The Holly Hill House

In 1888, Peter Gano, a civil engineer and talented craftsman from Pasadena, began building a beautiful Queen Anne architectural style cottage on Avalon’s southern hillside overlooking Avalon bay.  

Mr. Gano came to love the island when he was helping to create the island’s first fresh water system.  Originally, the home was named “Lookout Cottage,” and Gano built the home almost completely by himself.  Should you want to know who helped him build the cottage you will find a clue by looking up to the weather vane that sits atop the red cupola of the home.  It is in the shape of a running horse.

The horse weather vane is in tribute to Mr. Gano’s assistant builder, Mercury.  Mercury was a large white horse that had been retired from the circus due to his fading eyesight.  Using a sturdy wagon and a pulley and slide system, Mercury would haul the lumber up the steep hill and then would start down the slight incline on the backside, until the lumber wagon was positioned at the apex of the hill.  It was a difficult but worthwhile effort of two years to complete the home. Completed in 1890, the Holly Hill House is one of the oldest homes in Avalon.

Mr. Gano enjoyed his Lookout Cottage into the 1920’s, but due to his failing health, he sold the house in 1921 and returned to Pasadena, hopefully taking the loyal Mercury with him.

The next owners renamed the home Holly Hill House due to the abundance of holly plants on the hillside, but the words “Lookout Cot” remain above the entrance.   In 1964, due to an electrical issue, the cupola burned down but fortunately left the rest of the home undamaged.  A subsequent owner restored the home in 1971 and on October 8, 1983, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.