Poppy Peak National Register Historic District
The Poppy Peak Historic District in the hills of southwest Pasadena is a unique melding of architecture and location that contains one of the finest collections of Mid-Century Modernism in Southern California.
Named after the tallest point in the neighborhood, Poppy Peak contains forty-five residential properties dating from 1935 to 1968.
Thirty of the homes contribute to the district’s historical significance. Almost all of the district’s contributors are custom-designed homes in a variety of Modern styles, representing the work of seminal architects including Lyman Ennis, James Pulliam, Kenneth Nishimoto, Buff, Straub & Hensman, Leland Evison, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Richard Neutra, William Henry Taylor and Robert Cox, among others. Some in this diverse group were adherents to the post-and-beam style coming out of the USC School of Architecture, which found some of its finest expressions in this district, while others practiced a wider range of Modern designs from the International Style to California Ranch.
All of the designs in the Poppy Peak District, regardless of their age and particular style, represent adaptations to a very challenging location: hilly, with steep slopes and narrow hairpin-turn streets. Tract developers were daunted by the area, but it was a dream come true for architects practicing in Modern styles. They adapted to the conditions by reducing the general scale of their buildings, using low rooflines, emphasizing the spectacular views, and creating designs that stepped downhill.
The variegated landscaping of the district contributes to its unified and secluded feel, mixing native and imported species in plantings designed by experts including botanist Theodore Payne and landscape architect Garrett Eckbo. The result is an exceptional, and exceptionally intact, set of Modern designs that complement each other and integrate harmoniously into their environment.
The homes of the Poppy Peak Historic District represent many different responses to new ideas about living, all of them compelling.