Posted by: Brad Nixon | February 13, 2017

In Oriental Mode: Asia Pacific Museum, Pasadena, California

As I’ve noted multiple times, my town, Los Angeles, is not simply one town. There IS a City of Los Angeles, population approximately 3.8 million people (2010 census). Ensconced within the megalopolis you think of when you picture “Los Angeles” are 87 other municipalities in Los Angeles County, although the metropolitan area’s 10 million people also live in cities to the south in Orange County. Some are large cities in their own right, including Long Beach (460,000), and Glendale (192,000), to name only the next 2 in size.

In addition to people, there are, certainly millions of buildings, bridges and other bits of architecture. If I wrote a blog post per day for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t make a dent in the vast “built environment” of Los Angeles. Every trip, anywhere in the county, provides a look at more items worth mention.

Pasadena is the 9th largest city within Los Angeles County with 137,122 people. If you have an immediate association with Pasadena, it’s probably two of the most-photographed entities on the planet: the Rose Bowl stadium and the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Rose Parade Brad Nixon 2786 (640x391)

Founded in 1886, Pasadena is the second-oldest city in the county, after Los Angeles itself. Its architectural record spans that period with a wealth of styles from solid Victorian-era businesses and homes …

Pasadena Brad Nixon 3119 (640x416)

… Art Deco …

Pasadena Brad Nixon 3120 (640x400)

… and beyond. Pasadena is famous for its large number of Craftsman houses, including some of the masterpieces of the genre. I’ll save those for a future article.

In the 1920s, Pasadena, like the entire county, was booming. Railroads, agriculture, manufacturing, shipping and the nascent film and entertainment/tourism industries attracted tens of thousands of people to southern California every year.

In 1926, art and antiquities dealer and collector, Grace Nicholson commissioned a house styled after a Chinese imperial palace to hold her collection of 15,000 items from Asia and the Pacific islands.

Asia Pacific Museum Brad Nixon 5944 (640x386)

Nicholson donated the building and much of her collection to the city in 1943. It was purchased by a foundation which established it as the Pacific Museum of Art. The building and is now the Asia Pacific Museum, part of the University of Southern California, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Asia Pacific Museum Brad Nixon 5945 (640x346)

The facility is currently closed for remodeling, scheduled to open in 2017. Even from the outside, the attention to detail by architects Marsten, Van Pelt and Marbury is evident (click an image for full view).

We’ll have to return once the museum reopens in order to give you a view of the interior, which is, according to reports, as lavish as the current state of the exterior suggests, including a courtyard with Chinese garden.

Asia Pacific Museum Brad Nixon 5943 (640x399)

Getting There

The museum is at 46 North Robles Avenue, Pasadena California. It’s one block north of the main drag, Colorado Boulevard.

Asia Pacific Museum Map Google (624x640)

The Rose Bowl is in the upper left. As you can see, there’s also access from the 210 and 134 freeways. Pasadena is directly north of downtown Los Angeles, reached by the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway (the first U.S. freeway, 1940). Turn right on Colorado, left on Los Robles. West of Arroyo Seco is Old Pasadena, full of restaurants and shopping, as is the contemporary Paseo Colorado, nearby along Colorado.

The official website is As I write, it is unavailable. I’ll update if possible.

For more photos like the one above from the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade, CLICK HERE.

© Brad Nixon 2017. Map © Google.


  1. Certainly there is strong historical and well established Asian influence throughout L.A. and its environs, such as Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Koreatown, to name just the most obvious and best known. Then if you’re in the mood for the kitschy, you can stop by Groman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.


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