The Gamble House in Pasadena is a beautiful craftsman style home. You might have seen this place before as Doc Brown’s House from Back to the Future. The house is available to visit on tours. If you’d like to visit for free there are a few chances to do so throughout the year. My first visit was several years ago during the MOTA Day and more recently on a free Pasadena Museum day. On my first visit, I was only allowed to take photos on the outside. During my second visit photos were allowed on the inside much to my delight.
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The house, built in 1908, is a historical landmark and the docents are very protective of it. Immediately the home reminded me of The Grand Californian Hotel and Spa at The Disneyland Resort. Every room had a docent to tell us about the family and the home. In the entryway, two hidden doors were pointed out to us. There are no handles so you wouldn’t know upon first glance that two panels on the walls were in fact doors. If you were to push on one of the doors it would reveal a closet. Another panel would reveal a passage to the kitchen. That way the maid or the cook could quickly move from the kitchen to the front door.
Throughout the home, I was impressed by how advanced things were considering it was built in 1908. The annunciator was one of the coolest things that I saw. There was a box in the kitchen where the servants could see which family member needed them. If Aunt Julia buzzed the kitchen from her room the box would make some kind of indication that Aunt Julia needed them. Julia was Mrs. Gamble’s sister who lived in the house the longest of any of the family members.
In the dining room, Aunt Julia’s chair at the table was pointed out to us. Aunt Julia was 4′ 7″ so her chair was higher than the others so that she could be on the same level as everyone else at the table. Since the chair would cause her feet to dangle a small stool was placed by her chair for her to put her feet on. Another detail about the dining room that I loved is that there a button under the rug near where Mrs. Gamble sat. When she was ready for the staff to bring out dessert she could press the button with her foot.
The house currently belongs to the city of Pasadena and the USC School of Architecture. Two USC students live in the house which has got to be a really cool experience for them. A lot of hard work is put in to make sure that the house stays well preserved. The deal that the family made when they left the house to Pasadena & USC is that if it is not well taken care of it should be torn down.
I was excited to find out that the Gamble House has been used as a filming location. The interior of the home can be seen in Zathura. The carriage house, which is now a bookstore, was used as Doc Brown’s garage/laboratory from Back to the Future. In the scenes taking place in 1985, the house no longer exists so Doc Brown lives in his garage. But, in the scenes in the past, the house is still standing as Doc Brown’s home.
If you get a chance to check out the Gamble House I would highly recommend it. Especially if you’ll be in Pasadena anyways. Other places in the area that I recommend checking out are the Rose Bowl, the Pasadena Playhouse, Descanso Gardens, and the LA Arboretum.
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