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3-Hour Tour

The Lanterman Legacy : Fabled house boasts an ingenious design and offers glimpses of a family that contributed so much.

August 26, 1994|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly for The Times

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — In 1915, Roy Lanterman, a doctor, insisted that the foundation, floors and walls of his Craftsman-style house be built from reinforced concrete, because he had treated victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and had witnessed its devastation.

The nearly 11,000-square-foot Lanterman House, at 4420 Encinas Drive, opened to the public for the first time in October.

Roy and his wife, Emily, were the parents of Assemblyman Frank Lanterman (1901-1981), a dedicated and well-respected public servant who represented the area in the state Legislature from 1951 until 1978. He continued to live in the home with his brother, Lloyd, (1897-1987) after their parents died in the 1940s. Lloyd left the house to the city of La Canada Flintridge.

Frank and Lloyd Lanterman's grandparents, Jacob and Ammoretta, had come to the La Canada Valley from Michigan in 1875. With a partner, they purchased a Mexican land grant of about 6,000 acres known as Rancho La Canada. It covered the area from the Arroyo Seco to present-day Tujunga.

They subdivided the land into 46 lots and built a home for themselves on Verdugo Road. Jacob and Ammoretta were instrumental in establishing the first elementary school in the area and the La Canada Community Church, which today is the Congregational Church of the Lighted Window.

All the furnishings in the home are original. The Lanterman Historical Museum Foundation is restoring the house and its grounds. Visitors are invited to observe aspects of the restoration process as well as the unusual blending of architecture and design styles and the history of a family who contributed so much to the area.

1 p.m.: The tour begins in the garage, which has been converted into a visitors center. Ringing the room are large black-and-white photographs, including a 1907 photograph of the La Canada Valley, where such crops as citrus, grapes and barley were grown; portraits of family members and an early photograph of the home.

A 12-minute video, "A Glimpse Into Our Past," presents a history of the area, dating to the Gabrielino Indians, and that of the Lantermans and the house.

1:30 p.m.: The docent-led tour of the grounds and the house begins outside the visitor center. One can see from here the sleeping porch upstairs, which is outside the ballroom and not yet open to the public. There are photographs of it in the video.

At the moment the garden contains mostly wildflowers. A landscape architect is working to replicate the original plantings of wisteria and roses.

One unusual feature of the house, which sits on a small knoll, is its 32 pairs of French doors.

Enter the vast living room with its furniture, painted ceiling and wall ornamentation, numerous Oriental rugs, paintings by California artists and a fireplace of stones cut from a quarry near the present-day Descanso Gardens. Although it is an open room, typical of the Craftsman or bungalow style, its dark, heavy furnishings would fit right in a Victorian-style house.

The house lightens up a bit in the dining room. You'll see gas and electric lighting fixtures of the day and, in the frieze area, classic grape motifs. The area around the room that extends from the wall to the carpet is marble, but the floor under the carpet is concrete.

Before radio and television, this family played billiards in the richly appointed, dark-wood paneled Pool Room. The pool table stands under a stylish lighting fixture that hangs low from the ceiling. Racks off the main room still hold cues.

Emily Lanterman's eyeglasses and recipe file can still be found in the kitchen. A built-in ice box has an opening to the outside, which allowed for deliveries to be placed directly into it.

A guest bedroom contains baby portraits of Frank and Lloyd Lanterman, a Victorian carved walnut bed, and wallpaper in a nature motif. The bathroom next door sports a roomy bathtub and a leather razor strap.

2:30 p.m.: Two rooms that you will pass through quickly on the tour deserve more lengthy scrutiny.

Anyone thinking of or currently refurbishing a home will want to peruse the exhibit of photographs and text that details some of the house's structural restoration process, which is nearly complete.

Another room is stuffed full of memorabilia from Frank Lanterman's life.

Perhaps best-known outside the La Canada community for his pioneering efforts to establish community-based mental health programs, Frank was a music major at USC and became a professional organist.

In fact, he played at the opening of the Alex Theatre in Glendale in 1927. Among his political and governmental mementos is a trunk full of his music.

3 p.m.: Leave the Lanterman house, turning right from its driveway. Make a right on Verdugo Road. Make another right on Foothill and go to the Hill Street Cafe at 1101 Foothill Blvd., for an excellent chocolate milk shake.

3:30 p.m.: Take Foothill Boulevard past Verdugo and turn left into Memorial Park, which has picnic and children's play areas. Descanso Gardens, at 1418 Descanso Drive, is just a few blocks away and open till 5 p.m.

WHERE AND WHEN

What: Lanterman House.

Location: 4420 Encinas Drive, La Canada Flintridge.

Hours: 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 4 p.m. the first and third Sunday of each month. Tuesday and Thursday morning tours can be arranged by appointment. Tours are led by docents.

Price: $3 general, $1 children 12 to 18, free for children under 12 with adult admission. Park on Lanterman House property. No street parking available.

Call: (818) 790-1421.

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