Historic Pitcairn House in Pasadena under Restoration

By Smith, Kevin | Pasadena Star-News, October 19, 2014 | Go to article overview

Historic Pitcairn House in Pasadena under Restoration


Smith, Kevin, Pasadena Star-News


Pasadena's historic Robert Pitcairn Jr. House is getting a face lift.

The Craftsman-style home, one of the oldest and most architecturally significant buildings at the private, all-girls Westridge School, was built in 1906 by the renowned architectural team of Greene & Greene. Robert Pitcairn, Jr., son of a wealthy and prominent Pennsylvania Railroad executive, hired the Greenes to build his home after he had lived in another house they had designed.

The home is a testament to style and craftsmanship. But it's showing its age.

Spectra Co., a Pomona-based business that specializes in historic restoration and preservation, is doing the repairs. The work involves meticulous conservation of the home's exterior wood elements, including the balcony framing and rails, eave boards, exterior redwood wall shingles and staining and painting of the exterior woodwork.

"There are guidelines that we follow from the National Park Service," said Ray Adamyk, Spectra Co.,'s founder and president. "We start with things that have the least impact on the historic fabric of the building - the wood. We try to conserve what is there, so if there is an original beam that's still in good shape we'll keep it."

In some cases, a beam might appear sound from the outside but have deterioration inside.

"If you were talking about a new building you'd just cut that off and replace it," Adamyk said. "But in this case we can pour in a liquid wood that hardens the existing fibers and then use a wood patch. Then we can hand-sculpt those areas that have been patched."

The hand-sculpting sometimes involves re-creating the grain of the original wood.

Spectra's portfolio of preservation projects reads like an A List of historic icons. They have worked on the Gamble House in Pasadena, the Brand Library in Glendale, the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, Catalina Casino in Avalon and Hoover Dam, among others.

"You run into something different every time," Adamyk said. "It's nice to save a piece of history . …

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