Located in Modjeska Canyon, California, nine miles from Rancho Santa Margarita, the Stanford White-designed Modjeska House (also known as Arden) is an example of modern architecture. It is notable because it is the only remaining residence of Helena Modjeska, a Shakespearean actress and Polish nationalist who lived there from 1926 to 1939. It is situated in a live oak grove on the banks of Santiago Creek in Modjeska Canyon, California, and is surrounded by natural beauty.
After emigrating to the United States with her husband, Count Karol Bozenta Chapowski, in 1876 from Poland, Modjeska Margarita built a refuge for herself to use when she wasn’t singing on stage. Stanford White, one of the most prominent architects in the United States, was commissioned to create a big Victorian country mansion for her. They named it “Arden” after the forest site of Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, and they planted gardens with olive trees, palms, English yews, white lilac, and crown of thorns. They also built a stone wall around the property. It served as their residence from 1888 to 1906.
Following the sale of the property, the romance connected with Modjeska’s life drew the attention of developers, who began marketing pieces of the property as holiday houses. After purchasing the property in 1908, Gustave A. Schweiger turned it into a bed & breakfast establishment. In 1922, local Rotary clubs debated the possibility of purchasing the land and converting it into a country club. After purchasing several pieces of land in the canyon in 1923, including the Modjeska mansion and its surrounding woodland area, the Walker family of Long Beach began to develop the property.
It was in 1935 that the Modjeska House was designated as a California Historical Landmark.
A historical site on 14.4 acres was purchased for $1 million by the Orange County Harbors, Beaches, and Parks Authority in 1986, and the property was designated as such in 1989. Before the site could be presented to the public, it needed to undergo extensive renovation. Neither indoor plumbing nor utilities were available in the original residence. Only a restricted number of visitors are permitted to participate in the tours. After making a reservation, you will receive directions to the park.
In 1990, the building was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
The following is written on a marker at the site: Known as the home of Madame Modjeska, one of the world’s greatest actresses, the house was constructed by Stanford White in 1888 on acreage known as the Forest of Arden. It was sold shortly after she retired, but it continues to stand as a memorial to a woman who made incalculable contributions to the cultural life of Orange County. The California State Park Commission erected this monument. (Marker Number 205 is on the map.)