BLINN HOUSE: PASADENA HERITAGE’S HEADQUARTERS
The Women’s City Club of Pasadena
Founded in 1945 as a social club for women and a center for women’s organizations and other civic groups, the Women’s City Club has been headquartered in the Blinn House since its inception. The home was acquired by the Club, with support from philanthropist Gloria Crane Gartz, to provide a comfortable, elegant place for women to meet, socialize and work together on various community projects. Over its many years, the Women’s City Club welcomed thousands of members, guests, and visitors and hosted scores of memorable events.
In 2021, after more than 75 years of service to its members and the Pasadena community, the Women’s City Club of Pasadena decided to dissolve and transfer ownership of the Edmund Blinn House to Pasadena Heritage.
One of the most significant contributions made by the Women’s City Club was to provide meeting space for other non-profit organizations. Beginning with women’s groups in particular, the Club opened its doors to more and more varied organizations over the years. More than twenty community groups were meeting there regularly in recent times. Pasadena Heritage continues that tradition as we have recently welcomed many of those same groups back to meet.
The Edmund Blinn House and George Washington Maher, Architect
The Blinn House, located at 160 N. Oakland Ave. in Pasadena, was designed in 1905 by renowned Chicago architect George Washington Maher who also designed the Blinn’s home in Chicago. It is a two and a half story Prairie Style house about 8,000 square feet, with finely detailed woodwork and paneling, beautiful fireplaces, and hardwood floors. Second floor bedrooms and sitting rooms, used as meeting rooms and office space by the Women’s City Club, will become Pasadena Heritage’s offices in the future. The third floor servants’ quarters will also become office and storage space after rehabilitation.
Architect George W. Maher was recognized as one of the finest architects in Chicago, along with Burnham & Root, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Sullivan. He is cited as a leading architect of the Prairie School, along with Wright. The Blinn House is the only known Maher residential structure built west of the Mississippi River. Maher is credited with a design philosophy which he called the “Motif-Rhythm Theory,” whereby geometric and/or floral motifs were repeated as decorative elements throughout a structure. In the Blinn House, broken-arch motif is seen repeatedly, and a trailing wisteria pattern is found in the windows, doors and in an extraordinary glass tile fireplace surround. Unusual in Southern California, the fireplace was crafted by the Chicago firm Giannini and Hilgart and provides a dramatic centerpiece in the living room.
After taking ownership of the Blinn House in 1945, the Women’s City Club was so successful that a large dining room was needed. The Club hired the local architectural firm of Hunt & Chambers to design an addition on the northeast side of the house for this purpose. Other changes to the house have been minimal, the most significant being that the original open front porch was enclosed and the main entry became what was originally a secondary entrance on the north side of the house.
The Blinn House has several historic designations denoting its significance and integrity. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, both individually and as a contributor to the Ford Place Historic District. It is also a Pasadena Cultural Landmark and is listed on the California Register of Historical Resources.
Pasadena Heritage’s New Ownership
In May of 2020, members of the Women’s City Club voted to dissolve the Club. In accordance with its founding mission and bylaws, members chose to transfer ownership of the Blinn House to Pasadena Heritage, the local non-profit historic preservation organization, which has had a long and mutually supportive relationship with the Club and whose mission is closely aligned. Arrangements for the ownership transfer were completed in March of 2021.
Pasadena Heritage, founded in 1977, is well known and respected as an effective community organization. Our mission, to preserve and protect Pasadena’s architectural and cultural resources through advocacy and education, dovetails perfectly with the stewardship of the Blinn House. Pasadena Heritage completed several major rehabilitation projects, including electrical and plumbing repairs and upgrades, replacement of aging HVAC systems, adding insulation, and installation of a new roof. The organization moved its offices to the Blinn House in May of 2022, once construction was complete.
Working for many months to navigate the details of this arrangement, Board Chair Brian Baker and Executive Director Sue Mossman devoted extraordinary time and effort to the project, assisted by Board and staff members, advisors and experts. The organization is especially grateful to William W. Ellinger III, historic architect, for his countless hours of work and his expertise throughout this process, Preferred Bank and Senior Vice President Nancy Pepper for working with us to arrange financing, and to the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and attorney Mehdi Eddebbarh for providing legal services for this complicated transaction. Len Schautal, Jr. and Zemrus Escrow is also due our thanks for their professional services and assistance.
The Blinn House Foundation, a separate non-profit organization founded in 2002 to raise funds and oversee the historic integrity of the Blinn House, was also a critical part of the transition process. The Foundation remains in place, and its signature event, the Dr. Robert Winter Award which has recognized leadership in preservation since 2004, will continue in the future.
The acquisition of the Blinn House is an honor and a privilege for Pasadena Heritage, and we are very grateful to the Women’s City Club for entrusting us with their historic home.
Below are some images of the Blinn House – Credit: Dennis Hill and Tavo Olmos (Click on the photo to enlarge.)