Pasadena is well known among architecture aficionados for its astonishing Arts & Crafts-style houses, the most famous being the Gamble House, designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene, who designed a number of California-style Arts & Crafts houses in the area. This one, which has been through hell and back and is known as the William T. Bolton House, is now for sale via Matthew Berkley at Deasy Penner Podley for $5 million.
The spacious six-bedroom house sports six and a half bathrooms in 7,100 square feet. There are two kitchens, one on the first floor and another in the finished basement, plus a two-car garage and a guest house. At just over one-third of an acre, the lot is relatively compact but the property makes the most of its square footage with rustic and charming features, such as a dry creek bed.
The house has had a long history, including a painful midlife, and a fortunate restoration in the 1980s. Dr. William T. Bolton commissioned the Greene brothers to design three houses for him, of which this is the last. Unfortunately, Dr. Bolton died in 1906 before the house was complete. His widow sold the house in 1917 to the Cuthbertson sisters, who’d previously commissioned the Greenes to build them a nearby house in 1911.
The sisters, Cordelia, Kate and Margaret, then hired Henry Greene to alter and renovate the house. Even though the house was changed a great deal — for example, the original bump out for the stairway was changed to a five-panel oriel window, with stained glass — the house retained its authentic Arts and Crafts integrity. (One of the Cuthbertson sisters’ previous homes is now owned by Warner Music CEO Stephen Cooper who bought it earlier this year from “Avengers: End Game” director Anthony Russo for $6.3 million.)
That all changed circa 1950, when the house passed out of the Cuthberston family. Tasteless modernization and ill-conceived remodels meant that walls were covered in wallpaper and the original cedar and mahogany woodwork was — the horror!— painted white or removed. All of the original Tiffany glass lanterns and Asian-influenced box beams were also lost, as the owners bizarrely attempted to remake the house into something that reflected the French Provincial style. Not everyone thought the anachronistic renovations were egregious, and the renovated (and arguably desecrated) kitchen was featured and praised in a 1952 issue of the Los Angeles Times’ Home Magazine. The beautiful and valuable Grueby tiled fireplace was covered over with sheetrock. Luckily, the fireplaces were so well made, it was deemed easier just to wall over them rather than remove them, which meant that when the house was restored, the fireplaces were still there in situ.
By 1968, the property had been sold to nearby Ambassador College and used as a storage facility. Maintenance was neglected, and forklifts and hand trucks shuffled boxes of books from room to room, damaging floors and walls. By the late 70s, the poor old house was slated for demolition. Fortunately, a group of historic preservationists prevented that fate.
The house was purchased in 1979 by Kenneth Ross and his wife. “When I moved to Pasadena in 1974, I saw for the first time several homes designed by Charles and Henry Greene,” Ross wrote in a 1983 article he wrote for Fine Homebuilding magazine. “It was love at first sight. So, when one of their houses came on the market, I bought it without so much as a backward glance.”
The Ross couple teamed up with talented craftspeople to restore the place. Wallpaper was removed, woodwork restored or replaced, and original light fixtures replicated. The kitchen as it is today, as well as the butler’s pantry is based on both the original designs for the house as well as other Greene & Greene homes. With each stair wrapped around the adjacent wall, trimmed with a horizontal band of molding, and “riveted” in place with a series of round wood pegs, the matchless staircase looks as fresh as it must have in 1906.
This beautiful house has certainly been through a lot over the years, but up-to-date tweakments to this aging dowager keeps its appeal fresh with Greene & Greene’s masterful mashup of Arts & Crafts, art nouveau and Asian architecture is as stunning as ever, creating a cohesive design out of many elements from disparate cultures that makes the fat $5 million price tag seem, well, on the fair side.