Adieu to Altadena's Christmas 'House Of The 10,000 Lights'

Published : Friday, December 20, 2019 | 5:57 AM

For the second year in a row, the Balian House in Altadena will not be displaying its traditional 10,000-light Christmas display that residents and visitors come from far and wide to see every holiday season, and with most of the decorations sold at a summer auction, it may be the end of the long-running holiday spectacular.

Balian House is home to the family that founded Balian Ice Cream that went around Los Angeles’ public schools and regional grocers for over 50 years.

Many Altadena and Pasadena residents have grown up seeing the traditional display every year. It has become a source of pride for the surrounding community who traditionally take their holiday guests touring through the unique structure at 1960 Mendocino Lane.

It was built in 1922, and is said to have been property of the Balian family since the mid-1950s.

Last year, the Balian family decided not to put the lights up, much to the disappointment of many who have been used to driving up Mendocino Lane and parking next to what has become known as Altadena’s “Christmas House.”

Incidentally, the Balian’s Christmas House is about a four-minute drive from another famous Altadena holiday attraction – Christmas Tree Lane, on Santa Rosa Avenue.

In February, the owner of the house, George Balian, who is said to have started the tradition of putting up the lights every Christmas, passed away at the age of 88, after spending more than 60 years in the home.

In July, most of the iconic Christmas decorations, including the lights, vintage Christmas statues, and painted dioramas showing angels and elves and other holiday symbols, were sold during a weekend estate sale at the home.

A representative of Early Bird Liquidation, which handled the estate sale, said the Balian family needed to finance renovations and deferred maintenance, so they decided to sell most of the antique items, French and European period furniture, vintage clothing and millinery, glassware and vintage pottery in the home.

Lately, people driving by have noticed workmen and construction vehicles in the property, indicating some maintenance or renovation is going on.

It is not known whether it was George Balian himself, or his parents, who started the tradition of putting up the Christmas display, but George himself, a U.S. Army veteran, avid gardener and orchid grower, loved art.

He was a classically trained pianist, organist and business innovator, and excelled in every artistic endeavor; he took great pride in his God-given talents and served the Altadena community through his organ playing at St. Anne Melkite Catholic Church for more than twenty years.

His family, from his Syrian immigrant parents to his brothers and sister, kept the Balian Ice Cream business operating through the 1990s.

On some weekends, George Balian would host ice cream socials at the home for the benefit of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and some of the charities the family supports.

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