2012 Pasadena Showcase House of Design
Overview of the Estate
John Winford Byers, 1875-1966, serious self-taught practitioner of pure Spanish Colonial Revival Style designed the estate in 1927. Mr. Byers graduated from the University of Michigan in 1898 in Electrical Engineering, yet taught French and English in Montevideo, Uruguay where he may have cultivated his interest in Spanish architectural styles. He came to California in 1902, taught and was a part owner at the Hitchcock Military Academy in Santa Monica and later taught at Santa Monica High School. In 1919 he established the John Byers Mexican Handmade Tile Company, using Mexican artisans to create roofing and floor tiles and adobe bricks adapted to modern construction standards and began to design homes. . His “designs set an example which others followed to good effect, making northern Santa Monica an architectural monument of traditional images of the twenties and thirties.” Many of his houses attracted the attention of critics and were regularly featured in such publications as The Architectural Digest. As his fame spread, Byers attracted such celebrity clients as Norma Shearer, Irvin S. Cobb, Constance Talmadge, Joel McCrea, Buster Crabbe, Shirley Temple, and J. Paul Getty. While, Byers lived to be 91, he effectively retired before World War II.
La Cañada Flintridge, California. The city is bordered by the Angeles National Forest on the North and the cities of Pasadena and Glendale on the East and South.
History of the Estate
On June 26, 1927, The Los Angeles Times announced the impending construction of the Robbins house as “a beautiful Spanish home,” a “sixteen-room villa…will grace a site of approximately two acres.” This home was built as the winter home for Hunter Savidge Robbins, his wife Margaret K. Robbins, their four children and one male French-born servant. Mr. Robbins’ family dates back to Colonial America and is listed in DAR records. The family fortune in Michigan was based upon lumber. Hunter Robbins was also an alumnus of the University of Michigan. Mr. Robbins occupation was listed in 1930 as a theater owner. Both he and his wife were avid tennis players and active with the Flintridge Country Club. Mrs. Robbins was a local champion golfer and in charge of the women’s golf activities at the Flintridge Country Club.
In 1932 the Robbins divorced. Mr. Robbins moved to San Marino but continued to visit his home in Spring Lake, Michigan. Mrs. Robbins remarried Donald G. Neumann in 1934 and continued to live in the house. She maintained her interest in golf, joining the Annandale Golf Club and winning several championships in Palm Springs. There have been two additional owners of the estate including Mr. and Mrs. Myrl R. Scott. The current owners purchased the property in 1996.
Drawings, photographs, and published material about the Robbins house are available in the collections of the University Art Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The home is potentially eligible for listing on a local inventory of significant properties and perhaps on the California Historical Resources dues to its fine design by a noted architect, its good state of preservation and its contribution to the architectural and historical context of its La Cañada Flintridge neighborhood.
Glen O. Winget, Pasadena, who served as the contractor for many well-known architects, including Paul Williams built the 6,429 square feet house with 8 bedrooms and baths. As an example of Spanish Colonial Revival, the Robbins house has architectural elements from Spain, Mexico, but also Italy and the Islamic world of North Africa. Such houses were conceived as sculptural volumes attached to the land.