The Robert R. Blacker House
“I suggested [to Mrs. Blacker that] she place some of the finer pieces in some good museum where students and art lovers could see it. “
~Henry Mather Greene, letter to his brother, February 4, 1942
Beginning in the spring of 1907, Charles and Henry Greene, still in their thirties, created with their contractors one of their most spectacular and enduring masterworks. Their client, Robert R. Blacker, was a civic minded patron recently retired from the lumber business. The Blacker house was the first of the Greenes’ commissions to make extensive use of exotic hardwoods, thanks perhaps to their client’s professional contacts. The interiors and furnishings comprised Honduras mahogany, Burmese teak, ebony, vermilion, and ironwood, and the contractors used high-quality old-growth redwood and Douglas fir in large dimensions for the exteriors. The Greenes designed more than fifty light fixtures, in metal and wood with delicate inlay; numerous leaded-glass panels set into door and window sashes; and more than fifty pieces of furniture — many with intricate inlay and joinery — to create a coordinated work of art that established, in California, a new sophistication in the architecture and decorative arts of the American Arts and Crafts movement.
Following Mrs. Blacker’s death in 1948, subsequent owners subdivided the gardens and outbuildings and sold the furniture at a yard sale. As recently as the mid-1980s, another owner removed lighting and other fixtures from the house and sold them to private collectors and institutions. Outraged local citizens and organizations, led by Pasadena Heritage, subsequently worked to enact legislation to prohibit future acts of a similar nature, considered by many to be equivalent to cultural vandalism. The current owners of the Blacker house — embracing their unofficial role as stewards of an important work of American architectural art — have in recent years restored the house and meticulously re-created the missing fixtures and furnishings. They have even reunited significant portions of the subdivided property and outbuildings. The curators are grateful to those collectors and institutions who have agreed to share objects with the public through this exhibition.
Next: A Total Work of Art