The historic Lanterman House was open to the public for viewing on Sunday afternoon and visitors were invited to wear summer white clothing and picnic in the yard.
Women strolled the lawn with wide-brimmed hats and white vintage gowns, while men dressed in straw boater hats and cream-colored suits, appearing like they’d come straight out of a Renoir or Seurat painting.
Built in 1915, the Lanterman House is a concrete Craftsman style house with period furniture, arts-and-crafts pottery and wood-paneled walls.
The second floor was built with a large ballroom, where a pianist played early jazz tunes and several couples sauntered across the floor.
“The House [historical foundation] decided not to do a croquet tournament like they have in years past. So I suggested that they host a summer whites party, where people could enjoy themselves picnicking, dancing, making their own fun,” said Walter Nelson, who has collaborated with the foundation for 10 years in putting on events like the Ragtime Tea Dance.
Open house visitors were encouraged to bring their banjos and ukuleles, both popular musical instruments around the turn of the 20th century. On Sunday, children could be found on the Lanterman lawns playing hoop-and-stick games while women sat and did needlepoint, all to the gentle background music created by those who had brought instruments.
“We came because of the old-fashioned convivial joys, like music making, eating and spending time with friends — and we love clothes of different eras,” said Kate Friedricks of Tujunga, who played her ukulele as her friend Sheila Murphy-Nelson sang in accompaniment.
Gregg Schneeman sat with a bowed psaltery, a stringed instrument that is related to the box harp. Also known as a lap violin or violin zither, Schneeman played a Scottish lament called “The Dark Island” on the tinkling strings with two horsehair bows and showed visitors how to play it as well.
“There was supposed to be a ukulele jam session, but I think the ukulele players were too shy…I didn’t intend on being the center of musical attention,” Schneeman joked.
Many people who did visit the house in costume were associated with the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and other historical reenactment groups.
Colleen Crosby, who grew up in La Cañada, belongs to Costumers Guild West and is part of an annual convention where she shows others how to make their own costumes.
“We heard there was an opportunity to dress up and have a picnic, and those are our favorite things,” Crosby said.