December 21, 2018

Preservation Personals: An Opulent California Mansion Worthy of a Postcard

  • By: Rebecca Gale

I am a National Register-listed mansion built in 1888 as a decadent Southern California estate for map maker Andrew McNally. Inside and out, I am a house that can’t be ignored, and McNally used me to entertain famous industrialists of Gilded Age America, including R.T. Crane and J.P. Morgan. I hate to brag, but colorized photographs of my exterior were even pictured on historic postcards meant to attract people to California.

Constructed in Altadena, California, a town between Pasadena and the Angeles National Forest, my simplified Queen Anne-style exterior is lined with wood shingles resembling the Victorian-era houses of New York and Rhode Island. Of my 22 rooms, the most talked about is the “Turkish Room,” supposedly inspired by an exhibit the famous 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. It embodies the Victorians’ fascination with design from faraway lands … even though their attempts weren't always accurate representations of those countries' styles. The Turkish Room (built before Turkey existed as a formal country) features stylized Arabic script, beautiful wall and ceiling stenciling, and incredible woodwork. McNally used it as a smoking room to entertain his high-profile guests, and it looks much as it did when it was first built, though it’s since been used for dances, parties, and even table tennis.

My other rooms are not quite so over-the-top, but still embody carefully crafted luxury and attention to detail, featuring lofty coved ceilings with stenciling reproduced from what was originally in the house. Carved wood trim and paneling add richness to the design, especially my fine fireplace surrounds. My foyer is a real treasure, featuring stained glass, a window seat, and an ornate wooden staircase, all sure to impress.

Nine bedrooms and nearly 7,000 square feet of living space mean plenty of room for you and your own prestigious guests. All of the bedrooms have been carefully updated to retain historic character while maintaining comfort for modern living. Outside, you'll find a carriage house reconstructed from an 1885 illustration, and an aviary once used by McNally to keep his Chinese crested chickens.

Click here to view my listing!

photo by: Cameron Carothers

Altadena, California 91001.

photo by: Cameron Carothers

My "Turkish Room" was added to the house in 1897 and has had its historic character carefully maintained ever since.

photo by: Cameron Carothers

My foyer is dripping with detail, from wood paneling to wall stenciling to the jeweled stained-glass window.

Rebecca Gale is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. In her spare time, you can find her visiting local museums, photographing historic buildings, or playing guitar.

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