After enduring a particularly harsh mid-western winter of 1873-74, a group of people from Indiana purchased land at the edge of the Arroyo Seco and formed the San Gabriel Orange Grove Association. In 1875 they founded a town, and chose to call it “Pasadena.”
Pasadena, originally known as “The Indiana Colony,” derives its current name from the Chippewa for “Crown of the Valley.”
Some orange and olive groves were already present on their land, and the Indiana settlers proceeded to plant many more, along with a large quantity of grape vines. Businesses began to form a town center around the intersection of Colorado St. and Fair Oaks Ave. The town and the oranges grew, and in 1880 Pasadena held its first Citrus Fair, considered to be the first of its kind in the United States. Pasadena began to draw health-seekers and winter vacationers, and hotels began to spring up to accommodate them. (Part of the grand and elegant Green Hotel [ca. 1895] can still be found on Green St. between Fair Oaks and Raymond Avenues.)
At the turn of the century, Pasadena was in its heyday as a resort for winter-weary mid-westerners. As word of its hospitable climate spread, the city attracted more and more permanent residents, who came not just to vacation or recuperate, but to settle, work and raise families. The growing middle class fueled Pasadena’s expansion beyond its original extent (downtown or today’s Old Pasadena and south along the arroyo) into the orchards and ranch lands to the north and east.
Just as these transplants were leaving the sophistication of urban life, a prominent design style of the time – the Arts & Crafts (or “Craftsman”) movement – was rejecting the ornateness of Victorian decor, preferring instead simple elements and natural materials. The movement emphasized simplicity, honesty and integrity, both as a design philosophy and as a way of life. It also fostered an appreciation of nature as a source of spiritual and physical reinvigoration. The Craftsman bungalow was built and furnished to harmonize with its natural surroundings and provide a secure environment that stimulated artistic and intellectual growth.
The Craftsman emphasis on nature found favor with Pasadena’s early residents, who were largely drawn here by the climate and unspoiled setting. Rather than shutting people off from nature, the low horizontal lines of the Craftsman home harmoniously integrate interior with exterior. Elements such as expansive porches, French windows and sleeping porches extend the home into the outdoors, while porte cocheres achieve a fluid transition between house and garden.
The bold use of building materials, such as exposed beams and river rock foundations and chimneys, was in stark contrast to what we see in the Victorian era. These elements were dramatic reminders of both the home’s physical structure and its natural environment.
A key aspect of the Arts & Crafts design philosophy was its adaptability, incorporating local materials and sensibilities wherever it took hold. It wasn’t long before a distinctive California Craftsman style evolved, utilizing redwood shingles, river rock, clinker brick and clay tiling, and borrowing elements from California’s Spanish and Mexican architectural heritage and from Japanese architecture.
Arts & Crafts style furniture was also known as “Mission” furniture because it was said to evoke the simple, rustic furniture of the old Spanish missions.
In August of 1906 an area that now contains Bungalow Heaven was annexed by the city of Pasadena. A street grid and houses soon began filling in between the few farmhouses already present. The bungalow was a practical choice for these new homes for a number of reasons. The single-story structure was especially suited to a warm climate, with verandas for outdoor entertainment and overhanging eaves and multiple windows to provide shade and cross-ventilation in the days before air conditioning.
The modest size proved sufficient for young families who had no need for numerous bedrooms, large entertaining halls or servants’ quarters. Built-in cabinetry, a prominent feature of the Craftsman home, was a space-saving innovation. And, while many of these homes might be too “cozy” during a long northern winter, Pasadena’s year-round outdoor lifestyle put less of a premium on interior square footage.
While the Eastern architectural establishment sniffed at the bungalow as nothing more than a glorified cottage, the great achievement of the Craftsman builders was that they incorporated distinctive and innovative touches into homes the average citizen could afford.
With climate and economic opportunity drawing more people westward, homey Craftsman bungalows sprang up rapidly along these streets. For around $2,500 you could buy a brand-new home; or you could build it yourself from a kit for even less. The Ready-Cut Bungalow Company estimates it shipped over 40,000 kits in the Los Angeles area alone. For about $650 (plus another $150 for plumbing fixtures), everything you needed to construct a bungalow would be delivered to your lot. Simple and affordable, the bungalow itself became part of the California myth.
Bungalow Heaven was part of a boom that saw Pasadena’s population more than quadruple between 1900 and 1920 (from 10,000 to 45,000). Trolley lines soon ran up Lake Avenue into the foothills and eastward along Washington and Villa. A neighborhood was born.