Press Release | Washington, DC | January 9, 2018

The National Trust for Historic Preservation Receives Donation of Iconic Southern California Historic Estate and Gardens

The Thornton home and gardens is first acquisition in more than a decade to join the historic sites portfolio of the National Trust; Property is expected to be managed in partnership with The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

  • Author: The National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Media Contact for The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens: Susan Turner-Lowe, 626.405.2147,

Today the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced a gift by Charles and Geneva Thornton of their historic home and gardens in San Marino, California. The gift includes a substantial endowment for the preservation and maintenance of the ten-acre estate. Ownership of the property and grounds was transferred to the National Trust in December, although the property will continue to be used by the Thorntons as their private residence during their lifetimes.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Thorntons to ensure the long-term preservation of this iconic, historic property,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The acquisition of this beautiful and highly significant home and gardens furthers our vision of expanding the geographic and stylistic diversity of our portfolio of historic sites, as well as demonstrating new models of preservation and operations for a historic site.”

In 2010, the Thorntons announced their intention to give the estate to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, as a bequest. In the intervening years, a conversation developed with the National Trust, with the hope that the Trust would take responsibility for overarching oversight and preservation and The Huntington would provide for its local operation. The main house may someday serve as a residence for The Huntington’s president, and the gardens may become a botanical focal point for researchers.

“This is a terrific win-win,” said Steve Hindle, Interim Huntington President. “This is the National Trust’s mission and full focus – the preservation of historic properties. We are delighted that they have stepped forward to maintain and preserve this local gem. And, of course, we are delighted we may get the benefit of being able to use it.”

“It is a unique opportunity to partner with an organization with the notable history and expertise of the Huntington to continue the stewardship of such an extraordinary place,” added Meeks.

The Thornton Gardens property, which has as its centerpiece a 12,000-square-foot excellent example of a fully realized Tudor Revival residence completed in 1928, was designed by well-known southern California architect Myron Hunt along with Harold C. Chambers. Built with the highest quality materials and craftsmanship, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Katherine Sinclair Emery Estate and includes significant historic gardens and landscape features that retain a high degree of integrity. It is the largest private residential property in San Marino, second in size only to The Huntington, and is currently protected under a preservation easement held by the Los Angeles Conservancy.

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a proven partner working with organizations to care for important historic sites across the country, and we believe this partnership will build on that legacy,” said Charles Thornton. “We are pleased to make this gift to the National Trust, and I am confident in the Trust’s ability to join with The Huntington to maintain and sustain our home and gardens for the long-term.”

The Thorntons purchased the house in 1989. Since then, the Thorntons have purchased adjoining properties to reunite the original estate. 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 Gone with the Wind and Romeo and Juliet. Hunt’s other projects included the home of Henry E. Huntington (now the Huntington Art Gallery) and the Rose Bowl.

About The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. | @savingplaces

Announcing the 2019 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List