Boulevard. A gorgeous 3-mile drive or bicycle ride on the
edge of the Arroyo from Colorado Street in Pasadena south to
State 110 features numerous Craftsman homes and overhanging
It's considered the best preserved of the Greene and Greene
homes. Nearby Arroyo Terrace also has several notable
examples. Docent-led one-hour tours 12–3 Thu–Sun; $8. 4
Westmoreland Place, Pasadena; (626) 793-3334 or www.gamblehouse.org.
Studios. The stained-glass company and its landmark
building are open for occasional public tours. Call for an
appointment. 200 S. Ave. 66, Pasadena; (323) 255-0131 or www.judsonstudios.com.
Programs include annual fall Craftsman Weekend lectures and
home tours. (626) 441-6333 or www.
Historical Museum. Good background on city history in a
Beaux Arts mansion. 12–5 Wed–Sun; $6. 470 W. Walnut
St., Pasadena; (626) 577-1660.
Restaurant. Although there are plenty of good dining
options in the area, the Arroyo spirit lives on in this
traditional American restaurant located in a Craftsman
bungalow. Closed Mon. 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena;
Bowl. Built in 1922, the stadium will host the college
national championship football game on January 3 at 5 p.m. 1001
Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena; (626) 577-3100.
by David Zaitz
bike routes edge the Arroyo.
Arroyo Seco flows out of a tight canyon in the San Gabriel
Mountains above Pasadena, a modest mountain creek with few
hints of greatness. This time of year, it runs lazily over
granite boulders and nurtures a streamside forest of alder,
willow, and oak, some leafless under a bright winter sun. Here
along the Gabrielino Trail, young sycamores sprout from parent
trees whose roots drink from the stream; a water-loving
bigleaf maple thrives next to desert yucca, a plant that grows
along the canyon's sunny slopes.
forest scatters the sunlight, illuminating shallow pools where
rainbow trout dart in and out of the shadows. The sharp taps
of a woodpecker high up in an oak tree echo across the canyon,
and in the distance Switzer's Falls can be heard plunging 90
feet down before the stream resumes its 22-mile run to its
confluence with the Los Angeles River.
of the urbanization that surrounds the stream's lower half,
these headwaters offer the purest vision of a place that at
one time so inspired craftsmen, architects, painters, and
writers that their loose circle became known as the Arroyo
the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Arroyo Seco (the
term, meaning dry brook, is used to refer both to the stream
and to the canyon through which it flows) was the center of a
rare convergence of art and nature, where a place and the
works of its residents became virtually inseparable. This
cultural tradition is one that visitors still can find here in
landmark Craftsman-style homes, influenced by the English Arts
and Crafts movement; in the exquisite stained glass created at
the Judson Studios; at the museums and cultural institutions
of the Arroyo; and in the Arroyo Seco itself, a stream that
has endured a century of change with its spirit intact.
style and atmosphere are on the menu at the
The Arroyo Seco emerges from the San Gabriel Mountains
onto a broad alluvial plain above Pasadena, running past the
Rose Bowl through Brookside Park. On a bluff above the park is
one of the great collections of Craftsman homes in the
country, many of them designed by the brothers Charles and
Henry Greene. Shingle-sided, with wide eaves and decorative
brick- and stonework on fireplaces, foundations, and walkways,
these houses effortlessly blend elegance and rusticity in a
style that has become closely linked with Pasadena and the
epitome of this architectural genre is Greene and Greene's
Gamble House. Its blend of simplicity and meticulous
workmanship, an artful reinterpretation of nature, is
characteristic of the Arts and Crafts movement—an attempt to
preserve a purity in daily life by connecting people to
age-old craft traditions and the environment around them.
California seemed an ideal place to achieve the movement's
goals, and the Arroyo became the Arts and Crafts center of
Southern California. While the Gamble House has Japanese and
even Swiss chalet influences, it is also unmistakably of the
Arroyo: Its architecture is a testament to the brilliance of
its creators and the beauty of the landscape surrounding it.
the entry doors, a great leaded-glass California live oak
connects the house to the trees found along the Arroyo Seco's
course. Sleeping porches and verandas offer views sweeping out
over the watershed and up the face of the foothills of the San
Gabriels. In the rear of the house, the fish pond features
boulders carried up from the streambed. And when Charles
Greene describes his vision of an ideal garden, he could just
as easily be describing the Arroyo itself: "A secluded
spot sheltered but not gloomy. ... Where one could look out
into the bright sunlight on groups of flowers, and where one
may hear the tinkle of water and see the birds drink. Where
the shapely branches of tree or bush cast their lacy shadows
fitly across a winding path."
on the western edge of Pasadena, the Arroyo offered artists
inspiration and an affordable place to live. Some artists also
drifted to other neighborhoods; the painter William Lees
Judson found a house overlooking the Arroyo in Garvanza (now
fell in love with the clean slate of this place," says
David Judson of his great-great-grandfather. "This was an
ideal spot for an artist. There was no lack of material to
paint. There was the light. The nature. The air. And it was
warm." Judson eventually became the founding dean of the
University of Southern California's School of Fine Arts, which
opened in a building across from his home.
is long gone from the Arroyo, but another part of Judson's
legacy lives on. Schooled in the movement's principles his
whole life, Judson passed on those ideals to his three sons.
"He believed that art should be practical as well as
beautiful," says David Judson. "And if you could
live by your art, then you were really an artist."
painter saw a need for a stained-glass studio in Los Angeles,
and his sons moved west to open the Judson Studios in 1897.
You can visit the studio, which still operates out of a 1910
building that once housed the school on the edge of the
Arroyo; David Judson and his brother, Bill, represent the
fifth generation of the family to work here. Inside the
studios, an 80-year-old kiln fires the glass at 1,200° while
workers meticulously apply lead to stained-glass pieces, using
techniques little changed over the 500-year history of stained
glass. Along one wall, where plaster has been removed in the
course of restoration, the Arroyo boulders used in its
construction have been revealed.
colorful panel of stained glass gets a close
inspection at Judson Studios.
the studio, you can have little doubt that David Judson
reveres the tradition he is heir to. The Craftsman way, he
explains, is by no means an anachronism but of great relevance
to our own times: "Lives are chaotic. There's too much
information. People long for simplicity, and so there's a
growing respect and appreciation for Craftsman ideals. It's a
kind of spiritual experience without being
river still runs through it
the Judson Studios, the Arroyo Seco is now contained in a
concrete flood-control channel. And the sound you hear is not
the rush of water to the sea but cars on the Pasadena Freeway
(State 110). Originally named the Arroyo Seco Parkway, it
opened in 1940 as Southern California's first freeway. But the
Arts and Crafts movement's love of nature is far from
gone—there is a growing movement to restore the stream's
Brick, board member of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, stands at
the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River.
Not only the two waterways flow through here — so do
freeways, pipelines, power lines, train tracks, and city
streets. The sylvan scene of the upper Arroyo seems far more
distant than 22 miles, yet Brick and others see this place as
the site of a future park where Southern Californians could
reengage with the waterways that helped give birth to the city
of Los Angeles.
have lost the sense of the natural geography of where they
live," says Brick. "One hundred years ago, they
would have said they live near a particular river. Now they'll
say which freeway they are near. That's robbed them of
something very important."
Arroyo Seco Foundation and a group called North East Trees
have begun an ambitious tree-planting effort here. More than
20,000 natives, including sycamore, oak, and walnut, have been
planted along the Arroyo Seco. A watershed restoration project
will determine the feasibility of removing the concrete
channel in places and bringing back the natural stream, while
maintaining the Arroyo's flood-control role.
plan is visionary but also doable, say Brick and Lynne Dwyer,
executive director of North East Trees. Most of the Arroyo is
publicly owned. Many of the area bridges were built when the
stream was still free-flowing, which means they could
accommodate a resumption of natural flows.
adds that there are still many people who recall the world of
the Arroyo before it was channelized in the late 1930s. Her
father used to retrieve golf balls from the creek at the
course near the Rose Bowl. Her great-grandfather was an artist
and associate of journalist Charles Fletcher Lummis, who was
one of the earliest voices to urge preservation of the Arroyo
Seco. "A lot of people have the Arroyo in their
heart," says Dwyer. "I know. I feel like it's in my