We are pleased to share with you the exciting news that the National Trust has added a new historic site to its portfolio for the first time in more than a decade. Charles and Geneva Thornton have gifted to us their historic home and gardens in San Marino, California, known as Thornton Gardens, along with an endowment. The endowment will fund all preservation and maintenance of the ten-acre estate once it transfers to the Trust. The property will continue to be used and maintained by the Thorntons as their private residence during their lifetimes. In the future, plans are for the site to be operated under a co-stewardship arrangement by the nearby Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, and used as a residence for its president and visiting scholars.
The Thornton Gardens is listed on the National Register as the Katherine Sinclair Emery Estate, and the property retains a remarkably high degree of original features in both its main residence and gardens. The main residence, completed in 1928, is an excellent example of a fully realized Tudor Revival design—a style that is not currently represented in our portfolio. It was designed by well-known southern California architect Myron Hunt and constructed with the highest quality materials and craftmanship. Hunt’s other projects included the Estate of Henry E. Huntington (today the Huntington Library), the Rose Bowl, and buildings at several colleges and universities including Occidental, Pomona, Cal-Tech, and Cal-Poly.
Associated with the design of the gardens and landscape along with Hunt were renowned landscape architects Florence Yoch and Lucille Council. Yoch and Council were both professional and personal partners who lived and worked together until Council’s death in 1964. They designed the gardens and estates for many prominent people and institutions in southern California, as well as film sets for landscapes in The Good Earth, Gone with the Wind, and Romeo and Juliet.
Accepting and stewarding significant historic properties on behalf of the American people is one of the reasons why the National Trust was created by Congress in 1949, and we couldn’t be more pleased to add the Thornton Gardens to our exceptional and diverse portfolio of National Trust Sites.