Select a language:


Restoration of the Joseph Pleasants Stone Building, the oldest building on the grounds of Arden: Helena Modjeska Historic House and Gardens, is expected to begin later this month.

(Modjeska Canyon, Calif.) – Restoration will begin this month on the oldest building on the grounds of OC Parks’ National Historic Landmark Arden: Helena Modjeska Historic House and Gardens in Modjeska Canyon.

Congress, through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service, selected the project to receive a “Save America’s Treasures” grant. The grant will provide $150,000 to help fund repairs to the stone building that original resident Joseph Pleasants built in the 1870s while running a successful beekeeping business in the canyon. The cottage was also used by later resident Helena Modjeska, a famous Shakespearean actress of the time.

The National Park Service, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, provided $4.8 million in grants awarded to 16 projects in 12 states, supporting the preservation of nationally significant historic properties and collections throughout the country.

"The historic cottage and gardens are worth preserving, as they display Modjeska Canyon's tranquil canyon life, with a nod towards Shakespeare's heavily-wooded 'Forest of Arden,'" said Chairman Donald P. Wagner, Orange County Board of Supervisors. "We are glad the funds will help save a remnant of Orange County's rural history, offering visitors a tranquil place to learn, explore and relax."

Pleasants introduced Modjeska and her husband, Count Karol Bozenta, to Orange County’s rustic canyons, and the couple purchased the property from him in 1888. Renowned New York architect Stanford White later designed a substantial addition to the Pleasants’ modest cabin. The stone cottage being restored was used by Modjeska for cold storage, with a small living space for workers on the second floor.

Theodore Payne, a pioneer of California native plant propagation also lived in the cottage in the 1890s while serving as Modjeska’s gardener.

The grant-funded work will include restoration of the second floor of the stone building interior and exterior with careful attention to preserving the existing, character-defining features. OC Parks repaired and restored the first-floor stone cellar in 2007. Restoration of the second floor will complete the Pleasants stone cottage project, making the upper portion of the structure available to the public for the first time in its history.

The preservation work under the grant is being supported by the Save America’s Treasure program, which is funded through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). Because the site is listed as a National Historic Landmark, which are designated for their “exceptional significance in American history,” the grant-funded preservation must follow the strictest guidelines in the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Park patrons are welcome to enjoy the self-guided grounds Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Docent-led tours of the historic house and gardens are currently offered 10 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, by advance reservation.

Portions of the grounds may be closed to visitors during the restoration project. Construction is expected to begin in January 2023 and continue through fall 2023.

For information about Arden: Helena Modjeska Historic House and Gardens, please visit the OC Parks website at:

Read this release in: 

# # # #

About OC Parks

OC Parks manages nearly 60,000 acres of parks, historical and coastal facilities and open space for the County of Orange as part of OC Community Resources.