Scrolling through Instagram can be a mindless time suck. But it can also lead to new discoveries in the way of filming locations. A recent perusal of my feed introduced me to a stunningly beautiful and historically significant shooting spot I was not previously aware of – the towering Victorian in Monrovia known as Idlewild.
A 2019 listing for the remarkable home describes it as an “architectural statement piece” and that is not hyperbole. The property is an exquisitely preserved example of late 19th Century Victorian design, the likes of which isn’t often seen in today’s world of constant tear-downs, rebuilds and reimaginings.
The stately residence, which is set far back from the road on a palm tree-lined plot at 255 N. Mayflower Ave., was commissioned by General William Anderson Pile, an Indiana native who followed a rather unique career path. Initially a minister, he joined the Union Army as a chaplain during the Civil War and was ultimately promoted to brevet Major General. Upon leaving the army following the end of the war, he served as a St. Louis congressman, governor of New Mexico and Minister to Venezuela before ultimately relocating to Monrovia, where he helped incorporate the city and eventually became its second mayor. In 1887, William and his wife, Hannah Cain Pile, purchased a 10-acre plot of land on the corner of W. Hillcrest Blvd. and N. Mayflower Ave. and commissioned brothers Joseph Cather Newsom and Samuel Newsom to design a large Queen Anne-style residence for them to call home. Of choosing to settle in the small San Gabriel Valley town, reporter T.M. Hotchkiss wrote in an 1888 The Monrovia Planet article, “For some time previous to coming here, he and his wife had traveled extensively over this coast in search of a spot for a home, and nowhere did he find a location that suited his fancy so well as this spot.”
The couple’s new dwelling, which they dubbed “Idlewild” after the upstate New York residence of their friend, author/editor Nathaniel Parker Willis, was completed in 1888 for $12,000.