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All posts for the month May, 2010

Last night marked two sad milestones in the Pasadena Symphony’s 82-year history and shows that the wrenching changes undergoing arts organizations in the Pasadena area (indeed everywhere), especially the Symphony, are still playing out.

The performance was the last for the Symphony to play at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium before moving to its new home at the Ambassador Auditorium on the former Ambassador College campus west of Old Town.  The Ambassador has the reputation of being “acoustically perfect” and is about half the size of the Pasadena Civic, which will certainly mean fewer empty seats at concerts (and there are a LOT of empty seats these days).  To me, though, it seems that a city-sponsored orchestra should perform in the city-owned venue, especially when it’s gorgeous, and right in the middle of a civic and commercial center.  It doesn’t seem right that they should move to a private church that’s isolated on an empty campus blocks away from anything.

The performance was also the last for longtime music director Jorge Mester.  After 25 years at the helm, contract negotiations fell through over a pay cut and he and the orchestra parted ways.  This news hit the day before the last performance of the season and I think came as a surprise to many.  The Pasadena Symphony and the Pasadena POPS have been in dire fiscal straits and merged a few years ago to help keep the organizations afloat.  The “Recovery Plan for a Sustainable Future” unveiled last year included a 10% cut for Mester, among others, but apparently recent negotiations were unsuccessful.  I hope this shift in key artistic personnel doesn’t damage the orchestra more than the $200,000 budget deficit already is.

The LA Times has a review of the evening.

Here’s Jorge Mester’s goodbye after the “Bravo Beethoven” performance, including the orchestra’s send-off:

Today, Kevin and I got to go behind the scenes of Adenoid Hynkel’s palace in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. We also stopped by city hall in Pawnee, Indiana of Parks and Recreation fame.  Then we trekked the magical world of San Francisco as portrayed in the Kevin Costner / Jennifer Anisten vehicle Rumor Has It.

Of course, all of those places are actually at the same location: Pasadena City Hall.  And thanks to the city’s Public Information Officer Ann Erdman, we got an up-close VIP tour, along with several new-found friends in the Pasadena blogosphere.  Let’s go inside.

Ann tells the storied tale of Pasadena’s history and the architectural significance of the building.

Some of the rich architectural details, including the Pasadena seal of a crown and key (a compromise stemming from a disagreement among the city’s founders as to whether “Pasadena” meant “Crown of the Valley” or “Key of the Valley” in Chippewa).  There are also bands of fruit symbolizing abundance, lions representing strength, and the strange face of a man with a walrus mustache.

Pasadena’s newest city council members.  Kevin thinks it’s a wonder that the City Council can stay awake during meetings, knowing first hand how comfy their leather chairs are.

Thanks, Ann, for a great afternoon!

By the way, Rumor Has It is set in Pasadena and includes a veritable tour of Pasadena’s landmarks.  But in no way is it worth watching.  I recommend the original Graduate instead.

Yesterday was the South Pasadena Eclectic Music Festival and it was a wonderful event.  There was plenty of fantastic free music and it looked like the event did a lot to continue the revitalization of South Pas’s beautiful central business district.  As a salute to one of my favorite cities, here are some images of Pasadena’s small neighbor to the south:

South Pasadena Bank, now Kaldi Coffee Shop at 1019 El Centro Street.  This and other area banks were founded by George W. E. Griffith, who relocated from Kansas to the Highland Park neighborhood of LA in 1900.  The photo was taken c. 1907.  The building was built in 1904 and was the first bank building in South Pas.  It held the city’s offices from 1908 until 1914 when the town finished its city hall.  Kaldi has been used as a location for several TV shows and movies, recently including Brothers & Sisters and a great episode of Modern Family.

First National Bank at Fair Oaks and Mission St.  Notice how all of the overhead power and phone lines have been moved underground?  The photo on the left appears to have been taken when it was about to open, as there is a man lifting a door into place.  Either that or he’s robbing the joint.  The image is dated 1922, and the original caption states that Security First National Bank later occupied this location at 824 Fair Oaks.  The building underwent a renovation in what I think was the 1940’s, and was Gandell’s Furniture when I lived in South Pas (lower image).  It is currently being remodeled again and some of the historical detailing that had been covered up is now being restored.  Its original use will also be restored—ComericA bank is moving in to the location.

The view north on Fair Oaks, 1936.  The row of attractive buildings on the left including a liquor store, Ford dealership, and drug store have been replaced by the parking lots for Pavillions and Vons.  The Masonic Temple on the right side of the street is still there, along with the adjacent structures.  The site of the Chevron gas station is still occupied by a gas station, only now a 76.  The most striking difference is the absence of the Red Car tracks down the middle of the street, which ran from Oneonta Junction at Huntington (behind us) up through Pasadena.  The Northern District passenger service was discontinued September 30, 1951.

The Lucretia R. Garfield House.   The house was designed by Greene and Greene for the widow of James Garfield, the U. S. President who was assassinated in 1881.  Lucretia Garfield was a distant relative of the Greenes, and they made many compromises on the design in deference to her active involvement with the project.  The house was completed in 1904.  She died March 14, 1918.

Bonus (as seen on TV!):

Just a few doors down from the Garfield House is a filming location for Brothers & Sisters.  This is Sarah Walker’s house as seen in Season 4 Episode 17 “Freeluc.com.”  I’m pretty sure this is not the place that was previously used for exterior establishing shots of Sarah’s house.

(Photos from the LA Public Library, South Pasadena Public Library, Google Street View)