Monday, April 8, 2013

To have and have not

Once upon a time, a race of "aged people" roamed the earth. Extinct by the mid-1960's, the Aged P's were replaced by their more vital offspring -- the matures, silvers, and seniors.

For the moment, anyway, you can find remains of their old stomping grounds in Altadena, the erstwhile Scripps Home for the Aged, rechristened simply The Scripps Home in 1965 or so. The property was sold and razed around 2007. Residents who expected to live the rest of their lives in the shadow of the mighty San Gabriels got packed off to another location, 12 miles south.

Scripps Home is nothing but an open field today, as it has been for the past five years. Soon there will be a high-end-high-density stucco development called MonteCedro. A retirement village, yes, but oh, so much more. Residents will discover "The Art of Life in Harmony" -- I expect that means yoga will be involved.

M and I planned to take some photographs this past Wednesday -- of the meadow plus a bank of houses on the east-flanking block, before total demolition and construction begins.

But in the morning, M sent an email, "Check it out. Location fenced, curtained, and locked. We might have to cut our way in."

I choked on my toast. M is getting pretty big for her urban exploring britches these days.

Still, I brought a Buck knife, just to be able to say, "Take it; Trouble is your business."

Alas, alas for M anyway, no heroic efforts were required. The deconstruction supervisor saw us poking around and gave us a tour of the grounds.

This bit of history will be history by the end of the month. Most of the houses were built in the 20s and 30s, maybe a couple from the teens. When the developer purchased the properties quite a few years ago, legend has it, there was a hold-out -- one owner who refused to sell.

That's often the case.

Should you ever find yourself in LaCrosse, Wisconsin -- not something I recommend, by the way, but still -- should you ever find yourself in LaCrosse, there's one place worth a visit. A big garden-variety shopping mall, famous for its Kohls, where a classic two-story farmhouse sits on the edge of the parking lot. When the developer bought the surrounding property, this farmhouse owner refused to vacate and waged a lawsuit, one that lasted almost a decade. And the farmer won, if living in a field of parked cars constitutes a win.

And who's to say? For some, the heart is where the home is. The cupboards built by a grandfather, an upstairs window where a mother did her ironing. Floorboards that creak as they creaked for generations of footfalls. In which case, perhaps it doesn't matter if you live next door to the Cracker Barrel and a long-bed truck, it's what's inside that counts.

Now, where was I. Oh yes...


  1. I never had a home, until I married. My parents never stayed in one place more than a year (and, no, they were not military, just shiftless). When we finally alit here, I began saying I'm not moving out until they carry me out toes up. So I sympathize with the farmhouse owner. Still, I'm glad to not live in the Cracker Barrel parking lot, even if they do have chairs on their front porch.

  2. A few months before my mom passed, I was curious about my Grandparents house... I googled and omg, thanks to the internet i discovered their house was stuccoed a garish peach... yep- that color reeks of hooker house... Gone was the tree in the front yard, the hedges my grandfather took care of... Don't know if the facts on the realtor site was correct cuz it stated 11 people living in a small 1100 sq.' home.. 3 beds, one bath....sad isn't it?? PEACH of all colors...My Grandparents would be shocked and sad.

  3. This is poignant. Sad to see those old houses go, even if they're not exactly pretty. And, I need to hang with you and try to emulate your aura, stance, or whatever. I run away, and you end up with a Grand Tour. You are the coolest...

  4. Wonderful essay. It's sad to see those old homes demolished. They have a "character" that most new homes have not yet developed.

  5. I'll bet M was disappointed by the warm turn of events. Interesting history.

  6. Octoberfest. Go to Lacrosse for Oktoberfest, that is. But stay away from the river if you imbibe.

    Better maybe, New Ulm, on the Minnesota side. You betcha.

  7. Every home has a story. Most houses do, too.

  8. Or maybe he had taken things so far there was no way to back down and still save face.


  9. Marjie, yes, I think even you would draw the line at the Cracker Barrel.

    KBF, Like Marjie, we lived in lots of different houses and states growing up. I've made it a policy never to revisit, even by google. (Peach? oh, no.)

    Adele, you'll have to take me around your Madre some day.

    Ms M, I agree. It's a loss, no way around it.

    Carolynn, I think she was, a little.

    Earl, thanks. I think SoPas is more careful.

  10. I enlarged the second photo and I can see how beautiful are the grass with orange wild flowers and the pine tree so tall and green.
    The house with the climber looks nice, even so mistreated.
    Love the way you tell a story, Karin!

  11. To hold and hold not.
    To love and love not.
    To live and live not.
    To trespass and trespass not.
    To remember and remember no more.
    Thanks for the history, KB.

  12. This kind of stuff makes me crazy. The Coptic church in my area wan't to sell the land behind it to make way for an uber huge facility.

    "a four-story, 62-unit apartment building, a 3,700 sq. ft. recreation center and approximately 70 parking spots on 26,922-sq. ft. of land."

    Insane greed. People are rising up and say "enough" go away

  13. My grandparents lived in a beautiful old California bungalow, with a broad porch, funny alcoves and a claw-footed bath tub, as well as a peach tree out back that gave us tasty fruit in the summer. A developer bought it, tore it down, ripped out the peach tree and put in a shiny new senior citizens' home. It's nice if you like everything homogenized to a plastic perfection, but if you don't, where can you go? Certainly not to La Crosse.

  14. Someone must want this stuff, or developers wouldn't build it. They know to whom they're selling. I risk criticism when I say my guess is it's the same people who shop at WalMart.

  15. KB, I like things a little on the homey side, antiseptic makes me feel weird. I'll have to be in seriously bad shape before I go to live in a "retirement" home.

    Bandit, when I lived in Minnesota in the 70's Schell brewery (I think it was them) was having a contest. Second prize was a tour of the brewery, first prize, among other things, was that you didn't have to go to New Ulm.

  16. Sonia, "The house with the climber looks nice, even so mistreated." I love that.

    And CP, yours too.

    PA and John, like we need more blanked-face orange stucco in our lives. I don't know if people, any people, hunger for the look Petrea. I think it's more a matter of force feeding and budget construction.

    Paula, the Scripps Home, the old part of it, had a tudor-craftsman flavor, and seemed really cozy from the outside looking in. The new place will look like a shopping center. I guess that's why I thought of LaCrosse.

  17. I think a lot of my feelings stem from the fact that I can't tolerate fluorescent lighting so anything modern really isn't an option for me. I try to look on the "bright" side, at least I never became a mall rat but it has meant that I've been pretty limited as to where I can work, hang out, and shop. I'm sure the new place will be fluorescence heaven.

  18. Confession: I like/love Cracker Barrel, maybe because I only go there when I'm on a road trip and feel entitled to killer food and tastelessness bursting at the seams -- Las Vegas for a different kind of gambler.

    Similarly? . . . I'm not against retirement homes per se--my mother lived in one for her last eight years, and I was very, very glad it was an option (and that SHE chose it). But I don't know why there's a law that they must be so aesthetically handicapped. Ditto that for most hospitals, nursing homes, municipal buildings, light industry and on and on.

    I often wonder which came first: numb buildings or numb people--designers, contractors, and future inhabitants alike.

  19. I wish I'd said, "visual tastelessness and consumerism."

  20. And I should have said "blank-faced." I think we should all get a pass on our comments, don't you?

  21. Banjo, I could fill a book with all of the reasons they do that, none of them flattering.

  22. Architecture these days has gotten quite homogenous...
    I'm always sad when I see charming old houses torn down to be replaced by anything new...

  23. Two of my hiking friends are moving there, the widows of Caltech professors. They're in their 80s, really nice, and into nature, traveling, reading, and volunteering.. It's a very high-end development, and I don't think they'd have bought into it if it was an unattractive building. Take a look at their sales office on Colorado next to Europane. The houses they currently live in will be freed up for families.

    That said, it's a shame the previous residents, and the tenants of these bungalows have been displaced. The rents were affordable. I hope they found new places to rent that are as nicely located. I'll also be sorry to see the poppies ripped up. Pity they aren't siting this on the large hole next to Ralph's.

  24. Enticing essay. I'm especially fond of the lone leaf. So symbolic. Contrasting that with your third image is a lot to drink in. Your transition from color to sepia gives a ghostly preternatural premonition.
    As is common, many folks who lived in Scripps made an exchange of their homes for their extended care. It was via this system that we bought our house from Scripps. Every month we would walk or drive to the main entrance and make a payment. I was sorry to see the main building torn down.
    I've read that the little house that is still on the lot was where the caretaker lived - I guess in later days that might have been some sort of groundskeeper.

  25. So Roberta, you had a direct connect with Scripps. The caretaker's cottage will be saved and moved, not sure where.

    I didn't get into the machinations of how the property came to be sold in the first place, as I'm fuzzy about that. My understanding is that Scripps was under an endowment (if that's the right word), but obviously there was a loophole or out-clause, or something.

  26. Several of my grandmother's friends lived at the Scripps complex many moons ago. I believe several professors of hers while she was at Scripps. I recall visiting when I was a young kiddo. I don't recall a lot about it, but we would make the trek over there to visit whenever my grandmother felt the need to do her duty to her elders. I believe my grandparents looked into living there, but ended up going to Villa Gardens, a similar concept, usually for retired teachers/professors. I hope they keep some version of the wildflowers in the new complex. Perhaps not native to the lot, they grow wiithout much tending and perhaps new tenants will enjoy them?

    SoPas might not do better at saving old houses-I could give some examples that are hideous-but there are a lot of old ladies still standing that do the city proud.

  27. Hmm. I'll have to think about this for a while. Interesting as usual.

  28. You're such a great storyteller. My friend's mom lives at Villa Gardens. The building is awful, but her apartment (unit?) is cozy and charming. Why can't the exterior of these buildings be charming and homey? Guess that would be expensive and developers only care about the bottom line.

    PA, I hope you and your neighbors can stop that beast.

  29. When developments like this crop up, I wonder why they can't just restore the houses and turn them into a Village for Aged People. I love old houses.

    The farmhouse on the parking lot, I'm sure the owners are both proud of their achievement and over it and wishing they were living on a beach somewhere.