Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rt. Rev. Joseph H. Johnson
415 S. Grand Avenue, Pasadena

(updated October, 2017)

Next up was a grand house on Grand Ave.  The Right Reverend Joseph Horsfall Johnson(1847-1928), along his wife Isabel (1851-1940) and only son Reginald (1888-1952), had moved in sometime prior to 1900.  In 1903 the City of Pasadena published a book extolling the virtues of the city--the Johnson's house was included.

The Johnson Residence at 415 Grand Avenue, 1903
Rt. Reverend Johnson commuted each day to his office in downtown Los Angeles near St. Paul's Cathedral--after all he was the Episcopal Bishop for Southern California, a job he took in 1896. No doubt he approved of the Pasadena Short Line, opened in 1902, which shortened his commute significantly.

In 1909 he founded Bishop's School in San Diego with the financial help of the Scripps sisters. By 1912 he was heavily involved with Pomona College, serving on their Board of Trustees. It was probably good odds that Rev. Johnson was a key link that allowed for the creation of Scripps College (also part of the Claremont Colleges).  

Around 1910 son Reginald, still living at home, began his architect career, and would go on to become well known for his designs of churches (including St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, which his father consecrated) and single-family residences.

Below is the photo that appeared in our book. The image had not changed from an earlier 1906 edition.

415 South Grand Avenue circa 1906

Rt. Rev. Johnson ca. 1910

The Johnsons in 1921
 In 1921 the Johnsons decided to take some time off.  Applying for passports to go to Europe, Rev. Johnson cited "health" as the object of his visit. At the time he was 74, and Isabella 71.

In 1923 Rev. Johnson presided at the funeral of Arthur Letts, Broadway Department Store founder. As thanks, the Letts' children donated funds to provide a new pulpit for St. Paul's Cathedral.

It appears that son Reginald designed a house in the Huntington Library area intended for his mother and father in 1927. Sadly, Rev. Johnson died in 1928 and is buried at San Gabriel Cemetery. After his death, Isabel moved out of the house to a new one designed by son Reginald, located at 1590 Lombardy Road. With her son's house at the other end of the block (1380 Lombardy), she remained at this address until her death in 1940, and was buried in the same plot with Joseph. Reginald and his wife Kathleen are buried there too.

Today's house was built in 1929 in the Georgian style, by son Reginald, and became known as the Francis House. From aerial photos the lot appears to be about the same size, with the Arroyo Seco starting behind the house, providing great views across the canyon. 

A 2010 aerial image of the property

Old Homes of Los Angeles


  1. The statement in the last paragraph "And while today's house is on the same spot as the Rt. Reverend's, it is only one-storey in height, with brick exterior, which means this house is just a memory" is incorrect. The house there now was designed and built by Reginald Johnson, probably as a spec house, in 1919-1920. It is a large two story house with beautiful grounds. I know this because I used to live across the street.

    1. @Marley, thanks for your note--I've updated the last few lines to reflect a bit more history on the replacement house. As each year goes by, there's more and more detail available on-line, it seems.


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