Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

After viewing the fields of Ojai yesterday, we decided to go to Pasadena today, with a quick detour to La Cañada Flintridge.  A big thank you to A Patel, who suggested in the comments on the post about Montecito that we stop by The Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens.  This place is wonderful!  I knew next to nothing about it except that Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger gave something like $32 million dollars as a donation to help them construct a new $60 million building that opens next year.

[mainbodyad]I can see why it was a good investment.  The Huntington is a massive collection of walkable trails and buildings on the estate of the late railroad tycoon Henry Edwards Huntington.  There are 120 acres of botanical gardens including a Chinese garden, Japanese garden, rose garden, and simulated rainforest.  There are antiques, rugs, oil paintings, silver, and rare manuscripts.  This sort of place is a paradise to me.  Entrance for the two of us was only $46, and for those who live in the area, you can get annual subscriptions that are very affordable.  There appear to be research labs and classrooms here, too.  It’s sort of an homage to learning and history.

If I lived in Pasadena, I’d be here quite often.  I bought a huge biography of the place and will pick up another one later.  I’m excited to add another case study to my files, though it appears that Huntington had an enormous advantage in the head start he received as the nephew of a very powerful magnate, so it’s not quite like a John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie story, which could explain why his name isn’t very well known throughout the rest of the country like the oil and steel barons were, respectively.

Lemon Trees Pasadena

One of the first things we passed was a collection of lemon trees growing in a courtyard. I love that citrus can thrive here. If I end up in California, I’m going to have one of these.

Sky Cloud Greenhouse Huntington Pasadena

We made our way through the contained greenhouses.  In one conservatory, it reproduced plants that grow in the rain forest mist. You’d periodically get these clouds that would roll into the area, created by devices on the perimeter.  It smelled, felt, and sounded otherworldly.

Botanical Gardens Pasadena

Walking the grounds of the Huntington, I liked the architectural style of this building. It felt neoclassical but had a modern vibe to it.

Walking the Chinese Garden in Pasadena Huntington

After meandering around for a minute, I saw there was a Chinese garden on the map.  Given Aaron’s love for them, I pointed it out and he lit up like a Christmas tree.  We headed for the tranquil retreat.

Chinese Garden House Huntington Pasadena

The Chinese garden at the Huntington in Pasadena is wonderful. It’s arranged so you can wander through it, walk over the bridges, have tea, watch the fish swim beneath you …

Chinese Garden Pasadena Huntington

It wouldn’t take much land if you wanted to build a Chinese garden of your own on a property … I’m looking at it and the actual infrastructure isn’t impossible to replicate.  I’m not even sure if the costs would be that high.

Willow Huntington China Pasadena

Geographically accurate plants were planted throughout the walking trails for each area with plaques explaining what they are …

Japanese Garden Huntington Pasadena

After the Chinese garden, we decided to go visit the Japanese garden, complete with rainbow bridge.  I love how tightly controlled and manicured traditional Japanese gardens are.  Behind us, there was a real-life scale traditional Japanese residence.

Steep Rainbow Bridge Stairs Japanese Garden Huntington Pasadena

The grade is quite steep were you to use the rainbow bridge in the Japanese garden. Some are built without nails. As with the Chinese garden, all I can think is this wouldn’t be that hard to do on a decent-sized plot of land. How cool would it be to have a secret garden hidden behind a wall, opening to this where you could go, listen to the water flowing downstream, read, and think?

Gentle Falls in the Japanese Garden Pasadena Huntington

Seriously, this would make the best thinking garden.  I know I’ve said this several times now, but it would be so easy to build in a private yard. Why don’t more people do it? It wouldn’t be very expensive … though, the big cost would come if you had to buy and relocate mature trees instead of waiting patiently for yours to grow over a few decades.

Fish in the Japanese Garden Huntington Pasadena

When you go near the water in the Japanese garden, the fish think you are going to feed them so they come to you.

More Rose Gardens Huntington Pasadena

After the Japanese garden, we made our way to the rose garden …

Pink Roses Pasadena

Many of the flowers were blooming and the garden planners had organized them in an intelligent way so that certain areas were flushing at the same time; or at least it appeared that way.  I do love roses.

Gorgeous Rose Pasadena Huntington

I liked this rose a lot …

Rose Gardens Huntington Pasadena

… more fields of roses at the Huntington in Pasadena …

Greek Statue Huntington Pasadena

This would be so cool with Italian fountains around it as a water feature.  Imagine a walled villa like the Japanese garden, only in this style.  It would be equally as magnificent.

Massive Magnolia Tree Pasadena California

We walked up toward the mansion, which used to be the home of the Huntingtons. There, we saw the biggest magnolia tree we’ve ever come across in our lives.

Porch Huntington Mansion

We walked up onto the porch …

View from Balcony Overlooking Pasadena

… and surveyed the backyard … I can see how this would have been paradise in the 19th century before air conditioning and modern technology. It would be perfect weather here all the time; plenty of grounds to explore and develop.  It’s near the trains that helped pay for it all.  The whole thing makes sense.  Today?  Not so much.  I think the age of these great estates has largely passed.  Maybe the pendulum will swing back the other way.

Beautiful Red Petals Pasadena

Over the edge of the porch, there was a tree to the right with these beautiful red petals that fell to the ground. I liked the color contrast.

View from the Porch Huntington Mansion

Look a bit to the left and you can see even more of the paradise built on the Huntington grounds …

Huntington Mansion Pasadena

When you turn around behind you, you see one side of the house …

Covered Patio Pasadena Huntington Mansion

We walked around the building looking for the front door and passed under the covered porch …

Statue Huntington Mansion

Hidden around the corner was this beauty. It looks like a tropical paradise. I imagine it would have been very peaceful to sit out here in sunset or twilight 100+ years ago.

As we entered the home of the late Mr. and Mrs. Huntington, I couldn’t help but notice the lady of the house looked suspiciously like actor Edward Herrmann in the 1994 movie Richie Rich when he played the father of the title character, portrayed by Macaulay Culkin. In fact, I think it just might be Edward Herrmann. Perhaps he is undying and has to change his identity every few decades.

No, seriously.  I’m not kidding.  Look at this …

Edward Herrmann

See?!  I’ve uncovered his secret!  It’s going to get a lot harder for him to hide his identity in the world of mass media.

Anyway …

Huntington Mansion Hall

We walked through the hallways, looking at oil paintings, sculptures, rugs, tapestries, and furniture …

Huntington Library Pasadena

The late Mr. Huntington’s private library was very cool …

Dining Room Huntington Mansion Pasadena

I loved the dining room. It felt so peaceful and comfortable.

Another View of Dining Room Huntington Pasadena

Another angle of the dining room so you can see the fireplace. This room enchants me.

Great Painting Huntington Pasadena

… Aaron liked this painting. I do, too.

Coming Down Stairs Huntington Mansion Pasadena

Walk up the stairs to the second floor to explore more historical antiques …

View of Lawn from Huntington Mansion

… and you can see out onto the front lawn.

Huntington Pasadena Statues Lawn

We had visited the front lawn earlier, and here is what it looks like from the other perspective.

Upstairs Hallway Pasadena Huntington Mansion

We continued to explore the second floor for awhile. The rare books are kept in another huge building on the grounds, but we’ll save that for another visit since we have a lot to get done today and need to check into the hotel.

Huntington Pasadena Furniture Collection

I’m a furniture guy, as many of you know. If this were the 1700’s, I could have happily lived as a high-end furniture maker or retailer.  The skilled labor it took to create something like this fills me with happiness.  The photograph doesn’t show the quality of the veneer work and inlays.  Someone dreamed then made this.  They manifested it out of an idea and applied skill, acquired after careful study and practice, to transform some pieces of wood into something with artistic merit and functional utility.  That’s impressive to me.

Covered Porch From Afar Huntington Mansion

We decided to head over to where we are staying tonight – a place called the Langham Pasadena – and settle in for the evening. As we looked back over our shoulder, we saw the other side of the covered porch from earlier.

Rare Books Huntington Library Pasadena California

This building, I believe, is filled with Huntington’s rare library collection. I’d love to see it but we have other things on the agenda so it will have to be another time.

We’re heading to The Langham Huntington Hotel.  So far, I like Pasadena.  I can’t wait to explore it some more.