clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Real True History of Pasadena's Swastika Lodge

New, 8 comments

Last June we learned about Swastika Lodge, home of the swastika-shaped pond of Pasadena, and dug up just enough information to confirm that it was not a secret Nazi outpost (the secret Nazi outpost is much farther west); we still had no idea who built it or why. But a very nice woman named Susan Miller Broderick found that old post and emailed to let us know that Swastika Lodge was built by her great-grandparents, Winifred Maude Dudley and Arvin Benjamin Shaw, who met as faculty members in 1876 at Iowa State College and moved in the early 1900s to Southern California, where Shaw founded the Los Angeles College of Osteopathy. She wrote: "I often went to the house as a child in the 1940's, since I had an aunt (my grandmother's sister) who lived there, and my grandparents lived just below the Vosburg house on Barhite Road .... I lived in my grandparents home as a child during the war with my parents and subsequently went there to visit until the Barhite house was sold." And she shared some photos and an excerpt from a genealogy written by her mother and the Shaws' granddaughter, Marianne Rogers Miller:

On coming to Southern California, Arvin and Winifred were attracted by the orange groves and foothills, and bought a citrus grove and home at 16th Street and Euclid Avenue, Upland. In 1909, they moved to East Pasadena, on Sierra Madre Villa, where they bought the Vosburg Valencia Grove and the Pasadena Glen tract. Arvin served as president of the Sierra Madre-Lamanda Exchange Citrus Company, and as vice-president of the California Orange Byproducts Assn at Ontario. He also served as president of the Iowa Assn. of Southern California, and other organizations. Grandfather Arvin was often referred to as 'Doctor' or 'Colonel Shaw', but the reason for these titles are not known. Perhaps they were honorary. A publication of Iowa State University states that he graduated from a course in osteopathy, but it does not say that he received a doctorate at that time. Grandfather Arvin was in his 70's when I was old enough to appreciate the kind of person he was, but he always seemed a very unique person; the very model of what a grandfather should be: dignified, gentle, loving, entertaining, and …………he lived in a fascinating house.

Swastika Lodge, as it came to be called, was built soon after he and Grandmother Winifred moved to Sierra Madre Villa in 1909. It was built largely of stone, three stories high, with an oriental tilt to the eaves of the roof. The oriental influence may have resulted from the stay in Korea of his wife's aunt Lily, who spent over three years there. The house contained many furnishings and art objects which she brought home with her. In addition, he loved to attend auctions and sometimes picked up some beautiful pieces in that way. He also had an interest in American Indian art objects (baskets, rugs, etc.), hence the name Swastika Lodge. During World War II, prejudice against anything German ran high and not everyone understood that the Swastika shaped pond and mosaic in the entry hall floor was representative of Indian, not German design. (Note: The arms of the Indian swastika point counter-clockwise, as opposed to the German design.) As a hobby, the Shaws developed a new gladiolus combining the red and gold colors of their alma mater. The Sierra Madre Villa area and Pasadena Glen became a thriving community. The canyon had been included for free when Grandfather Arvin bought the mesas for his orange groves. At first, the Glen property was developed chiefly for summer cabins; later, there were more permanent residents. A clubhouse, dancing pavilion, and swimming pool existed at one time. The buildings were destroyed by fire, and the pool washed out in the flood of 1937. On the hill, the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel became the first tourist hotel in Southern California. This, too, was later demolished. The entire area was reached by paved road or an electric carline a mile down the hill.

The house was damaged in an earthquake in 1994 and sold in 1997; it was torn down, but Broderick writes that "The style of the new home is quite similar to and compatible with the original Swastika Lodge, and one wouldn't necessarily know at first glance that it was a new house."
· Explainer: What's Up With the Swastika Pond of Pasadena? [Curbed LA]