Throwback Thursday | Local Historic Tea Houses

Written and Produced by Rick Thomas

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | | Japanese Tea House at Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena (1911)

Tea houses were popular 100 years ago much the way coffee houses are today.

The Japanese tea house at Cawston Ostrich Farm in South Pasadena was a favorite.

Visitors of the ostrich farm were treated to walking tours of the entire facility – all phases of the ostrich feather production were explained and viewed. The Cawston brochure read: Come to the farm prepared to spend several hours in the beautiful semi-tropical park of flowers, palms, trees, etc.; enjoy the comfort of the rustic seats, the pretty lawns and the shaded nooks; take afternoon tea at the Japanese Tea Garden. See the aviary of rare birds, the Ostrich incubators and young chicks of all ages, how ostrich feathers are dyed, curled and handled.

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PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | | Adobe Flores tea house, South Pasadena (1902)

The Adobe Flores served as a tea house for guests of The Raymond hotel. One tourist brochure described it as a place “where soldiers after the Battle of the Mesa once stayed – now come cabinet members, painters, poets, multi-millionaires, cinema stars, and composers to rest under its friendly tiles and bask in the warmth of its sunlit patio.”

In 1847, General Jose Flores withdrew to a camp on the nearby hilltop (“Raymond Hill” today) after his Californios skirmished with a United States Army detachment near Los Angeles. On the evening of January 9, 1847, Flores met with his advisors at the adobe in present-day South Pasadena to draw up surrender plans to the United States ending the Mexican Colonial Period in California.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | | Tea Garden at Busch Gardens, Pasadena (1914)

A popular tea garden for visitors of Busch Gardens once overlooked the Arroyo Seco.

The world famous sunken gardens of the Busch estate (“Busch Gardens”) were a marvel of landscape engineering. Adolphus and Lillie Busch purchased much of the Arroyo Seco behind their mansion on Orange Grove Avenue to transform its rugged appearance into a world class park-like setting. Busch Gardens had miles of walkways winding through the gardens with rustic bridges that crossed tiny streams and fairy tales in statuary at a variety of scenic locations.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | | The Rose Tree Tea House, Pasadena (1921)

Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.