Surviving 2020: The Gamble House and a Year of Adaptation
by Kate Nixon
It was March 4th, 2020. On the steps of the Gamble House in Pasadena, California, the announcement was made that control of the historic house was officially turned over from the University of Southern California to the new nonprofit The Gamble House Conservancy. The negotiations between USC, the Gamble family and the city of Pasadena were amicable and the move meant a new chapter of ownership for supporters of the house – a combination of two volunteer-based organizations with the similar goals of preservation and keeping the house operating and a landmark for educating the public about its part to play in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Thus, the nonprofit was born and a new exciting time for The Gamble House was about to begin.
Ten days later, the doors of the Gamble House were forced closed, as were millions of other historic sites, organizations, and businesses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now fifteen months after the Gamble House closed, the doors will be open to the public again for its interior tours. The Gamble House will be resuming in-person interior tours on June 15th for the first time since being shut down on March 14th, 2020.
Keeping active, engaged with supporters, and trying to keep the lights on was no easy task for any organization in 2020. Yet the spirit of the Arts & Crafts Movement would survive the year and turn a year of isolation into a year of adaptation. Gamble House Executive Director Bosley spoke with us on surviving the brutal year of 2020, how they adapted, and what is next for the care of the iconic house.
People responded so generously because they realized we were on more than just a back foot. We were flattened at a time when we were just getting going as a fledgling nonprofit. — Ted Bosley, Executive Director, The Gamble House
Ahead of California’s new June 15th opening date, Bosley and his team has taken every single liberty to ensure that safety measures are taken and adhered to. “We want everybody to be safe as they could be — our staff, our volunteers, our public. We’re not rushing into anything here. We’re being very measured and careful.” An outline of their safety protocols for both visitors and staff can be found on the Gamble House website, alongside their announcement of June’s interior tours as well as outdoor and virtual events. Indeed, it was a far cry from the sobering feeling of closing their doors on that day in March a year ago.
According to Bosley, the swell of support was “incredibly touching” over the past year, given the whiplash-like effects of officially starting the nonprofit states and closing their doors in less than two weeks and the additional obvious financial crunch: a double whammy, as Bosley called it. “People responded so generously because they realized we were on more than just a back foot. We were flattened at a time when we were just getting going as a fledgling nonprofit.”
Luckily, their supporters responded with intense dedication, enough to raise ten times their usual amount for their annual appeal, so much so that the conservancy added a “Founder’s Circle” for those who were able to give $10,000 or more. Bosley is also quick to appreciate the decades of support that the house has had before these new Covid times: a benefit not easily gained by newer nonprofits. “55 years is a long time for the community to fall in love with The Gamble House and I genuinely feel for those with a new nonproft that haven’t has a chance to have a foothold in the community.”
In an attempt to connect with their supporters throughout the last year, The Gamble House offered a number of virtual tours live over Zoom with docents of its interiors as well as offering outdoor tours of its Gardens and Gables and the Greene & Greene neighborhood walking tours and a 3D interactive one through the popular Matterport system, the latter being something Bosley says they were quite lucky to have. “In going into the virtual world, that’s something that none of us had done before. But because our staff listened to what others were doing, within weeks we had a virtual tour up on the website. Even before the mask mandate, we got this virtual tour photographer to make this tour of the house with his virtual camera. We were beyond lucky to have that before we saw the Covid train coming.”
It’s made it possible to be in touch with others around the world in a way that we’ve never been able to do before – and that’s something we don’t want to lose.”
As they are a place-based institution, they’ve felt the demand to be back at the house itself and yet a new unexpected item is now on their agenda — how to accommodate for the online fans they’ve gained in 2020 through their online offerings. “I gave a talk last fall and someone was tuning in from Scotland. I have no idea how he heard about the program, but it’s made it possible to be in touch with others around the world in a way that we’ve never been able to do before. So that’s tells us that’s something we don’t want to lose.”
The hour-long interior tours will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Advance ticket purchasing is required (tickets are available to purchase through the website through Acme ticketing https://buy.acmeticketing.com/orders/127/calendar) The Conservancy is currently offering a number of online programming including goat yoga on the lawn and a special virtual tour of Judson Studios with designer David Judson. Future events include Ted Bosley’s lecture for Victorian Society in America entitled “Greene & Greene in Pasadena: Victorian Clients, Arts & Crafts Architects” and an exclusive Behind the Scenes tour of The Gamble House for the upcoming Arts & Crafts In August.