(Video) A Visit to the Historical Wachtel Studio-Home in Mount Washington

Owner J.T. Allen talks about some of the architectural highlights of one of the Arroyo Seco's first homes.

Welcome to a new feature in "The View From Jack Smith’s Street" in which we explore the neighborhood’s most interesting and eclectic houses and talk to the people who love and live in them.  Enjoy!

The Wachtel Studio-Home and Eucalyptus Grove (L.A. Historic Cultural Monument 503) was a natural choice to launch the series.  Built in 1906 from an original design by the owner, landscape painter Elmer Wachtel, the house was one of the first homes in the area after Charles Lummis’s El Alisal. (Note: The Wachtel Studio-Home can be seen in the upper right hand corner of the black and white photo of the Mount Washington Railway.)

Wachtel and his wife Marion Kavanagh Wachtel used the house as a studio when they weren't painting the Arroyo and as a storage space for their paintings when they weren’t traveling around Southern California and painting out of their converted car.  The Wachtels, who were prominent representatives of the early Arroyo Arts movement, lived in the house until 1921, when they moved to a second home in the Arroyo Seco area of Pasadena. (Keep an eye out in the video for a reproduction of one of Marion's paintings in the "Tonal" style.) 

Current owners Laura Berry and J.T. Allen were already Mount Washington residents when they started looking for their next home.  According to Allen, he and Berry were “driving our real estate agent crazy because we were being so persnickety.”  Allen remembers the agent calling and telling them to come over and look at the Wachtel house because it was going on the market the next day.  “It was love at first sight,” remembers Allen.  “We made an offer before we left.”

Allen, Berry, and their two young daughters moved into the house in 1994. The expansive walls of the home-studio, which once held the Wachtels’ paintings, became the perfect showcase for the quilts that Berry, a labor and delivery nurse and Professor of Nursing at Los Angeles City College, started collecting decades ago when she lived in St. Louis.  Allen, a film and television writer, admits that the century-plus old house is a “constant project.”

But one look out the kitchen window, with its view up the Arroyo toward South Pasadena, and it’s easy to see why the family's love affair with the Wachtel House is still going strong.


Parents of YA readers!  Clink on the link below to check out J.T. Allen’s blog novel  featuring narrator Daisy Tannenbaum -- an 11-year-old with an oversized sense of adventure and a jaundiced, kid’s-eye view of the world.

Patrick Lee March 02, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Great video! I look forward to more!
Nimby pimp March 02, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Nice video. Articulate fellow. Thanks.
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson March 02, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Dave Fonseca did a GREAT job on the video and we were so lucky that the Berry/Allen family welcomed us into their home for the start of the series. Looking forward to visiting more of Mount Washington's gorgeous houses!


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