The guy who built the McNally Mansion played a major part in getting you to where you are now
What does the McNally Mansion have to do with you? Well, remember those huge rolled up maps at the front of the classroom that your teacher would pull down in order to teach a geography or history lesson? We have none-other than the Rand-McNally Corp to thank for telling us what was where before GPS was invented. We also have compay founder Andrew McNally to thank for building an iconic, three-story mansion in Altadena, CA, that’s now on the market for $3.79 million.
Born in 1838, McNally originally hailed from Northern Ireland and partnered with William Rand in the map business in Chicago in the 1860s. The business turned out to be extremely lucrative, and both became multimillionaires. Like many other wealthy folks of the era, McNally traveled to Southern California. He became enamored with the climate and the landscape, and had architect Frederick Roehrig build his family a winter house near Pasadena.
Completed in 1888, the home was the site of many gatherings for McNally’s family and friends, including the titans of industry. It also appeared on numerous postcards extolling the virtues of spending winter months in warm California.
It’s easy to imagine McNally and his high-society friends smoking fat cigars and sipping whiskey from cut-crystal glasses in the octagonal Turkish room, also known as the smoking room. The room today appears much like it did when McNally had it decorated with Middle Eastern wood paneling and fabrics of persimmon-colored silks, low sofas and carpets, wood fluting and carvings, and Arabic phrases stenciled on the walls.
The McNally Mansion has had only four owners since he commissioned it. The current owners, who’ve possessed it for over 65 years, saved it from the wrecking ball in the 1950s. It was about to become the casualty of a developer who likely planned to subdivide the property and build postwar housing. The family lovingly and painstakingly restored the home’s grandeur and beauty.
“It’s one of the most exciting properties I’ve ever represented,” says listing agent Matthew Berkley, who works exclusively with historically significant homes.
In the 1880s, indoor bathrooms weren’t exactly commonplace, and modern bathrooms were added over the years. The 6,938-square-foot McNally mansion has nine bedrooms, 4.5 baths, two staircases, and seven fireplaces.
Set at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, the McNally Mansion once included many acres and even had its own railroad spur. The house now sits on an acre lot, and the grounds include deodar cedars, citrus and olive trees, broad green lawns, and colorful flowers.
There’s also an aviary, which is currently being used as a greenhouse. Since the railroad stop is no more, an automobile will be required to traverse modern-day Altadena.
At this point in the home’s history, the sellers are “more concerned with the stewardship of the house,” says Berkley. That means developers who want to raze the place and build modern mansions aren’t going to have a shot.
The likely buyers are “people who appreciate a historic landmark and are looking at a piece of U.S. history worth preserving,” he adds.
All photos of the McNally Mansion by Cameron Carothers
Get more info and see more photos of the McNally Mansion in my feature on Realtor.com.
Lisa Johnson Mandell
Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.
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