Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mystery History -- Solved!

A few people nibbled around the edges but two people came closest first, so I'm calling it a tie: Karin with her 7:48 a.m. Tuesday guess "I think they're filming a movie in Castle Green" and Daniel with his 4:10 p.m. Tuesday guess "It is Rudy Valentino kissing the hand of a woman in the Hotel Green, now known as the Castle Green."

In the 1919 photo above, silent screen star Rudolph Valentino kisses the hand of Dorothy Gish at the Hotel Green during a scene from "Nobody Home." The film, also called "Out of Luck," is about an extremely superstitious young woman who is wooed by two men: one villainous and one virtuous. Valentino played the shady guy. (The plot thickens!). There's a nice little story about the filming here.

Now the historic Castle Green, the building was once part of a trio of hotel buildings in the vast Hotel Green complex.

Here's a circa 1905 photo that shows all three buildings in the complex. If you look very closely, you can see the enclosed bridge that connected the buildings on the west and east side of Raymond (half the bridge, including the little tower, still stands today). The photographer was standing in the new Central Park.

And here's a page from a historic illustrated souvenir booklet showing the huge complex from a similar angle, with the park a little more mature.

The one-story building at the southeast corner of Raymond Avenue and Green Street -- now Stats Floral Supply -- is all that's left of the east building in the complex. Note the curvature of the window on the corner, which is very similar to the two remaining buildings.

Here's the Castle Green today on the west side of Raymond Avenue between Green and Dayton streets:

The interiors are spectacular and haven't changed much in all these years:

And here's the original portion of the complex, which now is the Green Hotel Apartments at the southeast corner of Green Street and Fair Oaks Avenue, along with some first-floor businesses:

I've seen and heard the history dozens upon dozens of times. Perhaps the best eye-witness account is in my favorite local reference book, "Pasadena: Historical and Personal" by J.W. Wood, published in 1917, which can be found in the Centennial Room at Pasadena Central Library:
The Green was an outcome of the frenzied boom and Ed Webster's altitudinous ambition. Webster was the top-notcher in enterprise about 1886-87, when ranches were being sliced up into town lots. Property owners like Romayne Williams and P.G. Wooster, who fortunately owned "ranches" down along the newly opened Raymond Avenue, were strictly "in it." Wooster owned the property where now stands the Green Hotel and part of Central Park. Williams' land lay just south of Wooster's; therefore, when came the trend of speculation in that direction, Wooster parted with some of his land to Webster and Webster started to build a hotel on it. To help things along, he also built a depot for the Santa Fé on condition that that road would move its office from north of Colorado Street, where it then was, to the new location. Of course, this being handed a fine new brick depot that cost $10,000, situated on a fine lot, all free of charge, the Santa Fé people couldn't refuse, and with due modesty and kindly feeling moved to the new location. This was in 1887. Thus was begun the original edifice, then called the Webster, later the Green Hotel.

Colonel Green happened into Pasadena one fine day and met Andrew McNally and some other congenial spirits. I believe William Morgan later joined "the crows." It didn't take Webster long to get these gentlemen interested in Pasadena, and it was through his efforts that they eventually made large investments and became regular winter residents. Then Webster ran out of money, and what more natural than that he borrow from Green? He did that very thing, and in the distressful end, when Webster got a monkey wrench in his financial machinery, Green had a two-story unfinished hotel on his hands that he did not want. This was in 1891. Morgan fared likewise, but only drew a smaller building on Raymond Avenue which still is part of the Morgan estate.

Green enlarged and improved his purchase and made it a high-class hostelry. He built the west wing in the park that surrounds it; then buying the Wooster Block on Fair Oaks Avenue, and including that in the plant in 1895. J.H. Holmes, a brother-in-law of Colonel Green, was made manager of the business and brought to it much fame as a high-class hotel; for Major Holmes had the "hotel genius," lacking which it bodes no man to attempt such an undertaking. These two structures, the east and the west wing, are joined, Siamese twinlike, by a bridge which spans the thoroughfare between – an unique link. Not a "bridge of sighs," indeed, but a causeway to neighborly comity between the dwelling places. The Green was conducted by Major Holmes until he became lessee of the U.S. Grant Hotel at San Diego. In 1916 the Green was leased to D.M. Linnard, who now conducts it as one of his trio, and has recreated its former prestige.
I could go on forever but I won't. You can find more history on the Castle Green and Pasadena Heritage websites.

The Castle Green is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A homeowners association takes care of the inside of the building; Pasadena Heritage and Friends of the Castle Green raises funds for exterior restoration. (In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the Friends board).

The Castle Green is open to the public only two days each year for tours, the proceeds of which help fund those exterior renovations. The next tour is on Sunday, June 26. The grounds behind those heavy gates, the first floor common areas and several of the privately owned apartments will be open for anyone and everyone to see and learn more about this architectural wonder designated by the city council years ago as an official City of Pasadena Treasure.

Do you have a historic property that you'd like to preserve? Take a gander at the web pages for the Design and Historic Preservation Section of the Pasadena Planning Department.

Many thanks to the Castle Green, Pasadena Public Library, Pasadena Heritage and Pasadena Museum of History.


Petrea Burchard said...

Last time I visited Fishbeck's I got an earful: the man working there told me their building used to be a garage, or stables, for the complex. He also said there's a tunnel under the building (or maybe under Stats) that leads across to the Hotel Green. He said the tunnel is blocked. I'd love to know where it is and unblock it, wouldn't you?

I couldn't play this time. I think you hit "post" on this a while back, then deleted it. Although it didn't show up on your blog it did show up in my reader, so I knew the answer before you posted the question. BUMMER! Not that I would have had the slightest idea otherwise.

Bellis said...

Oh Petrea, I thought your deep knowledge of Castle Green and your movie connections were the reason you recused yourself. I feel stupid now, because OF COURSE it was Valentino. Fancy him coming all the way up to Pasadena. Congratulations to Karin and Daniel!!!

Can't wait to locate that hidden tunnel. Another mystery to solve.

pasadenapio said...

I was writing the post, and suddenly I got a screen that said there were too many simultaneous edits (whatever that means) and that I had to go back to the prior screen. When I hit the back arrow, the draft page was completely blank. I figured I had to start over, and then realized that some glitch had caused it to post automatically, too soon and unfinished. At least I was able to copy and paste from the post so I didn't have to start all over again! Embarrassing. Thanks for your noble gesture, Petrea! I may have to give you a special prize for that. I did pass on your info about a supposed tunnel, stables, etc., to someone in the know at the Castle asking if there's any truth to it. I'll let you know what I hear.

altadenahiker said...

Mmmm, learning this bit of history is prize enough for me. Lovely.

Patrizzi Intergarlictica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Petrea Burchard said...

Sure, go ahead and call me noble, I'll take it! Tell you what. If you find out there's a tunnel down there and you can get us a little tour, that'll be my reward. Not that I don't love the City Hall tote bag! But nothing beats an adventure in time travel.

Cafe Pasadena said...

I agree with PB - you can keep my prize too in xchange for finding out about that tunnel of love.

Tavo said...

Great photo & story! Read more classic Castle lore in Tom Carpenter's 1984 book, "Pasadena, Resort Hotels & Paradise". Tom lived in the Castle for over a decade and truly loved the place.

Cafe Pasadena said...

I 4got to congratulate, KB & Daniel for their hard earned victory in history.

Susan Campisi said...

Congrats to Karin and Daniel! This is such a fun bit of history, a slice of Hollywood in Pasadena. I've never been inside the Castle Green, so I appreciate the heads up about the upcoming tour. I'll try to make it.

Anonymous said...

Grandpa gave tango lessons to the divorcees arriving from the Midwest. He looked just like Raymond .Navarro. In fact, he went by that name.

Congrats to the winners!

mainefem said...


Philander Garrison Wooster was my (maternal) Great great uncle (born in So. Hancock, ME).