After a setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation has begun its buildup to a gala that will pay homage to the architect of a local treasure, the Miltimore House.
Hosting its first in-person meeting since the pandemic took hold, the foundation on Saturday showed a preview of a video tour of the residence designed by Irving J. Gill, considered a pioneer of the modern movement of architecture. The full version of the video, which features foundation members who help tell the history of the home, will premiere on Sunday, Sept. 19, at a location to be determined.
“I’m excited for local folks to see familiar faces appear throughout the documentary-webinar and learn about how crazy people around California and architects in particular are just mad about Irving Gill because he was such a progressive guy,” said Lori Rusch, a gala committee member who participated in making the video.
“Everybody was building craftsman and he was building this box, a cubic-shaped house that was very unexpected,” she said of the residence that is listed on the South Pasadena Register of Cultural Heritage Landmarks and the National Register of Historic Places.
The foundation, which previewed the video at a board member’s house, is hoping to build momentum toward the Gill Garden Gala, which was originally meant to commemorate what would have been the architect’s 150th birthday in 2020. After the pandemic thwarted that plan, the gala at the Miltimore House was rescheduled to April 24, 2022. It will include detailed, in-person guided tours of the house and live and silent auctions to raise funds for the foundation.
“The Gill Garden Gala effort was spearheaded by a subcommittee of the foundation,” said Mark Gallatin, the group’s president. “They were rolling right along with plans looking straight ahead for this great garden gala and then everything stopped.”
Joan Hillard, another gala committee member, added, “We had already started planning for the auction when the pandemic hit. I have boxes full of items to be auctioned sitting in my guest bedroom because people were really generous, and still are generous.”
The historic home located on Chelten Way is one of Gill’s surviving masterpieces. It is also the last remaining single-family home that he designed.
Gallatin said the Miltimore House’s design was one of the first of its kind.
“I would call the Miltimore House a prototype of modern architecture,” Gallatin said. “It was a little early to be classified as modernism — it was only 1911 at the time — but if you look at what was predominant in residential architecture in that period, the craftsman or bungalow style was the king around here.
“The Miltimore House was a radical departure from the craftsman architectural style that was all about natural materials and trying to blend in with nature,” Gallatin continued. “It was really a reaction against the Victorian style which came before it that was very ornate with a lot of gingerbreading.
Gill “was one of the first architects to really look at cubic shapes for homes,” Gallatin added. “The Miltimore House is sort of like a big cube, in short, but his design has a lot of clean lines. You won’t see a lot of ornamentation and fancy detailing, but you will see interesting features that he did that are practical.”
In the home’s 110-year history, its doors have never been open to the public until the making of the video.
Owners Therese and Mario Molina, who live nearby, are allowing the foundation to host its virtual tour and upcoming gala at Militimore, according to Gallatin.