Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, March 16, 2019

MVNews this week:  Page B:3

THE VINE (cont. from page 1)

William J (Bill) Lawless was mayor of 
Sierra Madre during 1928-29. She, herself, 
was a successful businesswoman having 
founded the Weaver Jackson Beauty Co. 
in Los Angeles and was active in the 
community, serving as president of the 
Woman’s Club and the Garden Club.

 Mrs. Lawless spent a small fortune 
(around $100,000) enhancing the 
grounds of her new property and caring 
for the vine. When the festivals were held 
they often lasted for the weeks the vine 
was in bloom, not just for one day. Mrs. 
Lawless, a patron of the arts, also sponsored vine 
activities all year long.

 She hosted art exhibits, musicales, and poetry 
readings. Nearby residents objected to the 
constant activity and took their complaints to 
the City Council. Nothing was done as Mrs. 
Lawless presented the argument that the vine 
existed before these neighbors purchased their 

 In recognition for her contributions to the 
community, the Garden Club planted another 
Wistaria in the terraced garden on the west side 
of what is today the Solt’s garden. It blooms a 
bit later than the original vine and the plaque 
commemorating the occasion is gone.

 When Mrs. Lawless died in 1942, she provided 
for the vine by leaving a legacy to her nephew 
and heir, Bruce McGill, to continue care of 
the property with a committee headed by the 
Garden Club President. In 1944, the property 
was purchased by Richard and Marian Thayer. 
Marian is the daughter of M. Penn Phillips, a 
well-known developer of desert property. In 1944 
the vine was overgrown and in poor condition. 
Richard Thayer planned to chop it up and get rid 
of it. A protest was raised and an association was 
formed to protect the vine, with money provided 
to pay property taxes and provide year-round 
care for the vine.

 In 1961, after Richard Thayer died, the lot was 
split. Marian married builder Ronald Cook who 
developed the west side of the property with 
homes and built the present Solt home for he 
and Marian in1962. The upper home was sold 
to Joseph and Marie Feeney who raised eight 
children there. In 1972, Ron and Marian sold the 
lower home to Bob and Nell Solt. In the late 1990s, 
Joe Feeney died and Maria sold the property. It 
was purchased in 2003 by the present owners, 
Dan and Dana Dorrance.

 By the 1970’s Vine Festival activity had about 
ended. It started up again in the late 70’s when 
sponsored for one day each year by the Chamber 
of Commerce. The Sierra Madre Beautification 
Committee was the yearly sponsor in the 1980’s. 
Approximately 500-600 people attended the 
festival each year. In the spring of 1989, Huell 
Howser came to film the vine for his program 
Videolog, which aired on KCET. The next year, 
approximately 6,000 people came to view the vine. 
The festival organizers were unprepared for such 
a turnout; lines stretched for two blocks. Howser 
returned in 1992 to film again for his California 
Gold program. Sierra Madre and the Chamber 
of Commerce quickly organized and combined 
the annual Vine viewing with a downtown street 
fair. A shuttle bus is provided, and people procure 
tickets to see the vine at a pre-scheduled time.

 The Guinness Book of World Records has 
named the Vine the World’s largest flowering 
plant. It is estimated that at the height of bloom it 
has 1.5 million blossoms with 40 blossoms per sq. 
ft., weighs 250 tons and has branches that extend 
500 feet. Wistaria is a member of the pea family 
though its seeds resemble a flat bean. Seed pods 
burst open in the summer. The plant is deciduous, 
losing its leaves in the winter. Wistaria seeds were 
brought from China by Marco Polo in the 13th 

 Today, the vine covers approximately one acre. 
Over the years, it has shown distress and seemed 
to be dying. Experts have been brought in from 
Cal Tech, Occidental, and Cal Poly Pomona. 
Correct pruning, treatments with hormones, and 
vitamin B have helped the vine to recover and 
to flourish. To help maintain the Vine’s health, 
records of vine growth and care are now kept on 
a computer log. The Vine seems to produce its 
greatest flowering after a cold winter followed by 
a sudden hot spell.

 What is the correct spelling for wisteria—
wisteria or wistaria? In the Sunset Western 
Garden Book it is spelled wisteria. Sierra Madre 
has always spelled it wistaria. According to L. A. 
County Arboretum and Botanic Garden senior 
biologist Jim Bauml and Librarian Joan De Fato, 
the plant was named to honor Caspar Wistar 
(1761-1818), an American physician and teacher, 
who taught at the University of Pennsylvania. 
Among his accomplishments, he wrote the first 
text-book on anatomy. When the name of the 
genus Wisteria was put into the books, it was 
incorrectly spelled, says De Fato. So, one could 
say that all along, Sierra Madre has correctly 
spelled Wistaria!



 Mountain Views News Saturday, March 16, 2019 


The United States Postal Service and the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce announce 
a special postal cancellation to 
celebrate The Sierra Madre Wistaria 

This special postmark will be 
available at the Sierra Madre 
Wistaria Festival, Sunday March 17, 
2019 at the Wistaria Festival Postal 
Station located at Kersting Court 
in Sierra Madre at Sierra Madre 
Boulevard and Baldwin Avenue. 

This special temporary postal station will be open 11 A.M. to 3 P.M. 

Bring post cards or letters. You can send mail and post from this special event post office 
and surprise your friends when they receive mail with this extraordinary postmark.

The announcement of this postal cancellation has been printed in the U. S. Postal Bulletin 
which is distributed worldwide. To accommodate collectors from out of the area the 
Sierra Madre Post Office will cancel postcards and letters upon request with the Wistaria 
cancellation for 30 days after the event. 

To postmark a letter after the event go to Sierra Madre Post office and request The Wistaria 
Postmark on your mail.


Get out and enjoy all the beauty & tranquilitySierra Madre has to offer!
In the last two years, I personally experienced the myriad of emotions and steps 
that clients face throughout all sides of real estate transactions. Since 2017, we 
leased out our Sierra Madre home of 18 years, purchased and sold a house 
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I understand the realities of selling your family home. I’m committed to providing 
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Call Eileen626.278.0187Eileen BensonCall me for a FREE consultation on your home’s market value!
Eileen BensonCOLDWELL BANKER RESIDENTIAL BROKERAGE626.278.0187BensonEileen@gmail.comREALTOR | CALRE# 0188065015 E. Foothill Blvd., Arcadia, CA 91006The property information herein is derived from various sources that may include, but not be limited to, county records and the Multiple Listing Service, and it may include 
approximations. Although the information is believed to be accurate, it is not warranted and you should not rely upon it without personal verification. Real estate agents 
affiliated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage are independent contractor sales associates, not employees. ©2019 Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. All 
Rights Reserved. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. Owned by a subsidiary of 
NRT LLC. Coldwell Banker and the Coldwell Banker Logo are registered service marks owned by Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC.
Spring is here!
Square Footage per Assessor: 3,162 | 4 Bedrooms | 3 Baths | Lot Size: 30,026 | Year Built: 1938 
See more at | Offered for sale at $2,900,000 
©2019 Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. All Rights Reserved. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. Owned by a subsidiary 
of NRT LLC. Coldwell Banker, the Coldwell Banker Logo, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury and the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury logo service marks are registered or pending registrations owned by Coldwell Banker 
Real Estate LLC. Broker does not guarantee the accuracy of square footage, lot size or other information concerning the condition or features of property provided by seller or obtained from public records or other 
sources, and the buyer is advised to independently verify the accuracy of that information through personal inspection and with appropriate professionals. 
Catherine “Tink” Cheney 
Luxury Property Specialist 
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage 
Cell: 626 233 2938 
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