No Place Like Home: Part of the Workman Homestead in 1924

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Some of the previous entries in the “No Place Like Home” series have highlighted photographs from the Homestead’s collection showing La Casa Nueva in construction about 1924.  Today’s entry has another image from the same year, but provides a fascinating and wider view.

The photo, taken from the fields to the south of the house, near San Jose Creek, and shows La Casa Nueva with rough plaster applied to the exterior walls, the plywood sheeting as the basis for the two-gabled roof for the main block, the early stages of the Courtyard balcony, and some completed portions of the surrounding Mission Walkway.  In the foreground is one of the several adobe kilns (ovens) used to burn bricks used for construction at the home.

It was about this time that the Temples hired Beverly Hills architect Roy Seldon Price, who’d achieved renown for his impressive design of the home of film studio head Thomas Ince, to work on La Casa Nueva.  Price immediately began significant revisions of the structure, which led the Temples to joke that his invoices well matched the architect’s surname.

Some of the major changes included tearing out the Main Hall staircase, which featured a center section branching off to the left and right, and replacing it with a wraparound version; removing a bridge that spanned the two sides of the second floor; reconstituting the southern wings so that, instead of a tar roof, sun decks with Mexican tile floors were placed on top; and revamping the front door so that it was greatly enhanced with a carved and painted plaster door surround that really made for a dramatic and impressive entry.

workman homestead 1924
This circa 1924 panoramic view of the Homestead from the field to the south near San Jose Creek shows La Casa Nueva under construction (including an adobe kiln for firing bricks used for the house) at the left; the Workman House at the center; and the three brick winery buildings established by William Workman in the mid-1860s and the right.

There is no question that, even at great cost and with significant delays, Price’s revisions transformed the house into something even more special and unusual than it already had been when the Temples worked on a design put into form by the highly regarded Los Angeles architectural firm of Walker and Eisen.

This photo, however, also includes a partial view of the Workman House; the top of the Water Tower, note the trap door access through the south side of the roof to the crow’s nest and flagpole (later, the access was moved to the north side); and portions of the three brick winery buildings added by William Workman in the mid-1860s.

Of these latter, the largest of the structures was converted into an auditorium with pool tables, ping pong tables, a stage with a piano, and a motion picture projector.  The smaller building next to that was a cafeteria with a kitchen and enough seating for some 150 persons.  At the far right, with an open door, is a nine-car garage, which had a gasoline pump on its north side (which isn’t visible.)

Incidentally, the very tall wooden pole behind cafeteria was there to provide an antennae for a radio used in the auditorium and stands in contrast to the smaller electric power pole along Evergreen Lane, which entered the ranch from the west and ended at the cemetery, between the two homes.

workman homestead 1924 LCN focus
A detail of the above photo showing the adobe kiln and, behind it, La Casa Nueva with rough wall finishes, plywood sheeting on the roof, the Courtyard balcony just started, and sections of the Mission Walkway surrounding the house.

In the foreground are some recently planted walnut trees, widely spaced at about thirty feet, in a newly furrowed and plowed field.  The photographer, who was likely Thomas W. Temple II, the eldest child in the family and an avid student of the camera, stood where one of our neighbors, Fleetwood-Fibre, a packaging and graphics firm, is located today.

Don Julian Road, which ended at Turnbull Canyon Road at the time the photo was taken, was extended during the mid-to-late 1970s through where the winery buildings, which were razed by about 1970, stood.

Though La Casa Nueva was finally completed by the end of 1927, after over five years of work, Walter Temple (as described in a recent post here) had to take out bonds to finance his work at the Town of Temple, renamed Temple City in 1928, and other projects.  His financial situation, however, worsened considerably by the end of the decade.

To try and stave off the loss of the Homestead, he and his family vacated the ranch in spring 1930 as the Great Depression worsened and he moved to Baja California.  In July 1932, however, as waves of bank failures roiled the country, California Bank foreclosed and took possession of the Homestead.  After several decades of institutional use by a military academy and El Encanto Sanitarium, now north of the museum, the Homestead was acquired by the City of Industry between 1963 and 1975.  The City spent several years restoring the two homes and cemetery and adding substantial improvements to the site, opening the Homestead in 1981.

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