La La Landscapes: Road Scholar Urban Gardens Visit

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

This morning included a visit to the Homestead by a group of just under thirty visitors from the inaugural offering of “Paradise in the City: The Urban Gardens of Los Angeles” offered by Road Scholar/Elderhostel, a non-profit that provides remarkable learning adventures through travel.

The five-night, six-day program explores such amazing places as the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens; Descanso Gardens; the Lake Shrine Meditation Garden and Temple; the J. Paul Getty Villa; and the Japanese garden at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant.

This is the earliest known photograph of the Homestead, a circa 1870 view by William M. Godfrey (whose signature is at the lower left) of the Workman House.  In the center, secured by stakes and on a trellis is a Lady Banks rose bush said to have been planted in 1860 to mark the birth of Lucinda Temple, granddaughter of William (on the porch steps facing to his right) and Nicolasa (who maybe standing below him?) Workman.  The rose bush still stands after nearly 160 years.

Led by featured expert and coordinator Nadine Bopp, who had many years of experience with the Chicago Parks Department and teaching college courses on sustainable architecture, urban planning, botany and environmental science, participants enjoy a whirlwind week of a diverse array of regional landscapes.

With this morning’s visit, I presented a PowerPoint-illustrated talk broadly covering the dramatically changing landscape in greater Los Angeles including the environment as described by early Spanish explorers; formal gardens introduced at California’s missions; the development of public and private parks and gardens; and more.

Workman House ca 1889 John H Temple Family
The Lady Banks rose bush is obscured by what may be an orange tree in this circa 1889 photograph of the John H. and Anita Temple family, but its trellis work and part of the plan can be seen behind it near the photo ID number “241” and to the left.

This was followed by a walk through the gardens in the historic area around the Workman House and La Casa Nueva, where participants could see historic plantings from as early as 1860, what was done during the award-winning landscape design by Emmet Wemple and Associates during the museum’s restoration in the late 1970s and very early 1980s; and what we’ve done in recent years to rethink and reuse our landscape palette, including a demonstration vineyard and native garden, both introduced in the last couple of years.

My colleagues Isis Quan and Alexandra Rasic assisted on the walk, with Alex talking about the programmatic work she and others among our public programs staff have done and would like to do to bring greater attention to our gardens.

Workman House North Side From North
Taken about 1925, when Walter P. Temple, brother of John and Lucinda and grandson of the Workmans, was the owner of the Homestead.  The Lady Banks rose can be clearly seen behind recently planted palms.

There are three more editions of the “Paradise in the City” program on the schedule for this year, including early May, early October and mid-November.  For more on the program, click here.

One of the more interesting portions of today’s walkthrough was going to the front of the Workman House and standing underneath a Lady Banks rose bush that tradition states was planted in 1860 to mark the birth of Lucinda Temple, the first granddaughter of William and Nicolasa Workman through their daughter Antonia Margarita and her husband, F.P.F. Temple.

Edith Stanton At Workman House
In 1966, Edith Temple Stanton, whose family appears in the late 1880s image above, was photographed by the Workman House and the Lady Banks rose bush which was trained to grow towards and on the house.  Three years prior, the Workman House and El Campo Santo Cemetery were sold to the City of Industry by the Brown family, owners of El Encanto Sanitarium, which operated at the Homestead from 1940 to the mid-1960s and is now adjacent to the museum.

The earliest documented date for the existence of the plant is a circa 1870 stereoscopic photograph taken by William M.. Godfrey, an early Los Angeles photographer.  The bush does appear in some subsequent images, including from the late 1880s, the 1920s and the 1960s–some of which appear here with the Godfrey image.

Lucinda Temple, notably, wound up moving to the Homestead in the early 1920s with her husband Manuel Zuñiga and died at the ranch in early 1928.  Her niece, Edith Temple Stanton, born at the Workman House in 1891 is pictured next to the home and nearby the Lady Banks bush in a 1966 color photo.  In fact, it is Edith’s family that is in the late 1880s image, though she didn’t make her appearance to the world until a couple of years later!

Edith Stanton Beside Workman House
This closeup view shows Mrs. Stanton beneath the rose bush at the front of the Workman House.  Visitors today will not easily recognize the area as the restoration of the late 1970s and very early 1980s recreated the look of a century or more prior.

As for the plant now, it had a rough patch about ten or so years ago when it was infected by termites and had other problems, but after some counseling from experts at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, treatment and improvements to the management of the plan worked wonders and it has been doing quite well ever since.

Future posts will continue to highlight landscapes and gardens in greater Los Angeles through the 1920s, so check back for more in the “La La Landscapes” series.

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