Verdugo Views: The builders of Twelve Oaks Lodge

Two generous people who spent their winters in La Crescenta, instead of in the Midwest, donated their property for a home for the elderly. Today it is Twelve Oaks Lodge.

James and Effie Fifield were well established in Minneapolis, where he headed up several companies and was the president of the Attorney's National Clearing House Company, founded in 1895, with his brother, Walter.

Born in Iowa in 1862, James Fifield graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and then earned a bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1887 while attending law lectures at the University of Maryland.

He continued his law studies in Minneapolis and was admitted to the bar in 1891. Soon after, Fifield and his brother established the firm of Fifield & Fifield. He also founded the James C. Fifield Company in 1918 and the Midwest Publishers Company in 1928, according to the Minneapolis Tribune, June 4, 1933.

He was a member of the county bar association, in civic and commercial groups and in the Minneapolis Automobile Club.

Fifield was active in business well into his later years, but eventually he and his wife began spending winters in California, so he joined the Brentwood Country Club.

At some point the couple learned of an organization called the International Sunshine Society, which had been around since the turn of the 20th century. A New York woman had created it; her aim was to bring sunshine into the hearts and lives of those less fortunate.

There were no set rules for accomplishing this; various chapters were given great independence in achieving their goals.

The Fifields helped found a local chapter of the Sunshine Society in the early 1930s. Their goal was to create a homelike boarding home for elderly people of culture and refinement “who can be made happy by our particular brand of sunshine,” as noted in an early newsletter.

The Verdugo Hills chapter was much different from others, as its goal had been set when the Fifields offered their home for that purpose.

When Fifield died in 1933, his widow, Effie, began spending more of her time here and began the process of turning her home over to the Sunshine Society, as noted in the Los Angeles Times, Aug. 4, 1935. Her property at 2820 Sycamore Ave. was deeded to the society that same year.

Sara Craig was elected to head the local chapter of the Sunshine Society. She was assisted by Grace J. Oberbeck, while Effie Fifield served as treasurer and kept her eyes on the books.

Oberbeck regularly sent reports to the Crescenta Valley Ledger and to the Glendale News-Press, keeping the community updated on the process of turning the private home into a retirement facility.

These newspaper clippings are now organized into a scrapbook on file at Twelve Oaks and provide a thorough history of a generous donation by two people who loved this area.

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