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Artist's Notebook -- Vista del Arroyo Hotel

August 5, 2009 | 12:00 am


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Vista del Arroyo Hotel by Marion Eisenmann, July 31, 2009
This week, Marion Eisenmann sends a view from the Rose Bowl of one of Pasadena's old landmarks, the former Vista del Arroyo Hotel, which houses the Southern California headquarters of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Marion drew this sketch from a small bridge over the concrete river channel just south of the Rose Bowl, where joggers, bicyclists and people walking their dogs circle the stadium.

She says: "I liked the contrast of that fallow concrete river overgrown by a variety of plants framing the building, which is always higher up than its viewer no matter from which direction you look at it. That spot is one of my favorites to look at it, but there are a few others, more hidden."

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Begun by Emma C. Bangs in the 1880s as a wood-frame building, the hotel was repeatedly expanded, renovated and transformed, most notably in the 1920s and '30s. In 1943, armed with a court order, the Army took over the hotel and evicted the guests, quickly converting the building to McCornack General Hospital. 

Defense Secretary James Forrestal closed the hospital in 1949, but the U.S. refused to release the property to private hands, using it for a variety of purposes while allowing it to decay despite the city of Pasadena's continuing attempts to wrest it from government control. For a brief time, it looked like the hotel would be sold to nearby Ambassador College, which has since closed, but it in 1979, the government decided to renovate the building for the 9th Circuit. The building has been named the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals in honor of the judge who helped lead the campaign for preservation.

Note: In case you just tuned in, Marion and I are visiting local landmarks in a project inspired by what Charles Owens and Joe Seewerker did in Nuestro Pueblo. Check back next week for another page from Marion's notebook. In the meantime, you can contact Marion here.
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