Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Marcell Inn, from the book: CURIOUS CALIFORNIA CUSTOMS, 1935

Just recently I received notice that signs from the Marcell Inn in Altadena have been found in an old Altadena barn. I'm still waiting to see pictures from that marvelous find and hope these artifacts of Altadena history will be preserved.  More on the Marcell Inn here:

Going through all my historical materials recently, I came across this article I wanted to share with you: 
From the book:  CURIOUS CALIFORNIA CUSTOMS, By Elisabeth Webb Herrick, Pacific Carbon and Printing Company, Los Angeles, California 1935

Marcell Inn, Los Angeles, California

This historic and popular old dining room is one of the high spots of our culinary tour, Lucullus himself would have been delighted to make it his permanent hangout.  Situated at 2900 Lincoln Avenue, Altadena, in an old garden, it is a monument to the epicurean tastes of those enlightened souls who have discovered it and kept it up.

All during those dark days of prohibition, it struggled along, goodness knows how because any good cook will tell you that it is utterly impossible to turn out anything fit to eat without wine to flavor the sauces, and any epicure will tell you how much alcoholic stimulants have to do with the enjoyment of the delicate nuances in viands.  But they're happy now at the Inn and they'll be glad to promote you to a state of exhilaration also, if you'll just give them the opportunity.

Their $2.50 dinner is something to conjure with!  If you are dieting, call up the masseuse and make a date for early next morning, but don't we beg of you, pass up any of their courses!  It would be an insult to the chef and a slight to the house which no amount of explanation could overcome.

The cherubic George Rector and Henri Charpentier used to do this sort of thing with air, but they couldn't possibly surpass the sweet breads saute sec.  Diamond Jim Brady, five stomachs and all, would have hailed their chicken with the reverence he felt for such artistic triumphs, and would have heralded their salads from the housetops.

There is an orchestra and dancing - talk about gilding the lily!  Inasmuch as your true gourmet never under any circumstances takes a sweet after dining, it is a very gracious gesture on the part of the management to feature such tantalizing delicacies for dessert as their special pudding, real Italian spumoni ice cream and petit fours.  By the time this course is reached, you are shrugging off the possibility of extra poundage anyhow, so you might as well go ahead and partake.  After one of these dinners, served with all the elegance of the Nineties, it is very easy to understand the fashionable figures of the day.  No wonder Lillian Russell had nothing left but her famous chiseled profile when we got around to see her!  Just be grateful that you were lucky enough to find out about this place, and remember there are no luncheons but the doors are open about 6:00 p.m., Sundays earlier.

I truly miss Michael's with its miniature golf and the Marcell Inn with its beautiful gardens.  I will continue to advocate for dining establishments with ambiance in Altadena and Pasadena along and adjacent to Lake Avenue.  Just recently I was taken to Julienne's in San Marino for lunch.  The spirit of the Marcell Inn lives on not too far from our North Pasadena abode.  What a pleasant suprise!  The ghost of Marcell sat with me for lunch.  This place is magical! Don't fail to try it:  Julienne Restaurant, 2649 Mission Street, San Marino, California.  (And thank you to my muse, who took me to this gem, and didn't let me pine only for all things lost, but let me rejoice in things found....)


  1. A couple of updates.... In the 1924 Thurston's Residence and Business Directory of Pasadena, Altadena and Lamanda Park, we find the Marcell Country Club listed at 2170 Lincoln Avenue and the name Marcellus, Chas E (Edna L). Charles and and his wife Edna were very well known in the community. And, in case you didn't know, the City Directories were used back in the day to verify an individuals identity and trust worthiness, as all businesses including banks subscribed to the directory service and were provided updated annual copies. Every year each address in the area was mailed a response card, similar to our every ten year census, and if you didn't respond with the requested information an agent was sent to the address. If the agent couldn't verify information, this was noted in the directory or the address was left out, making it difficult for the non-respondent to cash a check or carry out a business transaction in the community.

    Also, take a look at Urban Homesteader's blog about the Marcell Inn sign find. I hope they will offer me one for letting them use my research!

  2. So back in the day, a massage could make those unwanted pounds melt away? Would it were.

    How can we get our hands on a Marcell Inn sign -- any ideas?

  3. Karin, Anais Dervaes posted photos of them on Facebook. Her neighbor found them in her garage. They were being used as siding or something like that. I think she plans to give one to the museum and sell the others. I tried to find it on Anais' Facebook page, but she's got a lot of photos.

  4. It was good to meet you today. And, Petrea, I will be getting back with you.

    Here is a brief blog post, with links:

  5. @Treechild,
    Yours is a very nice blog, and Zambia, that must be a story! Walked by your old homestead on Howard again today. We live in a small town! So many connections...... Do you know the story of John and Elizabeth Howard? Their estate was on North Lake Avenue between Elizabeth and Howard on the west side of Lake. I'm still researching them, but it must have been a large ranch, as recently I met someone who lives in the ranch foreman's house which is on Elizabeth between Los Robles and El Molino. Also, El Molino refers to the Old Mill in San Marino, so really El Molino Avenue is the north extension of Old Mill Road in San Marino, and the Lake in Lake Avenue is the road to the mountains from the lake (now drained) which is today's Lacy Park in San Marino.

  6. Take a look at as they have copied a city survey for area 22 which may be viewed at the library. There is a lot of research done to come up with all that history! Robincroft Castle on Crown Hill is fantastic and still exists (I had it designated as a Pasadena Landmark a few years ago) and Washington School on top of Monk's Hill is something... Before the school was built, a view pergola designed by Green and Green was located on top of Monk's Hill, but even now the view is magnificent!