Monday, April 21, 2014

Theosophical Society in Altadena

Altadena's best kept secret is the Theosophical Society. The organization has been headquartered in Altadena since 1951, housed in two local historic buildings.
Headquarters- 643 E. Mariposa            Library - 2416 N. Lake

Founded in New York in 1875, the non-sectarian organization went through more than a few hostile schisms, too numerous to mention here, but definitely interesting reading if you like gossip. 

According to the society's literature, today the organization is a “worldwide association dedicated to uplifting humanity through a better understanding of oneness of life and the practical application of brotherhood. Unsectarian and nonpolitical, the objectives are:
  • to form an active brotherhood among mankind;
  • to promulgate the essential unity of all that is, and to demonstrate that this unity is fundamental in nature;
  • to promote the study of ancient and modern religion, science, and philosophy;
  • to explore the hidden side of nature and mankind.”

The Society's International Headquarters is located in a grand old house 
at the northeast corner of Mariposa and Santa Rosa Avenue. It's the last of three significant homes built on the same millionaire's row lot. 
The house today

The first house was a massive thing, built in the shingle style and designed by architect Frederick Roehrig in the 1880s for Baynard Smith who was instrumental in setting up the Valley Hunt Club of Pasadena, which in turn founded the Rose Parade.  This architectural gem burned to the ground in 1894.
Looking north from Mariposa. 
That's Echo Mountain in the
background, left of house.
Photo: Huntington Library

Soon after, Daniel Cameron purchased the property and built a new house in the trendier mission style, also designed by Roehrig.
The second house

In 1920 the mansion was "remodeled" (beyond recognition) by architect Myron Hunt, in the Beaux Art style.  The house was purchased by the Theosophists about thirty years later, and has changed very little, except for the overgrowth of trees and bushes. 


The Theosophists also maintain a library in Altadena, staffed by very nice, helpful people, located in the old Cobb garage on the Southeast corner of Marcheta and Lake Ave. On their website it says: 
Theosophical Library Center makes available to the public a large and unique reference collection with significant works on philosophy, science, and the world's religions. Prominence is given to the ancient traditions of the Americas, Asia, the Near East, Africa, Europe, and Australasia, with sacred texts and commentaries arranged in the historical, cultural, and geographical context in which they evolved. In this way, the reader may follow the recurrent ideas that have helped people of all cultures find a deeper meaning in life.

If you haven't dropped in, you're missing a little Altadena treasure.
It's open daily from 2:00 to 4:30 or by appointment.
Phone (626) 798-8020
tstec@thesociety.org
You can read more about Theosophy here or visit the library online.

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