There will be no cake for Pasadena’s 136th birthday celebration but instead Pasadenans can take a walk through time to discover the Crown City’s early origins and learn how the city we know today evolved over 13 decades and engage in activities. It’s all free, at the Pasadena Museum of History this Sunday, June 26.
Have some anniversary fun at the Museum’s Free Day, which will highlight a unique crafts workshop where crafters of all ages can create their own unique beetle creations (more on this later) and allow museum visitors to discover the stories behind the most transformative decades in Pasadena’s development.
That story of evolution and transformation can be experienced in the recently reopened exhibition, “Starting Anew: Transforming Pasadena, 1890-1930,” which details a period of rapid growth when the small agricultural town grew into a bustling winter resort and a vibrant young metropolis.
“It’s nice to know how [Pasadena] actually started. And this exhibit does answer many of those questions,” says Jeannette Bovard, media consultant for the Pasadena Museum of History. “Why did they come here? What did they do when they got here? What was life like for these people? Who basically called the shots and why does our city look like this? It’s fascinating to find out that much of what we look at as Pasadena, particularly our civic buildings, were not an accident.”
“It’s a fun delve into that part of history. The other thing we also added since we opened the exhibit after our COVID closure were aspects of the two back-to-back world crises that hit during those years, world war I and the influenza pandemic, the global pandemic of 1918, 1919, and how those situations affected Pasadena, how Pasadena responded and how Pasadena came out of it.”
“Starting Anew: Transforming Pasadena” explores the city’s private and public sector development within the broader context of world affairs. It shows historic images, documents, artwork, clothing, and ephemera, many selected from the Museum’s collection – along with research compiled over decades by scholars, PMH staff, and volunteers.
The exhibition will be the centerpiece for PMH’s Museum Free Day. Bovard said with the museum just recently opening from COVID-19 restrictions, the museum’s board decided to host a scaled-down event as compared to previous years.
Nevertheless, “Starting Anew” tells the story of how Pasadena’s founders took advantage of the surrounding natural beauty and together started building what was to later become one of the most attractive cities in Southern California.
“There was a concerted effort by people who got together and said, ‘this is what we want,’” Bovard said. “They were following what was called the City Beautiful movement. And they created what was essentially a very beautiful heart to our city, which today includes not just City Hall, but the Central Library and the Civic Auditorium. Everything about it was designed to be meaningful and beautiful. And so they essentially set a tone for a city that was both beautiful and refined.”
For Museum Free Day, the museum has also prepared a special event where young visitors and crafters of all ages will enjoy a unique crafts workshop by Art2Go – creating beetle craft, inspired by Dr. Adalbert Fenyes’ prized collection of beetle specimens.
The Pasadena Museum of history actually occupies Dr. Adalbert Fenyes’ home. He and his wife Eva arrived in Pasadena as newlyweds in 1896, and this sophisticated couple quickly embraced the city as their new home. They purchased real estate, developed businesses, and contributed to the cultural and artistic development of Pasadena, Bovard said.
Their 1906 Beaux Arts mansion is an important component of the exhibit story line, providing visitors with a glimpse into what life was like on Pasadena’s Landmark Millionaire’s Row in the early 1900s.“Dr. Fenyes was a very accomplished physician who brought X-ray technology to Pasadena,” Bovard said. “It’s not widely known, but he was considered a world class entomologist and his specialty was beetles. He was a very serious scientist and he had a collection that he amassed globally. He literally founded himself and he also purchased some, he had an insectarium on the property, which would’ve been deep in the garden where he had his bugs, his beetles, but also he created these collections and they are now actually housed in San Francisco.”
Today, Dr. Fenyes’ large collection of Coleoptera (beetles), numbering around 75,000 specimens, both native and exotic, as well as his library and all his manuscripts, are housed at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. His specialized collection of Aleocharinae (a subfamily of rove beetles) comprises some 1,900 species and 19,600 specimens from all quarters of the globe.
On Sunday’s Museum Free Day, the Finnish Folk Art Museum, displaying authentic Finnish artifacts representative of a 19th century “tupa,” or farmhouse, will also be open for touring throughout the afternoon.
For more information about Pasadena Museum of History’s Museum Free Day, visit www.pasadenahistory.org/events-calendar.