Friday, June 14, 2013

just listed gregory ain home demands a tribute to original owner

One of our most beloved neighbors (and unofficial street historian), Joe Mims, passed away early in 2012, and his widow and children have decided to put the house on the market.

2823 Highview Ave is listed for $675,000, and word is there have already been a number of appointments made and it has not even been active for one day.  It's a fantastic house, with many original features, but obviously ready to be updated and restored accordingly for the right buyer.  It's a bit of a sad day for me that this house is going for sale because I have so many great memories associated with it and with Joe.  We used to stand outside forever and talk about everything under the sun.  He was a more than just a great neighbor (like all of our neighbors on the street), Joe was the embodiment of the spiritual quality that Gregory Ain imbued upon this Park Planned neighborhood.

Gregory Ain 2823 Highview Ave Altadena - listed for sale today
















I came to know Joe almost as soon as I moved in back in early 2004.  I quickly discovered his quiet charm and wit that endeared him to me from the start.  Joe was born and raised in Pasadena, and had gone to John Muir high just down the street.  He'd grown up knowing and playing with Mack and Jackie Robinson (yes, that Jackie Robinson), even running track and boxing Golden Gloves with them.  He used to tell me about his jobs all across town that he'd ride his bike to everywhere, even as far as Chapman Woods, all the way from Altadena and back (it's a bit of a haul, especially back up the hill).  Joe served in the army during WWII and was a member of the 1-130th Combat Engineer Battalion.  And although I cannot find much information on them online, I do know that he and his troop served at D-Day at Normandy.  Joe once told me it was their responsibility to clear the beaches of all land mines before the actual onslaught invasion hit the next morning.  I remember being awestruck and quite moved at the same moment when he first mentioned this to me after knowing him for a few years. You don't get to meet many people like this in this day and age, and I always have considered myself so fortunate to have shared in these stories first hand. 

Joe made it through the war unscathed, and after returning home to the states, he enrolled in the Art Center School in downtown Los Angeles in a program designed to teach technical illustration and design to returning war veterans.  Of course Art Center College of Design, as it's now known, is considered one of the top schools in the world, especially for art, graphic and industrial design.  It's another of my favorite places in Los Angeles because of it's bucolic Pasadena hills setting designed by Craig Ellwood in the early 1970s.  And though you may think I've digressed, I mention this because art and design were a huge part of Joe's life.  He worked as a designer for the Avery Corporation in Pasadena since graduating from Art Center in the early 1950s all the way through to retirement.  Joe lived through the zeitgeist of the mid-century modernist boom of southern California, and continued to have a passion for good design throughout his life.  Joe was a great fan of art and architecture, and we used to talk about everything from Le Corbusier to Charles Eames with as much passion as we did about baseball and basketball.  

The Mims family was officially formed in 1956, after Joe married his sweetheart Marceline, whom he'd met in 1954.  They moved purchased and moved into the Ain home on Highview in 1961, where then eventually raised three children.  I'm not 100% sure, but I know Joe's family was perhaps the first African American family to move on to the street.  There are rumors that Lena Horn also lived on the street for a time, but that has never been validated.  I do know that graphic-design legend Saul Bass used to live on the street, and I know which house.   I know because Joe casually said to me one day, "Saul Bass used to live right there," pointing directly across from where we were standing.  I knew that Saul Bass did actually live in the neighborhood, but a few blocks away at Case Study No. 20 on Santa Rosa.  I sort of thought Joe maybe didn't have it right because the Bass house is so well known around here, but at the same time I knew that it was highly, highly likely.  Well, to my amazement and dismay, I got a note from Saul Bass' son here on the blog not long after that, recounting the fact that he had grown up in the house Joe indicated.  (We exchanged  a few email where he told me stories of his father and Gregory Ain sitting out on the lawn talking about the street landscaping, hands gesturing, laughing, planning and just having a great time...  but of course I digress...).  

Joe stitched all of these pieces of my passions together through our conversations.  Knowing about the same design and architectural things I obsess about; living during a period of time that will continue to fascinate me until I leave this planet; believing in being a great neighbor and a watcher of the block; being a great father and a friend.  That's the spirit of what this Gregory Ain street means to me, and Joe Mims is one of the pillars of this community that helped make it the unique, beautiful place that it continues to be today.  

I am wishing the Mims family great love and success in their difficult decision to let go of the family home after nearly 55 years.  You will be missed, but always here with us on Highview.