Hiking by Design at Echo Mountain

It was a clear, warm day in Los Angeles, as usual. Our group met at the foot of the trail in Altadena, in front of the 1918 Cobb Estate.

For its third installation, Hiking by Design trekked to the remnants of Echo Mountain in the hills just north of Pasadena. One of Southern California’s original resort destinations, the White City was built in 1893 by Thaddeus Lowe (namesake of Mt Lowe, also a popular hiking destination). Holiday makers were lured by the dry, temperate climate of Los Angeles, purported to cure everything from tuberculosis to existential ennui. Perhaps LA’s current reputation for top-notch plastic surgeons is a continuation of the med-spa legacy started over 100 years ago.

At its peak – or should I say heyday? – the resort consisted of four hotels, tennis courts, an observatory, a dance hall and its own water and power. Echo Mountain was reached by a scenic incline railway, similar to the Angel’s Flight funicular in Downtown LA, from the basin 1,800 feet below. Another stretch of mountain railway careened around the cliffs and delivered guests to the Alpine Tavern another 3-1/2 miles back into the canyon.

Echo Mountain House, Courtesy LA Public Library

After a steady hour and a half hike our design-inclined group arrived at the terminus of the old incline railway. The funicular journey took about 30 minutes, but we think we had the more enjoyable journey. Bits of disused track line the trail, and the remnants of massive old gears and wheels we saw must have rusted slowly in the dry temperate climate. One of our Hiking by Design regulars pored over the plans of the original power plant that perched on the hill. The plant that lit the resort was also the cause of its early demise just a few decades later: power lines caught in wind ignited a fire that razed the White City.

A few meters further on you pass the site of old tennis courts and picnic area. The courts are gone, but the picnicking continues with tables installed by the state park. The foundations of the hotel have a prime spot on the southeast verge of the cliff and overlook the entire Los Angeles basin. Characteristically hazy the day we visited, after a rain the views are stunning: the skyline of Downtown Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory, and the Pacific Ocean glittering beyond.

We were fortunate to have building expert and excellent hiker Ron Ortiz from I. Grace along to help us decode the ruins. He explained that the gaps in the foundation were for crawl space, affording access for services as well as facilitating natural ventilation. Bearing in mind that we had temperatures in the mid 70s on an early January day, that ventilation would be a boon in the summer months.

No visit to Echo Mountain would be complete without a trip back behind the property where the Echo Phone aims your voice across the next ravine and bounces the sound back to you. We tried to get a four-legged hiker to try it, but couldn’t coax his muzzle to just the right spot.

-Valerie Thomas

For more about Mount Lowe:

Amazing footage of the railway in action:

More about Hiking by Design:
Hiking by Design is a regular series of hikes to sites of architectural significance. Led by Valerie Thomas and sponsored by Remains Los Angeles our hikes cover varied terrain and are a great way to exercise a penchant for nature and the built environment. If you have suggestions of hike locations or questions about our events, please contact Valerie at Valerie@remains.com. We invite you to join our next outing for the design-inclined. We promise it will be fun.

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Bulb Phase-out (EISA Act of 2007)

We have been paying close attention to the 2nd phase of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which comes in effect this January 1, 2014.

The first phase of the act brought the demise of the standard 100w incandescent lamp (“bulbs” for those of you clinging to the 19th Century’s terms) in 2012. This is why you have been trouble finding them in your local hardware store. “What?!?! No more 100 watt bulbs?” you say… well maybe you’d better take a seat, preferably a soft one… come January 1, 2014, both the 60 watt and 40 watt regular old incandescent lamps that you know and love, will be phased out of production. They will be illegal to produce or import into the USA.

While I think this is somewhat of a misguided law, fear not, there are plenty of lamps on the market from which to choose that do as good, if not better of a job, creating light as those old lamps.

Before I start enumerating the potential replacements to the incandescent 40 & 60 W lamps, please take a deep breath and let me tell you that there are a TON of lamps that are exempt from this legislation. To begin with, all candelabra lamps are not affected. Additionally, tubular lamps are not affected. Reflector lamps (silver-tip) are not affected. Three-way lamps are not affected, as are marine lamps, vibration resistant lamps, rough service lamps… whew!

For all instances where you can’t use a candelabra lamp, a tubular lamp, or a silver tip lamp and you must use an incandescent lamp, there are great halogen incandescent lamps that look as well as the old lamps and are more efficient in energy use per lumen than the old standard incandescent lamps.

I can think of only a small handful of instances where I would be really disappointed if I couldn’t find an incandescent medium-base lamp. You could skirt the issue by using an old 25 W lamp or you could use one of the many more efficient halogen lamps that look and feel like the old incandescent lamps. The halogen lamps are incandescent lamps, by the way, they just perform with greater efficiency as a result of the halogen gas in the lamp enclosure. Halogen lamps have the same full range dimming characteristics as do old incandescent lamps. Halogen lamps are nearly as simple a piece of technology as are plain old incandescent lamps (a significant environmental advantage when you start looking into the manufacturing burden side of the sustainability equation, by the by). Halogen lamps have fabulous color rendition (full 100 CRI, same as the old incandescent lamps).

If you are still unsatisfied with existing regular incandescent and new halogen options, you could use one of the many, many compact fluorescent lamps on the market or any of the many emerging LED lamps as well.

I intentionally skirted a big discussion of the environmental merits of these various lighting technologies. That’s a story for another day.

-David Calligeros

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Leonard Da Vinci drawings at the Morgan Library

New York’s Morgan Library has a show of Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings and a full notebook on view until February 2 2014. I was there for a tour of the museum buildings given by the architect Peter Pennoyer and lingered after to walk through a Charles Dickens exhibit and then on to the Leonardo room upstairs. The show has several outstanding portraits, rippling anatomical sketches of horses and, delightfully, one of insects. There’s an amazing original notebook of Leonardo’s as well. Unfortunately, even for someone with as delicate fingers as I have, they would not remove it from its glass case and let me leaf through the pages… the contents of which are made available only on a large touch screen.

The breadth of Leonardo’s interest and his understanding truly knock you out of your shoes. OK, I admit I can’t read his upside down and right to left Latin but I saw drawings of dams, power transfer, lever and weights, aeronautics and the flight of birds, architectural compositions, gearing diagrams, elaborate linkages with counterweights, some looking like pure mechanics, the next showing themselves to be investigations of bird wings, and in the middle of one page: a sweet as pie sketch of a leaf in red chalk. All of this stuff, even his unique handwriting was crisp and delightful, whether describing a bird whooshing and whirling through a breeze or the action of a weight held at different positions on an inclined plane.

Lastly, I share with you this leaf of a slightly different profile. The oak leaf of the Morgan family, on one of the lanterns in the back stair, recalling their motto: “from a little acorn, a mighty oak grows.”

-David Calligeros

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Highlights from the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show

Here’s a small slice of the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show that ran the last week in October. I saw a few things through the scrum of well-attired people thronging the plentiful and tasty offerings; some art, a few antiques that is.

My favorite piece of the show was a large John Grillo painting that reminds me of a scroll written in a secret language where ideas are conveyed in vectors and colors as well as standard text.

Another smaller Grillo and a shimmering resin sculpture by Mary Bauermeister caught my eye as well in Foster Gwin’s booth www.fostergwin.com (just to the right of the central bar/ food crossing.


Just at the entry, Carleton Hobbs http://carltonhobbs.com showed a large circular bronze mirror in a late 19th Century style at the crossroads of the Italian Renaissance and the Aesthetics movement. I missed the tag so can’t tell you what they thought of it, or how large its price tag was, though that, assuredly, was not small.

Lebreton www.lebretongallery.com had a few extraordinary pieces, most notably, the massive, anthropomorphic, orange textile wall hanging by Magdelena Abakanowicz  and a brass table lamp by Andre Arbus with a stylized set of bull horns as the finial. Also, to tickle my metal shop ribs, they showed a low table (14) by Pierre Giraudon with a thick resin top full of curly brass inclusions that look exactly like what come off our lathes.

Lastly, I drooled over a solid silver chandelier made by Georg Jensen www.georgjensenantiques.com for his first gallery in Copenhagen. It was beautiful, though not large in size. In price, it was enormous. They asked $1,400,000. While trying to get a closer look at the bottom I dropped my small plate of lamb chops. Luckily they had a pristine and shiny Georg Jensen silver bowl to catch them. I scooped them back up before they noticed, I think, and wiped up most of the drippings.

The lamb chops at the SFFAS are indeed delicious.

David Calligeros

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Made in New York City: The Remains Lighting Factory on National Manufacturing Day

Made in NYC asked us to post a few photos of our factory in Brooklyn, NY in honor of National Manufacturing Day. We are very happy to oblige. Manufacturing generates a huge, complex web of economic activity, from providing jobs with a low bar to entry and a clear path to career advancement, to demanding goods and services from other  makers as well as legal and financial sector.  It is also one of the few primary wealth creation engines in our economy, and the only one that can function in a city (the other two are agriculture/forestry and mining/ resource extraction). Every other smidge of economic activity (banking, landscaping, healthcare, hairstylists, etc.) is acting on the primary value spun off of one of those three fields. – David Calligeros

#HowitsMade, Remains Lighting Factory, New York

#HowitsMade, Remains Lighting Factory, New York

#HowitsMade, Remains Lighting Factory, New York

#HowitsMade, Remains Lighting Factory, New York


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Hiking by Design – Adamson House and Malibu Canyon

Join Valerie Thomas for a special tour of the historic Adamson House designed by Stiles O. Clements and John Holtzclaw in 1929, followed by a walk around the Malibu Lagoon and its natural and architectural delights on October 12th. There is a $7 fee for Adamson House tour. Parking, information and details will follow upon RSVP.

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Lights of Scotland and England

It is a wonderful thing to be inspired by your work.

My colleague David Calligeros created a mobile app for a series of annual design conferences that maps out significant or noteworthy light installations in the cities or countries that host the conference. Each pin on the map pops up a photograph and image of the installation, historical or technical notes, and the location of a nearby café or watering hole so you can rest your travel weary feet. He documented Lights of Copenhagen, Lights of Morocco. I’ve never been to Copenhagen, so the app was a fun way to imagine the city, and the entries are a fantastic mobile museum for the design inclined. Taking up David’s game, I like to document remarkable lights I see when I’m traveling. This summer I spent a month in the UK. I’m not quite as tech savvy, but here are my Lights of Scotland and England.

World Heritage status should have prepared me, but still I was blown away by Bath. The Roman ruins, the Circus, the River Avon, the fashion museum. The fashion museum? Yes. Housed in the Assembly Rooms, which are a traditionalist’s dream, the Museum of Costume surveys dress over hundreds of years. In addition to the corsets and crinolines you can try on in the basement, there is elaborate plasterwork, layers of painted decoration, and banks of lofty windows to enjoy upstairs. A trio of crystal chandeliers hung in a pretty pale ballroom on the south side of the building. We had acres of dance floor available from which to gaze at the intricate ceiling. After I got up off my back from taking this photo, my mother taught an impromptu class in English country dance, the proper stuff you’d find in an Austen novel. If only we’d had some of those gowns from the basement.

I made a point to return to Glasgow on this trip to steep in nouveau architecture. It was a great counterpoint to Gaudi’s work which I saw in Barcelona a few years ago, fleshing out how the style expressed itself in different parts of Europe. Rennie Mackintosh was the rose of the Glasgow school. I craned my neck walking through the core of the city to admire the metal flowers ranked below the Art School windows, and the blossoms carved in sandstone at the Lighthouse. His work is striking because it encompasses every detail of interior and exterior, from facades to furniture, stonework to table service. This simple fixture of woven metal strips was designed for the Willow Tea Rooms. It seems inspired by rustic countryside baskets. The open lattice work creates beautiful organic patterns with the light, a hallmark of a great decorative fixture.

Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, was bursting at the seams with art. Festival season was about to start, and it felt totally normal to have performers on every street playing everything from bagpipes to panpipes to steel saws. The National Museum in Edinburgh just underwent an incredible makeover, and I spent the better part of a day bouncing around their diverse collections. This monumental bronze lantern in the museum’s collection originally hung in a central public space at the Scotsman newspaper building in Edinburgh. It was the heyday of newspapers, a prestigious institution that brought a world of information, education and sophistication, and the massive light in the advertising hall communicated that stature to the crowds thronging the place.

Thistles never fail to make me smile. I grew up in a Scottish household, which instilled in me a lasting appreciation for all things Scot: tartan and bagpipes, thistles and bland food. Edinburgh Castle was definitely a highlight of the trip: just the views over the walls to the city and the water made it worth the climb up that huge rock. The Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle is known for its fine hammer beam ceiling, from which two rows of massive chandeliers hang. The gothic foliage on the arms and the fretwork of the painted lantern body are exceptional. The pale greenish tone contrasts with the serious red of the hall and the somber ceiling, and is a lovely foil to the thistle shields placed between the arms.

Driving through England, I stopped outside of Manchester at a place called Tatton Park. A sprawling acreage, the Egerton family’s neoclassical manse is managed by the National Trust, as are Lord Egerton’s apartments, the stables, and sundry other outbuildings on the property. Like similar stateside preserves I imagine they constantly totter between dilapidation and resplendent restoration. Here were perhaps my favorite lighting moments on the trip. I found this in the stairwell in a back hall at Tatton Park. Imagine one of those spaces in Downton Abbey that links upstairs and downstairs, the servants to those they serve. The brass fitter of the pendant creates a shadowy halo on the ceiling: the best lights harness shadow. And the glass throws chattering golden swirls around that dark.

The morning I visited Tatton Park, I was delighted to see staff at work cleaning the crystal chandeliers in the library. Housing 8,000 books, the library is a perfectly symmetrical room. It could have been a classically trained architect’s Rorschach: one side mirrors the other, like the inky plan was drafted then folded in on itself.

One by one, each crystal is removed from the chandelier, tagged to ensure it’s properly ordered, cleaned and polished by hand, then replaced on the frame in its original spot. First one chandelier, then its mate on the other side of the room. This industrious team reminded me of one of my favorite colleagues, antiques specialist Jenna Major. With a meticulousness that verges on insanity, she restores the antique lights for the Remains Lighting collection. Her work astounds me: not only is her metal artistry amazing, her service for lights is a bit like what animal rescuers do for all those cute little puppies and kitties wandering the streets. She loves these neglected pieces back to good health and ultimately helps them find good homes. Watching them work delighted me. Those chandeliers glistened. It must have been a coup for the Trust. It was a warm, fuzzy moment that made me glad to travel, and glad to know I had good work to come home to.

-Valerie Thomas, Remains Lighting Los Angeles


In vogue in Bath: http://www.museumofcostume.co.uk/

The cult of Mackintosh: http://www.crmsociety.com/default.aspx

Manchester, England, England: http://www.tattonpark.org.uk/

More from Valerie Thomas: www.curveimprovement.blogspot.com

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Tony Duquette Splashing Water Chandelier by Remains Lighting in The New York Times

We were thrilled to see the Splashing Water chandelier in the Home section of the New York Times:

Bathed in the Glow of Splashing Water
By Linda Lee 

As much theatrical designer as interior designer, Tony Duquette occupied a studio on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles that featured a ‘tray ceiling’ made of gold plastic trays. In 1956, five years before he won the Tony Award for his costumes for ‘Camelot’ on Broadway, he created the exuberant Splashing Water chandelier for the space. ‘That was an interesting challenge for us, to find a way to retain the lightness of the original fixtures made by hand, but make them consistent,’ said Alix Calligeros, an owner of Remains Lighting, in Brooklyn…..”


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