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The Gamble House, Pasadena, California | by Ken Lund
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The Gamble House, Pasadena, California

The Gamble House, also known as David B. Gamble House, is a National Historic Landmark, a California Historical Landmark, and museum in Pasadena, California, USA. It was designed by brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene of the architectural firm Greene and Greene and constructed 1908–09 as a home for David B. Gamble of the Procter & Gamble company.


Originally intended as a winter residence for David and Mary Gamble, the three-story Gamble House is commonly described as America's Arts and Crafts masterpiece. Its style shows influence from traditional Japanese aesthetics and a certain California spaciousness born of available land and a permissive climate. The Arts and Crafts Movement in American Craftsman style architecture was focused on the use of natural materials, attention to detail, aesthetics, and craftsmanship.


Rooms in the Gamble House were built using multiple kinds of wood; the teak, maple, oak, Port Orford cedar, and mahogany surfaces are placed in sequences to bring out contrasts of color, tone and grain. Inlay in the custom furniture designed by the architects matches inlay in the tile mantle surrounds, and the interlocking joinery on the main staircase was left exposed. One of the wooden panels in the entry hall is actually a concealed door leading to the kitchen, and another panel opens to a clothes closet. The Greenes used an experienced team of local contractors who had worked together for them in Pasadena on several previous homes, including the Hall brothers, Peter and John, who are responsible for the high quality of the woodworking in the house and its furniture.


The woods, the low and horizontal room shapes, and the natural light that filters through the art glass exterior windows, coexist with a relatively traditional plan, in which most rooms are regularly shaped and organized around a central hall. Although the house is not as spatially adventurous as the contemporary works of Frank Lloyd Wright or even of the earlier New England "Shingle Style," its mood is casual and its symmetries tend to be localized - i.e. symmetrically organized spaces and forms in asymmetrical relationships to one another. Ceiling heights are different on the first (8'10") and second floors (8'8") and in the den (9'10") and the forms and scales of the spaces are constantly shifting, especially as one moves from the interior of the house to its second-floor semi-enclosed porches and its free-form terraces, front and rear. The third floor was planned as a billiard room, but was used as an attic by the Gamble family. The Gamble family crest, a crane and trailing rose, was integrated in part or whole in many locations around the house.


Outdoor space was as important as the interior spaces. Exterior porches are found off three of the second-floor bedrooms and were used for sleeping or entertaining. The main terrace is privately beyond the rear facade of the residence. It has patterned brick paving with planting areas, a large curvilinear pond, and garden walls made with distinctive clinker bricks and boulders. Paths made with large water-worn stones from the nearby Arroyo Seco are reminiscent of running brooks crossing the lawns. The overall landscape design and constructed garden elements are integrated with the architectural proportion and detailing. The triple front door and transom feature a Japanese black pine motif in plated (more than one layer) leaded art glass, highlighting the Asian influence that runs throughout the house.


The house is portrayed as the home of Dr. Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, described as the "Brown Mansion" in a newspaper headline dated August 1, 1962, seen in the first film.,_California)

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Taken on September 19, 2015