In the early 1900s, Pasadena was a magnet for wealthy Easterners in search of a winter respite. By the 1920s, however, the flow had diminished – that is, until the newly enlarged “destination resort” Vista del Arroyo Hotel re-energized the area, drawing guests to the sprawling Spanish Revival main building as well as its private cottages. In 1929, George H. Maxwell, a wealthy east coast litigator and philanthropist commissioned architects Marston and Maybury to build a 13,000 square foot “bungalow” on the hotel grounds in the Mediterranean Italianate style with tile roofing, stucco walls, a Palladian entrance and elaborate detailing. The soaring entry hall and decoratively painted ceiling panels provided the perfect setting to accommodate the Maxwells’ love of entertaining on a grand scale and today showcases original final paintings on loan from the historic California Art Club. Each winter, the house was abuzz with elegant parties and receptions until the Depression and then WWII took its toll, leading to the eventual abandonment of the property in the 1940s.
In 1943, the buildings were taken over by the U.S. Government for use as an army hospital treating injured soldiers returning from the Pacific war front. In 1949, the General Services Administration took over, but shortly thereafter, the buildings were abandoned becoming surplus federal property and left neglected until the 1970s.
At that time, the distinguished Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit requested transformation of the hotel into a new courthouse. The tower was restored in 1985 as a courthouse for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Shortly thereafter, a group of judges and lawyers associated with the Court had a vision for Western Justice Center (WJC) and joined with the City of Pasadena to acquire the four neighboring bungalows. The City of Pasadena purchased the site and structures from the federal General Service Administration and leased them back to WJC on a long-term basis for charitable purposes.