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Art on Palm, the Century-Old Cottage, and a Legal Home Invasion

Art on Palm's springtime event: Come for the cottage tour and stay for the crafts. Or is it the other way around?

When the Zane Grey estate holds an open house or free urban homestead workshop, I’m there. Under false pretences usually, but with lots of company. Of the fifty or so people , for example, just how many really planned to one day sit on a milking stool and squeeze that thingy?  No, I could tell most everyone belonged to my tribe – The Opportunists. We seize any chance to wander around an interesting bit of Altadena’s historic private property.

Which brings us to , the twice-yearly, one-day-only outdoor Altadena art show. On April 28, you’re invited to visit a private canyon at the base of Palm, east of Holliston, and browse or buy the work from 37 mostly LA-based artists. Admission and street parking are free.

The first time I went, it was just an excuse to take a legal walk down the private road and get a look at an old residential canyon called Wildwood Park.

But my dubious intentions for visiting Art on Palm turned strangely honest when I actually bought something. A ceramic vase I now treasure.

If you’re interested in art and fine craftsmanship--ceramics, collage, jewelry, painting, woodcarvings--no doubt you already plan to attend Art on Palm. Maybe you’ve been going since it started back in 2004. That a portion of the sales benefits the Fisher House Foundation, supporting military personnel and their families, is an added and generous bonus on the part of the artists.

But if the lure of local artists and a private canyon doesn’t call your name, then, this year for the first time, how about the opportunity to tour one of the Wildwood Park cottages, built more than a century ago?

Interior decorator and artist Mary Rose Smyth and industrial designer Mark Pickett, who own the property, are making that possible.

These days, Wildwood is within walking distance of drug stores, gas stations and whatever else makes up Altadena’s current town center. But it wasn’t always so.

At the turn of the last century, Wildwood and the cottages were a long train or buggy ride from anywhere, located at the crossroads of barely-there  and nothing-much. Pasadena had been incorporated for just 14 years, and Henry Huntington wouldn't buy his San Marino for another three.

No one knows who built the Wildwood cottages originally, but fast forward to 1924, when architect Henry Greene, one half of the famous Greene and Greene brothers of Gamble House fame, made significant renovations to the existing structures. He added additional rooms to the living quarters, and converted what was a “Gentleman’s Dairy,” a barn, basically, into another cottage.

When I learned the cottage would be open for the Art on Palm event, like any proper opportunist, I asked for a pre-tour tour. Smyth and  Art On Palm co-founder-organizer-artist Catherine M. S. Cowles, were happy to oblige.

The converted barn is now a vacation rental -- the Valentine Cottage – named after the gentleman who owned it in the 1920s. Valentine was a character in his own right, and bit of a rake. But I won’t spill all the beans here, mainly because I don’t know all the beans. But I think Smyth could tell us.

Which is one more reason to drop in on Art on Palm the last Saturday in April.  

And even if it’s the cottage tour you’re after, take my advice and bring some money. For the past three years, I’ve arrived cash poor but found something I had to have, and then borrowed a few bucks from a friend. Coincidentally, it’s been the same friend each time. I asked him to meet there me again this year, but he hasn’t returned my call. Maybe he’s out of town.

Art On Palm, 1419 E. Palm Street (Wildwood Park) in Altadena, 9:30 - 6, Saturday, April 28, 2012. A portion of sales benefit the Fisher House of Greater L.A. Wear comfy shoes as we are in a park-like private canyon.

Catherine M. S. Cowles April 10, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Great and fun read, Karin. I'm sharing it with our artists and facebook page! Catherine
Beverly Jones April 12, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Thanks so much for featuring my necklace in your "Patch". I call it Queen of the Forest - don't you think it looks right at home in Woldwood Park. Can't wait for the Art on Palm show, April 28 - the best show to be an exhibiting artist - best setting, best customers. Beverly Jones www.beverlyjones.com
Beverly Jones April 12, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Thanks so much for featuring my necklace in your "Patch". I call it Queen of the Forest - don't you think it looks right at home in Wildwood Park. Can't wait for the Art on Palm show, April 28 - the best show to be an exhibiting artist in - best setting, best customers. Beverly Jones www.beverlyjones.com

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