The fate of Bob Winter’s library

Esotouric’s Richard Schave learned how to give a bus tour on Bob Winter’s “L.A. on a 6-Pack” Occidental College excursions in the 1980s

When the announcement circulated yesterday about a one-day estate sale at the longtime Pasadena home of architectural historian Bob Winter, hearts dropped into stomachs all across the Southland.

It was widely known that Bob intended to leave his Arts & Crafts bungalow, built by the great Pasadena tile maker Ernest Batchelder and liberally festooned with rare tile, glass and metalwork, to his beloved Occidental College.

Less widely known was what the college planned to do with the National Register landmark. It is in no danger of being demolished; the facade and principal downstairs rooms are protected by a preservation easement. But would Oxy undertake the considerable expense of maintaining the property just as it was, as an off-campus lecture hall or visiting scholar’s residence? Or would they put it on the market?

The estate sale announcement settled that question firmly: Bob Winter’s home would be sold.

Scrolling through photos on the estate sale listing, it was obvious that the library had been thinned. Still there were hundreds of books laid out in banker’s boxes. Would the reference library that informed such iconic Southern California histories as The California Bungalow, California Design 1910, Batchelder Tilemaker and A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles and Southern California be dispersed?

The answer is “absolutely not!”

We reached out to our friends at Occidental College and got the skinny from Dale Ann Stieber, Special Collections Librarian and College Archivist:

“Three faculty members and two librarians reviewed Dr. Winter’s books and selected about 250-300 items for subject matter of regional value (arts & crafts and California regional arts, architecture and culture) for Occidental College Library.

Dr. Winter’s personal and professional papers, memorabilia, awards, and research files/books were reviewed, packed and will be coming to Special Collections. Ann Scheid, USC architectural librarian and a close friend and colleague of Dr. Winter, is assisting us in the processing of these materials for future researcher access. I should add that a decade ago Dr. Winter transferred his comprehensive 35mm slide collection on Southern California architecture to Occidental College; it has been fully digitized, described and available in ArtStor.”

And that’s a bit of happy news on the sad occasion of the end of our friend Bob Winter’s life in his lovely bungalow. May this place attract a fine new steward and be a joyous and creative home for many years to come.

As for us, we’re skipping the estate sale, and prefer to remember the house filled with Bob’s personality and treasures. Having learned how to give offbeat Los Angeles architecture and history tours directly from the master (including one of Batchelder’s Dutch Chocolate Shop), we’ll be deep in South LA on Saturday, exploring the sites that figure in Patty Hearst’s kidnapping and the SWAT raid that incinerated her SLA captors.

We don’t begrudge anyone who swings by the sale in search of a keepsake, but if you’d like to explore the city Bob loved, why not come along for the ride? There’s time for both, and Los Angeles is calling.

Oldest friends Jean Bruce Poole (senior curator and historic museum director, El Pueblo) and Bob Winter enjoy a sunbeam in his living room, Winter 2015

A little bit of the Dutch Chocolate Shop goes on tour at Pasadena Museum of History’s “Batchelder: Tilemaker” exhibition

These are heady times for lovers of the Arts & Crafts movement, as the Pasadena Museum of History celebrates the gift of Dr. Bob Winter’s incomparable Ernest Batchelder collection with a fascinating and eclectic show on his influential Arroyo pottery. Batchelder: Tilemaker is on view through February 12, when we’ll be hosting a special bus tour of the master’s Downtown Los Angeles tile installations.

Included in the exhibition are magnificent fireplaces and miniature salesmen’s samples, bookplates and business cards, corbels and plaster casts (from a horde used to shore up a Los Feliz hillside for decades, then miraculously recognized and preserved), even a virtual reality headset which lets you explore donor “Bungalow Bob’s” Pasadena home and garden, formerly Batchelder’s.

Dutch Chocolate Shop mural

But the piece we’re most excited about is the one we had a little part in bringing to the museum: one of the “lost” tile murals from Downtown’s landmark Dutch Chocolate Shop, removed in the mid-1980s when a door was opened between the DCS and the contiguous Spring Arcade building. Geographically, we understand that it made sense to take this mural down. But with its prominent back wall placement, Batchelder ensured  it contained one of the most commission’s most charming scenes: a young couple in Dutch garb walking a handsome hound. Hidden from view for decades, the unrestored panel has a proud central spot in the new exhibition, and we hope you have a chance to see it.

When you visit, leave a time for the amusing show across the hall, Cast & Fired: Pasadena’s Mid-Century Ceramics Industry. If you’ve spent much time in antique malls or thrift shops, you’ll recognize the kitschy novelties that emerged by the thousands from Pasadena kilns: scrawny hillbillies, cartoony woodland creatures, exotic Asian figurines and stylized owls. It’s a small revelation to see the work of specific designers clustered together, along with select sketches and color studies. Look especially for the wee set of ceramic fascist figurines by Twin Winton and the Roselane flat cat.