The Upstairs, Downstairs Tour at the Gamble House!
Being born in Pasadena, I got to say, I have stayed very partial to it. From the Huntington Library to Lake Avenue, and nearby gems of cities like San Marino and Sierra Madre, I have always loved returning to this metropolis city just outside of Downtown Los Angeles. A place that was never on my radar growing up, though, was the legendary Gamble House on Westmoreland Place.
Whistling distance from the Norton Simon Museum (another must-see), the Gamble House was the Summer home of David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company. The house and furnishings were designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 and took a mere 10 months to complete. An outstanding example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture, the Gamble House was the perfect getaway for the Gamble’s to escape the hustle and bustle of the east.
Our trip this past weekend to the historic landmark was to take their bi-annual “Upstairs, Downstairs” tour. The Gamble’s staffed anywhere from 10-20 servants while residing in Pasadena, and during the year for up-keep. Over the course of our hour and a half tour, our docent, David, could not have been more informative and insightful. I felt we could ask him any questions, and he would know the answer. We began our tour getting a glimpse down to the basement, where the staff would do the laundry. Back in the day, laundry was the ultimate chore and not an easy task. The servants would wash and ring out the clothing, before putting it out back on the clothes line. Some would be shipped out to a service to cut down on the incredible strength required to handle the washing and drying.
As we continued further down the basement, I was intrigued at the Dark Room. Both the Gamble sons had a love for photography, and would frequently ride their bikes over to Pasadena’s famous Vromans Bookstore; back in the day, Vromans carried Kodak and Polaroid film which made it perfect for the local photographers.
Something that Mary Gamble believed in was paying her staff, which were many females that were new to the work force, was paying them a fair wage. A staff’s shift could be anywhere from 10 to 12 hour days, and the Gamble’s did their best to treat the staff well.A favorite room of the tour for me had to be the kitchen. With fun black and white linoleum flooring and an intimate china cupboard room, David pointed out the staff’s dining room which acted as the staff’s break area. An adorable space overlooking their grounds, we all had a bit of a giggle that perhaps the Gambles used these quarters, as well. It would have been the perfect breakfast nook!
As David continued us through the home, we were also treated to see more of the home that the staff would service. Having been to the Gamble House before, I loved learning about Aunt Julia, Mary’s sister who would spend the Summer in Pasadena with the family. A very petite lady, she required a little foot rest to help give her a boost at the dining table! Her room was rather eclectic, also….she requested all wicker furniture in her bedroom, giving it a very outdoor, patio vibe.
Speaking of patios, the deck from Julia’s room is absolutely stunning. Covered enough to hide out the sun, the deck overlooks the grounds and below you can hear the water flowing to the pond, which houses gorgeous fish and a turtle (who chose to hide from the spotlight this day). Enjoying this view, I was very surprised to learn that the home is a humble 1.4 acres. I would have sworn we were on at-least 2.5 or 3 acres.
With the ongoing clothing and laundry topic that ruled much of the early days, a window on the deck is to Mr. Gamble’s closet, this was another ‘hack’ used to keep fresh air coming in to keep the clothes as crisp as possible.
A place that was close to the Gamble’s hearts was Japan. They traveled the world, and had a particular affection for Asian culture, which is an on-going theme in their home. I especially love the use of a bookshelf that Mary used to store decor and art pieces from their many trips to Japan. Yet, The most dazzling piece in the Gamble House has to be their Tree of Life stained glass window by the Greene brothers.
The Gamble House’s Upstairs, Downstairs tour will conclude this weekend. Open Tuesdays, then Thursday through Sunday, they have many tours as well as limited engagements monthly. They also invite you to visit and relax in their beautiful gardens. Plan your visit HERE.
(*Disclosure: I was a guest of The Gamble House on behalf of this review. All opinions are my own.)