"In Altadena I have found those qualities that make life worth
My grandfather, Pasquale De Rosa, was an immigrant from Italy. His family owned vineyards there. His mother sensed that things in Italy were about to deteriorate severely. She gave all of her sons enough money to travel the world for two years with the advice to find a new place in which to settle. The brothers all eventually settled in the metropolitan New York area. My grandfather was fluent in six languages.
One brother went into the funeral home business and was very successful having a hearse filled garage as big as a city block in Brooklyn . Another ran an excavation business to make foundations for buildings. At that time, the digging buckets were pulled by horses and manned by a worker who walked behind. During one such excavation, mafia treasure was uncovered and, after a night visit to my great uncle by a stealthy visitor, my great uncle turned over that fortune to unknown sources.
My grandfather came to this country by way of Canada. He was introduced to a young woman, Antoinette Moscarelli, by Antoinette's brother. They soon married and my grandfather began a trade for which he had trained with the best in Europe, building fine homes and mansions of the most architecturally interesting and challenging content. Pasquale had suffered the disease malaria as a youth and so, upon his doctor's suggestion to improve his health, he traveled west towards a better climate with his growing family; Rachela, 6, Luke (my father) 3, Henry, 2. Christopher was born in California. Orlando was not born until after they returned from California.
They arrived in Los Angeles and took a rental apartment while my grandfather looked for work. It soon came in the form of a commission to build a house at 1315 New York Avenue in Pasadena. Pasquale built the garage first. He converted it into a temporary four room apartment. There he raised his family while he constructed his first house in California on the front of the lot. It was a beautiful H shaped home. Upon its completion, the family moved to the corner of Rose Avenue and Palm St. in Altadena where they rented a small bungalow. Across the street lived the Stevens (or Stephens) family. The family had large holdings of groves and those groves provided a source of fruit for my father and his family, too. Mr. Stevens had told them they could eat all they wanted, but he had better never see one orange wasted on the ground. Mr. Stevens would often take my father and his siblings along with Mr. Stevens own children along on hayrides through the groves. Life was idyllic.
On another corner was a two room school house with a grape arbor out front. There the children would sit to eat their lunches.
My grandfather, Pasquale, joined a local church ( I do not know the name, but can retrieve it from my Uncle Chris who was baptized there.). In that church, Pasquale began to make many connections meeting prospective home commissioners. He would also often visit a near by country club to talk with clients.
With a background of European tradition behind him, Pasquale would visit a site that was chosen for a home and spend the whole day there before he put one pen stoke on his blue design paper. He would note the location of the sun so as to know where to place the rooms within the plan for maximum exposure as well as view. Days of long interviews with the family followed to learn both their habits and desires. One house had a revolving garage. You would drive your car in and then press a button that would operate a roundtable turning the car around so that you could drive straight out the next time instead of backing up.
Pasquale's client list grew. He build homes for the Armor Meat giant. The man was so satisfied with my grandfather's work that he then build homes for all of Armor's relatives. He also build a home for the Gunder family. Gunder had made a fortune selling gun powder in World War One. It was located in Pasadena on Linda Vista Drive. I have an aerial photo of the house as it was just completed and the original plans. It was a large, V shaped home overlooking the Rose Bowl. On the back porch were telescopes so that the home's owners and visitors could watch the Rose Bowl from their porch as well as peruse the valley.
My aunt, now 88 years old, just before she left New York to move to Vero Beach, Florida two years ago, destroyed all corresponce and plans that she had been keeping for years. She considered it all junk and tossed it out!!
She did, however, save the plans for Zane Grey's house and I have them in my possession. They are truly beautiful and I would love to build the home here in Vero Beach one day.
The house is of Spanish style. It has rounded edges on the roof, a signature of many of my grandfather's homes. Only he knew how to build and shingle those sloping designs.
The first floor entrance is covered by a long porch with three arched windows of the living room. Upon entering the main hall you are faced by a curving stair that led up to the second floor rooms that Zane requested for a quiet abode in which to write. The living room of substantial size is off to the right. Further beyond it is the master suite with the bedroom in front and a sitting room and bath to the rear. The other side of the main hall opens up to a dining room with a kitchen behind it. The kitchen has an eating banquette built in. Behind the kitchen is another bedroom with bath and a beautiful curved wall. The whole rear of the house is also open with arched windows toward the vista behind.
Up the curving stair are two rooms. One faces the front of the house with a very small Spanish style balcony attached. Behind it is a bathroom and behind that, Zane Grey's writing room. Another request from Zane was that the room have a separate entrance to the outside. And so was built, in my opinion, the most beautiful feature on the house, an outside portico running the length of the house across it's back. At the far end, a graceful curving stair arched downward taking you to the covered patio below. The balustrades for this whole feature were beautiful and also of Spanish style.
My father says that while his father was building the house, his father and Zane became friends. Zane was so taken with the beauty and precociousness of both my father and his sister, Rachela, that he made arrangements for both the children to meet with studio heads. Zane wanted to make them both child stars. But, my grandfather, being of strict European upbringing, put a quick stop to that plan. He had his own opinion of an amoral society in which the film industry lived and did not want his family exposed to that!
One night, while sleeping in their little home on Rose and Palm, an earthquake struck. Pasquale at first thought it was an intruder trying to gain access to his home. He went out a back door brandishing a machete determined to end the prowler's career with one fell swoop. When he realized the force with which he was dealing, he gathered his family in an archway to ride out the quake. Dishes fell, furniture crept across the room and terror grew in my grandmother's heart. The next day, they made plans to leave California and traveled, as they came, by sleeper train, back to NewYork City.
There, my grandfather continued to build homes buying huge tracks of land in nearby, then rural, Yonkers. We have a photo of a home he built for the Peterson family, the patriarch of which invented the revolving door. The door frame around his own home's entrance was fashioned by an Italian stone craftsman. The frame took six months to carve. The man was given instructions by my grandfather to take his time and make a splendid job. My grandfather also knew that the man had a family at home to feed and needed the work.
In 1939, my grandfather contracted Encephalitis. He was taken to the hospital and put up a valiant fight. The doctors said they had never seen such a strong heart or will to live. He left behind a widow and a family of five children. I never got to know my grandfather personally as my parents did not marry until 1945. But, I do feel that I carry his genes. I am a musician, a professional violinist and teacher, but I can never pass a homesite without savoring the distinct scent of new wood shaping new quarters nor pass by a set of plans without running a lingering, longing finger over them. We still have my grandfather's drafting tools and architectual element books from Europe. Perhaps, for a second career, I will build yet!~ Suzanne Bode
Welcome to Beautiful Altadena
History of the Altadena Community
Zane Grey Pages
Zane Grey's New West [official website]
Zane Grey Museum
Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island
Zane Grey Resort ~ New Zealand
Shadowlands: Haunted Places in California Index
Cader Best Seller Lists of the 20th Century
Zane Grey: Books and Writers
Pearl Zane Grey
- 1920 Author Zane Grey moves to Altadena
- 1926 Altadena Library District was founded as a County Library District. Mrs. Zane Grey, wife of Altadena resident and western author Zane Grey, was president of the first Board of Trustees
- Location: Altadena, California is part of unincorporated Los Angeles County. It is located just North of Pasadena and just East of La Canada/ Flintridge. Altadena is bordered on the north by the Angeles National Forest. Neighboring La Canada/ Flintridge is home to Jet Propulsion Laboratory, operated by Caltech.
ON A SPOOKY NOTE:
From the Haunted Places in California Index
Altadena - Zane Grey Mansion
The Zane Grey Mansion was built in 1907 by Arthur Woodward, a wealthy inventor from the Chicago area. The Woodward's lived in the house from 1907 to 1918 then sold the house to author Zane Grey. Zane Grey dies in the house on October 23, 1939 and the home remained occupied by the Grey family until 1970. After the home was sold, the new owners noticed that the house had very cold spots near the fireplaces, library, kitchen and pantry. The kitchen clock would cease working when certain people entered the kitchen. Cold air would blow in the pantry and in the butler's pantry. The owners, convinced that there was a draft coming from the floor removed all of the shelving in the areas and found no holes. The house is made of reinforced concrete with 18" thick walls. From time to time you can hear someone walking across the butler's pantry floor to the formal dining room.
Zane Grey Intro
The Edgar Rice Burroughs / Zane Grey Connection ~ Pt. 1
The Edgar Rice Burroughs / Zane Grey Connection ~ Pt. 2
The Edgar Rice Burroughs / Zane Grey Connection ~ Pt. 3
Zane Grey Bibliography Intro
Zane Grey Bibliography Illustrated Pt. 1
Zane Grey Bibliography Illustrated Pt. 2
Zane Grey Bibliography Illustrated Pt. 3
Zane Grey Bibliography Illustrated Pt. 4
Zane Grey Magazines Bibliography
Magazine Serials, Articles & Short Stories Bibliography
Zane Grey Comics I: Dell Westerns
Zane Grey Comics II: King of the Royal Mounted & BLBs
Zane Grey Biography
Zane Grey Altadena
Zane Grey Cover Mosaic
Zane Grey On The Web
Zane Grey Memorabilia
Zane Grey On Film