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Photos by Michael E. Stern, buildabetterphotograph.com

By Laura Latzko

Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer

Garfield Heights’ biannual home tour is going digital but keeping its longtime mission of highlighting the ingredients that make up its “secret sauce.”

From Sunday, Dec. 5, to Sunday, Dec. 12, the Garfield Heights Neighborhood Association will host its 13th annual event. The 2020 tour was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the 400 homes — bounded by Marengo Avenue, Washington Boulevard, Los Robles Avenue and Mountain Avenue — were constructed between the 1880s and 1920s. During this year’s tour, five houses built between 1891 and 1914 will be highlighted through videos.

Many of the houses were constructed by prominent architects and builders from Pasadena. One of the houses on this year’s tour, for example, was designed by Frederick Louis Roehrig. 

Tour co-chairs Steven A. Preston and Sandra Clark-Davis serve as hosts for the videos, which share the interiors of a colonial revival Victorian mansion, an airplane bungalow, an American foursquare, an arts and crafts home and a craftsman cottage.

Amenities include gardens, bocce ball courts, colorful kitchens and bathrooms, fireplaces with decorative mantlepieces, art pieces such as Roseville Pottery, a river rock fireplace,  a staircase with a tiny room under it, hallway sinks, servants’ call buttons, transom window operators, built-in bookcases and antique furniture and home décor such as a Stickley chair. 

“One of the things that sets Pasadena apart is the wonderful canopy of trees in its old neighborhoods that remind people of someplace in the Midwest or East,” Preston said.

“We try to pick scenes that allow people to get a sense of what that historic character is.”

Viewers will learn about the homes’ owners as well. Preston called Garfield Heights an ethnically diverse neighborhood with residents who have a wide range of talents and interests.

One of the owners of this year’s homes, for example, is a chef who cooks with bounty from his gardens. Another neighbor cures his own olives.

“That connection between growing things, food and camaraderie is another one of those themes that we try to play out throughout the videos,” Preston said.

Preston said one of the videos’ benefits is viewers can pause and rewind to focus on features. Generally, the homeowners are not present in their homes during the tours. This year, they are featured in the videos, opening their doors to welcome guests.

“The front doors are all different and beautiful,” Preston said.

“We wanted those doors to be a sign of the welcoming nature of the neighborhood. So, the homeowners naturally would open them and greet you as you enter their house.”

Many of the homeowners didn’t feel comfortable speaking on camera but shared stories and histories about their homes, which were incorporated into the videos.

Preparing the videos took six months, with Garfield Heights residents taking on different roles.

“It requires talent sets that we never had to look for before in our neighborhood,” Preston said.

“We were worried that we might not be able to find that talent, but we did. We found a director, a cinematographer, a sound person, a graphic designer.”

Michael E. Stern acted as director, and Carmen Delaney took on cinematography duties. Watercolor artist Una Martin created portraits of the homes, which will be featured in the videos and will be given to the homeowners.

Preston’s wife researched the homes using historical surveys, building permit records and information from Pasadena’s public library and history museum. It led to the discovery of antique Pasadena neighborhood maps, which will be featured in the videos.

The soundtrack will feature Harry Warren’s “Home in Pasadena,” performed by the Red Fez Orchestra from Great Britain.

Preston described Garfield Heights as a close-knit neighborhood where homeowners come together to help each other and to celebrate special occasions.

Preston and his wife have lived in Garfield Heights since 2004 and their home has been featured on tours. He said Garfield Heights is different from any other neighborhood he has ever lived.

“We have the history because it’s a historic neighborhood,” he said.

“It’s a landmark district. We have the architecture, but what we also have is this unusual level of camaraderie. The neighborhood does everything on a volunteer basis. There are no required dues. People just step up to the plate. It’s that type of neighborhood. If somebody has a baby, and they need to bring food over to the house to keep the family fed, the neighborhood turns out to do it. We do our own disaster prep and safety programs. We do book sales. We have a summer party where the whole neighborhood turns out.

“I lived in an old neighborhood as a kid growing up. I never lived in a neighborhood like this, where you knew people three blocks away. I don’t know everybody in our neighborhood, by any means, but we know a lot of the people here because everybody works together and gets along well.”

The home tour is the year’s primary fundraiser for the neighborhood association, which also holds an annual book sale and a cookie exchange.

Proceeds from the tour go back into projects for the neighborhood. In the past, the funds have gone to improve signage, provide disaster preparedness training and kits, help fund education programs and host a tour for residents focused on the contributions of African Americans in Pasadena.


Garfield Heights Neighborhood Association Home Tour

WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 5, to Sunday, Dec. 12

WHERE: Digital

COST: $25

INFO: garfieldheights.org, eventbrite.com