Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, April 23, 2011

MVNews this week:  Page 16



 Mountain Views-News Saturday, April 23, 2011 

One Of A Kind: Featuring unique homes and gardens and the people whoe create them. Photos and Story By Chris Bertrand 

MONROE “COTTAGE”: Monrovia Founder’s First Home

(First Published in One Of A Kind on October 31, 2007) 


Celebrate by Touring Victorian Era Homes and 
‘Leven Oaks Hotel!

Once again, the Monrovia 
Old Home Preservation 
Group (MOHPG) will 
host their yearly Mother’s 
Day tour on May 8th from 
10-4, with five vintage 
homes plus the century 
old ‘Leven Oaks Hotel open for viewing. On this 
125th anniversary of the city’s inception, all of the 
single family homes open for the tour this year 
are Victorians, constructed before 1893. 

Included in this year’s tour is “Idlewild, built 
in 1887, and named after the home of a friend 
of William A. Pile, the home’s original owner. 
The 1893 Burr House, a perennial favorite, will 
return for its 8th appearance on the tour, last 
seen in 2002. The 1887 Victorian on Colorado 
was actually moved from a location in North 
Monrovia, and was last seen on tour a decade ago.

The 1884 “Monroe Cottage” is the oldest home in 
town. It was first occupied by one of Monrovia’s 
four founders, William Monroe, and his family, 
while a much larger home, “The Oaks” was under 
construction nearby. The home features wide 
plank Douglas fir floors and 13’ ceilings. The 
dramatic, arched keyhole doorway and staircase 
off the foyer are the most intricate examples of 
the vintage millwork.

‘Leven Oaks Hotel, celebrating its 100th 
anniversary, is making its fourth appearance on the 
tour. Lovingly converted to a senior independent 
living residence hotel since 1984, the hotel 
features a vintage lobby with restored original 
lighting fixtures, now converted to electric, from 
their original gas. The original mosaic tile floor 
has been restored and complements the lobby’s 
focal point, a stunning original fireplace, with 
Gaelic inscription above.

Trolley transportation between the hotel and 
the five Victorians will be available, for those 
who don’t choose to drive between locations. 
The Monrovia Historical Museum, which has 
revamped its exhibits, will also be open that 
day. A light catered lunch will be available for 
purchase at the ‘Leven Oaks Hotel.

The MOHPG is one of the largest non-profit 
groups in Monrovia, with an active membership 
of over 200, who expend great effort to make “a 
tangible different in the appearance and livability 
of our community” per the MOHPG website. 

The organization’s first tour took place in 1982, 
and hosted about 75 people, and has grown ever 
since. This year, nearly 1000 are expected to tour 
the seven locations over six hours. 

To purchase tickets in advance, the following 
Myrtle Avenue locations will offer tour tickets: 
Paint ‘n’ Play 2, Monrovia Bakery and the Monrovia 
Chamber of Commerce. MOHPG will also offer 
a ticket sales booth at Myrtle and Colorado on 
Friday evenings 
to sell tickets until 
May 6. Will call 
ticket pickup and 
day of tour tickets 
will available only 
at the Monrovia 
Museum, located 
at 742 E. Lemon 
Avenue, in 
Recreation Park. 
Ticket cost is $17 
for adults, $14 for 
Senior over 65, 
$9 for teens and 
children 12 and 
under are free 
with a paid adult 

On left, Leven 
Oaks Hotel

The Monroes lived in a tent on the property while their “Cottage” was built in 1884.

The Lees, new LA residents 
from Connecticut, decided to 
purchase a historic Monrovia 
home earlier this year. After 
months of search for just the 
right home, this one tugged 
at their heartstrings. With its 
1884 construction date comes 
charm, history, tradition, 
several remodels and additions 
including indoor plumbing, plus 
a host of modern day challenges.

Much of what the Lees have 
learned about the Monroe 
“Cottage” comes from historical 
and heritage organizations, 
old photographs and just 
plain hearsay. Debi Lee and I 
made a visit to the Monrovia 
Historical Museum on Palm, 
to see what they might have 
in documentation and history 
about their home and its builder, 
William N. Monroe.

We found a wealth of Monroe 
artifacts there, some framed 
copies of packing labels from 
Monroe’s fruit company, two 
books on Monrovia history 
(copies available for sale) and 
two charming and articulate 
octogenarian docents who 
brought the town’s history alive 
for us. A photo of the town 
in the late 1800’s shows their 
home with a young tree at the 
northwest corner, that could 
be the young fig or rubber tree 
(both have been mentioned) that 
grew to shade four homesites by 
the time it was removed in 2003. 

According to the Monrovia 
Centennial Review book by Peter 
C. Ostrye from 1986, Monroe 
was one of four founders of the 
community, though not the first 
resident. After a Union Army 
stint leading to the rank of Major 
in the Civil War, he joined his 
father-in-law, Milton Hall, in the 
construction of several railroad 
routes in California, Utah, Texas 
and Mexico. When he “retired” 
from that venture and vagabond 
life in his mid-thirties, he set 
off to Los Angeles in 1875 for a 
settled down life of raising fruit 
and a family. In the process of 
deciding where to build a home, 
Monroe, always a mover and 
shaker, became active in Los 
Angeles business and political 
circles, though a brief interlude 
took him back to Texas for 
construction on Huntington’s 
Southern Pacific Electric. 

Upon his return, word was out 
that E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin was 
selling 30 acre parcels of his 
ranch. Monroe bought several, 
amassing 210 acres, and moved 
his family into a tent at the 
current 225 Monroe Place in 
1884. A single story cottage was 
erected that year, and the family 
moved in. Only a year later, 
Monroe went on to build “The 
Oaks”, a grand residence on 
Primrose, and Monroe’s brother 
then moved into the cottage.

Along the way, pieces of the 
homesite were sold off, and 
the original street address one 
block south changed as the lot 
shortened to front on Monroe 
Place. Improvements ensued, 
including plumbing, gas, 
electricity, and a second story 
evolved. Since indoor plumbing 
was added later, the pipes and 
hot water heater run outside and 
on the perimeter, instead of up 
the core, as today’s homes often 

When the time came to expand 
the cottage, the Lees were told 
by one Monrovian, the entire 
one story structure was raised 
to become the top floor of the 
current home, intricate roofline 
and all. The Monroe Historical 
Museum director was doubtful 
this was the case, yet I heard this 
story a couple of times when I 
mentioned the cottage to local 
history buffs.

The first floor now boasts 13 foot 
ceilings, with a mysterious “dead 
space” between the first and 
second floors. The Lees would 
love to see pictures of that first 
remodel, or any other photos of 
the home if anyone has them. 
Unearthing the fascinating 
details of earlier iterations of 
the structure will require some 
detective work, as much of the 
home has undergone updating 
several times. Word around 
town is that a local antiques 
collector owns the iron bed from 
the cottage’s early days. Likely, 
there are other pieces around, 

The home the Lees bought in 
2007 was already accepted into 
California’s Mills Act status. This 
act is a two-edged sword of tax 
benefit with use, maintenance 
and preservation restrictions. 
For a property tax incentive 
intended to preserve historical 
homes and the heritage of 
our communities, the homes 
require earthquake retrofitting, 
a historical plaque and strict 
guidelines on exterior changes 
to the home. Each individual 
community oversees the Mills 
Act homes within their borders, 
and rules and regulations vary 
from city to city. 

The Lees have been on a steep 
learning curve for historic home 
maintenance and preservation, 
after their previous Connecticut 
home was of 1950’s vintage. 
Their electrician, Yiannis 
Arvanitidis, is a frequent visitor, 
slowly unraveling old crawlspace 
mysteries of electricians past. 
They’ve learned more than they 
probably wanted to know about 
earthquake retrofitting and 
cohabitating with local wildlife 
in the past few months. Each 
month new challenges arise to 
maintain or restore the grace 
and beauty of the past, while 
raising a growing family in the 
technology age. Despite the 
challenges, I don’t think they’d 
trade this special home for 
anywhere else in LA.


If you would like to see an on-line video showing 78 beautiful homes in 
Sierra Madre go to and search Sierra Madre California 
Homes Or Sierra Madre’s Beautiful Homes.


In spring and summer, it's easy to envision ways to enhance your home's curb appeal with 
a trimmed lawn, planted and potted flowers, and patios and decks arranged with outdoor 
furniture and an inviting grill. But when the leaves fall and the temperatures drop, even 
homes in temperate climes undergo a winter transformation that can challenge a seller to 
create exterior appeal.

When it comes to landscaping and colorful plants, there are plenty of ornamental grasses 
and plants that look great in wintertime. Purple cabbages, fountain grasses, and potted evergreens 
along pathways and by the door all add seasonal color and appeal. And obviously, 
your sidewalk, entry path, patio and deck should be clear of leaves and/or snow.

Be sure to keep in mind that shorter days mean that buyers are that much more likely to see 
your home after sunset, so make sure all your floodlights are clean and in working order, 
highlighting your home's exterior features. Lamps with soft lighting in all your windows will 
also offer a warm invitation.

Finally, just to cover your bases, have photos available of your home in all its glory during the 
spring and summer months. This gives buyers a better sense of your home's appeal during 
all the seasons of the year. Your agent will have more tips for attracting buyers in any kind 
of weather.

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: Website: