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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / Pasadena’s Secret Garden, Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden

Pasadena’s Secret Garden, Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden

by Staff
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Koi pond and teahouse. Photo by Isabelle Cruz / Beacon Media News

By Isabelle Cruz

In the ‘30s, Japanese-style anything was the in vogue. From gardens to teahouses, significant players of Pasadena Arts, Charles and Ellamae Storrier Sterns yearned for their own Japanese-style garden in their Pasadena estate.

Charles and Ellamae decided to make this vision come to life when they enlisted landscape designer and craftsman Kinzuchi Fuji from Japan. Designing and planning took place from 1935 to 1940. Charles and Ellamae invested $150,000 overall. The teahouse is called Niko-an, meaning Abode at two ponds. Fuji had the tea house built in Japan then disassembled to be sent over and reassembled on the Pasadena estate.

The design was inspired by appreciation and assimilation of Japanese concepts and aesthetics. Many Japanese gardens were built across the states, however, Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden is one of the only private gardens still intact.

Traditional tea setup inside the teahouse. Photo by Isabelle Cruz / Beacon Media News

The features of the garden mirror many Japanese-style gardens. With over two acres of garden space, visitors can spot two large interconnected irregular shaped ponds, four original bridges, a winding dry riverbed, gathering points and various paths made of rocks and stones from the entrance. There is also a 25-foot hill with a cascading waterfall near the log waiting house and koi pond. Along checkpoints of these paths, visitors can also find stone statues and lanterns.

After the death of Charles and Ellamae, their Pasadena estate, along with their Japanese garden was sold to Gamelia Haddad Poulsen at an auction. She was bidding for two chairs and noticed no one was bidding on the estate. In the end, she won ownership of the estate.

The rebuilt teahouse; no shoes allowed inside. Photo by Isabelle Cruz / Beacon Media News

In 1981, a fire destroyed Niko-an and slowly, parts of the original Storrier Sterns estate were being sold and broken up.

In 2005, current owners of Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden, Jim and Connie Haddad hired landscape architect and designer, Dr. Takeo Uesugi to rebuild Niko-an. On Feb. 15, 2005, Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden was registered as a historic landmark on Register for Historic Places. The entire restoration process took place from 2007 to 2013.

Today, the garden is being adorn and tended by residents, members, volunteers or event scouts looking for a beautiful location for photography. The garden is open to the public. Admission for ‘Open Day’ last Sunday with a reservation online is $9.50; at the gate, admission is $12. Admission for all other ‘Open Days’ is $7.50 online and $10 at the gate. Children 12 and under are free. Members receive free admission for two to every ‘Open Day’. Visitors can also find events taking place on the website japanesegardenpasadena.com/index.html.

The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and the Second and Last Sundays of the month with hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The garden is located at 270 Arlington Drive in Pasadena. For more information e-mail info@japanesegardenpasadena.com or call (626) 399-1721.

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