Pasadena POPS Conductor Michael Feinstein and Spouse Buy Iconic Cravens Estate for $7 Million

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6:49 am | February 6, 2018

Acclaimed five-time Grammy-nominated musician and Pasadena POPS Principal Conductor Michael Feinstein and his spouse Terrence Flannery will soon soon make a home in Pasadena following their $7 million purchase of the iconic Cravens Estate in the Pasadena neighborhood famously known as ‘Millionaire’s Row.’.

The escrow closed late last week on Feinstein and Flannery’s purchase of the palatial 20,000 square mansion at 1101 South Orange Grove Boulevard for considerably less than the original $10.5 million asking price.

The magnificent mansion, favored as a location by film and television productions, formerly housed the local chapter of the American Red Cross since 1962.

The announcement comes just in the time for the lead up to the outdoor POPS concert series at the Los Angeles Arboretum, which features dining and music under the stars in an intimate setting with Michael Feinstein himself. Season Subscriptions are still available, single tickets go on sale March 1.

“We are thrilled that we have met the needs of the community by finding buyers whose intent is to honor the heritage and beauty of the mansion,” said Veronica Garcia-Davalos, executive director of the Red Cross’ San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys Chapter. “The buyers appreciate the historic nature of the estate and intend to add their own chapter to the estate’s history.”

Situated just off of South Orange Grove on Madeline Street, the home was built in 1930, the cigarette-fortune-fueled heiress to the Liggette and Myers Tobacco fortune built one of the most expensive (and palatial) homes ever to grace a Pasadena boulevard.

In 1957, the house was sold for a song to a colorful character, Simon Zervos, a Greek immigrant who used it as an office for his import company. He tried to sell it for years in the early 1960’s, and unsuccessful, was struck by the idea of donating the grounds to the American Red Cross out of gratitude for the help he and his family received when they first arrived on American shores in 1946.

Thanks to Zervos, the mansion has been the unusual office space and headquarters for the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross since.

The Chapter is finally ready to move on and downsize and relocate to a pre-existing 6,945-square-foot office at 376 W. Huntington Dr. in Arcadia.

“This was a bittersweet decision to sell the mansion that was so graciously donated by the Zervos family to the Red Cross in 1962,” said Garcia-Davalos. “The Cravens Estate will always remain a large part of Red Cross history and we are extremely grateful for the generosity and support of donors, volunteers and the local community. While we are leaving this beautiful property, we are not leaving Pasadena and remain committed to our work in this community.”

The search for the perfect buyer was not easy, according to Gretchen Seager of Sotheby’s International Realty represented the Red Cross in the sale.

“We had a lot of really interesting buyers come through and look at the property. The property does need an amount of work and restoration to be a single family residence again,” explained Seager.

“It felt more like an office space, and it’s going to take a special buyer to understand and appreciate the history and the architectural integrity of the property and of the home and who have the vision to really restore it in a way that would be in keeping with the architecture and history,” said Seager.

According to Seager, a lot of the rooms were updated in 2010 after designers gave various rooms professional appointments during the estate’s involvement with the Pasadena Showcase House, a nonprofit organization that conducts home and garden tours.

“My understanding from the buyers that they’re going to spend about a year renovating it,” said Seager.

“It’s a significant remodel. It takes a certain buyer to not only have the money it takes to purchase the property, but the money to renovate it and renovate it in the way that it needs to be and should be,” said Seager.

“They have to work with the city with some of the aspects of the home that cannot be changed,” added Seager.

In 1965, the mansion was honored with the Pasadena Beautiful Foundation Award and was designated a Pasadena Cultural Landmark by the Pasadena Heritage Society.

In addition, the city of Pasadena has designated it a Landmark of Historical Significance, its highest category.

The Cravens Estate is known to attract high profile people throughout the years thanks to its photogenic backdrop that has been used in many television shows including “Mad Men”, “Ghost Whisperer”, “Desperate Housewives”, as well as feature films, including” Being There”, “Public Enemy” and “Traffic”.

The days of filming at the iconic estate are most likely over, according to Seager.

“Upon close of Escrow, that Conditional Use Permit for filming was revoked and is no longer part of the property,” explained Seager.

“I think the reason why the neighbors were so agreeable to allowing them to film as much as they can is because it’s the Red Cross. Everybody loves and appreciates the Red Cross for what they do, but the neighbors made it pretty clear that when it transferred to the new owner, they would not be as agreeable if the new owner wanted to try and apply for a CUP again,” said Seager.

“We have an emotional connection with Michael in part because the Pasadena POPS launched Feinstein’s conducting career,” said CEO of the Pasadena Symphony and POPS, Lora Unger “and also because we share a vision and commitment to reinvent the standard pops  orchestra model , curating and presenting the best from the vast collections of music from the  Great American Songbook.”

Feinstein was named Principal Pops Conductor for the Pasadena Symphony in 2012 and made his conducting debut in June 2013 to celebrated critical acclaim.

“Under Feinstein’s artistic leadership, we have created a concert experience that is so  special and unique – it can’t be found anywhere else.” Unger adding “Michael makes 5,000 people feel that we’re all in his living room gathered around his piano with him  sharing intimate backstage stories that you won’t hear anywhere else.”

Under Feinstein’s leadership, the Pasadena Pops has quickly become a premier orchestral presenter of the Great American Songbook with definitive performances of rare orchestrations and classic arrangements, according to his website.

“Our geographic footprint just ballooned with Michael’s leadership. He’s just a dream to work with, we’re very lucky to have the affiliation, and I know he’s very happy to be here,” said Unger.

Feinstein and Flannery were represented by Dorothy Carter and Michael Orland of Keller Williams, Los Feliz.

Josie Tong and Gretchen Seager of Sotheby’s International Realty represented the Red Cross in the sale and are generously donating 100 percent of their commissions to the Red Cross.

Tong is the Chair of the American Red Cross Tiffany Circle for the Los Angeles Region and a former board member of the Red Cross Santa Monica Bay Chapter.

“We believe in the Red Cross and we wanted to do that for them,” said Seager.

Over the next few months, the Red Cross will be enhancing its other existing building in Pasadena (133 N. Altadena Drive) and its Arcadia facility (376 W. Huntington Drive), which will become the new San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys Chapter headquarters.

Red Cross resources previously located at the mansion have already been moved to these sites and other nearby locations to ensure continued effective service for local residents.

The money made from the sale of the Cravens Estate will strengthen Red Cross facilities, operations, and services throughout the region, including in the City of Pasadena.