by Paul R. Spitzzeri
This past Thursday I met with Barney Jackson and his son Rick, who drove out from Santa Clarita to visit the museum. This isn’t all that unusual, though it is a bit of a haul from there, except that Barney, who turns 93 in September, spent two weeks at the Homestead in summer 1941 and was back 77 years later to check things out!
Barney’s mother was a cousin of Lois Heaton Brown, who, with her husband Harry, purchased the 75-acre ranch in October 1940 so they could open El Encanto Sanitarium, a facility that was ran by the family for about thirty-five years. The Browns used La Casa Nueva as the main residential building, the Workman House as offices and nurses quarters, and other buildings and elements were also part of the facility.
In 1963, the family sold the Workman House and El Campo Santo cemetery to the City of Industry and began plans to shift operations of El Encanto to a new set of structures immediately to the north of the historic houses. The agreement called for the Browns to allow for public access, on an appointment basis, to the Workman House and cemetery while they gradually developed the new facility, which was fully operational within a few years.
A sale of La Casa Nueva took much longer, finally being made at the end of 1975. By then, the City was moving on a project, developed out of plans mentioned in some of the Time Capsule Tuesday posts on this blog as part of Industry’s 60th anniversary, to create a historic site museum on several acres of the Homestead. This work culminated in the opening of the Homestead on 6 May 1981, tomorrow being our 37th anniversary.
Barney, Rick and I spent a couple of hours walking through the historic houses, the cemetery and the grounds. As Barney stated, he was 16 years old and he spent a lot of time with his cousin Robert Brown, youngest of the three sons of his family, as well as did some labor as part of his stay. Of course, he was also trying to remember back nearly eight decades ago, so it was a bit of a challenge to recall much of what he saw and experienced!
He remembered sleeping in one of the three bedrooms the Browns built on the second floor of the Workman House, all of which were on the west side and which were next to a small bathroom. Interestingly, on his only other visit, well over 20 years ago, he said he mentioned this to the docent leading on the tour, but was assured that there were no rooms upstairs in the house.
This was true when the Workman family built the house and, since that visit, we’ve learned through investigations by an archaeological firm, that there were improvements made to the second floor in the late 19th century, probably when John H. Temple and his wife Anita Davoust owned the ranch from 1888 to 1899. Moreover, those bedrooms and the bathroom that Barney used in 1941 are still there and are visited as part of our “Behind the Scenes” tour (the next of which is two weekends from now on the 19th and 20th.)
I also met with Bob Brown, who died several years ago, a couple of times over the years and he told me that, for the couple of years he lived in the Workman House, the summers and other warm periods of the year were pretty miserable because there was no air conditioning. He and his brothers, Gene and Ken, tried to keep the windows open at night and in the early mornings to make the rooms as comfortable as possible.
Barney also had a vague recollection about the Browns and a military school at the Homestead and it was true that Harry and Lois Brown sent their sons to the Golden State (also known as Raenford) Military Academy, which operated at the ranch from 1930 to 1935. Bob, who was in his early elementary years then, related to me that he and his brothers lived in La Casa Nueva (in his case, Thomas Temple’s bedroom, upstairs) for the couple of years they attended. The lease ended and the school moved to the San Fernando Valley, which Barney remembered. When the Browns bought the Homestead several years later, they were pleasantly surprised to see that it was where their sons had gone to school.
Another memory Barney had of the Workman House was eating in a breakfast room off the back of the house, though he was surprised to see that the space was no longer there. In fact, the south porch of the house was enclosed by the military school and included a dining area and two other spaces. This was all removed when the City of Industry restored the home in the late 1970s and recreated the porch using old photographs.
Over at La Casa Nueva, Barney remembered a few details. One was the impressive wood staircase in the Main Hall and it partially stood out because he recalled being asked to carry trays of food to the second floor to leave in the bedrooms of patients. Another was the Tepee, which stood out, of course, because of its unusal shape.
Finally, as we walked down to El Campo Santo, he pointed out that the fields on the ranch were filled with walnut trees, these being planted by the Temples during the time they owned the Homestead from 1919 to 1932. He also remembered swumming in the reservoir which was located where our picnic area is now and said there was a soda vending machine there with a bottle costing a nickel.
At the cemetery, we visited the mausoleum where most of the Brown family (Bob is the only one not interred there) as well as Lois Heaton Brown’s parents and brother rest. Barney and Rick brought a photograph, taken by Barney of some out of town visitors on his last day of his sojourn. Shown here, the image is captioned “Summer 1941.”
When Rick asked his father why there weren’t more photos taken, Barney merely replied that, in his mind, there was no reason to except to snap a quick picture before he left the site. Having been raised near U.S.C. in Los Angeles where it was much cooler, he recalled that the hot weather at the Homestead was not enjoyable and that’s probably why he didn’t return.
In 1944, Barney was drafted and served in the Phillipines for most of his service at the end of World War II. Mustered out in 1946, he went to work for a telephone company and raised his family in the San Fernando Valley. Though there were some childhood visits with the Browns in Monrovia, he lost touch with them over the years. Retired some thirty years ago, he and his wife moved out of the area and have just returned. He and Rick have spent time retracing areas of Barney’s youth and the visit to the Homestead was part of those journeys.
For me, it was fun to be part of that walk through the past and getting a photo of Barney in front of the mausoleum where he took that photo from 77 years ago was a nice capstone to the tour.