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From Home to Headquarters

December 14, 2015 | Rose Bowl

MansionTournament House did not begin as the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses. It was actually a private home. In 1906 developer George W. Stimson commissioned his architect son to build the home, but supply shortages caused construction delays, and the home wasn’t completed until 1914. By that time the elder Stimson no longer needed such a large property.

Stimson sold the home at 391 South Orange Grove Avenue to bubblegum magnate William Wrigley Jr. for $170,000. One year later Wrigley paid another $25,000 for an adjoining property, which is now Wrigley Gardens. Today the gardens house more than 1500 varieties of roses.

A Modest Mansion

The Wrigley’s home was in the heart of “Millionaire’s Row.” Although it had 22 rooms and covered 18,500 square feet, it was considered modest for the time. Modest is a relative term and Tournament House has all the grandeur you’d imagine in an estate of its size.

Tournament of Roses Executive Director Bill Flinn has spent more hours than he can count at Tournament House. He describes the 4-inch thick wooden front door as being so evenly balanced and well made, “You could literally push it open with one finger.”

The home’s list of highlights include: a player pipe organ, Italian marble and hardwood flooring, a dining room with the Wrigley’s furniture, an internal stairway for servants, and a telephone booth.

Her Favorite

The Wrigley’s owned six homes around the country, but Mrs. Ada Wrigley easily favored the Pasadena home most. She enjoyed watching the Rose Parade from her front lawn. Folklore says her spirit still can be felt or seen at Tournament House on occasion, but Flinn says, “I have been in this house for over 30 years, I have never seen her or sensed her.”

When Mrs. Wrigley passed away in 1959, the Tournament of Roses asked the Wrigley heirs to consider donating the property to be the group’s headquarters. By 1960 the transition was complete with the home being donated to the City of Pasadena with the understanding it would be used as the headquarters for the Tournament of Roses. The City of Pasadena leases the property to the Tournament of Roses and maintains the property around it as a city park.

The home now includes conference rooms, offices and a garage that serves as storage for historical artifacts. Tournament House is open to public tours many days during the year. Flinn says, “It’s a functioning, working headquarters. It’s also a part of the fabric of the community.”

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