On the Town: Doctors House Museum reopens its doors

After being dark in December, the Doctors House Museum in Brand Park has resumed its Sunday tours.

This authentically restored Queen Anne-Eastlake-style home was built in 1888. The two-story house originally stood at 921 E. Wilson Ave. in central Glendale. With the help of volunteer greeter and Glendale Historical Society board member Margaret Hammond, a dozen visitors signed up for the first tour of the new year this past Sunday.

Volunteer docent Laura Crook guided the visitors room by room as they viewed the home's period furniture and artifacts.

La Crescenta resident Anita Lacroix was first in the home. Upon her heels was Glendale resident Monica Mehlman. After a lunch at the Olive Garden, Mehlman convinced dad, Arthur Mehlman, to tour the house with her.

Glendale resident Violet Bruce was so excited to see the house, she showed up a week early only to find the house closed. At the end of December, Christmas decorations are being removed to ready the house for the new year.

During the 20-minute tour, Crook explained that four physicians had owned the house in succession, giving it its name.

Subsequently, silent-screen actress Nell Shipman moved in.

Community activities formed the Glendale Historical Society to save the house when it was threatened with demolition in 1979.

The city paid $1 for the house from its owner, Larry Sade and Associates. The catch was it had to be moved off the Wilson property in time to start construction of an apartment building.

Volunteer society members planned the move to Brand Park. Many consultations with engineers and contractors later, the house's move in September 1980 was accomplished one half at a time.

Then it had to be reassembled and restored. Moving costs were estimated at $42,000 with an additional $150,000 for its complete restoration. Donations paid the bills.

The house's restoration into a museum was accomplished almost entirely by the volunteers who were inexperienced in restoration. But they quickly learned. They went to experts in restoration, craftsmanship and project coordination.

Then the volunteers did the rest. Their work was back-breaking and labor-intensive and took four years.

In 1984, the house was opened to the public as a museum. More than 2,000 visitors come to the house each year. That includes hundreds of school children who are given a child's perspective of the house. They learn about the children's chores and games of the era.

On hand to lend some color was Peter Rusch, costumed in full Victorian regalia. Rusch is assistant director of the Doctors House Museum. Accompanying him was Sonia Montejano, the museum's director.

According to Montejano, the restoration of the house represents the birth of the modern historic preservation movement in Glendale.

At the end of the tour, visitors were offered the chance to enter the "Dinner at the Doctors House" raffle.

For $5 a ticket or $20 for five tickets, two lucky dinner guests can win a candlelight dinner served at the Doctors House Museum on a night of the winners' choice. That would be like starring in your own "Downton Abbey" segment on PBS. But without the angst.

The drawing will be on Feb. 5. The winner need not be present to win.


RUTH SOWBY may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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