The Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange Grove

The Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange GroveThe Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange GroveThe Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange GroveThe Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange GroveThe Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange GroveThe Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange GroveThe Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange GroveThe Stunning Location for The Pillars of South Orange Grove

RACHEL YOUNG | Photo courtesy Pasadena Public Library & Pasadena Museum of History

12:07 pm | July 10, 2013

Amidst the glorious gardens and breathtaking views of the Hulett Merritt Mansion Pasadena Heritage staged their big event of the year, The Pillars of South Orange Grove.

At this elegant summer celebration on Saturday, July 13 the institutions who played leading roles in preserving long-standing Pasadena traditions and historic architecture on South Orange Grove Boulevard were honored.  [Click here to see additional Report]

Fittingly, the Hulett Merritt Mansion perches on a hill overlooking South Orange Grove and is an important and beautiful historic building integral in Pasadena’s early history.

The thoroughfare was once known as Millionaire’s Row for good reason. People like Hulett Merritt, who was a millionaire before the age of 25, chose Orange Grove as their nesting point.

According to Pasadena Heritage, the Hulett Merritt mansion dates from 1903 when Merritt purchased his first parcel here on South Orange Grove. A multi-millionaire, Merritt had made his fortune mining in Minnesota. Selling his interests to U.S. Steel at the age of 25, he remained the largest stockholder of U.S. Steel until his death at 83.

Merritt was an adventuresome character. He first visited Pasadena in 1897 with his parents and six years later settled here permanently.A Pasadenan for more than fifty years, he was the organizer and operator of 31 different enterprises and was president or chairman of at least 138 more. He loved automobiles and owned a variety of them, including a Mercedes racing car—the first foreign automobile imported to the Pacific Coast—which he built a speedway for so he could race it.

“The house itself is absolutely beautifully built because he was such a wealthy person, he could afford the best of everything and it’s remained pretty much intact through all these years. And so it’s a great historic place for us to hold the party,” Mossman said.

The construction of the Merritt mansion, designed by architect William F.Thompson, began in 1905, overlooking Terrace Drive and the city to the east. Since then it has seen several changes in owners and construction, mainly by the Ambassador College who used the building as the Ambassador Hall when they obtained the property after the depression.

Today the Merritt mansion’s extravagant interiors remain largely intact, with beautifully matched, carved and finished woodwork, several distinctive fireplaces, and many original fixtures. One can easily imagine it furnished with the Merritt’s lavish antiques, art objects, and oriental rugs. Despite changes during its Ambassador College years, it retains much of its character and original design.

The current owners are City Ventures who own a majority of the historic apartment houses, mansions, and gardens on the old Ambassador Campus.

City Ventures is now building new condominiums along Orange Grove and Green Street and the Merritt Mansion will either become part of this new housing complex or be sold as a single family home.

“We are lucky to be doing this at the site on South Orange Grove that will undergo the most dramatic change in the next few years. We thought it would be exciting to be there as sort of change while we celebrate the history of the boulevard because it has a very long and rich history going back to the very beginning of Pasadena,” Mossman said.

“The Hulett Merritt House is significant as the residence of one of Pasadena’s most celebrated millionaires and foremost residents of South Orange Grove Blvd,” according to the City of Pasadena’s Architectural and Historical Survey of 1997.

The Merritt Mansion’s largest claim to fame is that it was featured in the opening scenes of The Millionaire, a popular 1950′s TV series.

“[The mansion] celebrates that point in time where we have long standing history and tradition on South Orange Grove. We had it’s decline, we had it’s resurgence and now the newest chapter for South Orange Grove will be the addition of new housing on this campus while preserving the historic building. For our celebration today, we should be looking backwards because we’re a preservation organization, but we should also be looking forward to keeping a historic place vibrant and exciting and having it grow and change in good ways,” Mossman said.

Pasadena Heritage is the second largest preservation organization in California. They provide a powerful voice for the preservation of historic buildings, districts, and neighborhoods, resulting in the city being nationally recognized as a leader in historic preservation. Pasadena Heritage has played a major role in such success stories as the revitalization of Old Pasadena and the restorations of Pasadena City Hall, the Main Library, the Pasadena Playhouse, the Colorado Street Bridge, Bullock’s Pasadena (now Macy’s), the La Loma Bridge, the Rose Bowl, and the former YWCA.

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