Rafu Staff Report
An online petition has been launched to preserve the southwest portion of the Scripps/Kellogg estate in Altadena — which has a decades-long connection to a Japanese American family — as a historic site and community garden.
“When Japanese Americans were interned in concentration camps during World War II, many of them lost their land and homes,” wrote Millicent Crisp of San Marino, who launched the petition on change.org three weeks ago. “There is now an opportunity to save a historic location if there is not intervention soon …
“The Yuge family — Takeo, Fumiko and their daughter Nadine — was removed from the Scripps/Kellogg estate in Altadena, where patriarch Takeo had been the gardener for 15 years. When they returned after the war, they relocated to Harbor City in Los Angeles. The Kellogg family soon asked the Yuges to return, and the family of four girls grew up in a Craftsman house Takeo’s uncle had built.
“Takeo turned the land beside and behind the house into an azalea farm, breeding and selling the plants to florists. He took out patents on several varieties. As part of the reconciliation efforts between Japan and the United States, Takeo trained young men from Japan in American farming techniques.
“The Yuges had a handshake agreement with property owner William Scripps Kellogg, promising that the family could remain on the land as long as Takeo and his wife Fumiko were alive. Japanese Americans were prohibited from owning land until 1952.
“The current owner, Waldorf School, honored the agreement, but with the death of Fumiko in 2014, it was terminated. Waldorf School would now like to reclaim the land for school use.
“The piece of land that the Yuge descendants would like to preserve includes the historic Craftsman house, which was built by Takeo’s uncle when he was the caretaker in the 1920s; the rare and endangered Torrey pine and the garden south of the house to Mariposa Street; and the land to the west of the house.
“The family believes that a community garden would be an appropriate use for the land, both as a dedication to their parents and their relationship to the Kellogg family during a tumultuous time for Japanese Americans, and as a site important to Japanese American history. It would be the realization of the legacy of Mrs. Florence Scripps Kellogg and her son, William Scripps Kellogg, to share a garden with the community.
“Although Scripps Hall, which includes the Craftsman house and gardens, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and the California Registry of Historic Resources, there is no protection from demolition or alteration. It is crucial that supporters act quickly to delay any alterations or razing of the property.”
The petition, which had 1,050 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, also called for letters to Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, and other elected officials.
“The preservation of the Torrey pine, garden and home and the creation of a community garden would fulfill the Kellogg family’s wishes to share Scripps Hall with all Altadenans,” wrote Joyce Yuge of Los Angeles, one of the four Yuge daughters. “Saving the beauty and heritage of this portion of the estate would be the best way to honor Takeo and Fumiko Yuge.”
Statements of Support
Writing from San Diego, William Kellogg, grandson of William Scripps Kellogg, said, “The historic nature of the Torrey Pine (and the property itself) makes it something that should be preserved for the future. Our family made a gift of this property in the mid-1980s to the community and we feel strongly that it should be preserved.”
“As a grandson of William [Scripps] Kellogg, I’m sure he would have wanted what this petition is requesting,” wrote Daniel Kellogg of Gold Hill, Ore.
Professor Lane Hirabayashi of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center wrote, “There was an impressive Japanese American community formation in ‘old town’ Pasadena as of 1940. All that has been erased. Preserving the home and its history, and making this into a heritage site and perhaps educational resource, would be a way to make this specific story, as well as the story of Japanese Americans in the area, known.”
In an open letter on May 7, Donald Hodel, environmental horticultural advisor for University Cooperative Extension, wrote, “On May 5, 2015, I visited the unusually large Torrey pine (Pinus torreyana) at 177 E. Mariposa Street in Altadena. Along with Cindy Yuge, Joyce Yuge, Carolyn Yuge, and arborist John Lynch, I measured this huge, historic tree and took numerous photographs to document its size and beauty.
“Its measurements are 120 feet tall; 17 feet, 2 inches trunk circumference at 4.5 feet above the ground; and a canopy spread of 87 feet, 6 inches. Inspections of the root crown, trunk, and upper canopy showed the tree to be in good to excellent health and vigor. It is easily one of the largest of its kind in California.
“Known as the Scripps Hall Torrey Pine, this tree is steeped in history and is intimately connected with the famous Scripps family, which made its fortune in newspaper publishing and played an important role in the history of Altadena.
“In 1895, W.A. Scripps II purchased the property where Scripps Hall was built in 1904. In 1928, Scripps’ grandson, William Scripps Kellogg, asked gardener and caretaker of the property Takeo Yuge to plant a Torrey pine seedlings that he had brought by automobile from La Jolla; thus, the tree is 87 years old. The Yuge family continues to live at the site but their time is limited as imminent development threatens the property and this old, historic, large tree …
“I understand that the property where the Scripps Torrey Pine has grown for 87 years now faces substantial development, which will certainly threaten this tree. I appreciate the fact that the property owner wants to retain this tree in the new development. However, my enthusiasm for this project is tempered by the potential for significant damage to the tree during and after project construction.
“Like all big and especially old trees, the Scripps Torrey Pine is living a somewhat precarious existence, and any damage to the root system and/or alteration to the root zone during or after project construction will likely mean its demise.”
Hodel’s recommendations included “placement of a fence or other inviolate barrier at least 50 feet out from the trunk and encircling the tree during project construction” and to “strongly consider retaining the house because it provides protection for a good portion of the root system of the tree.”
June 1 Deadline
Under an agreement reached in 1986 when the Waldorf School purchased the Scripps estate in 1986, the property must be vacated by June 1, six months after the death of the last parent. Takeo Yuge passed away in 1989, followed by Fumiko Yuge last November the age of 100.
(Fumiko Yuge was also the sister of the late Hitoshi Sameshima, known in the community as a Military Intelligence Service veteran, a docent at the Japanese American National Museum, and the recipient of an honorary degree from USC, where he was a student before he was interned.)
Waldorf Administrator Douglas Garrett could not be immediately reached for comment, but he told The Pasadena Star News last week, “We are working with the Yuge sisters to find a way to appropriately honor the family and their heritage on the property.”
Established in 1979, Pasadena Waldorf is a member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America and offers enrollment to students from early childhood to 11th grade. A conceptual master plan drafted in December shows a driveway and a parking lot where the cottage and pine tree stand, but school officials say a specific development plan is still in the early stages.
Cindy Yuge of Altadena told The Rafu Shimpo on Saturday, “We haven’t heard from the school following the start of the petition. We have contacted Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s office. We spoke with Kathryn Barger, his chief deputy. Both she and Supervisor Antonovich saw the article in The Star News.”
Joyce Yuge said Wednesday that Waldorf canceled on a scheduled meeting, and the sisters could not meet on a proposed alternate date.
Appearing in a Los Angeles News Group video in front of the house on April 30 with her sisters Joyce, Carolyn Yuge and Nadine Ishizu, Cindy Yuge said, “We have lived in this house here on East Mariposa our entire lives … We are now being asked to move. We need find a new place to live, but we are very concerned about the Torrey pine, it’s endangered.
“We’d like for something to be done for my parents, Takeo and Fumiko Yuge, and the Kelloggs as well to memorialize their relationship and the hard times that they had to go through — my parents going to camp and then having to come out and rebuild their lives, with the Kelloggs’ gracious invitation to come back and live here …
“My father was the longest caretaker for this estate, essentially spending all of his adult life here, with the exception of the camp years. He returned and was able to build a life for himself and for all of us, to enjoy this property and the beauty of it.”
Yuge told The Rafu Shimpo that her father should also be remembered for his involvement with the Japan Agricultural Exchange Council, formed under an agreement between the U.S. and Japan in 1950, and the many men he mentored.
“He hosted a new farm trainee every year for over 20 years,” she said. “In the beginning there were only men from Japan, but as the program grew, it expanded to other countries, including Brazil and Argentina. While they lived with us, they would learn about how to propagate azaleas.
“Dad was a good teacher, though, and felt it was important for them to learn about the United States, the customs, the philosophies, the ideals, the culture, sports, etc. Dinner conversations were always very interesting. Dad won a Kunsho [Medal of Honor from Japan] for supporting this farm trainee program for so many years.
“Also, Dad was able to produce new varieties of azaleas, for which he held several patents.”
Some statements of support came from friends of the Yuge family.
J.F. Bonavich of San Gabriel wrote, “Ms. Nadine Ishizu has had an influence on thousands of young lives as she taught elementary school in the area for many years. Her kindness, volunteerism and hard work has helped shape our community for decades. It would be nice to preserve the family’s home and give something back to someone who has unselfishly given herself to so many, for so long.”
Tracy Stillwater of Glendale wrote, “My family has lived here since 1945. I love Altadena, and want her beauty and history preserved. Cindy was a classmate of mine, and I want HER history preserved. It is very, very important to the integrity of our community that we protect the remaining large estate properties, especially those with the local and cultural history that defines this one.”
Carolyn Yale of Oakland wrote, “I have known the Yuge family for over half a century (Yales and Yuges being placed side by side alphabetically in school in Altadena/Pasadena). I am proud of what this family, and others who suffered internment, have accomplished and believe this should be honored. Moreover, I urge the community to preserve heritage of beauty, rather than destroy it …
“The grounds in question have much to offer the community and should be protected. It is, moreover, an opportunity to publicly ‘give back’ to the Japanese Americans by way of recognition and respect; this is due after so much was summarily taken from them at the time of WWII.”