Thornton Gardens, San Marino, California

Thornton Gardens

  • Constructed: 1920-1928
  • Location: San Marino, California

From the grand residence to the historic gardens and landscape, Thornton Gardens—a gift from owners Geneva and Charles Thornton—embodies a fully realized Tudor Revival design executed with the highest quality materials and craftsmanship.

Katherine Sinclair Emery, widow of tobacco heir Frank Whitney Emery, commissioned Myron Hunt in 1920 to design the two-story, 11,700-square-foot house for her following her husband’s death. Hunt, who established the architecture firm of Hunt and Gray in Pasadena in 1903, was one of the most prominent architects in southern California in the early 20th century, with other landmark designs that included the nearby Huntington Library, the Rose Bowl, and the Huntington Hospital.

He collaborated with renowned landscape architects Florence Yoch, Lucille Council, and Katherine Bashford to design nine acres of gardens and landscape features for the estate. Yoch and Council were both professional and personal partners who lived and worked together until Council’s death in 1964. In addition to estate gardens for Hollywood elites such as Jack Warner, George Cukor, and David O. Selznick, their work also included The Getty House gardens in Los Angeles; Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach; and a number of film sets, including the exterior of Tara for Gone with the Wind.

At Thornton Gardens, which retains its beauty and integrity today, landscape details include original stone balustrades with decorative urns, a reflecting pool and rose garden, and approximately 150 mature oak trees.

Fun Fact: The film “Funny Girl” was filmed at Thornton Gardens in 1967.

In addition to the Emerys, the Boswell and Chandler families—both of whom also influenced the development of southern California—lived here over the course of the twentieth century. Since 1989, the Thorntons have painstakingly restored and maintained the house and grounds.

Protected by an easement held by the LA Conservancy, the estate was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 for its architectural significance. The National Trust anticipates a future partnership with the internationally renowned Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Garden as co-stewards for the property.

Note: Thornton Gardens is a private home and is not open to the public.


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