Buy Ward Kimball’s House

Ward Kimball

Here’s the ultimate animation collector’s item: the San Gabriel, California home of animation legend Ward Kimball is currently for sale for $2.2 million. Designed by Robert H. Ainsworth and built for Ward and Betty Kimball in 1939, the home has never been on the market before. It’s been put up for sale by the family after Betty passed away last July at the age of 97.

Sadly, the expectation is that the home itself will be razed, and according to the listing, “Property shall be sold in its present as is condition and mainly for land value only.” There are still some remnants of the legendary backyard railroad, but the trains have been relocated to the Orange Empire Railway Museum, and John Lasseter bought the train station for his own property in northern California. Here’s what the backyard looked like in 2009:

Ward Kimball home

Anybody who is knowledgeable about animation and trains already knows the magical universe that Ward and Betty built on this landmark property. Countless famous people have passed through over the years: Walt Disney and Michael Jackson engineered the train, Wernher von Braun swam in their pool, Rowland Emett slept in the train station, Ray Bradbury shot a TV series in their backyard, Robert Crumb jammed in their living room with his band. Every animation notable from Bruno Bozzetto to Osamu Tezuka to Richard Williams has visited at some point.

I’ve spent innumerable hours at the Kimball home over the past three years, and can attest to what a special site it is. All good things must come to an end however, and after seventy years, it’s sad knowing that the Kimball family will no longer own the place. Their decision is perfectly understandable; the place was Ward and Betty’s creation, and their presence and zest for life is what made 8910 Ardendale so special in the first place. Without them, it’s time to start a new chapter. Here’s to hoping that whoever lives there in the future will appreciate the historical significance of the property.

If you’re interested, the property is repped by Priscilla Yim at Re/Max Premier Properties.

More photos of the Kimball residence in its prime after the jump.

Ward Kimball home

Ward Kimball home

Ward Kimball home


  • jordan reichek

    lord, that sucks.

    amid, is ‘firehouse 5′ still on the property?

    • amid

      I believe the building is still there. Firetruck is long gone though.

  • http://thadkomorowski.com Thad

    They’d better appreciate it. Ward Kimball is the one animator who’d come back from the dead to heckle any landmark-demolishing ‘entrepreneurs’.

  • Katella Gate

    Well, I don’t like it, but that’s how it is. I looked at the property layout and it’s obvious that the streets will be re-aligned and the lot (which has an “Oklahoma” shape) will be cut up into a number of parcels for four new houses at the very minimum where the rail yard used to be.

    I suppose they main house might survive in the hands of a new owner. It’s not in an ultra well-to-do area, which would be a kiss of death. I know from professional experience the higher up you go in terms of income, the less concern there is about preserving an earlier structure’s historical value.

    Still, it takes a lot of love to justify that kind of purchase, even with the back lot detached and broken up. The only bright spot is that I gather Mrs. Kimball got to live her life out in familiar surroundings.

    • jon Hooper

      Actually it is in a pretty well to do area. It is basically San Marino even though it is not actually listed in the city of San Marino. Pretty much everything west of Rosemead in that area is pretty pricey, and it gets pricier the closer you get to San Marino proper. Plus it is a nice giant lot.

      • Katella Gate

        My assessment on the possibility of survival for the main house was based on the fact that it is not in an “ultra well-to-do” area. If it were in the best part of town, it would simply be bulldozed. End of Story. Walt’s house never had a chance. I work in construction and have had high end clients, and they are not in the least interested in preservation of this kind.

        Being merely in a “well-to-do” area is more favorable. You at least have the possibility of a buyer that is aware of the house’s significance because of personal attachment to Ward’s work, is willing to live within the tastes of another man and another era, and has figured out a way to subdivide the property so that there’s money in the bank when its all over.

      • steve w.

        That part of East San Gabriel is more like the surrounding Temple City area than it is San Marino, which is on the other side of Eaton wash (a dry river bed). East San Gabriel is not particularly “fancy”; it’s more middle class in flavor. The neighborhood is served by the Temple City Unified School District. They’re upgrading the median of Rosemead Blvd., which may improve the look of the area.

      • Diane

        I live 2 blocks from Ward Kimbles home. It is in San Gabriel mailing address,but is actually unincorporated LA county area. The lot inpretty run down although it appears someone lives there. You can see a “barn” down the driveway. I inagine a developer is drooling over this as it is about a block and a half deep. I hope someone will take it and keep it as it is.

  • MichaelDair

    Here is grand look of Grizzly Flats via Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show:
    Part 1 of 6

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfAA7UT7oC0

  • Jenny Lerew

    No, nothing lasts forever, and its reason for being special has as you note gone with the Kimballs. Nonetheless it’s quite a melancholy thing to contemplate. At least it’s marked here. Great pictures.

  • Sam Sleiman

    I sensed this coming. Last year, Betty and an assistant sold all of Ward’s possessions on eBay, no joke. I managed to get my hands on a signed Richard Williams Animation poster (http://www.masteranimator.com/pictures/xmasDWTree.JPG) that was originally sent to Ward during the holiday season.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Shame I didn’t pounced on some of those when I had the chance.

    • steve w.

      The majority of Ward’s toys were sold in 2004-2005 by Noel Barrett Antiques & Auctions, Ltd. in Philadelphia. Mr. Barrett was chosen because Betty liked his appraisals on the PBS series “Antiques Roadshow”.

      More recently, the family decided to dispose of much of the rest using eBay seller “ragtyme” (Cindy Largey), who was known to them through Ward’s toy train clubs. Of course, most of the larger railroad equipment was donated to the Orange Empire Railway Museum. John Lassiter took a few of the salvageable structures, including the Grizzly Flats Depot, which was in need of repair and restoration.

    • http://shop.ebay.com/ragtyme/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=200&_sop=1 Cindy Largey

      Hello all. I sure have enjoyed this article & the blog entries. I am the mystery person who has been selling items on eBay for Betty for the past several years. I am now working for the estate. I have lots of great offerings of wonderful Kimball items going onto eBay on auction starting tonight (10/18/10). This is one of many big batches of incredible Kimball items to be listed on auction in the coming weeks & months. I’m sorry that some of you do not feel this is a good thing, but I think it is wonderful. Any average “Joe” fan of Ward’s can now have an opportunity to have a little treasure without having to go back east to a big auction. I have sold hundreds of items to some of the nicest people I’ve ever sold to on eBay in 16 years of selling collections on eBay – all huge fans who so appreciated this opportunity. I look forward to meeting & helping more fans acquire a little “something” of Ward & Betty’s. I hope you will take a peek at the auctions as they are listed every couple of weeks (again, 1st batch tonight) and who knows, maybe you’ll find something you want to bid on. The Kimball’s are a wonderful family that I have been blessed to work with. My eBay user ID is ragtyme . All Kimball auctions will be clearly identified in the auction title & description. Thanks, Cindy aka ragtyme on eBay

      Maybe you know by now that the Kimball property has already sold & is currently in escrow. Just thought I’d give you all an update on things.

  • joxer96

    So very, very sad. I used to live in the neighborhood, my wife and I would make it a point to go by his house during our afternoon walks. We always hoped to catch a glimpse of Ward, but alas, it never happened. We did talk to his wife though, she was a very nice lady. We knew this day would come, and from what tends to happen to lots of that size in the Temple City / San Gabriel area, I can guarantee that a large number of ugly cookie cutter ‘mini mansions’ will rise up on Grizzly Flats. Anyone living in the area knows exactly what I’m talking about.

    • steve w.

      It’s possible they could run a driveway from the Camino Real cul-de-sac to the west and get access to the rear of the property that way. (Camino Real is the next road south of Ardendale; the two streets are parallel). My guess is a developer would want to tear down the main house and put in multiple structures. The Grizzly Flats Railroad shall remain in our memories.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Something very sad about the thought of this place being razed.

    Sigh.

  • http://yoebooks.com craig yoe

    not up there with those notables you mentioned but i visited ward and betty there on 3 different occasions.we had become friends after i commissioned art from ward for my book “the art of mickey mouse”. (BTW unsolicited ward went to bat for me then when he heard from a third hand that disney was treating me shabbily). during the last visit the kimballs fixed clizia and me a delicious dinner. ward told us about the recent visit from michael jackson, who he obviously thought was pretty excentric. ward showed us his crumb art collection, and trains life ize and little and vintage toy collection like no other. and over supper he sang songs he and walt kelly wrote to amuse each other at disney. yes, an amazing highlight of my life for sure.

  • Rodan

    With tears in my eyes….

  • Rodan

    Sad to think… I use to call Ward on the phone when I was a young teen. He was so kind and nice to me. We had a chat about making a second Fantasia. (which he said would never happen) (and he was right on some levels) But to think that this was his home where he sat and would chat with a young me…. News of this place being gone saddens me a great deal.

    Alas, We need to create our own magical worlds for future generations to envy. I doubt we’ll ever come as close to what Ward and Betty achieved. No, not anywhere close to that…

    Thanks for posting the photos though…thanks so much!

  • http://www.toonsatwar.blogspot.com David

    Sad, but then the trains are gone and so are most of the other collections Ward had accumulated. (Any word on Ward’s diaries? Will they ever be published, or are they too controversial?)

    I got to meet Ward and Betty when they came to my hometown for a gallery sponsored book signing. I was able to speak with Ward for a bit and Betty for an even longer period of time.

    Betty related how she had brought home a large “stack” of cels with the character Snow White painted on them. Betty laughed when she said they all stuck together because they had been left stacked in a pile on a sun room – she declared laughingly that she had to throw out several tens of thousands of dollars of art because they couldn’t be salvaged.

    Ward was very generous with his time and always replied to my letters. One year I sent him some giant sunflower seeds, which he grew. Betty took a picture of him standing in front of one very tall specimen. I just thought that was so neat for him to do.

    I guess if Walt’s Holmby Hills could be bulldozed, so will go the Kimball’s. Whatever happened to Frank and Ollie’s homes?

  • Robert Fiore

    When the time came to imprint his hands on his plaque for the Disney Legends courts, he arranged them in such a way as to make it appear he had six fingers on each hand. My theory is that the man was an elf. There are pictures to prove it.

    I also had the privilege of seeing the mind-boggling toy collection. Kimball told me that when Crumb visited he would just sit and gaze at individual pieces. It was a strange and wonderful world some of those old Disney people created for themselves.

    • Katella Gate

      “My theory is that the man was an elf.”

      Truer words….

  • http://www.webcomicsnation.com/dholvrsn/index.php Doug Holverson

    Walt Disney must have paid him fairly well back in the day to have that big estate with all those buildings and toys and antique stuff.

    • steve w.

      The way I heard it, Ward didn’t get rich from his Disney salary. The value of his Disney stock made the difference.

  • Bryan

    They must have sold part of the lot earlier?, as looking at it from Google maps satellite view, it currently doesn’t look big enough to have contained the large Grizzly Flats RR shown in the photos.

    • steve w.

      No, the property is intact at this point.

  • Kevin

    It’s not as expensive as most people imagine to take a home off its foundation and relocate it. If someone so inclined had an empty lot in the greater Southern California area, they could probably get the house simply for the cost of uprooting and moving it. As a house with that kind of history, designed by a prominent California architect, it would probably be a profitable thing to do.

  • Bob Davis

    I live about half a block from Grizzly Flats (version 1); when Chloe was steamed up, we could hear her whistle. Back in 1992, when my wife and I were looking for a bigger house, I came home from work and she announced, “I think I’ve found a house for us. But I went to the end of the street, looked through a chain-link fence, and there’s a railroad yard!” And I said, “You’ve found WardKimballand!” and went on to explain the story of Grizzly flats. Not only is the house part of motion picture and railway preservation history, it had a narrow escape many years ago, when a small airplane heading for El Monte Airport crashed into a tree in the front yard, barely missing the house.

  • http://MrFunsBlog Floyd Norman

    How many people have an airplane crash in their front yard? That was Ward Kimball’s life. Anything could happen – and usually did.

    It was a pleasure knowing Ward and the Kimball family.

  • LeRoy

    I wish I had the money, I’d buy it, clean it up and keep it as it is as a tribute to Ward.

  • Bucko

    I wish anyone had the money. I think the days of animators affording houses in the Hills are long gone with this new batch of great talent.

  • Blake

    they better not demolish Grizzly Flats, those relestate seller particulary do not care about the history, just the money, At least the house, firehouse and engine shed are still their, if someone bought the property, they should build new tracks and run trains in it.

  • gsuburban

    Recently went to the previously owned Kimball home. The family removed the train depot, water tower, wind mill, all the tracks and other items.
    The “Barn” is amazingly large and has those concrete pits so he could work on the engines etc. What a wonderful structure as are the other remaining such as the fire house and model train room. The house is still in its original state with added feature such as a dishwasher, garbage disposal etc. Still has the little door for the milk delivery in back. A very nicely designed home that could inspire many still today.
    Garth