by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Our interpretive era ends at 1930 when the Temple family moved from the Homestead because of our worsening financial conditions, which led, two years later, to a foreclosure and loss of the ranch to the California Bank, through its California Trust Company.
Today, I met with members of the Brown family, who owned the Homestead from 1940 to 1973, nearly as long as William and Nicolasa a century before them. It was an opportunity to Jerry Brown, whose grandparents bought the ranch, to reminisce as he spent much of the first quarter century or so of his life at the Homestead and it was good for me to learn more about that period of the site’s history.
Jerry’s grandfather Harry J. Brown (1886-1947) worked for some years as a psychiatric parole officer for Los Angeles County, working with the Superior Court to place mentally ill persons in sanitariums. Harry Brown’s tenure came to an end in 1935 and he and his second wife, Lois, immediately opened up a sanitarium in Monrovia.
In fact, the foothill communities of that part of the San Gabriel Valley and Monrovia, in particular, were home to many such institutions from the late 19th century onward, whether this was for patients with tuberculosis or those with other mental and physical issues. One excellent source of information about greater Los Angeles and its many sanitariums and other health facilities is John E. Baur’s 1959 work, Health Seekers of Southern California, 1870-1900.
While the Browns were living in Monrovia, they sent their three sons, the eldest of whom (Kenneth and Gene, Jerry’s father) were from Harry’s first marriage and the youngest of which (Robert) was born Lois Brown’s prior marriage, to the military boys’ academy, known as Golden State and then Raenford, that operated at the Homestead from 1930-1935.
For the first two years, the ranch was still owned by the Temples and leased to the school and then California Bank took over. When the school couldn’t continue paying the rent, it left and moved to Encino. From 1935-1940, the bank had caretakers, from the Brink family connected to Brink’s Security, now part of ADT.
Then, in October 1940, Harry and Lois Brown, looking for a place to move their sanitarium and expand it, found that the Homestead was for sale and purchased it. They immediately began work to convert the site into suitable quarters for the sanitarium they christened “El Encanto,” meaning “The Enchanted” in Spanish.
The Browns first moved into the Workman House, finishing three bedrooms on the west side of the second floor for the three boys, while they occupied spaces on the first floor. Over time, the house became the offices and nurses’ station with a divider in the middle of the historic adobe core built by the school left in place.
La Casa Nueva was largely devoted to patient quarters, though the four main rooms on the first floor continue to be used for recreation and entertainment for residents. Patients lived in the second floor bedrooms, the first floor wing bedrooms, and the dormitories on the second floor wings, also built for the military school in 1930 by Walter Temple’s nephew-in-law, William Knueven. The Tepee was originally the office of Harry Brown and, after his death, it served as the office for the sanitarium’s head nurse.
The brick wineries south of the Workman House, built by William Workman in the mid-1860s and adapted by Walter P. Temple more than a half-century later into an auditorium, dining hall and garage, continued those uses, with the exception of the garage, which became a residence hall. So did a building closer to El Campo Santo cemetery, built by Walter Temple in the 1920s as a storage space and residence for ranch foreman Frank Romero and his family.
A reservoir doubling as a swimming pool and a tennis court that the Temples added just east of the Workman House continued to be used by the Browns, though Jerry added that, when his parents built a garage to the northeast of the house in the 1940s, the tennis court was torn out and reestablished in slightly different location and configuration.
At the far west end of the property near where Don Julian Road and Turnbull Canyon Road intersect, Walter Temple built wood-frame houses for his sisters, Lucinda Zuñiga and Margarita Rowland. Lucinda died in 1928, but Margarita continued to live in her home, even after her brother moved and then lost the ranch, staying until 1940 when the Browns bought the ranch (she then moved to Temple City living with a daughter until she died in 1953.)
Finally, there was El Campo Santo, which was utilized as a burial ground by the Browns and employees and friends over the next forty or so years. One of the conditions of the sale of the cemetery (acquired by the City along with the Workman House) in late 1963 was that the Browns could utilize the cemetery for several more burials.
Jerry, who is now 72, remembered living in one of the houses built for Walter Temple’s sisters, until his family moved to West Covina. After moving there, he was a frequent visitor to the Homestead and pointed out many things about the property from his recollections as we walked through the site with his grandson and a long-time friend.
For example, he talked about the layout of the Workman House as the offices for El Encanto, which was run by his step-mother, Lois, and his father and uncles after Harry Brown died just seven years after the ranch was acquired and the sanitarium opened. At La Casa Nueva, he reminisced about how patients were placed in rooms, how the family was very concerned with maintaining the integrity of the house and how different conditions were in facilities like that before standards changed dramatically.
He also remembered playing tennis and paddle-ball in the tennis court and swimming in the algae-filled reservoir/pool, as well as going to parties and functions in the auditorium that was the largest of the Workman wineries. He worked at El Encanto in varying capacities as a young man and prior to his being drafted in the Army, where he served as a combat medic, in 1966 as the Vietnam War was ramping up.
By that time, changing standards implemented by state government forced the Browns to abandon the historic structures and move to a new facility, financed by selling off pieces of the Homestead. Jerry recalled returning after his Army service in 1968 and having to offload hospital beds and other furnishings and equipment for new structures built immediately north of La Casa Nueva.
He then moved into public administration, working for the City of Cerritos before being asked to become the Acting City Manager of the City of Industry, which was established in 1957 with his father being an active participant in its founding. It was around this time, in late 1973, that La Casa Nueva and El Encanto were sold to the City. Jerry worked for the City for a short time and then left and worked for the City of Artesia for a time and later in the City of Santa Ana.
Just after the Browns sold La Casa Nueva to Industry, active work began to prepare the Homestead for development into a historic site museum. In 1974, state historic landmark status was secured for the Workman House and El Campo Santo, while La Casa Nueva was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
By 1977, restoration was underway on the site, in addition to the building of infrastructure like parking lots, walkways, and utilities, including for a seven-story full-service hospital that the City of Industry was going to build in the field between the Workman House and El Campo Santo. The state, however, nixed the project, leaving the ample parking and a sales office that became the Homestead Museum Gallery, as well as a fish pond adjacent to the cemetery.
In 1981, Kenneth Brown, Jerry’s uncle, died just as the Homestead was ready to be opened to the public, so the mausoleum had to be kept closed for a period. Harry and Lois Brown, her brother and parents, and two of their three sons, are interred in the structure. A few friends and employees are buried in the cemetery behind the mausoleum, as well.
When the Homestead opened, Jerry’s uncle Robert, donated blueprints for La Casa Nueva and photographs that were left by the Temples and found by the Browns in the Tepee’s attic, and he also did an oral history that helped document information about the Brown family’s years at the Homestead, including sending their sons to the military academy as well as the El Encanto years.
Robert Brown died a few years ago, so having Jerry visit today and share his recollections was great, as more information and remembrances help give us more to add to the history of the site during those years, from 1940 to 1973, when El Encanto and the Brown family were at the Homestead.