Earthquake lab reimagined as a Mediterranean villa sells for $6.885 million

Spanning three acres, the gated estate holds a Mediterranean-style home, a detached guesthouse, vineyard, swimming pool and courtyard with a fountain.
(Erik Grammar)

This Mediterranean compound once used as an earthquake detection lab just shook up the Pasadena real estate market. Built in the 1920s as California’s first seismology station, the reimagined estate has sold for its full asking price of $6.885 million.

Boasting a romantic Mediterranean home, a detached guesthouse and working vineyard, the three-acre property took a long journey to reach its current form.

Built by Caltech with funding from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the facility was originally a two-story concrete lab carved into a granite hillside. The rocky landscape was necessary, as the seismometers required a bedrock base.

According to the listing agency, it was here that seismologist Charles Richter developed research that turned into the Richter magnitude scale used for measuring the strength of earthquakes.


For the latter half of the century, the facility remained dormant until a developer with big plans bought the property for $604,000 in 2013.

“We essentially had to transform an empty concrete building into a Spanish residence while facing design limitations due to the historic restrictions of the structure,” said listing agent David Goldberg of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The remodel, which revolved around protecting the aesthetic design of the lab, won them a California Historic Preservation Award.

Gates and dense landscaping approach the main residence, which holds three bedrooms and four bathrooms in 6,092 square feet. An open-concept kitchen unfolds to multiple living areas, and other highlights include a dramatic formal dining room, billiards room and vintage-style movie theater.

Crown molding rings the living spaces. Splashes of rich hardwood and artisan tile provide Mediterranean flair.

Outside, gardens surround a courtyard with a fountain, and a custom-built cabana overlooks a swimming pool. There’s also a trellis-topped dining patio and a lounge with a fire pit.

Goldberg and Peter Martocchio, both with Sotheby’s, held the listing. Timothy Durkovic of Douglas Elliman represented the buyer.

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