Greene & Greene Virtual Archives
Robert Pitcairn, Jr. House
Pasadena, California, 1906
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Robert Pitcairn, Jr. House
Pasadena, California

Robert Pitcairn, Jr., son of a wealthy and prominent Pennsylvania Railroad executive, hired the Greenes in 1906 to build his home after he had lived in a house they had designed. The Pitcairn house would combine the entire lexicon of their mature design elements: a shingled exterior; a roof pitch of three feet, ten inches in twelve feet; major interior and exterior timbers; deeply overhanging eaves; exposed rafters, purlins, and beams that project significantly beyond the eaves; “Malthoid” roofing that integrates the roof with the rain gutters; an up-swept “lift” in the ends of the ridge beam; basement ventilation made of Chinese blocks of green-glazed terra-cotta; and casement windows. Most important were the terraces and sleeping porches that extend the outdoor living space on the upper level. They adapted Japanese construction themes to Pasadena’s regional conditions and their own aesthetic sense. They used keyed scarf joints to decoratively join and strengthen in-line long timbers and used wedges to fix rails to posts for the first time in their designs. They also pioneered the artistic use of wrought-iron straps to bundle posts and corbels. This was the first time all of these design elements came together in one house. The presentation drawings for the house show an American Indian Navajo theme in the lead glass designs, but these designs were abandoned during construction in favor of plain glass.