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The History of the 2017 Pasadena Showcase House of Design

Completed in 1916 for Pasadena residents Mr. and Mrs. Sam Hinds, this palatial estate was the first English Tudor Revival style residence designed by the illustrious Pasadena architecture firm Marston & Van Pelt. The grand residence was completed in 1916 at a cost of $25,000. It comprises 7,479 square feet and is situated on a majestic two-acre compound that includes a pool and badminton court on park-like grounds.

The legacy of this mansion is infused with Hollywood glamour, from its first owner, an actor, to serving as a set for acclaimed movies and television programs. Most recently, it was featured in La La Land, as well as Beaches and the 1985 version of Alice in Wonderland, along with episodes of Columbo, Parks and Recreation and Mad Men.

Samuel Southey (“Sam”) Hinds, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1875. His father was one of the founders of Hinds, Ketcham & Company, a color label-printing firm and president of the U. S. Playing Card Company. The younger Hinds was educated at Harvard and New York University. In 1905, the family moved to Pasadena, where Hinds was an attorney. His firm of Waldo, Hinds & Lawrence did very well and its income stream, probably together with some family money, enabled Hinds to build his stately home in what was then known as San Rafael Heights.

He shared the house with his wife Dorothy Vandervort Hinds, their three daughters and two live-in servants. Hinds became so involved in Pasadena’s social life that some friends wondered just how committed he was to the practice of law. It is said he suffered from “stage fright” in the courtroom and never pleaded a case before a jury during his legal career. Ironically, he helped form The Pasadena Playhouse and became quite an accomplished actor there.

Hinds had to fall back on his acting talents full-time when the Depression hit. He lost his home, law firm, wife and children. The same day Dorothy divorced Sam, she married actor and Beverly Hills “capitalist” John F. Bell, who had also been involved in the development of The Pasadena Playhouse. Their life was not a happy one either—two years later most of their possessions were attached because of outstanding debts.

In 1929, Mr. Hinds persuaded Paramount Studios to hire him for a bit part in If I Had a Million, starring Gary Cooper and W. C. Fields. It was ironic that the broke Mr. Hinds played a millionaire. It is rumored that Mr. Hinds rented out his home but
continued to live there as a boarder. Indeed, in the 1930 census he is described as a “lodger” sharing the La Loma property with an English-born husband-and-wife, gardener and housekeeper.

However, life slowly improved for him. He would eventually act in more than 300 films, at one time earning $1,250 a week under contract to MGM and Universal. Perhaps his best-remembered role was as Peter Bailey, the father of James Stewart’s character, George Bailey, in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Research by Tim Gregory, The Building Biographer

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