Monday, January 8, 2024

"RANCHO LAS CASITAS DEL PASO" Flintridge, California

LAS CASITAS DEL PASO - the little houses of the step


Freeman Ford has completed his attractive home above the Flintridge Biltmore, commanding a view of the Pacific ocean. The Spanish building was designed by Edward M. Fowler.

The Los Angeles Times ■ 07 May 1950 - 


Reproduction of Crumbling Monastery Walls

 Helps Give Impression of Bygone Centuries

Somehow you know, with the Rose Bowl below you, that you’re in America. But wandering about Rancho Las Casitas Del Paso in the Flintridge Hills you suddenly feel the impact of time—and what is modern or centuries old blends into a weird twilight zone.

There are flocks of peacocks with their fantastic plumage and Arabian stallions who stand watch at the gates. 


Here in the lush setting of green Southland hills, eight minutes from Pasadena and Glendale, time stands still. You find yourself in the midst of a crumbling Pyrenees monastery and the home of Mrs. Lucille Graf.

Here you find hidden passageways, an Old World cloister, romantic balconies and a prohibition era bar that lifts into a gigantic living room from a secret place below.

The home was designed by Edward M. Fowler of Pasadena for Freeman Ford and was built in 1929. Mrs. Graf and her late husband Fred, a hotel broker, purchased the property in 1941.


Fowler’s authentic reproduction of a group of Pyrenees houses built from monastery ruins, attracted nationwide attention when the project was completed. The Pyrenees house resembles those on the mountain range dividing France and Spain.

To Las Casitas Del Paso come artists and student painters to capture on canvas the charm of the graceful archways, the medieval stone driveways and the posters of Mexico and Spain.

Despite electric light, telephone, modern plumbing and radio, the little houses in the midst of ruins give the impression of having come down intact from the pages of history.


The 42 acres of the Graf estate borders on the Flintridge Academy of the Sacred Heart. Classes of students frequently have been taken on tour of Las Casitas.

The home was used in numerous motion pictures to lend authenticity to the scenes. Walls of Las Casitas are lined with worm-eaten planks taken from the swamps of Louisiana and preserved to give an unusual satin effect.

Secret passageways lead to the room of the mistress—as in homes of the Maladeta district of the Pyrenees. It has a large fireplace and a ceiling of timbers.


Holding a place of honor in the room is an exhibition saddle for use on Mrs. Graf’s Arabian stallion, Roagzah. The horse is a son of Ghazi, an Arabian prize winner.

Protector of the Graf estate is a massive Doberman Pinscher named Derbemar v Ulbricht but called Fritz, for short.

The dog herds the 20 Graf peacocks and is inspector general of any strangers to approach the area.

The cloister, surrounded by a high, concrete wall, contains a fireplace, fruit trees, and an unusual "dunking pool"—a pool deep enough to swim in, but only eight feet across.

Mrs. Graf is particularly proud of her banquet room, a low, barrel-ceilinged room with a long, thick-planked table.

Surrounding the house are cactus gardens, rare plantings and an incomparable view of the mountains and the seas. In the night, there is incomparable silence and peace.

Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler
By CV Weekly on August 21, 2014

Best Little Whorehouse in … La Cañada?

Yes it’s true. Allegedly there was a house of, well, if not ill repute, then at least of questionable repute in La Cañada sometime around the 1960s.

My story comes from a local gentleman who had visited the place back then. I’ll keep him anonymous. Because of his fascination with electronics, I’ll call him “Sparky.”

Our story starts in 1929, when a fabulous home was built in the San Rafael Hills of Flintridge on Wendover Road above the Flintridge Hilton Hotel. “Las Casitas Del Paso” was a massive reproduction of a Pyrenees monastery. Faux crumbling walls, romantic balconies, cloisters and secret passageways gave the place an authentic air, as though it had been transported through time. But a secret bar that lowered from the ceiling placed it firmly in the Prohibition era. It sat on 42 beautifully landscaped acres perched on the highest hill above Flintridge, with incomparable views to the sea.

In 1941, it was purchased by a wealthy hotel broker who had probably fallen in love with the estate when he brokered the sale of the Flintridge Hilton to the Catholic Church (today Sacred Heart Academy). After he died, his wife Lucille continued to live in the splendor of Las Casitas with her prize-winning Arabian stallion “Roagzah,” a massive Doberman named Derbemar von Ulbricht, and a large flock of expensive peacocks imported from India. The neighbors had issues with the peacocks, which filled the quiet night with their loud calls. In the 1950s, we find several articles in the L.A. Times about her neighborhood conflicts over the birds, even to the point of Lucille finding the severed head of one of her birds dropped in front of her gate. After several years of neighbor complaints, punctuated with much courtroom drama, a Pasadena judge ordered her to sell or destroy her valued birds.

Perhaps it was this run-in with her neighbors and the legal system, or perhaps she was talked into it by some of the local men. Maybe she just fell on hard times and needed the money. But for whatever reason, local lore says that in the 1960s she opened her home up for “parties” for gentlemen with lovely ladies that she provided. We can’t be sure today if this was her cover for a prostitution business, but I think we might make some assumptions.

This is where Sparky enters our story. Sparky was a HAM and shortwave radio enthusiast. According to Sparky, he was up in the San Rafaels looking for likely high points and peaks to broadcast from when another local radio enthusiast who knew about the establishment invited him up to meet Lucille. For the two young men the place was a paradise. Beautiful scantily clad girls were everywhere. The bar that lowered from the ceiling was still functional, there were gambling tables, and young women lounged in what was perhaps the first hot tub in the area. Also, the peacocks were back, perhaps due to Lucille’s influential connections. Sparky said that parties of men would call in a reservation, tell Lucille what they wanted for dinner, and how many girls to have on hand. After the group had dinner, the rest of the evening was theirs to spend how they wished in any of the many ornate rooms of the estate.

Sparky really hit it off with Lucille as she was a radio enthusiast herself and had a wonderful shortwave setup. She also had set up her mountaintop estate for extra income as a huge ground antenna via several large “weathervanes” in order to transmit commercially without permits. Sparky garnered some special favors from Lucille, and still has photos he took of Lucille’s girls posing nude around his radio equipment.

According to Sparky the operation didn’t last too long. Lucille finished out her life alone on her mountaintop, and when she died the whole estate was bulldozed, and several mansions were built on the subdivided land.

There’s a lot of supposition and innuendo to this tale, and it’s up to you readers to draw your own conclusions. It seems every neighborhood has its “dirty laundry.”

Flintridge Biltmore
How former hotel became Flintridge Sacred Heart

Freeman Arms Ford was vice-president of the Pasadena Ice Company. Ford was the man who introduced California to Whippet racing.

"Freeman Ford’s Arroyo kennel in Pasadena was planned on a grand scale"

Freeman Ford House by Greene & Greene, Pasadena

Ford commissioned a house by the Greenes in 1906.

The Los Angeles Times ■ 23 March 1930 - 

The yacht-residence of Freeman Ford, and to its left of it the quaint beach home of Pauline Fredericks.

Driving up the new Malibu road that leads to Oxnard, several miles beyond Santa Monica, one is startled by the sight of a palatial yacht stranded on the beach. But on drawing nearer, a high, woven wire fence is seen surrounding the boat and the keel is so deeply imbedded in the earth and the stern so admirably arranged for garages it immediately becomes evident that no tidal wave, but some skillful and ingenious architect, placed the structure on the shore.

The “yacht" is the beach house of Freeman Ford, prominent club man and social leader of Pasadena, and it has every outward appearance of a sea-worthy vessel. Its “deck," which in house terms must be translated to “porch" is reached not by steps but by a ladder, and one leaves his landlubber pride and principles behind in clambering up that nautical approach.

Not a single item which would foster maritime atmosphere has been omitted. A huge anchor, attached to a heavy iron chain, has been dropped overboard, and everything from gang-way, and steering wheel, to flag, mast and smoke stack are in ship-shape. The kitchen is a ship’s galley, arranged in a most compact and orderly manner. There are no bedrooms, merely berths, bunks and cabins and the deck is the main dining-room.

The windows are portholes and looking through them over the jade and pearl waters of the Pacific there comes a strong illusion that one is on a vessel China-bound.

When asked why he built the unique beach residence Freeman Ford said: “From my earliest recollections I have always had a boat. Perhaps I sailed one as an infant in the bathtub, I can not remember a time when a toy boat was not one of my most dearly treasured possessions. Fashioning tiny boats out of wood and pasteboard boxes, with whittled out masts and improvised sails was one of my early childhood's most intriguing occupations, and the epochs of my life are marked with the days when I acquired my first tiny rowboat with oars, my first modest sailboat, and then my first sea-going yacht.

“I have owned a yacht of one sort or another ever since I was a young lad. and I like the simple, primitive life of ships. I like to get away from the oppressive luxury of houses with their soft carpets, and coddling, cloying atmosphere, and giving a "yachting party" on board the beach yacht-house is much simpler than taking a crowd of people out to sea. In the first place they don't get sea-sick and if a storm comes up one doesn’t have that horrible feeling of responsibility for their lives!

"We have had a few admirals down on the ’yacht’ as guests, and quite a number of prominent local and eastern people, including celebrities from the motion picture world and all of them have been pleased with the simple manner in which we entertain. It is my belief that all kinds of people like to get away from the stuffiness and stupidity of conventional houses.”

Appropriate enough in architectural design seems the tall lighthouse which stands beside Mr. Ford’s boat residence. But besides the lighthouse tower there is a patio with a fireplace like a stage setting and wings and doors opening along a row like actors’ dressing-rooms, for all the world like a theater. And what could be more fitting for the beach Home of an actress. For this quaint conceit is the home of Pauline Fredericks.

OLD WORLD TOUCH—Mrs. Lucille Graf and her watchdog, Fritz, near replica of walls of a Pyrenees monastery, on her Rancho Las Casitas Del Paso in Flintridge.

Pasadena Independent 13 Nov. 1957

Lucille Graf of 1690 Wendover Road,  Flintridge, passed away Nov. 9, 1957.