It even dodged a bullet when the 210 Freeway was built through the middle of this once quiet town, erasing several hundred La Cañada houses from the landscape. Mere yards away from an overpass, the old farmhouse appears just as it did many decades ago, providing sentimental folks and history buffs one of the very few local impressions that are left of our rural past.
To my best knowledge, no gala fundraising events were ever held in its parlor, nor was it featured on a tour of local, fabulously decorated homes. It has always been an unassuming structure, its front door accessed by a simple, unadorned stoop.
We know one historical tidbit, something I first heard about a few years back from La Cañada Irrigation’s Doug Caister, who grew up across the street from the farmhouse: It was the birthplace of the Valley Sun. It was while living in this house in 1946 with his young family that an artist, Dixie Hall, first conceived of the idea for a community newspaper and, according to the real estate listing, brought it to life in one of the bedrooms. Caister, who was inseparable with the Hall boys back in those days, remembers the senior Hall as an eccentric and very nice man.
After a couple of years Hall sold the paper and moved his family to Laguna Beach, apparently happy to be out of the newspaper business and allowed to concentrate on his artistic endeavors. Looking at the state of our industry today, I’d say he was a visionary. But that takes us down a different conversational path.
Back to the topic at hand: Does that fact that the city’s paper of record was found in that old farmhouse make the property worthy of being placed on any noted registries of historic places? I don’t imagine so. And there seems to be little interest in historical preservation in this town, anyway, unless, perhaps, you own a magnificent showplace that was built in the 1920s when well-heeled Angelenos thought it would be a marvelous idea to have a country estate here.
If you have lived in La Cañada for any length of time, you have passed by this little Craig Avenue farmhouse and, perhaps, thought to yourself that the old structure was sitting on a nice piece of land that was ripe for a makeover.
“It looks virtually the same as it did when I was 5 years old,” Caister told me.
Well, that visage is likely to disappear, so drink it in while you can. The property is on the market, together with an adjacent one, a Spanish-style home built in 1924. Both were owned for many years by the same family and were income units. These homes are being marketed at relatively low prices that by now surely have caught the eyes of those looking to make a good real estate investment deal.
Rather than a mere sprucing up, one or both of the houses may disappear altogether and be replaced by something more grand. To many, this would be welcome news. The two old homes are somewhat derelict in appearance.
For those who might like to have some background details before driving past the aging properties for a final glance, here’s what I learned from Tim Gregory, the archivist at Lanterman House who is also known widely among Southland real estate agents and property owners as the “Building Biographer.”
Gregory tells me that the farmhouse was built, originally on 2.5 acres, by Howard L. and Lucy Cooper. The couple had first come to La Cañada in the 1880s to establish one of its first general stores. They returned for some years to their home state of Massachusetts before settling back here.
The Coopers’ sons, Edwin and Robert, formed Cooper Bros. Construction Company and erected several buildings here, including the Church of the Lighted Window, today known as the La Cañada Congregational Church. Robert Cooper and his father in 1911 built a house at 4832 Commonwealth, which still stands today.
Gregory also adds that the brothers worked with noted architects Paul Williams and Wallace Neff on some of those mansions in Flintridge and Alta Canyada that began dotting the hilly properties in the 1920s.
Sentimentality takes back seat to progress. These two old homes may not be worth saving. Nonetheless, I’ll hate to see them go. There’s a certain warmth about them and a hint of our past that we will not be able to reclaim once they are gone.
--CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. Email her at email@example.com.