Vintage SoCal: Altadena mansion built by Andrew McNally charts a course to the late 1800s

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Andrew McNally, co-founder of the atlas publishing company Rand McNally, put this Altadena mansion on the map.

Built in 1888, the distinctive house is in the Queen Anne-style but more horizontal and less fussy than the vertical Victorians of the time. McNally often used the house, with its three-story rotunda, to entertain visitors from back East.

Its most impressive space was added in the late 1800s. Inspired by what he saw at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, McNally bought the trappings of the fair’s Turkish display and had them shipped to California.


That display inspired him to commission the home’s original architect, Frederick Roehrig, to build an addition at one corner of the residence.

The 25-by-25-foot octagonal room with a conical roof became known as the Turkish smoking room. The decorative space features Arabian-inspired finials, diamond-shaped glass panes and carved-wood paneling. The gold- and orange-toned room is dripping in ornamentation.

The shingled home reflects the gracious living of a multimillionaire, with its large public rooms, an open foyer with pocket doors of wood and leaded glass and a grand wooden staircase. A two-sided fireplace serves the living room and a sitting room, both of which are adorned with floral stenciling on the coved ceilings. The dining room is paneled with a built-in sideboard and its own fireplace, one of seven in the house.

With the exception of the modernized kitchen, the nearly 7,000-square-foot house is rich in original details. Among the 19th century features that remain intact are carved woodwork, Douglas fir paneling, jeweled stained-glass windows, 24 functioning gas lamps and the bronze steam radiators and boiler. There are nine bedrooms and five bathrooms.

The more than three-quarter-acre property, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, contains an aviary. McNally kept exotic birds to match the colorful flowers he planted throughout the once much larger estate. Palm trees, deodar cedars, citrus and olive trees fill the grounds.

The McNally Estate, at 654 E. Mariposa St., Altadena, is for sale at $3.79 million. Matthew Berkley, Scott Lander and Barbara Lamprecht, all with Deasy/Penner & Partners, are the listing agents.


This occasional feature celebrates Southern California’s architectural heritage through homes built before 1950.

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