Pasadena has a unique legacy of historic designed gardens. Originating as an agricultural settlement located along the Arroyo Seco, the Pasadena area successfully attracted residents and tourists seeking a healthful climate and new opportunities shortly after its establishment in 1873. Pasadena was soon synonymous with its environment: tranquil orchards, vast estate gardens, and luxurious seasonal resorts populated with specimen trees, shrubs, and flowers. Tourism was an early key industry of the “City of Roses.” By the 1920s, the city’s stately residences set in luxuriant gardens typified the lifestyles of wealth and leisure enjoyed by well-to-do Pasadena residents.
Demonstrating its resilience, Pasadena reinvented itself in the post–World War II era to emerge as a regional center of commercial activity and scientific exploration. With its notable examples of architecture and landscape architecture, the city contributed to the regionally distinct, fresh, and uninhibited postwar design culture that emerged in Southern California in the years following World War II. In recent decades, Pasadena has continued to evolve and is again an important arts and cultural center, as reflected in its plazas, public art, and ongoing acquisition of parks and open space.
Many pioneering landscape architects and garden designers, including Florence Yoch and Lucile Council, Katherine Bashford, Ruth Shellhorn, Thomas Church, Garrett Eckbo, and Lawrence Halprin, have designed significant public landscapes and residential gardens in the city.
This tour features a combination of significant cultural landscapes that are either publicly accessible or visible from a public street. Please note that those gardens that are on residential properties are private and should be viewed from the street only.
You can click on any property in the list below to jump to information about that property in the California Historical Resources Inventory Database. Known as the CHRID, this program promotes and protects cultural heritage through documenting and sharing information on historical resources.
1. Washington Park, 700 E. Washington Blvd.
This 1920’s-era park was designed by Theodore Payne & Ralph Cornell and largely reflects their original design. It has dramatic changes in elevation and a bridge made of Arroyo stones.
2. La Pintoresca Park, 1355 N. Raymond Ave.
La Pintoresca Park is a public park built in 1925 to a design by Ralph D. Cornell & Theodore Payne, incorporating features from the grounds of an 1888 hotel that formerly occupied the site (the Painter Hotel – later renamed La Pintoresca Hotel). The park includes large areas of lawn, mature trees, a perimeter rock retaining wall and steps, play areas, a tennis court and a skate park. Buildings on the park site include a public library, two power substations (one of which has been converted to an educational use) and a former fire station, also converted to educational use. The perimeter retaining wall, steps and many of the mature trees on the site are remnants of the Painter/La Pintoresca Hotel’s gardens.
3. Bullock’s Pasadena (now Macy’s), 401 S. Lake Ave.
Portions of Ruth Shellhorn’s landscape design for Bullock’s Pasadena remain intact, primarily along South Lake Avenue, which has rows of shrubs, ivy, and a grouping of trees in the center. Small areas of landscaping remain on the rear of the building as well, including two planters flanking the rear driveway at S. Hudson Avenue and a small planter near the rear entrance to the building.
4. Caltech Campus, 1200 E. California Blvd.
The Caltech campus includes landscape and planning features designed by Bertram Goodhue, Beatrix Jones Farrand and Florence Yoch & Lucile Council. Further study is necessary to determine the full extent of features that remain and are significant; however, a cursory review of the history and current conditions of the site indicate that portions of the campus are eligible for designation as a cultural landscape historic district.
5. Robinson’s (now Target), 777 E. Colorado Blvd.
The landscaped plazas of the former J.W. Robinson Department Store have geometric planters, specialty paving and custom geometric metal railings and pergolas. They represent the Modern Garden property type identified in the Historic Designed Gardens in Pasadena Multiple Property Documentation Form.
6. Plaza Las Fuentes, 399 E. Union St.
This plaza was designed by significant landscape architect Lawrence Halprin in 1989. It may become eligible for historic designation when it reaches a greater age.
7. Maryland Hotel Wall & Fountain, 164 N. Euclid Ave.
The Keith Spalding garden (also part of the original Maryland Hotel grounds) was on the cover of a 1929 issue of American Landscape Architect. The property is now part of All Saints Church and the wall and fountain along N. Euclid Avenue are the only remaining features of the original garden.
8. Pasadena City Hall, 100 N. Garfield Ave.
The courtyard of Pasadena’s iconic City Hall is a Mediterranean style garden with a large sculptural fountain as its focal point.
9. Mutual Savings & Loan (now Citibank), 301 E. Colorado Blvd.
Ruth Shellhorn’s design for the Mutual Savings Building is largely intact. It surrounds the building and includes geometric planters with sculptural flowering trees, a water fountain with statuary at the rear, and rows of palms and smaller shrubs along the east and west sides. The rear portion of the plaza is sunken below street level, while the portion at the front along E. Colorado Blvd. is raised above the street.
10. Bank Americard Center (now Bank of America), 101 S. Marengo Ave.
The Bank Americard Center Plaza is an open, paved plaza surrounding the Bank Americard Center Building. It is largely paved with a geometric pattern created with concrete, exposed aggregate concrete and tiles. It also has a large tiled fountain, square planters with Magnolia trees and a perimeter planter with Crape Myrtle trees.
11. Memorial Park, 85 E. Holly St.
Memorial Park is one of the City’s oldest parks, dating back to 1888. The City’s first public library, a remnant of which remains for public view, was on the park grounds. The park was redesigned in the 1920’s to a design by Cook, Hall & Cornell. An area of memorials and monuments has been created in roughly the center of the park, at the top of a hill.
12. Central Park, 275 S. Raymond Ave.
This park was originally designed by Thomas Chisholm, but mainly reflects a redesign by Cook & Hall and Ralph Cornell in 1927. Most of the original footpath configuration of intersecting circles and ovals still exists, notably the large oval in the center. The National Humane Society donated the stone horse trough located in the northeast corner of the park in 1905. It is now used as a water fountain. The park also includes two clubhouses and a Roque Court.
13. Former Ambassador College Campus, 169 S. St. John Ave.
This EDAW-designed campus, built between 1959 and 1983, has many significant garden spaces, some of which are older residential gardens that were integrated into the campus in the early 1960’s.
14. MacDonald Apartments, 339 W. California Blvd.
This multi-family residential building has a Mediterranean garden and fountain as its central focal point.
15. Ira Bryner Garden, 494 Bradford St.
This garden, designed by Florence Yoch & Lucile Council, has a fountain, a lawn, a gazebo, a rose garden, planting beds, retaining walls and mature trees.
16. Ernest Batchelder Garden, 626 S. Arroyo Blvd.
The front garden has pathways of glazed Batchelder tiles, a tiled fountain and newer drought-tolerant landscaping.
17. John Barber Garden, 270 S. Arroyo Blvd.
This symmetrical front-yard garden has a central pathway between the street and house flanked by lawn, shrubs and trees. A perimeter wall and gates define the westerly property line.
18. Kencott, 901 S. San Rafael Ave.
The front garden, designed by Katherine Bashford, has a large lawn with hedges, flowering shrubs and trees; stacked stone walls, brick and stone paving and a fountain.