When a Home Truly Is a Castle : * Tours: The public will get a peek inside Altadena’s Balian Mansion as part of a benefit for the Chamber of Commerce.


You’ve seen it every Christmas, aglow with 10,000 lights.

But even when the bulbs are dark for the summer, Altadena’s Balian Mansion is something to stare at.

Like a community castle, the Mediterranean-style 1922 house sits majestically at the fork of Mendocino Lane and Glenview Terrace, its manicured grounds set off by rows of giant palms against the San Gabriel Mountains.

And every so often, the owners of the estate fling open the doors and let the public take a peek.


Saturday is one such occasion. The owners of the house--George Balian, 60, and his sister, Agnes, 63--will open their 14-room residence for a special tour and ice cream social to benefit the Altadena Chamber of Commerce.

George Balian, treasurer of the Balian Ice Cream Co. founded by his father, seems unfazed by the grandeur of the home, which his family purchased in 1956.

“It’s like living in a cottage,” he says.

Some cottage. From the street, the 7,000 square foot house appears to be a solid mass, but is actually made up of two opposing L-shaped wings that meet at a central, two-story entrance foyer.

The heavy wooden front door is bowed so that its contours fit the oval shape of the central, 14-foot foyer. Gesturing with pride toward the room’s contoured mahogany paneling, Balian says, “The workmanship of this house couldn’t be duplicated today.”

The foyer’s oval shape contributes to a feeling of being aboard a small luxury liner--with the emphasis on luxury.

Above its black-and-white marble floor hangs a large crystal chandelier. An intricately curved wrought iron railing supports a crimson carpeted stairway.

Moving out from the foyer, visitors may explore the house’s living room, music room, den, dining room, kitchen and butler’s pantry. Upstairs rooms will be off-limits during the tour, however.

Although Agnes and George Balian modernized the cherry-wood kitchen with indirect, cabinet-top lighting and chrome furniture, everything else in the house has a curvaceous, antique feel to it.

Statuary and antiques abound throughout the house and grounds. Especially prominent among the art objects are Dresden and Sevres porcelain pieces collected by George Balian.

Meanwhile, personal photographs provide a glimpse of the inhabitants’ lives. George Balian, who once dreamed of becoming a concert pianist, keeps a photo of his early music teacher, Lillian Steuber, above the sumptuous, gilt-trimmed 1915 Steinway. “She was my only love,” he says.

The tour will run from noon to 7 p.m. Donations of $15 will be requested at the door, or tickets may be purchased in advance for $10 at Webster’s Pharmacy in Altadena or at Webster’s Hallmark stores in Pasadena. No children under 14 will be admitted.

For further information, please call the Altadena Chamber of Commerce at (818) 794-3988.