Boddy House: A link to Descanso's glamorous past
Perched high above the Descanso Gardens landscape on the crest of a hill, the historic Boddy House offers a glimpse of a glamorous bygone era. When E. Manchester Boddy, founder of Descanso Gardens, decided to make Rancho del Descanso his home, he commissioned prominent Los Angeles architect James E. Dolena to create the perfect house to raise his growing family.
Boddy, publisher and owner of the former Los Angeles Daily News, purchased the land that is now Descanso Gardens in 1937. Dolena was know as the “architect to the stars” for his many commissions in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. The task Boddy handed Dolena: to create a home for himself, his wife Berenice, and their two sons.
Working in his trademark Hollywood Regency style, Dolena produced a 12,000-square-foot, two story, 22-room mansion for the Boddy family and nestled it into a prominent hillside in the far southeast corner of the property, with a panoramic view of the San Gabriel Mountains. The house incorporated many features that were quite advanced for the day, including steel framing, a built-in stereo music system, and heating and cooling based on geothermal principles.
In 1953, Boddy sold his estate — including his house — to Los Angeles County. At the same time, a vigorous volunteer group sprang up to lend assistance and support. Known as the Descanso Gardens Guild, this nonprofit volunteer group led many of the improvements that subsequently have shaped today’s Descanso Gardens.
In 2007, Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts chose the Boddy House to be transformed into its 43rd annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design. Working with Showcase volunteers, interior and exterior design firms completely rehabilitated and restored the Boddy House, bringing it back to life in a contemporary re-interpretation of its original Hollywood Regency style.
In 2008 Descanso Gardens received a major grant from The Ahmanson Foundation of Los Angeles to return the house to the visiting public as a house museum, an interpretive center showcasing highlights from the history of the property, and an elegant and attractive location for entertaining. Today, a stop at the Boddy House to learn more about the Gardens’ colorful history and heritage should be a must for every first-time visitor.
Docents lead hour-long tours of the Boddy House on Saturdays and Sundays at noon. Visits and tours are free with Gardens’ admission.
The Boddy House is also available for special events, including weddings, receptions, parties, conferences, meetings and filming.
The Boddy House is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. To find out if the Boddy House is open prior to your visit, please phone the Visitor Center at (818) 949-4290.