This St. Patrick’s day, let’s turn away from the corned beef and cabbage, the shamrocks and green beer. Let’s say no to the excessive drinking, the leprechauns, and whatever other terrible stereotypes we misguided Americans have placed on this Irish holiday and turn our sites to loftier goals. Let’s look to the pure color green and welcome it into our homes versus stepping over a puddle of it in the street.
There are few things sexier than a green velvet couch as the focus of a room.
The verdant majesty above and many other fine green items were found on Eclectic Avenue.
Apparently Anthropologie loves green velvet as much as I do, look at the four below.
I coveted this green velvet Room and Board Murphy sofa until I remembered I have cats.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to come by a vintage one:
Or just hit up Ikea. This one is tempting.
Or you can have a velvet or leather one custom made from Roger and Chris. I love these guys. They are so nice and sent me leather samples and answered all my questions (regarding cats and leather). There is a chesterfield in my future when we move into our (hopefully Victorian) next house. You can also check out their show and as a special bonus, look at their amazing house on Apartment Therapy! I bet they’re a blast to hang out with.
If you’re ready to take the leap, consider green walls. I love how sophisticated and dark these rooms are.
Or old worldly and charming.
Maybe you want a green roof. Warning: They’re very heavy, make sure your house can support one.
Or, dream big, how about a copper roof which will acquire a beautiful patina. Your own personal castle? Sigh.
What about a green victorian house?
Or maybe a green greenhouse? Ok. Ok.
At the very least, consider some plants or dishes or even a botanical print.
Want more green inspiration? Get all the luck of the Irish on Miss Havisham’s Pinterest page. You’ll find minty kitchens, leafy upholstery and beautiful botanical installations.
I have to be honest, when friends come to visit me in Los Angeles I feel a little pang of anxiety. I still don’t know where anything is here and driving still stresses me out. Don’t even get me started on parking. I know change is hard but I knew New York, I know it still. Everything is accessible by public transportation there. I knew New York so well I even knew tiny off beat places to go. In LA, you really have to know where you’re going and while there are things to do, they’re not always easy to get to. Truthfully, after about twenty-five houseguests, I feel like I keep doing the same things over and over.
So when one of my favorite people on the planet came to visit recently, I decided this time we were going to take a road trip. It was time to see something you can’t see in New York and I really couldn’t look at the Venice canals again.
While I lack the ability to parallel park, I do have a husband who doesn’t mind driving, loves adventure, and has a fantastic sense of direction. Lucky for me or I would have gone mad within a few months of living here. So, armed with road snacks and a destination, off we went.
To Hearst Castle:
If you haven’t been to Hearst Castle, go. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Perched high and overlooking a remote section of the California coast, every bit of it is jaw dropping. When I visited I kept thinking I should just sneak away, hide in some quiet room, and spend the night because it really should be my house, guys. It’s such a powerful impulse that the second time I visited I actually started looking around with intent to stow away. If I disappear one day, you’ll know where to find me.
You can imagine that the home of William Randolph Hearst, media magnate and the inspiration for Citizen Kane, might be something unusual and you would be correct. No expense was spared building the house in a time when the rest of the country was suffering from the stock market crash and the Great Depression.
“Hearst Castle’s history begins in 1865, when George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of ranchland. In 1919,William Randolph Hearst inherited what had grown to more than 250,000 acres, and was dreaming of ways to transform it into a retreat he called La Cuesta Encantada—Spanish for “Enchanted Hill.” By 1947, Hearst and architect Julia Morgan had created Hearst Castle: 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways—all built to house Hearst’s specifications and to showcase his legendary art collection.” So sayeth the Hearst Castle website.
First, let’s take a moment to appreciate that Hearst hired a woman architect. Interesting. Second, consider the lengths Hearst went to; he even went as far as to have whole rooms from great houses in Europe purchased, shipped, and reassembled as part of the construction process. So elaborate were his building plans for Hearst castle, they were never fully realized in his lifetime.
The castle served as a playground for Hollywood’s elite who were bused in from Los Angeles each weekend to dine, drink, and dance the night away. When you were at Hearst Castle, you wanted for nothing; evening wear was even provided if you forgot yours. You could swim in either the outdoor pool or the indoor pool, play tennis, stroll the gardens, view the private zoo, or catch one of Hearst’s latest films in the movie theater.
There is a guest wing for both ladies and gentlemen, never the two shall meet (wink, wink) and a number of guest cottages around the property. The guest cottages are bigger than my house, by the way.
My favorite room has to be the gothic study.
Not to be confused with the library which is filled with antiquities. Those vases along the ceiling? Those are Greek and Egyptian.
And let’s not forget the great room.
Now for the juicy part. Hearst was married to a former vaudeville performer, Millicent Veronica Willson who he fell in love with when she was a mere sixteen years old. She bore him five sons, one of which is the father of Patty Hearst who was famously kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a cult. Under the influence of the cult, Hearst assisted in a bank robbery. Her sentence was commuted by President Carter and she was officially pardoned by President Clinton. She has gone on to appear in a number of John Waters movies including Serial Mom, Cry-Baby, Pecker, and Cecil B. DeMented. This only makes me love her and John Waters more, but back to Millicent Hearst.
Poor Millicent rarely stayed at Hearst Castle though. She and her husband lived very separate lives. She lived in New York and became a great philanthropist. Her husband lived in California at Hearst Castle with his mistress, actress and comedienne, Marion Davies. They lived together quite openly though he and Millicent remained married until his death. How modern.
Millicent and Marion:
It’s said that the portrayal of Marion Davies in Citizen Kane so enraged Hearst that he launched a full on attack against the film and its director, Orson Welles. Even Welles later admitted that his depiction was unfair to Marion who was a very talented actress. Marion actually supported Hearst in later years when he hit hard times financially and was forced to sell off much of his art and property. She married eleven weeks after Hearst’s death in 1951. Read about the battle over Citizen Kanehere.
Hearst Castle and its impressive collection of art and artifacts was donated to the state of California and is a museum now but I have grand plans to occupy it. They’ll never find me. Never! I highly recommend the evening tours which aren’t offered year round so do your homework. The entire estate is decked out for an old Hollywood cocktail party and it all feels a little bit spooky. As an added bonus, it will be easier for me to sneak off and hide in the shadows in the evening.
Four hours from Los Angeles and you feel like you’ve escaped the city. You feel like you’ve escaped back in time. Well played, California, well played. As much as I hate to admit it, you definitely can’t find Hearst Castle in New York.
It’s a non-profit so go support your local castle. Hey Hearst Castle administrators, just list the guest rooms on AirBnB already. See? Fundraising issue solved.
Welcome to Freaky Fridays where I post links to the odd and the fantastic. Thank you to my friends, especially Sally and Susan, who provided me with pure gold this week. Have a weird news story? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
“The intersection of stardom and madness, mystery and decay meet at the crossroads of Rockhaven Sanitarium. The once-thriving refuge for troubled minds now sits fallow, crumbling and silent as it awaits an uncertain future, much like its past residents.” -Sezin Koehler, author American Monsters.
I recently had the privilege of touring the abandoned Rockhaven Santitarium with Atlas Obscura. Hidden away in the quiet Crescenta Valley, it’s quite a gem. While I anticipated a creepy good time when I signed up for the tour, what I got was a lesson in feminist history.
In the early 1920’s Agnes Richards, a widow and single mother, worked as a psychiatric nurse at some of the most notorious asylums in the country. Agnes was appalled by what she saw at these facilities, specifically the treatment of female patients. Remember that these were the days of “female hysteria” where anything from lesbianism to menopause or even your husband’s affair with his secretary could land you in an asylum. It was not uncommon for men of means to have their wives committed when they found a new girlfriend as it was considered quicker and tidier than a divorce. There are even stories of families sending their children to asylums for the summer so the parents could travel unencumbered through Europe. It was terrifying easy to have someone committed and nearly impossible to be released on your own accord.
The treatment of patients was deplorable in asylums. There was little expectation that the patients would recover and therefore little or no regard to their health or safety. These were still the early years of psychiatry and mental illness was viewed with great shame. Once someone was committed they were often forgotten about, deemed an embarrassment to their family.
Agnes Richards founded Rockhaven in 1923 to be the antithesis of these asylums. With the intent to cure the women (and the occasional man) rather than hide and control the “mental defectives” as they were called in the system. She sought to treat people with dignity while they were in residence. To begin, Rockhaven was more of a spa or a retreat than an asylum. To look at the rooms today, while they are indeed in need of repair now, you can still see the happy colors and attention to details meant to cheer up the residents. Never referred to as patients, they were simply called “the ladies.”
The ladies of Rockhaven were expected to dress themselves and attend three meals a day in the cafeteria and to contribute to the best of their abilities. They were also expected to engage with their surroundings in the hopes of reintegrating back into society as soon as they were able. Gardening classes in the three-and-a-half acre meticulously manicured property as well as day trips into LA, music and art therapy were all offered. Again, this was groundbreaking in the world of mental health where caged beds and electroshock therapy were still the norm.
Rockhaven was the first mental health institution for women by women and was founded just three short years after women gained the right to vote. This was almost unimaginable at the time yet Agnes maintained Rockhaven until 1967, then passed it on to her granddaughter.
The original building and grounds were lovely:
Now, let’s talk about the parties. Agnes believed it was important to remove the stigma of mental illness so family members were invited to visit every day and there were parties held for every possible occasion. Mother’s day, birthdays, practically every day was a reason to celebrate.
Among Rockhaven’s famous residents was Marilyn Monroe’s mother, Gladys Eley, who resided there for 15 years and was a bit of an escape artist. She once ran away and got married then returned of her own accord. Billie Burke, best known as Glinda the good witch also stayed at Rockhaven. It seems Rockhaven was the precursor to all those Malibu rehab centers. The view sure is pretty.
And now, without further ado, let’s head inside Rockhaven Sanitarium:
Clothing left behind. Apparently they found fur coats and makeup too.
Two of the bathrooms. Every single one has a different color scheme with matching wallpaper and tile.
It’s important to wash your hands, ladies:
The ladies’ names are still in the closets:
The hallways are pink, SUPER PINK.
There’s wallpaper everywhere.
Rockhaven is currently owned by the city of Glendale and is in a state of disrepair. The Friends of Rockhaven, a non profit organization have been maintaining it as best they can and are lobbying to have Rockhaven added to the historic register due to its place in feminist history. Its fate is uncertain but I can say it would be a huge tragedy for it to be demolished and replaced with condos or a shopping mall which is precisely what the The Friends of Rockhaven fear will happen. I personally would love to see an investor with a love for historical detail buy it and turn it into a spa or a hotel.
I think this fountain is a great symbol of the work Agnes did at Rockhaven.
Rockhaven is rumored to have its fair share of ghosts and I think that’s a selling point honestly. What’s interesting about the stories is that they aren’t menacing but rather conjure up images of women who wish to return to a place where they found sanctuary. If you’d like to learn more about Rockhaven, check out this documentary. There’s also a coffee table book of photos coming out by writer Emily Lanigan and photographer Jason House. You can see some of those photos in this eloquent article by Sezin Koehler.
Last, here is the memorial rose garden, each rose bush has a plaque:
Welcome to Freaky Fridays where I post links to the odd and the fantastic. Thank you to my friends, especially Sally and Adam, who provided me with pure gold this week. Have a weird news story? Send it to email@example.com
The heart wants what the heart wants and mine wants these surreal sculptures by Canadian artist Shary Boyle. The always brilliant Dangerous Minds has the full story and suggests that these are for the dark and the demented. I can live with that.
I hate clowns, always have. When I was a kid my mom decided I should have a clown collection so you can imagine the nightmares that ensued…so yeah, thanks, Mom. These clowns from Eat Liver aren’t creepy, nope not at all.
Still not creepy…
Ok, maybe…a little…
For the love of all that is holy…
While researching our next vacation I came across this list of the “The Most Haunted Place in Each of the 50 States” on Places You’ll See. Most of these look perfectly delightful like Henderson Castle in Kalamazoo, Michigan below. It’s a bed and breakfast now, guys.
You buy one haunted Thai baby figurine and pretty soon you see haunted Thai babies everywhere. I didn’t know I was so ahead of the curve when I bought mine at the flea market, but CNN reports that Thai Airways now allows you to purchase a seat for your creepy doll. Who says you can’t travel once you have kids? It’s apparently all the rage with Thai celebrities. Also, when you google “spirit doll” some really terrifying things come up, like this little guy from Spiritdoll.net:
Take away my videograme, I dare you.
Christ, they’re multiplying. On to happier themes, I promise, no more haunted dolls…for a few weeks.
How about beautiful baroque wigs made of paper by Russian artist Asya Kozina from the always entertaining Bored Panda.
And why not also add a set of paper eyelashes from Paperself. I’m in love. Let’s throw a paper themed gala. Doilies for everyone!
Happy Friday! May your weekend be filled with terrifying beauty.