Verdugo Views: Raisin king's queen designed a castle

Grace Carpenter and her husband, Dick, came west in 1920, ending up in the Crescenta Valley, where they found a place to live on the grounds of an abandoned castle.

He became the caretaker of Gould Castle and she went to work — two years later — as a reporter for the brand-new La Crescenta Valley Ledger.

Over the years, Grace Carpenter wrote extensively about local history, including several articles about the castle printed in the Ledger in 1948 and reprinted in a February 2012 Crescenta Valley historical society newsletter.

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The castle was built as a winter home on a level hilltop (185 acres overlooking the entire valley) by San Franciscan Eugene Gould and his wife May. Money was no object, as he was a commission merchant, a "raisin king."

Using her artistic talents, May Gould designed a castle similar to one she had recently seen in Spain. The structure, completed in 1892, "was a tribute to her talent as a designer, to the craftsmanship of the builders and to the bankroll of her husband," according to Ledger articles.

Foreman Charles T. Bathey supervised construction of the house, laid out with a large patio dividing the living quarters from the sleeping area.

Under his direction, crews gathered huge boulders left on the valley floor by ancient floods, mostly from the area between Pickens Canyon and Briggs Avenue. They were cut by a man identified only as Elliot, a former petty officer in the Royal British Navy who tired of life at sea and deserted while onshore in New York City.

Working his way west, Elliot fought Indians on the plains, participated in a gold rush in Colorado and worked as a miner in New Mexico before arriving in California.

Building materials were hauled from the canyon floor to the top of the cliff by a cable car powered by a capstan that was turned by a horse walking at the end of a long sweep. (Sections of the old tracks were rusting in the brush at the head of the tramway until just a few years before the 1948 articles were written.)

One of the biggest challenges was the flooring. May Gould, wanting to be totally authentic, insisted that the wood floors be laid on the soil, without any ventilation. Eventually, due in part to the moist soil, and later a leaking roof, the floors had to be torn out.

"For many years thereafter, the castle was even more closely akin to its Spanish model, which also had dirt floors," the Ledger noted.

The castle was completed in 1892, but the family only lived there a short while. Carpenter noted that it was long enough for the three small Gould children to leave their footprints in the cement pavement on the western side of the castle. But, when Eugene Gould attempted to corner the raisin market and failed, his considerable fortune was swept away.

The family moved into the caretaker's cottage near the old barn, while attempting — unsuccessfully — to hold onto the property. Eventually, they returned to San Francisco.

A succession of caretakers, including the Carpenters, lived in the ranch house and, one time, May Gould came to walk the old castle grounds and visit them. "She had always cherished the thought the castle would again be hers," Grace Carpenter wrote in the Ledger.

The castle sat empty for many years and was sometimes used for filming.

"Tom Mix trifled with the idea of buying it," Grace Carpenter wrote. It was torn down in 1955.

To the readers:

Art Cobery sent a hand-written letter, noting that Gloria Talbott graduated from Glendale High a year before he did. "She was a fine actress and respected by her classmates. She played lead roles in a number of our school plays. Every young man was totally in awe of her natural beauty," he wrote.

Cobery last saw her shortly after her first marriage, when she and her husband shopped in an open-air market on Central Avenue near Broadway. Cobery worked there — on the cash register —during his freshman year at Glendale Junior College.

Tom Sheridan, of La Quinta, emailed his thanks for the "well-written and very interesting article about Nami Ota-Donals."

"I've known Nami since the early '60s when I was a regular at the Grandview Gardens in Chinatown (and several other bars)."

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KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached at katherineyamada@gmail.com. or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. First St., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.

Copyright © 2017, Glendale News-Press

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