People, Places and Blimps
Miss Helen Steele Pratt, "Natural Born Naturalist"
Twenty nine year old, Helen Steele Pratt and her mother Frances moved to a rural and natural Eagle Rock in 1913 at 29. She was born in Joy Prairie, Illinois then a village in a vast forest. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1906 majoring in botany and ornithology. Their house on Ridgeview was built with her loving care and detailed supervision. (ERVHS-Pratt Collection)
From the beginning her garden was her great love. Built specifically to attract birds; it featured native plantings to provide appropriate habitat supplemented by well-supplied feeders and the featured birdbath. (ERVHS-Pratt Collection)
Miss Pratt poses in a more mature garden. Can you identify the species shown? (ERVHS-Pratt Collection)
About the same time, planting in front of the house. At this time her “days were filled with activity all geared to the outdoors. Those who remember her well, often comment about her boundless energy. She could crowd lectures, demonstrations, a study course and still have time to “bird watch” and write about her experiences far into the night; then up at sunrise, watching the birds have their early breakfast.” (quote Eagle Rock Sentinel- Nelda Thompson, photo ERVHS-Pratt Collection)
This motto over the fireplace translates roughly as “Forward !” (with spelling and grammar errors, we are told).
“Her home was not only the mecca for birds (yes, some of them actually came into the house for refuge or a special snack). That home was also a haven for people, too. Many friends loved to sit by her big fireplace where she could whip up a fire in a couple of seconds. She loved to entertain small groups where the conversation usually got around to birds.” (quote Eagle Rock Sentinel-Nelda Thompson, photo ERVHS-Pratt Collection)
Miss Pratt is depicted in the then wild canyon below the Eagle Rock with its riparian life. Outdoor excursions were a favorite activity. She led groups of students and Audubon society members on hikes in the Eagle Rock area finding then abundant wildlife. (ERVHS-Pratt Collection)
“Almost any kid who ever grew up in Eagle Rock remembers Miss Pratt. It was she who probably introduced them to birds in an exciting and personal way. She taught nature classes at Eagle Rock Elementary; took them on ‘nature walks’ at Camp Radford and Seeley. Hardly a youth group in the area who didn’t invite Miss Pratt to tell them about birds” (quote Eagle Rock Sentinel-Nelda Thompson, photo ERVHS-Pratt Collection)
“Among her peers, the bird fanciers and ornithologists, she gained fame with the California Audubon Society where she first served as secretary for seven years (beginning in 1921). High spot of her official career came in 1953 when she was named president of the California Audubon Society and really made things happen. It was during her regime that the famous bird sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon was founded…” (quote Eagle Rock Sentinel-Nelda Thompson, photo ERVHS-Pratt Collection)
"Miss Pratt died in 1965, and the Eagle Rock home passed into other hands and if birds are psychic as some authorities believe, they mourned.
Now through efforts of the Los Angeles and San Fernando Audubon Clubs, Helen Pratt will always be known to birddom as children and adults meet in the screened in “treehouse” (now the "Lakeside Lookout")-at Descanso Gardens in La Canada-where they can watch the gathering of birds from all the world. A bronze plaque will tell the story to many generations how a “bird lady” who once lived in Eagle Rock made the world a cheerful place full of song and beauty." (caption Nelda Thompson-ERS, photo EW)
Emma and Charles Young, Historian and Civic Leader (Their home "Castle Crags" was designated LAHCM #931 in 2008)
The Young Home in the late 1880's. The home was purchased and restored by the Hunt family. It was declared a Los Angeles City Historical Cultural Monument with the name "Castle Crags" (Murdock Family Collection)
Mrs. Young was a pioneer clubwoman, historian, lecturer and authority on California History and Landmarks. For over fifty years she urged Californians to preserve their heritage. Her love of pageantry and reenactment caught the attention of many children and adults in Eagle Rock, teaching them, gently, the importance of the past.
Mrs. Young was born Emma Elinor Hine on May 27, 1869, in Geneseo, Illinois and grew up on a farm there. The youngest of eight children, she went to Northwest Normal School, taught school, and participated in the kindergarten movement when it started in this country. She was the principal of Annawan School for many years.
On November 23, 1899 Emma married Charles W. Young, at Geneseo. They left Illinois and in 1906 they located in Eagle Rock. There they purchased the Ellis home, a three story Victorian farmhouse, built in 1888. They called the house “Castle Crags”. (Louanna Clark, Emma Young Collection)
Mr. Young was a founding member of the City of Eagle Rock’s Board of Trustees, the second mayor, and for many years its City Clerk. Before and after Mr. Young’s death from diabetes, their home was a center of social life, frequented by authors, sculptors, actors and civic leaders. (Eagle Rock Sentinel)
Charles Young, Feb 4, 1914 (Louanna Clark, Emma Young Collection)
This formal portrait shows an impressive Emma Elinor Young with the Youngs adopted daughter Amber in 1906, the year they arrived in Eagle Rock. (Louanna Clark, Emma Young Collection)
The earliest known photograph of the Eagle Rock 1888. (ERVHS)
The story of the photograph's travels is shown on the back. (ERVHS)
The W.C.T.U. Women's Home, now the home of the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness / GLAD (designated LAHCM #562 in 1992)
Ground was broken on the building May 8, 1927; at that point $200,000 was yet to be raised. “This building will be of fire proof construction, three stories high in the shape of a cross. There will be 100 rooms, all of which will be outside rooms and will accommodate 112 persons. It will consist of offices, reception room, dining room, kitchen and an auditorium with a seating capacity of 250 persons.” (Eagle Rock Sentinel April 13, 1927 / ERVHS)
This photo postcard was probably taken a few years after the home opened in 1928. Note the Churrigueresque ornamentation over the main door.
“The four-story main building is in the shape of a Maltese cross with the elevator in the center and four wings reaching out.” (Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society)
“There are three rates payable in advance monthly: for room without bath, or for room with bath in the main building, and for room with bath in the cottages. All rooms are single, all are outside rooms, and all rooms have a lavatory. The rate includes three meals a day, laundering of all linens, five pieces of personal laundry each week, and a thorough cleaning of the room once each month.”
“Residents must be of a Christian background, ambulatory, physically and mentally able to care for herself and the room without assistance”
“Residents are urged to furnish their rooms as they choose.”
“Members of the Eagle Rock Ministerial Association hold Vesper services on
Thursday afternoon. Entertainment by groups, organizations and individuals is scheduled from time to time, along with seasonal parties and teas in the auditorium or the fourth floor Sky Room. This large lounge provides also a library, sewing room and games and crafts area.”
“Meals in the dining room:
Trays may be served in the room by order of the Nurse or Physician.” (Quotations and interior photos from an undated W.T.C.U. Home brochure/ ERVHS)
An advertising postcard from the mid 1950’s shows the building bedecked with individual TV antennas. The octagonal forth floor Sky Room crowns the building.
This later postcard shows the elaborate over-door removed and replaced by wrought iron arch. This may be due to earthquake concerns. The main doors are covered in plywood. In the 1960’s a one story medical facility was built replacing one of the cottages. Its poor condition at the time of the building’s sale required its demolition. (ERVHS)
The home continued to serve its residents in a homelike atmosphere until its closing in 1992 due to declining fortunes. The aging facility was only half occupied at the time. The Eagle Rock community was concerned about the fate of the historic building and precipitated its designation as Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #562 in 1992. (Eagle Rock Sentinel photo, probably by Joe Friezer / ERVHS)
This photograph of the Norwalk Avenue entrance was taken by John Urquiza for the TERA (The Eagle Rock Association) Home Tour in 2004. The tour was headquartered in the auditorium. The new owners, the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD), had beautifully restored the building.
The restored La Verna Avenue entry welcomed the community. (Photo by John Urquiza / TERA)
The elaborate ornamentation of the exterior was carried through in the auditorium. (Photo by Eric Warren / ERVHS)
The Argus family purchased the expansive 13-acre property on Hill Drive from C.C. Loomis in 1919. Mr. and Mrs. Loomis had already developed the garden over the previous 8 years at a cost of $25,000. It combined features of what was considered “Japanese” with elements of rustic California. Argus was the west coast manager for the Goodyear Co. They then began building a suitable residence on the property. It is unknown whether the outdoor theatre, known as the bowl, existed at this date. This Christmas card shows the Wishing Well and a palm tree with the Argus home in the background. (ERVHS)
Flora Merriam vividly portrays the rustic bridge and water feature, shaded by wisteria, in this print. These Christmas cards appear to be original prints commissioned by the Argus family. (ERVHS)
Among the earliest and most frequent users of the Argus Bowl and garden was the Women’s Twentieth Century Club. The ladies of the club are shown in a portrait on the stage in 1931. The formality of the women’s dress and foreground carpets form an interesting contrast to the garden background. (WTCC)
This Argus family Christmas card by P. F. Brown shows the bowl in a sunny California mood. These handmade cards show the Argus’ longtime interest in promoting the arts. The bowl seems to have come into its most productive period around 1928. A variety of music and dance performances were presented and they began to be reviewed in the Los Angeles Times. (ERVHS)
The performances that are of greatest interest to current researchers were those involving Lester Horton and Michio Ito. Horton first appeared at the Argus Bowl in 1929 as the Chorographer and featured performer in the Song of Hiawatha, a treatment of the Longfellow poem by Clara Nixon Bates. Horton was one of the first to study Native American dance and to incorporate it into his work. (ERVHS)
Later in 1929, Michio Ito, a Japanese dancer and choreographer, presented a series of dance/drama programs featuring himself and Horton. The remainder of the company were students of Ito and his eclectic approach to composition. Note the “Prairie Chicken Dance” to a “Native chant” performed and choreographed by Horton. (ERVHS)
This newspaper cut shows Ito in Japanese-style costume. (L A Times)
This photograph by Toyo Miatake from the book “Michio Ito: A Man and his Dances” by Helen Caldwell, Ito’s student and a participant in the production, shows the costumed musicians for “The Hawk’s Well” the William Butler Yeats “Noh” play. Caldwell describes the production: “Although “At the Hawks Well” was mounted with far greater sophistication than that of the chandelier lit drawing room advocated by Yeats, it still had no theatricality in the usual sense; the effect was poetic simplicity. Argus Bowl was a small Greek-style theatre in a hillside on the Argus estate. It seated about three hundred persons. High above the actors one saw in dim outline the jagged peaks of a sierra. All around in the dark were trees. And there was a wizard named Lewis Barrington behind the lights to give the scene the otherworld reality Yeats had sought. This new setting still called upon the spectator’s imagination, with its black night, the faint suggestion of hills, and light that seemed a part of the verse”
The group photo shows Ito’s company seated in the Argus Bowl. The next venue that Ito’s company played was at a considerably larger scale, he presented 200 dancers with symphonic orchestra and choruses in the Pasadena Rose Bowl. (Caldwell) The Argus bowl continued to present artists and events, culminating with a reception for the 1932 Olympics. Mrs. A. R. Rose, Eagle Rock’s official Olympic Hostess wrote, “Eagle Rock is to be congratulated that within its limits is such a typical Californian setting as the Argus Bowl and home. This is the type of atmosphere that is readily understood by Europeans familiar with the beauties of Cannes, Monte Carlo and other parts of the Mediterranean coast.”
After the Olympics few events seem to have been presented. This was perhaps due the declining health of Mrs. Elizabeth Argus, the gracious hostess of these events. Mrs. Argus died in 1934.
This photograph was taken as part of a photographic survey of historic properties undertaken for the ERVHS in 1961. Today the Argus home still stands. It is unknown whether the bowl still remains on the property. The former Argus estate was subdivided in the mid 1950s. Argus Drive was extended and 8 additional houses were built on the property. (ERVHS)
Mme. Elsa Von Grofe Menasco
Mrs. Elsa von Grofe Menasco was born in 1872 into a musical family. Her father Bernhardt Bierlich was the first cellist of the Los Angeles Symphony even at 72 years of age. Her brother was also a member of the Los Angeles Symphony. Mr. and Mrs. Menasco lived in their home” The Roses” on Central Avenue (upper Eagle Rock Blvd.). “As a pupil of Julius Klengel of the royal conservatory at Leipzig, Madame Menasco has gained for herself the plaudits of the musical world of Europe and America. In a pretty little bungalow, at the top of a summer slope with her husband and a baby girl [Rosamund] lives Mrs. Elsa Von Grofe Menasco, a famous violin-cellist. Possessed of a most charming personality Mme. Menasco had won her way into the hearts of the residents of Eagle Rock before it had ever become known that in Mme. Menasco was an artist which the greatest American and European musical critics had delighted to honor.” (Anne Hare Harrison, LA Herald 1909, Illustration, LA Herald 1909)
Mdm. Menasco was a frequent guest of Charles Lummis at his “noises”. This leaf from his guest book documents an occasion on November 8, 1914, when she, her brother Julius Bierlich and her son Ferdinand von Grofe recorded compositions by composer Viola Ellis (Autry Museum of the American West, Southwest Museum)
Madame Menasco played in many local concerts, including several at the Women’s Twentieth Century Club, where she was a member. Indeed, she (in the company of several other musicians including her brother) gave the concert at the formal opening of the newly built clubhouse on March 3, 1915. At this concert, a special request of a cello solo, “Mother,” composed by her son Ferdinand von Grofe, was played. As Ferde Grofe, He would become a noted composer and arranger. (Women’s Twentieth Century Club)
Unfortunately, several months later, she gave birth to a daughter and died of complications. On June 10th, the minutes of the club read that at 3 o’clock (the time of Madame Menasco’s funeral) the members of the club, not being able to “attend in a body”, observed 3 minutes of silence. (Women’s Twentieth Century Club)
The Parker Property on Dahlia Drive The house was named “Rosemont Villa” for the prize roses grown on the hill around the house. Phillip Walter Parker organized the Eagle Rock School district and was trustee from Eagle Rock of the Union High School District. With Edward D. Goode, and James W. Gates he was instrumental in bringing Huntington’s trolleys to Eagle Rock. His wife the former Ruth M. Orchard, depicted on the steps, held the first Sunday school in the parlor.- Photo courtesy of the Elena Frackelton Murdock Family, CA 1900.
The Parker's fountain was the first “swimming pool”, and the avenue below their house, now Dahlia Drive, became the first “park”. Elena Frackelton Murdoch wrote "The band used to practice there on Sunday mornings, their specialty was “Stella”. As the band members were from many families “Stella” was well sung and whistled." Photo courtesy of the Elena Frackelton Murdock Family, CA 1900.
Built in 1886 by Mr. and Mrs. John Broxham, the house still stands on Hill Drive today. The land was watered by a spring from a cave dug into the hills. W.J. Cook, who resided in the house in 1909, was the president of the Eagle Rock School Board. A later owner, Dr. Marion Michael Null wrote a book called “Forgotten Pioneer: The Life of Davy Crockett” in 1954. (Published in the Los Angeles Herald Sunday Magazine)
The Hickson House as shown in a Women's Twentieth Century leaflet dated June 7, 1912
1935 First Presbyterian Church
On the route to Pasadena in their 1926 Nash, these women stop to enjoy the view. Colorado Boulevard winds behind them, past the intersection with Annandale Boulevard (now Figueroa), seen at the edge of the door, across the bridge and up the hill heading for the Annandale Country Club, Sternberger’s Restaurant, and the Colorado Street Bridge. (University of Southern California Library, California Historical Society Collection)
Members of the Monarchs Car Club ca 1957
1970 Kiwanis Club Spaghetti Feast
The Founders of the Eagle Rock Kiwanis in 1924.
Members of Kiwanis working on a building
Pictured is a tug-o-war during the 1932 Harvest Home Festival. John Swisher, donor of the photo, is fifth from the left tugging with the rest. Behind the students can be seen the unaltered façade of the Auditorium. Second from left in the back row is Maxine (Mitchell) Tichenor; next to her is John’s sister, Dorothy E. Swisher, in the mask. In the front row, third from the left is Ricki De Kramer. Second from the right is Lucy Spurgeon. -ERVHS-John Swisher
Carroll Evans, 90th Birthday
Ray Knabenshoe and his Blimp ca 1906
Mrs. Blanche Gardiner, Librarian, and founder of the Eagle Rock Library, at her retirement.