Friday, April 04, 2008

Open Space Friday

I've been stopped on the street in Lincoln Park a few times by people looking for the “stone house with the overgrown plants where the crazy old man used to yell at us.” I had no idea what they were talking about, but would refer people to the only stone house I knew of: the one at the corner of Gibbs and McKinley.

My only connection to the stone house was the peacock who lived in the garden there. Mr. Big and I always looked for the peacock as we walked or drove by. One day, neighbors reported hearing men’s voices and angry peacock noises. People saw the bird being shoved into a white van. The peacock has not been seen for about three years now. A peacock banner was recently added to the porch as a waving tribute to the missing bird.

The peacock and the stone house used to be home to Edward “Ted” Pugh, a horticulturist known as “The Pomona Poet.” A placard in the front yard identifies the house as the Marshall Castle. Today's first photo is of the castle as it looked when Sir Ted lived there. That must be his infamously wild and free vegetation. I love it!

I've often wondered what Ted was like and what he wrote. Surprisingly, none of Ted’s poetry books are at the Pomona Library. His books aren't available on Amazon either. I located one book, entitled “Open Space,” on the fifth floor of the Cal Poly Pomona library. It was there that I went to read his poems and make copies of the book, since the library does not allow non-students to check books out.

For the next few Fridays, Ted Pugh will be given open space here on the blog in the form of stories, photographs and poetry. Ted is said to have despised computers. But given that he was known for having conversations with fairies in his Pomona forest, I think he'd be game for spending time with the Goddess of Pomona, even if there is a little high technology involved.

The book "Open Space" was published by Cedric Rogers of Lincoln Park, Pomona, who wrote this 1998 "For-Word," which appears in the book:

"Edward J. Pugh was born on 10 October 1926 in Pomona, California, and has lived there all his life in a large grey stone house, built by his grandfather in 1910, surrounded by woods that inspired much of his poetry. He died on 21 December 1997 at age 71.

"He obtained a degree in horticulture from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and worked as naturalist at the Los Angeles Arboretum where he planted the original Australian section. When he retired in 1969, he began writing poetry and wrote about five poems a day, producing an estimated 15,000 poems. His Welsh ancestry contributed to his passion for poetry."

"Ted's life in Pomona accompanied that city's conversion: from a collection of orange groves gracing his house all around -- to a concrete jungle almost unrecognizable to him. Remaining on one property for a century, his family has kept free an open space in a busy city: a peacock lives there!"

And now Ted finally gets to speak:


I used to grow with the growing things
Those trees and grasses and mushroom rings.
Now the wood is dead, the steel is mute,
And cement covers creation's root.
With tree I used to lift my eyes
See distance's bluest birthing skies.
With grass to know the parent sun,
The summer's greenest colour run.
I used to grow with the growing things --
These mushroom rings that mystery brings."

--- Copyright, Ted Pugh 1997 from the book entitled Open Space



Anonymous said...

My partner & I looked at buying Ted's house after he passed. It was in quite sad shape. Besides the usual deferred maintenance it was quite frankly filthy.
I remember on the walls were watercolors that he had done that were beautiful and I kick myself to this day that we didn't buy them. Books of his work were everywhere. I loved the overgrown look of the yard (yes I would have trimmed it back a bit). We decided that it was to big of a project for us.
It was obvious to us that his was not a good end to a interesting & rich life. I think about him everythime we walk by that house.

Shade tree Works said...

Interesting teacher

Sherlock said...

I thought the peacock came from the house just to the south side. I guess I was mistaken.

We thought about buying it after it was rehabilitated, but if I recall correctly, the floorplan didn't have a master bedroom. It does have a great attic. My compliments to the current owners who have done a great job with the yard and house color.

Andrea said...

C and I looked into buying the house too. We also decided it was a bit too much for us. It is still my favorite house and a bit of a lost dream for me. It is lovely now but I was sad to see the overgrown ivy cleared away. It added so much depth and character. Petey the Peocock did love next door and he liked to roam all over the neighborhood. I is a shame to hear of his fate.

Anonymous said...

Debby and I purchased the Marshall Castle 6 years ago and started our loving restoration. We had gone for a drive to Pomona’s Antique Row and took a drive to Lincoln Park. We were traveling west on McKinley towards Gibbs and there it was. Debby jumped out of the car to peer throw the windows of the vacant residence with a for sale sign and the rest is history. We had completed our restoration of our Victorian home of 18 years in Monrovia and had no intention of moving until that hot day in August 2001. Two months later, we closed escrow and moved our three kids, pets and belongings to our new home in Lincoln Park to set out on a new restoration adventure. We soon came to know and love the legacy of Edward “Ted” Pugh. We heard all of the stories of his anger but soon came to realize what a kind and gentle man he really was. He loved nature and the anger came from the ever-changing world around him. We discovered we had true connections to Ted. I grew up near the arboretum in Arcadia and that was my playground. Ted was a Naturalist there and I remember him well. We are still very connected to the Arboretum and Ted’s legacy there. I am also of Welch ancestry and love poetry. Ted’s poetry speaks of the beauty in nature as well as his anger with the concrete jungle encroaching on his garden. We love the gardens of the Marshall Castle (named by Ted’s Grandfather, Emmons Marshall). Many of Ted’s loving plants and trees have made a comeback after being cut down by the contractor that purchased the home from Ted’s estate in 1997. We would not have removed the vegetation as well but we believe Ted is happy with the garden’s progress today. Peter The Peacock as Ted called him was Ted’s bird. It is told that Ted’s friend Davis brought Peter from the Arboretum. This makes the most sense of all the stories we have heard. After Ted’s death, Peter gained a true friend in the neighbor next door. She called him “Bird”. We had a great relationship with Peter as he would make daily visits and assist with gardening. I would place a plant in the ground and Peter would dig them up. I was okay with that. He just wanted the grubs. The stories of him being stolen are true. We miss him greatly. More to come. Scott.T.

Anonymous said...

The Marshall Castle was built in 1905 directly in front of the Arenas Adobe. Emmons and Edith Marshall lived in the Adobe while their larger home was being built. They had three children and had outgrown the adobe. They had a large orange grove that covered what is now North-Western Lincoln Park. The Arenas Adobe was constructed in 1838 for Luis Arenas who had married into the Palomares family. Arenas was a former Alcade (mayor) of Los Angeles. The Adobe was demolished shortly after the Marshall home was built. The construction of the Marshall Castle is unique as it is constructed of solid concrete blocks that are formed in a hand-operated stamping machine. The machine had multiple inserts to change the face of the blocks to replicate the look of hand-cut granite. The home is a wood-framed transitional style home with Victorian, Greek Revival and Craftsman influences. The home features 4 bedrooms (2 with dressing rooms), 2 bathrooms, beautiful built-ins and oak and fir woodwork, unique original lighting, two staircases, servant quarters, a great sitting area at the 2nd stairway landing, 2 sets of pocket doors, a large basement and attic. After numerous sub-divisions of the Marshall property, the home still sits on a large one-third acre plus lot with over 30 trees. The property had an artesian well where travelers would stop to water their horses along the San Bernardino trail. The water source dried up when the city tapped into the water supply but has been known to bubble to the surface occasionally. We truly love this home and its great Lincoln Park location. We will always keep the legacy of Ted Marshall Pugh going as we work in his garden and continue the restoration of his family home. By the way, we purchased both of Ted Pugh’s poetry books from the Folk Music store in the Claremont Village.….Scott T.

me said...

Wow. I almost don't want to step back into Ted's open space to moderate, since the space is being filled up so nicely by contributors. I did want to acknowledge how much I'm enjoying the posts so far, especially the two from Scott. Thank you for the tip on Folk Music: yet another example of how Ted has been right in front of me for a while now.

G of P

Anonymous said...


Your home sounds charming. I would love to see it on the Home Tour one year.

robincgonz said...

Ted and a friend of his, George, used to walk past our house along Gibbs when we lived there in the '70s and '80s; we got into the habit of talking over the back fence. Both gentlemen knew an amazing amount about things -- but Ted never ceased to amaze me with his knowledge of plants and all things natural. I learned a lot from him.

I typed up about 150 of his poems for him over the course of a number of years, and he repaid me with a doll that had been his mother's. I still have that doll, cherished, in my doll collection.

The silkworms that were the "pets" in my son's classroom were nourished from Ted's mulberry trees -- the street trees along the corner in front of his house. We learned a lot about silkworms and mulberry trees from Ted too.

My kids were probably the only neighborhood kids who would walk up onto Ted's porch, carrying a plate of cookies or something else -- all the other kids thought the house was "haunted." He was a great friend to our family, and although his last years were tough (hygiene was not one of his strongest suits), Pomona lost a light when he died.

Anonymous said...

Thank You, for sharing all this wonderful information & being respectful of his legacy~
I grew Up on Artesia St (also, once a site of an Artesian Well) ❤ed, admired & dreamed of this Castle My entire Life, but until Now...knew nothing of it's History or keeper! Susie

robincgonz said...

Scott T -- thank you for all the wonderful information about the house! Like others, I wish I could have bought it and refurbished it when it first came up for sale, but I'm glad it's now in the hands of somebody who clearly loves it!

Thank you for taking care of a beautiful cornerstone (literally and figuratively) of the neighborhood!