A two-year fight over the fate of historic Scripps Hall has ended amicably: a private school has bought it and has pledged to preserve its structure and five-acre grounds.
Community leaders and members of the Scripps-Kellogg family, which once owned the property, applauded the sale to the Waldorf School of Pasadena as partly realizing their goal.
“I feel rather gratified with this compromise,” said William C. Kellogg. “It has the great possibility of serving the interests of all the parties involved.”
Kellogg grew up in Scripps Hall, which was built in 1904 by his great-grandfather, community pioneer W. A. Scripps.
Fight Goes Public
For nearly two years, first privately and then publicly, family members and community leaders tried to block a sale, fearing developers would demolish the mansion--a significant part of this community’s past--to build a housing development.
In recent months, the Town Council’s Heritage Committee, with the support of family members, staged a last-ditch effort to have the mansion taken off the selling block and maintained as a community and cultural center.
As recently as two weeks ago, according to community leaders, a local home for the elderly that now owns the mansion was negotiating to sell it to developers. Then, at the last minute, board members of the old-age home reconsidered and agreed to an offer of roughly $700,000 from the Waldorf School.
“This is a victory for the community,” said Dottie Bridal, president of the Heritage Committee. “I think the board members changed their minds at the last moment because of community opposition.”
Jim Graunke, administrator of the home for the elderly, also termed the sale to the Waldorf School a compromise serving everyone’s interests. He refused to comment on why board members changed their minds at the last minute.
Ready by September
The sale should be completed in four months. Officials of the private, nondenominational Waldorf School, which offers a broad curriculum to 75 local students in the first through sixth grades, expect to move in before the next school year begins in September.
In addition to pledging to maintain the mansion and its grounds, school officials have indicated a desire to work with community leaders in devising a plan whereby the school could be used for community events and meetings during nighttime hours.
“It’s a perfect site for us and really a dream come true,” said Paul J. Livadary, president of the board of trustees that runs the nonprofit school, founded locally in 1979 and one of 350 Waldorf schools worldwide. The school now occupies a rented building in Altadena.
“It has all the room we need to expand the school to 12 grades, and it has such terrific historical significance that we feel privileged to be there,” Livadary said.
“It’s too early to say how the community could utilize the school during off-hours, but our hope is that maybe senior citizen meetings and other organizational meetings could be held there.”
Like a Family Squabble
Bridal said she is encouraged by the school’s willingness to accommodate the community. “If the Waldorf School truly means what they say, and I have no doubt that they do, this is something we can all live with,” she said.
In this 100-year-old community only recently awakened to its rich past, the fate of the mansion had assumed the dimensions of a family squabble, laden with emotion and irony and four generations of Altadena history.
It pitted the local old-age home that bears the Scripps family name against members of the Scripps-Kellogg family, a patrician clan that made its fortunes in the newspaper business before endowing Scripps College in Claremont and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla.
The Scripps Home, a local board and care facility for 140 elderly, is located a mile from the mansion and was also founded by W. A. Scripps, in 1913. Family members have contributed heavily to a $12-million endowment fund that is used to operate the old-age home. The 24-member board that oversees the facility has always seated a member of the Scripps-Kellogg family.
‘An Absolute Irony’
William Kellogg, a board member, had called it “an absolute irony” that the old-age home could disregard the wishes of the family that founded it and attempt to sell the family mansion.
But administrators of the old-age home argued that the mansion was a gift made in 1978 by Kellogg’s parents, who had placed no restrictions on the future use or sale of the estate.
Kellogg acknowledged that his parents gave the mansion to the old-age home free of conditions. But he argued that board members were obligated to maintain and not sell the mansion because of a subsequent gift made by his father, who is now deceased.
This second gift, a maintenance fund, was given to the board with the intention that it be used to maintain and preserve the mansion as a cultural and community center, Kellogg said.
Graunke, administrator of the old-age home, had argued that the maintenance fund did not change the nature of the gift. He said selling the mansion would provide the most benefit to residents of the facility.
On Tuesday, Graunke said money from the sale would be used for improvements, including renovation of 20 rooms for the facility’s more frail residents.