n 1966, when the Gamble House opened to the public (also the year of the National Preservation Act), the focus on historic preservation was in its infancy. As Ted Bosley, current director of the Gamble House, points out, “most people don’t recognize today how historic preservation as a national agenda has developed since the 1960s. In those days, it wasn’t on the radar screen, and owners like Jim Gamble and individuals like Randell Makinson stood alone.”

The living room of Randell Makinson's home, with a Charles Rennie Mackintosh chair in the foreground and a Frank Lloyd Wright armchair and Greene and Greene table by the sliding glass doors.

Until the Cultural Heritage Ordinance was adopted in Pasadena in 1977, there was sparse awareness of the rich concentration of fine architecture in the city. Blocks of houses were being demolished for new condominiums. In those days Makinson was often before the City Council asking why a certain new development couldn’t prune the neighborhood instead of annihilating it. His argument then as now was that developers should look for something special in the neighborhood that will serve as a foundation for the new.
Founded in 1976 (incorporated in 1977), the Pasadena Heritage Foundation, which acts as a private watchdog of legislation, often looked to Makinson for guidance in its early days. Its founder, Claire Bogaard, had not heard of Greene and Greene when she came to Pasadena in 1971. With her successor, Sue Mossman, Bogaard pays tribute to Makinson for raising awareness of Craftsman architecture, Greene and Greene and Pasadena’s unique heritage. Pasadena Heritage has grown tenfold, from a membership of about 200 to over 2,000 and from a budget of $2,000 to $200,000, to become a recognized voice in community policy. Its triumphs include saving Old Pasadena, the city’s historic downtown and the Colorado Street Bridge.
Bogaard remembers that even in the mid-’70s books on architecture, especially on local architecture, were not available in bookstores. Now, the Gamble House’s own bookstore boasts four current titles on the Gamble House alone – with several more due for publication – and hundreds of titles on Arts and Crafts architecture and style. The USC School of Architecture offers a program in historic preservation instigated by Dean Robert Timme, a course titled “Great Houses” and a summer program in historic preservation co-chaired by Ted Bosley.

ince his retirement, Makinson remains active with the Gamble House and has also been involved in the complete and extensive restoration of a number of Greene and Greene homes, including Charles Greene’s own home (1902-1913) and the Blacker House (1907), the pillaging of which caused a furor in the mid-1980s when its then-owner ripped out the original light fittings and items of interior decor and sold them off.
In restoring a Greene and Greene house – or any historic house – there is often a lot that needs to be undone. Makinson believes that it is possible to keep the integrity of the original design and still satisfy today’s demands. He finds that a new set ofenlightened clients are discovering that a wood counter is

The Italian motorcycle above the kitchen window was a gift from his godson.

actually very nice to work on. For those who insist on a Jacuzzi or a double-headed shower, he will try to find ways to accommodate their needs; but he says that, by choice, many people have come to like their “old-fashioned” bathrooms and are taking out modernizations that were put in in the ’50s. (It is usually kitchens and bathrooms that date a house. The bathroom in Charles Greene’s home for example, is all wood: ceiling, walls, floor and tub. It works if you don’t splash a lot!)
Believing that today’s architects too often design for magazine covers, Makinson finds much of contemporary architecture dispiriting. He is cheered, however, by the fact that the renaissance of the Arts and Crafts Movement has now gone on longer than the original. As a result, it is no longer impossible to find skilled craftsmen who take pride in working with their hands, as it was in the ’60s when he began work on restoring the Gamble House.

The Spinks House (1909) is typical of the bungalows designed by Charles and Henry Greene. The use of various woods and the long overhangs were designed to protect against the summer heat.

Though he appreciates the past, Makinson is not a slave to it. Rick Cole, a former mayor of Pasadena, describes him as far from being “a sentimentalist, imagining himself on the sleeping porch taking afternoon tea with Aunt Julia.” Cole, whose great-grandmother was a client of Greene and Greene (the Cole House is two doors down from the Gamble House), saw Makinson in action when he served with him on the Board of Overseers of the Gamble House from 1989 until 1995.
“Makinson is an unusual blend of populism and elitism that is democratic in the highest sense of the word; uncompromisingly fanatic about high standards of quality and equally fanatic about bringing that quality to a wider audience. He will have none of the attitude that quality can only be appreciated by the educated elite and that in order to reach the masses standards need be lowered.
“In this regard, he captures the spirit of the original Craftsman philosophy, which makes him a delightful anachronism.”

A Greene and Greene light fixture from the Pratt House in Ojai.

Makinson has no time for builders who want to erect a Craftsman bungalow or townhouse today. Such attempts, he says, miss the point of what is important in the Craftsman philosophy, which is “not to carry the trappings of the turn of the last century forward,” but rather to “insure that all that is done today, with today’s technology, materials, labor force, appropriateness and needs, should be done in a craftsman-like way.” The Scandinavian design firm IKEA, for example, “tries to take the best there is from our technology and weave it with fine design. There is no reason why the most modest of young couples starting out in life shouldn’t have a fine design thoughtfully made affordable because of technology.”
In advocating care for the architecture of the past, Makinson is keen to point out that historic preservation is not about valuing a building because it is old per se, or preserving the last Victorian building in town, for example, only because it is the last one. It must be good and contribute constructively to the new environment. “If you have something fine,” he says, “be intelligent enough to make use of it and realize that you don’t have the right to go knocking it down.”

gainst the sound of water outside his living room, Makinson tells the story of a conversation he had with Charles Greene’s wife, who told him of an occasion around 1910 when Frank Lloyd Wright was visiting her husband. Wright asked Charles to explain the Greenes’ success in achieving the craftsmanship that, says Makinson, was so conspicuously absent from Wright’s own work. She heard Wright ask her husband, referring to the quality of craftsmanship in their work, “Mr. Greene, how do you do it?” Makinson held his breath, waiting for her to go on. “I don’t know what he said,” she told him. “I walked out of the room at that point!”

Interior staircase of the Bolton House in Pasadena (1906), showing that even in very modest dwellings the Greenes paid the same careful attention to detail that they did on their larger projects.

In the absence of a reply from Charles Greene, Makinson offers his own explanation: craftsmen themselves, the Greenes designed with the craft and craftsmen in mind. Charles and Henry attended the nation’s first Manual Arts Training School. Having spent every afternoon for three years in the shops working with wood, tools and machinery, with their hands and with materials, they could transfer those lessons to other materials. In contrast, Wright didn’t stay with one thing long enough to develop and refine it as did the Greenes.
“Nobody can do with space what Wright did, but the Greenes were dealing with detail,” he says. “Greene and Greene created a new style in the true sense of the word. They developed an architectural language that could adapt itself from one client to another, from one site to another, one which had integrity and was very appropriate to this region.”
If they were alive today, they would be exploring new materials, he thinks. “Not trying to make them do what old materials did, but trying to express structure as they have in their timber houses.
“When I would show their stone house in Carmel to my students, they would initially respond that it doesn’t look like Greene and Greene since it doesn’t have long overhangs. But it is typically Greene and Greene precisely because it doesn’t have all the features of the homes in Pasadena. In Carmel, where it is so often foggy, the need was to let in all the light! Long overhangs would have been inappropriate.
“A different situation calls for a different design. That’s exactly Greene and Greene. A certain logic and a great deal of passion.”
The same can be said for Randell Makinson.

Related Stories

The Robert R. Blacker House

Related Links

Makinson on Greene & Greene

The Gamble House

The Duncan-Irwin House in Pasadena (1902, 1906), in which the Greenes showed their remarkable deftness by adding a complete second story to an existing house. The house has stunning views of the Rose Bowl, the Arroyo Seco and the mountains.

The curving brick and stone driveway of the Hawks House (Pasadena, 1906) was inspired in form and texture by the dry streambed of the nearby Arroyo Seco.

Photographs of interior of Makinson home by Peter S. Lopez. All others by Thomas A. Heinz

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