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Mail-order house on home tour

Sticks and Stones Tour Nov. 6 will include four La Cañada houses, plus other buildings.

October 21, 2010|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

Nestled behind a pair of enormous deodar trees at the southeast corner of La Cañada Boulevard and Fairview Drive in La Cañada Flintridge is an unassuming, two-bedroom home. In a city filled with modern, flashy residential developments, it is easily overlooked.

But despite its modest size, the house is rich with history — just ask the woman who has lived there for 77 years.

Virginia Robertson moved into the home at the age of 10 in 1933, along with her parents and two siblings. They had come to California from Pennsylvania, traveling by boat from New York down through the Panama Canal and up to Los Angeles.

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Robertson's house was purchased through mail order from Sears Roebuck and Company, delivered in pieces by train, and assembled on-site in 1916 on a lot that originally encompassed about 5 acres, according to Tim Gregory, the archivist at Lanterman House who is also known as "the building biographer."

Robertson's original Sears catalog house will be one of seven structures included in the second annual Sticks and Stones Crescenta Valley Heritage Home Tour on Nov. 6.

"The idea is to have people see how homes were in the area, homes that have not been changed much," said Candace Dougherty, a member of the Lanterman House Historical Museum Foundation board. "It is an appreciation of those who lived here in years past, and of that time."

The Sticks and Stones Tour was launched last year and is co-sponsored by the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and the Lanterman House Foundation. The inaugural event attracted about 80 people, Dougherty said.

In addition to the Robertson house, this year's tour will include three La Cañada homes, two La Crescenta homes, and one La Crescenta church. The oldest of the structures dates back to 1911, Dougherty said. The newest was remodeled in recent years in the style of a Craftsman home.

Robertson is as much a part of local history as her Sears catalogue home is. She worked for the U.S. Postal Service out of the La Cañada Post Office for more than four decades, weighing packages, selling stamps and delivering mail.

"I got so I recognized the handwriting of the letters, so I would know from whom they were," Robertson said.

And she is also an accomplished artist, having been featured in several local shows. And she remembers well some of the area's founding families, including the Lantermans.

Robertson's niece, Bonnie Blough, grew up visiting her grandparents and her aunt at the little house at La Cañada Boulevard and Fairview Drive. The home has withstood years of wear and tear, as well as a half-dozen earthquakes.

"It has lasted," Blough said.

Just like Miss Robertson herself.

Advanced tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at the Lanterman House Foundation website, lantermanfoundation.org. Tickets are also available at the door for $25. The tour starts on Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. at St. Luke's of the Mountains, 2563 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta.

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