outstanding example of 1920s revival architecture and is unique for its use of Chinese ornamentation.
Location: 46 North Los Robles Ave, Pasadena
Google 34.146694,-118.141437

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pasadena Playhouse

Los Angeles County, September 3, 1996

The family poses at the theatre’s entrance

After closing for 17 years, and in and out of financial difficulties for most of its existence, especially after debt incurred after restoration, the theater filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 and was closed for four months till an anonymous donation of millions refloated the ship to reopen and operate today on a leaner and meaner manner. Gotta love Pasadena’s old money.

In its heyday the playhouse was an accredited college for theatre arts with notable actors such as Raymond Burr, Victor Mature, Ernest Borgnine, Eleanor Parker, Charles Bronson, Jamie Farr, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and Sally Struthers training there. It was also one of the first televistion stations in Southern California and trained many of the early technicians going on to work in the new media.

At 686 seats, the theatre is a perfect size for intimate productions, and any Hollywood actor worth thier salt and with some downtime between sitcoms would jump at a call for a gig at the playhouse.

The playhouse is part of what the city calls the 'Historic Playhouse District', which includes the next landmark stop; the Pacific Asia Museum.

NO. 887 PASADENA PLAYHOUSE - Founded in 1917 by Gilmor Brown, the Pasadena Playhouse was designed by architect Elmer Grey and the cornerstone laid May 31, 1924. In 1928 the College of Theatre Arts was incorporated with the Pasadena Playhouse Association as a non-profit institution. In 1937, the Playhouse received the honorary title 'State Theatre of California' from the California Legislature. Location: 39 El Molino Ave, Pasadena
USGS Quadrangle Sheet Name: PASADENA
Google 34.145100,-118.137006

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Gamble House

Los Angeles County, September 3, 1996

The Arts and Crafts Movemant in American Craftsman style architecture was the use of natural materials, with acute attention to detail. The Greene brothers used high end woodworker, the Hall brother, who, wet teak, cedar, maple, oak, and mahogany, crafted this extraordinary 'summer home'. At this level, one does not simply go out and furnish the place with the pieces from the 1910 equivalent of IKEA, it's designed piece by piece, along with the home.

The following photos are from OAC (online archives of California)  

The Gamble family at one time thought about selling the home, but when they found out the perspective buyers were going to paint the interior white, they took it off the market for good.

As the plaque says, the home was deeded to the City of Pasedena and USC, and it is occupied full time by two 5th year architectural students, who get to hang in the hell-of-a-dorm for a year

In the movie 'Back the the Future' the house was Dr. Emmet Brown's mansion.

This non-Zillow listed love nest is close to Orange Grove Blvd. and the Rose Parade

Procter & Gamble were soap makers who got to know each other when they married sisters. The partnership went well and they were doing over a million dollars of business annually in their Cincinnati based business even befor the huge contracts with the Union Army for soap and candles durint the Civil War.

NO. 871 THE GAMBLE HOUSE - Built in 1908, the David B. Gamble House is a tribute to the genius of architects Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene. Its design represents a unique California lifestyle and is a masterpiece of American craftsmanship. In 1966 it was made a gift by the Gamble family to the City of Pasadena in a joint agreement with the University of Southern California.
Location: 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena
Google 34.151599,-118.160542

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Casa Adobe de San Rafael

Los Angeles County, September 3, 1996

The landmark shaped two-tone brown approach sign (a G-14 in Cal Trans lingo) is on Dorothy Drive at the adobe’s driveway showing your arrival. The actual plaque is of local and not state design, which accounts for the brief description in comparison to the usual droll state copy designed to fill a much larger plaque. If they had more room they may have stated that Tomas was sheriff of Los Angeles County, and a second Lieutenant in the Los Angeles Rifles.

The City of Glendale says: “Today, the adobe includes a Monterey-style corridor (covered porch), beautiful sunken garden, brick patio, gray shake roof, and long narrow front windows adorned with green shutters. Interior furnishings are from the 19th century.”

The adobe is open daily and is a pastoral setting to get away from the city….bring lunch.  .  

NO. 235 "Casa Adobe de San Rafael"
Built by Tomas and Maria Sanchez, 1865-1871, restored by the city of Glendale 1932.
1330 Dorothy Dr, Glendale.
Google 34.165809,-118.26393

Saturday, September 10, 2011

El Monte

Los Angeles County, September 7, 1995 

Even the title of this landmark should raise a flag or two; EL MONTE-FIRST SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SETTLEMENT BY IMMIGRANTS FROM UNITED STATES. An immigrant is someone settling in a new country from another, while an emigrant is someone leaving their native land for another. So, 49er’s and folks coming west have always been called emigrants, at least after California became a state in 1850, Whatever, El Monte was an attractive place to settle for it was on higher ground between two seasonal rivers, snd you could grow just about anything.

In 1987 El Monte went through the submission process and was accepted as a state landmark by proving that the Santa Fe trail seemed to wind up here, either by using the Old Spanish Trial, which ran a northerly route or the Gila River Trail, which went through Arizona, and that El Monte was the actual end of the Santa Fe trail. Still, nobody has, or is calling it the El Monte trail. There’s a group called ‘The Santa Fe Trail Council’ who, at the time, thought this claim was a lot of hooey, and they could be right. It’s best to think of both Independence MO. And Santa Fe NM as the major staging points from which people came to or left from in many directions. No one however disputes the fact that MGM’s roaring lion came from Gay’s Lion Farm in El Monte.

At any rate, the city got landmark status and built a historic park on an acre of land carved out of Pioneer Park The special features of this park include the Osmond House, a typical 1800’s house, the original El Monte Jail, a Conestoga wagon and the Official California State Historical Marker which are all built around a center plaza fountain. Under an internet article titled ‘The Useless Santa Fe Trail Historic Park’, an upset El Montian had this to say: “During the time of this neighborhoods attempt to rid themselves of their worst neighbor, the El Monte Fillies Baseball Organization, amid promises and misdirection by the Officials of the City of El Monte, El Monte spent thousands (the number is yet to be determined by me) on a useless "pat on the back" in the construction of The Santa Fe Trail Historical Park. On recent visit to the park, Saturday Afternoon April 4, 2004, I found all entrances to the padlocked. Imagine a city spending this amount of money, on a park that is absolutely useless to the residents of El Monte . This is a State Historical Landmark and it is locked to the public Saturday Afternoon. There were no signs posted as to what the hours of operation are. All the bronze plaques with the information about the site are faced away from the outside fence. The Fillies should be outraged that they are allowed to play in such a small and dilapidated place while the City of El Monte, with little future and no present must lean on its past for a sense of civic pride and build this monument to themselves.”

Perhaps a less contested suggestion for a landmark in El Monte would be the 1932 Olympic wrestling site, the teen dance hall of legend, the birthplace of west coast R&B and rock & roll, Cliffie Stone’s hometown Jamboree, Art Laboe, Johnnie Otis, and The Penguins, and the promise of a good time touted in thousands of hours of LA area radio commercials…..El Monte Legion Statium.

NO. 975 EL MONTE-FIRST SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SETTLEMENT BY IMMIGRANTS FROM UNITED STATES - El Monte, on the bank of the San Gabriel River, played a significant part in California's early pioneer history. It was first an encampment on the Old Spanish Trail, an extension of the trail from Missouri to Santa Fe. By the 1850s, some began to call El Monte the 'End of the Santa Fe Trail.' Early in that decade a permanent settlement was established by immigrants from Texas, the first settlement in Southern California founded by citizens of the United States.
Location: Santa Fe Trail Historical Park, Valley Blvd and Santa Anita Ave, El Monte
Google 34.076603,-118.041146