The Home with Gold Doorknobs

Arlington Garden continues to attract attention for its beautiful landscaping and variety of Mediterranean plants.  It was previously the scene of a noted garden more than a century ago:

The Durand home from Arlington Drive (Postcard Collection)
The Durand home from Arlington Drive (Postcard Collection)

"...landscape gardeners ... are rapidly transforming the place into a tropical paradise.  In front, stretching to Orange Grove avenue , the land has been planted to many kinds of palms, cacti and century plants, besides hundreds of varieties of flowering bushes, including roses and chrysanthemums. ... In the rear, fronting on Pasadena avenue , the ground has been devoted to a miniature orange grove, with lemon, walnut and olive trees interspersed."  (Pasadena Evening Star, December 15, 1904)

Spread out over ten acres, from South Orange Grove to Pasadena Avenue along Arlington Drive, the grounds of the Durand mansion were an item of interest to people in Pasadena.  But it was the cost of the mansion that had Pasadena “alive with rumor.”

“The latest thing of unique proportions is a baronial castle, with its “hardware” (locks, hinges, doorknobs, drawer handles, etc.) of solid gold!  So far as is known it is the only private residence in the world so fitted.  Pasadena, the city chosen by hordes of wealthy Easterners for their winter homes, is soon to have its name heralded all over the land as a result of the completion of what is in many respects the most peculiar and at the same time the most lavishly finished residence – not only in Southern California, but in the whole country.”   ((Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1905 )

Actually, the gold was combined with an alloy for strength.  Hardware on the outside was all in brass, with solid copper for the troughs, rain pipes and ornamental work.  The 17,000 feet of floor space made the home the largest in Southern California at the time.  Construction took more than three years, because almost every piece of wood used in the interior was hand carved.

After making a fortune in the wholesale grocery business in Chicago, John M. Durand built his dream house at 275 Arlington Drive.

The Durand home (Postcard Collection)
The Durand home (Postcard Collection)

“Of perhaps the greatest interest is the fact that this great mansion is to become the abiding place of an old man who will never see its beauties.  He is blind.”  ((Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1905 )

Mr. Durand died in 1907 at 84.  The home continued to be occupied by the Durand family until the death of John M. Durand Jr. in 1960.  In 1961 the art treasures were auctioned, and the home was later razed.  A portion of the sidewalk in front of the home is visible in the western portion of Arlington Garden today.

The sidewalk in front of the Durand home, unearthed in Arlington Garden. (Photo by Kirk Myers)
The sidewalk in front of the Durand home, unearthed in Arlington Garden. (Photo by Kirk Myers)

The site of the Durand home, now the western part of Arlington Garden. (Photo by Kirk Myers)
The site of the Durand home, now the western part of Arlington Garden. (Photo by Kirk Myers)

- Kirk Myers

This article was originally published in the Spring 2011 issue of West Pasadena Residents' Association's The News.