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Take a trip back in time to The Gamble House in Pasadena, known for it’s architecture and “Back To The Future”

Disclaimer: We were invited as media guests to share our The Family Tour experience offered by The Gamble House. I was granted special permission to take interior photographs. No monetary compensation was made for this post. All opinions are honest and 100% my own. 

When my husband and I were dating, one of the things we shared was our love of movies. We both really liked the Back to the Future series, so after a dinner date early in our relationship, my husband brought me to The Gamble House. There weren’t any tours at the moment because it was late, so we only saw the exterior.

When we were recently invited to attend the kid-friendly Family Tour, we were thrilled. Being able to visit The Gamble House with our daughter made it extra special.

Scavenger Hunt

To make the Family Tour interesting for the little ones, the provided a laminated “scavenger hunt” to help them identify a few things found in the many rooms of the house. The tour was led by a junior docent, who did an excellent job of showing us around. She pointed out several things, but was also assisted by an adult docent who showed us a few more house secrets! Here are a few highlights of the things we saw and learned about. As mentioned before, I received special permission to photograph the interior of the house. Tour guests were instructed to put away their phones and cameras.

The Door

Designed by architects Greene & Greene and built in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble company, we were told the doorways at the Gamble House were intentionally short and wide. Short because people were not as tall back then; and wide to fit furniture. Makes me look average height standing in the doorway!

The gorgeous front door is even better looking from the inside. The entire house, starting with the stained glass door, evokes a Japanese feel, inspired from the Gamble’s travels. It is a design of a Japanese Black Pine tree, A.K.A. “the tree of life.”

A staircase to behold

The staircase is the next thing that catches your eye, as it is a piece of art in itself. It’s a sight to behold from every angle, with exposed interlocking joinery.

Secret Doors

The docent showed us some secret doors which the maids and staff used, to keep themselves “invisible” while working at the Gamble House. The doors shown here are on the left as you enter. They look like normal wood paneling, but are actually closets with doors inside them, which lead to other rooms such as the kitchen.

Other cool secret panels were found in the bedrooms. A shelf had a special place to tap, which would make the wood panel behind it drop, to reveal a cabinet, where one could store valuables. In the aunt’s room, the closet would only open a certain way – also a tap on a particular part of the wood. There probably are several more, which makes this house very cool and mysterious!

Japanese Art Inspired

The entire house had Japanese art-inspired accents and decor. We were told the Gambles loved to travel, particularly to Asia. Inspired art include lamps, changing screens, wooden panels, and art carvings into the board.

The built-in cabinet below is inspired by the symmetry and style of a kimono.

Dim Lighting

Even though it receives plenty of light from the windows, the lighting inside the house was dim. We learned it was because during the time, they did not like direct light. In turn, everything had a filter, usually tinted glass. The “moth lamp” you see on the table in the photo below was a reading lamp, where the moth can be moved around the circumference to block direct light from the reader.

So many sinks

It was the 1900s, so diseases we now immunize against were rampant. In order to avoid cross-contamination, there were multiple sinks in the kitchen, for washing different things. Dishes in one sink, certain foods in another, and so forth. Modern luxuries such as garbage disposals didn’t exist, so amenities such as separate wash areas were considered a luxury for them. In addition, in-room bathrooms were not common either, so it was also a modern advancement for a home such as this to include them.


The Gambles were a strict Protestant family. Even the master bedroom had two twin beds. Apparently, if you were tired during the day, you could rest on a daybed, not the bed you sleep on. The master bedroom had a daybed.

The other bedrooms in the house we saw were the boys’ room, the guest room, and the aunt’s room. Some rooms had “sleeping porches,” to be used when it was too hot indoors. We were told the boys used their sleeping porch often.

Aunt Julia’s (haunted) bedroom

In the 1900s, if a women reached a certain age and had not married, she would move in to the house of a family member. Aunt Julia moved in to the Gamble House and it is rumored that she watches over it. Below is a photo of the demure woman, who occasionally makes herself known in mysterious ways to the two lucky fifth-year USC Architecture students, who reside there (in the servants quarters), selected annually.

Visit the Gamble House on one of their regular tours, or for a limited time – their summer tours: The Family Tour, or the Upstairs Downstairs Tour.

The Gamble House

The Gamble House in Pasadena, California, is an outstanding example and the most complete and best-preserved work of American Arts and Crafts style architecture. The house and furnishings were designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1978, the Gamble House is owned by the City of Pasadena and operated by the University of Southern California, and continues to inspire the public’s appreciation and understanding of fine historic architecture.

WHERE:  The Gamble House, 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, CA 91103

TICKETS/INFORMATION: Call 626-793-3334; or visit www.GambleHouse.org for more information on the limited ‘Family’ and ‘Upstairs DownstairsTours and all of the other tours offered at The Gamble House. Children under 8 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian; and no food, drinks, pets or strollers are permitted on tours.

The Gamble House website