No Place Like Home: La Casa Nueva in Construction, ca. 1924, #3

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Here is another photograph, probably taken by Thomas W. Temple II, eldest child in his family, of the home the Temples built between 1922 and 1927.  It is taken from the southeast corner of the property looking to the north and it appears as if Thomas was standing atop the arched wall of the Mission Walkway, so named because a concrete floor has inscriptions with the names and founding dates of the 21 California missions and the Pala sub-mission, which surrounds the house on three sides.

The east side of the walkway is at the right side of the photo with the arched wall, including an opening leading from La Casa Nueva to the Workman House about two-thirds of the way down, finished.  Every several feet or so are portions of the columns that were built to support the wood trellis work that was planted to grapevines later.  In front of each arch are stacks of what might be short pieces of wood, though these might be eaves for the roof of the house, rather than for the walkway.

With regards to La Casa Nueva, which sports its rough coat of plaster scored for the finish coast to be applied later, we see the east wing, including what was intended to be a cook’s bedroom and bathroom, which wound up being used by Walter P. Temple as his quarters when it was decided not to use the master bedroom, and the cold storage pantry adjacent to the kitchen.  Projecting out from the building is a portion of the breakfast room with the south window facing towards the camera.

If this image is from 1924, it was about the time that the Temples hired Beverly Hills-based architect, Roy Seldon Price, to complete the construction of the building.  Price, best known for his effusive Spanish Colonial Revival design for Dias Doradas (Golden Days), the estate of film mogul Thomas Ince, would institute major changes to the house.

LCN East Side from South
This circa 1924 photograph, copied from an original negative, shows construction work on the east side of La Casa Nueva, with part of the roughly plastered home on the left, the arched wall of the Mission Walkway on the right, part of the Workman House at upper right, and the rural surroundings of the La Puente Valley in the distance.

Most of these were with the interior, although one significant addition of his that relates to this photo is that the area above the wing, which the Temples intended to be left with a plain flat roof, was envisioned by Price as an open sun deck.  Later, the same decorative concrete tile used in the breakfast room and barber shop on the first floor would be laid on the deck (and its twin on the west side), pillars built with rustic wood beams spanning them west to east, and furniture and potted plants added.

In 1930, when the house was leased by the Temples to a military academy, it was decided to convert these decks with dormitories, with walls largely devoted to double sets of windows and a roof.

The two-story main block includes a window from the bedroom of middle son, Walter, Jr., part of the plywood sheeting for the roof, and behind the breakfast room area, scaffolding for construction of the balcony that wraps around the east and north portions of the master bedroom.  A bit of the chimney for the living room fireplace peeks out over the roofline.  Some construction materials, such as wood planks and clay pipe are next to or against the home.

Tire tracks lead toward the south part of the house from the north driveway indicating where construction vehicles drove on to the site.  This later became part of the gardens and walkways surrounding the house and, in 1925, a palm tree was removed from San Gabriel (Thomas’s photos were labeled with the claim that the tree was from 1775 and was planted when the second location of Mission San Gabriel was established) and replanted next to the house.  Unfortunately, that tree died just last year after 91 years on the site.

Just beyond the north driveway, it seems as if there are some shrubs, bushes and, perhaps, small trees comprising landscaping to ornament the site even as construction was being done on La Casa Nueva.

To the far right is the west side of the Workman House, with its distinctive Gothic-style steep roof, a portion of a chimney, what appears to be vines growing on the west wall, and what looks to be a tree next to the home.  Peeking out just over the Mission Walkway wall are the caps and what may be potted plants on them, for a gate leading to the south side of the Workman House.

For several years, the Workman House was used by the Temples as a second home, while they lived in Alhambra.  In the second half of the 1920s, it was used as a residence by caretakers, mainly Bill and Angie Knueven, the daughter and son-in-law of Walter Temple’s sister, Margarita Temple Rowland.

Another striking element to the photo is the rural landscape visible to the north of the Homestead.  Being twenty miles from downtown Los Angeles, the Homestead was in the heart of the La Puente Valley, devoted mainly to farming, including walnuts, oranges and lemons.  In the distance, it looks like there’s a white-colored house at about dead center–this would be off what had been called Pomona Boulevard, soon renamed Valley Boulevard.  To the right is a tall, large mass that might have been the Stafford Feed Mill, which stood just west of the town of Puente.

Check back for future installments of “No Place Like Home,” for other photos showing the construction of La Casa Nueva from the same time.

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