One day, Dave Dutton, a book dealer from North Hollywood, saw an ad in the Los Angeles Times regarding a library of books for sale. He went to check it out.
“He had quite a few very important books on minor American painters,” Dutton later recalled.
While dickering over the price, Dutton saw what looked like prints in a nearby box and the dealer said he would throw those in with the purchase.
When he got home, he discovered that the box was full of artworks done in various techniques.
Some were of places and others were perspectives of items such as trees, bottles and people. They were signed W. Bathey. Two were signed Winifred Bathey.
One had a caption “looking west on 1st Street, 1901,” and another was of a theater built in a Chinese architectural style.
“There were 65 works in all,” Dutton added.
Dutton checked his art history books and discovered that Winifred Bathey was born in the 1880s in La Crescenta. The daughter of a well-known developer and architect, Charles T. Bathey, she was in the first graduating class from USC’s newly formed art department.
“Most of the pictures were from 1898 until the time she graduated in 1901,” Dutton said.
After her graduation, she worked for William Lees Judson, founder of Judson Studios, and then for Title Guarantee and Trust.
She worked in their engineering department for more than 27 years.
Seeking more background on the painter, Dutton called Mike Lawler of the Crescenta Valley Historical Society.
Lawler and fellow historian John Newcombe took Dutton on a tour of the sites where the artist lived and worked.
“We drove Dutton around and showed him where Bathey grew up,” Lawler said in a later conversation. “Her house is still there. It’s one of the oldest houses in the area at the top of Briggs Avenue.”
Charles Bathey homesteaded 160 acres and built a mountain cabin for his wife, Mary, and their four children, Winifred, Allie, Edith and Herbert.
Winifred Bathey and Allie Bathey Johnson lived on the place until it was sold in the 1960s.
“Coincidentally, we acquired a scrapbook of the Bathey family about the same time Dutton bought the artistic works,” Lawler said. “I got a call out of the blue from a guy who does garage sales. He had an old scrapbook with La Crescenta mentioned throughout and offered it for sale. I ended up buying it.”
The scrapbook contains a picture of the Bathey family at their dining room table, the same setting, that Winifred Bathey incorporated into one of her artworks, Dutton said.
Dutton now has his original Winifred Bathey pieces framed to protect them. And, thanks to Lawler and Newcombe, he has a copy of her diary and hopes to one day write about her life.
KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached by leaving a message with features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241. For more information on Glendale’s history, visit the Glendale Historical Society’s web page www.glendalehistorical.org; call the reference desk at the Central Library at (818) 548-2027; or visit the Special Collections Room at Central from 10 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays or make an appointment by calling (818) 548-2037.