by Paul R. Spitzzeri
In 1927, after five long years of construction, La Casa Nueva, the Spanish Colonial Revival mansion built by the Temple family, was finally completed. Yet, even though Walter P. Temple, in restructuring his finances by taking out bonds to continue with his real estate and oil businesses, also took out a mortgage to finish the home, he also had extensive plans for the landscaping around La Casa Nueva.
The centerpiece of the gardens surrounding the residence was what we know now as “the West Lawn.” This is a large area adjacent to the house bounded on two sides by the Mission Walkway, with a grape-covered trellis, an arched wall and incised names and founding dates for the 21 California missions and the Pala “sub-mission”, one the north by a wall and on the east by the home.
Photos taken in April 1927, as the house was nearing completion, for a costume party sponsored by the Altar Society of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Puente (now La Puente) show the area without a lawn, but with plenty of rose bushes.
However, the highlighted photograph from the Homestead’s collection in this post, which may date to 1928 or 1929, shows that, while there were still plenty of rose bushes on the western edge of the area, there was a lawn there, too.
The photograph, which was probably taken by Thomas W. Temple II, the eldest Temple child and an avid photographer (and which has a stamp on the reverse from an El Monte photo developer) shows two unidentified young women, one of whom appears to be enjoying the fragrance of the roses. It came from a photo album owned by Agnes Temple, the only surviving daughter (an infant, Alvina, died shortly after birth in 1906) of the family. When the album was donated to the museum early in 1996 by Agnes’s son, Temple Luis Fatjo, it was in poor condition.
Temple, or Terry as he was commonly known, sheepishly informed us that the album had long been stored in a plastic bag in a trashcan in his garage. We told him, though, that this was not uncommon as many people keep old family documents and items in less-than-ideal (and certainly not museum-type) storage conditions. We were just happy to have this treasure trove of images documenting part of the lives of Agnes and her family from the 1920s through the 1950s.
Remarkably, though the album covers were ravaged, the interiors, including most of tjhe photographs, were pretty well-preserved. We carefully removed the photos, photographed them using a well-lighted copy stand (in the days before scanners), and housed the images in mylar sleeves and acid-free envelopes, while retaining the album, as well.
Recently, however, the photos have been scanned and this is the version shown here. Incidentally, there are a few other interesting details to note in the image. One are the other landscape elements, including shrubs or small trees, as well as a cypress tree at the upper right that still survives adjacent to the front porch of the home. In front of the tree and along a walkway that runs from the Music Room to the Mission Walkway are adobe pillars that were for a trellis that no longer exists, though the foundation locations for the pillars are still evident.
Look for more photos from this album in future posts as there are many of the family and the Homestead that we hope will be of interest to readers of the blog.