Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Lake Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, views from the same spot 1907 and 1947; both buildings, the Lake Avenue Methodist Church and the Security Pacific Bank which replaced it, have been demolished. Hopefully, someday we will have a worthy replacement for such a major intersection on the main street of Pasadena.
Security Pacific Bank building on the southeast corner of Colorado Boulevard and Lake Avenue, Pasadena Anno 1947, with the Pacific Electric Oak Knoll Line tracks
Lake Avenue Methodist Church on the southeast corner of Colorado and Lake Avenue, Pasadena Anno 1907, with the Pacific Electric Oak Knoll Line tracks

The northernmost end of the Lake Avenue lies at the very foot of the Cobb Estate in Altadena and immediately accesses Las Flores Canyon and the Sierra Madre mountains. The first resident of Las Flores Canyon was the Forsyth Ranch. The ranch was sold in 1919 to Mr. Cobb who had an enormous estate which filled the lower reaches of Los Flores Canyon and the large ornamental entrance gates, driveways, botanical plantings, house foundations and reservoir can still be seen. Las Flores Canyon was also known for its small and short-lived gold mine and also as a hideout for the notorious Californio bandit of the early American period, Tiburcio Vasquez. The Cobb Estate was deeded to the United States Forest Service as a free growth Arboretum in 1967.

In the days of the Pacific Electric Red Car service in Pasadena and Altadena (1902-1941), South Lake Avenue was on what was known as the Oak Knoll Line and North Lake Avenue was on the North Lake Avenue Line. Oak Knoll Avenue is the street on the lower end of Lake Avenue which transitions north with a slow curve to the right and then back to the left coming up from San Marino and the former Lake Vineyard Ranch. The Pacific Electric Red Cars came up from a switch on the Huntington Drive line below the famous hotel of the same name. The Oak Knoll Line connecting with the North Lake Avenue Line at Colorado Boulevard was a shorter way from this part of Pasadena to get to Lake and Mariposa in Altadena without having to ride the circuitous route up Fair Oaks Avenue. In 1914 a spur on the short line was built across Mendocino Street from Lake Ave. to Allen St. and the development of Country Club Parks. The line was put there to access the new development and the Altadena Country Club and Golf Course and the airfield located there.

Pacific Electric car stops for trolleys were located all along Lake Avenue heading to Altadena, Rubio Canyon, the Great Incline and the Mt. Lowe Alpine Tavern Hotel. The Mt. Lowe Alpine Tavern was located on the mountain directly above the terminus of North Lake Avenue and was a popular destination for weekend outings and as a local and national tourist destination. The incredible Mount Lowe mountain railway, which at the height of its popularity was Southern California's outstanding tourist magnet, attracted more visitors at the time then Yosemite or Catalina. It offered one of the world's most spectacular rail trips with disaster seeming ready to strike at every turn of the car wheels, yet so expertly engineered that in all the years it operated not one accident occurred. It was the realized dream of Professor T. S. C. Lowe., the first U.S. Union Army balloon aviator during the Civil War, inventor and one of the most prominent Pasadena residents, investors and boosters.

The Alpine Tavern was also a well visited destination watering hole during Prohibition (1919 to 1933), since the Tavern was cut off from the rest of the city when the last train left in the evening until the trains began running in the morning. This made the Alpine Tavern safe for the imbuing of spirits and other nefarious activities during the nighttime hours. Also, businessmen, attending meetings at the Alpine Tavern Hotel and then being stranded on the mountain after the last train had departed, were known to have telephoned their wives informing them they would have to spend the night at the Tavern, giving them a good excuse for an evening of unbridled and uninterrupted entertainment in this veritable mountain fortress! The businesses near the Pacific Electric stops in Pasadena and Altadena on the way up to the mountain were places to obtain appropriate gifts for a romantic rendezvous.

The interurban railway of the Pacific Electric Company brought the "Big Red Cars'' to North Lake Avenue in 1902, in which crowds of hikers would arrive early on Saturday morning bound for the local canyons to the north. Come Sunday evening the reverse migration would occur. At its peak in the year 1921, when 160,930 passengers were carried, Mt. Lowe cars operated from Pasadena to Altadena via North Fair Oaks, Mariposa, and North Lake including via North Lake from Colorado Boulevard. Another nearby local tourist destination was the home and gardens of noted local botanist and Southern California Missions booster Charles Francis Saunders, located at 580 North Lake Avenue, located just south of Orange Grove Boulevard, which was visited by many traveling on the Pacific Electric cars going up and down to the mountains.

The hiking era came to a close soon after the Angeles Crest Highway was opened in 1936 and the automobile began to dominate people's lives. Roads were driven into the San Gabriel Mountains and few people ventured more than a few hundred yards from their automobiles. The number of visitors today is probably a few percent of the number who came in 1921.The North Lake Pacific Electric Line was extremely busy until shortly before its abandonment in 1941. The businesses saw their fortunes decline after the closing of the Mount Lowe tourist attraction in 1936, the opening of Angeles Crest Highway into the mountains also in 1936, the ending of trolley traffic in 1941, the onset of World War II and the general availability of automobiles and cheap gasoline for the common man. We hope the trolley on Lake Avenue can be put back in order to bring the tourist trade life blood we have been missing since 1936.

Friday, March 20, 2009



The Washington Theatre was operated by Fox for years and was later used as a venue for Spanish-language and finally, adult films. The architects were Clarence L. Jay, Henry M. Patterson, and was built in the area popular style of Spanish Colonial Revival in 1924, with a delayed opening in 1925 due to Washington Blvd. not being paved until that time. The theater has a single screen auditorium with 900 seats, apartments on the east end, office space on the second floor front, and retail spaces on the ground level flanking the entrance foyer. An ArtCraft Theatre Organ was installed in the Washington in 1926 with blower serial number 19198. There are only eight ArtCraft organs on record; all were very small, and none are known to have survived. From the July 31, 1937 issue of Boxoffice Magazine: "A thirty-day shutdown has been ordered for the Washington Theatre, Pasadena. Crown City Theatres, operating the house, has planned a $20,000 improvement budget, which will include a new floor, marquee, seats, and other items." $20,000 in 1937 was an enormous sum.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ralph's Five and Dime, 1289 North Lake Avenue, Lake Washington Village

Ralph's Five and Dime building was around from the 1920's until the City of Pasadena decided it had to go after the Whittier Earthquake knocked down a number of brick buildings in Pasadena. I shopped at this dime store many a year, it had a lot of old stock, items from the 1950's were still there in the 1970's and 1980's, it was absolutely charming. Pasadena tore it down and put up a parking lot. We hope to get some buildings rebuilt facing North Lake on the perimeter of the ugly parking lot, just where this 5 and 10 and other great buildings used to be located. It's called "Edge Repair" in PlanningSpeak, and it has been proposed for Lake Washington Village revitalization. Stay tuned and support your local merchants, at the Five and Dime Lake Washington.

Henries Toys, 1328 North Lake Avenue, Lake Washington Village, 1947 to ?

We know Henries Toys survived more than 20 years, as they were celebrating their 20th anniversary in 1967 according to their advertisements in the local papers of the day. Does anyone have any memory of buying cherished childhood toys and hobbies at Henries? I'm a vintage toy collector and had many Shuco wind up toys in the 1950's, those great microracers and wind up dancing figures from old Germany. Don't remember buying any at Henries though.

1386 North Lake Avenue, The Butcher Block, Lake Washington Village

Back in the 1950's through the 1960's Lake Washington Village had a well functioning business
association which put on sales events like Moonlight Madness, with all the merchants open until midnight on a Friday night, or Lake Washington Dollar Days where all the merchants would feature super sale items. Here an advertisement from the local papers for one such event and a photo of how The Butcher Block looked in 1955. The Lake Washington Village was quite an elegant place in the day. We hope it will become such a place again.

Lake Washington Village 1955 Photo Looking South Towards Washington

Here is a photo from Pasadena Public Works showing the view looking south down North Lake Avenue at Ladera Street in 1955. We can still recognize many buildings, however many of the interesting projecting neon signs are gone, a great loss to the night time scene in the Lake Washington Village, but stay tuned, we may get the Crown Market Crown Sign relit and neon replaced. The Crown Sign is still on top of the Crown Market Building, now the Dance Studio, and the sign is protected by being on the City of Pasadena Historic Sign Inventory, as no new roof signs are now allowed in the district.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

North Lake Avenue Reawakens

North Lake Avenue Reawakens

One hundred years later life is quickening again
By a Former Pasadena City Commissioner

Thursday, January 20, 2005 – NORTH PASADENA – Like Rip van Winkle, North Lake Avenue is awakening from a long slumber to behold a much changed world. Old timers and new residents alike are remarking that change is in the air.

The journey of North Lake Avenue begins in earnest in 1893, when Professor Lowe opened his world famous Mount Lowe Railway, with its Great Incline lifting passengers to dizzying heights on Echo Mountain located at the top of North Lake Avenue, the journey continues upward in 1907 when Henry Ford, who wintered in Pasadena, would test his latest model on the 8% grade – “a good test” he said, when stopping in at North Lake Avenue shops for supplies, the journey continuing ever upward in the Roaring 20’s when North Lake Avenue experienced its most commercial growth and success with the coming of the electric car line up and down Lake Avenue, encouraging the arrival of more residents with money to spend in the greater North Pasadena area, many of them with Model T’s, bringing with the them the hunger for a local movie palace, more shops, more drugstores, more gas stations, more real estate offices, and more eating establishments.

The Great Depression of 1930 began a time of hardship for many of the businesses and families on North Lake Avenue, but people hung tough, raised their families and made it through to the new challenges of World War II, when new construction stopped, most men went off to war, and the women, along with the older men, kept things going on the Avenue. After the war, the men came home to their families, but eventually many had a yearning for those new family suburbs they had heard about over in the San Fernando Valley. The 1950’s started a slow but steady decline for North Lake Avenue and by the late 1950’s the Avenue suffered the same fate as many main streets in America. The people got used to driving farther for everything, as the traffic wasn’t too bad, the cars were comfortable, gas was cheap, and the shops in the middle of town had a better selection and better prices. It was a downward slope on North Lake Avenue from then on.

But eventually the descent started to be checked and the direction changed again to upward, which brings us to the present in the beginnings of the 21st Century and the beginnings of great positive change in the fortunes of North Lake Avenue. In recent times, we have seen a developer buy the historic Washington Theatre, a developer who is in the process of spending previously unthinkable amounts of money to make the Theatre back into the glamorous movie palace it once was, historic style ornamental street lighting is being reinstalled from Elizabeth Street on the north of the Avenue to the light rail station at the south end of the Avenue, and many historic commercial building facades are being sensitively restored. Historic residential neighborhoods like Bungalow Heaven, Washington Square, Garfield Heights, Normandie Heights and Historic Highlands have banded together to form Landmark Districts, which give present and future property owners the guarantee their property will remain desirable, and will probably increase in desirability, insuring an affordable quality of life in a charming and walkable residential and commercial neighborhood. People have begun to believe that something wonderful is in the process of happening, maybe something which only happens once in a lifetime.

The people of North Pasadena, and particularly those living adjacent to North Lake Avenue, need to believe we can have as beautiful and charming an area as ever was here, at any time in the last century. If we work together, we can make it happen. Please do your part by encouraging your neighbors and neighborhood businesses to do what is necessary for all to flourish. Please encourage historic preservation; because it is good business, and will lift all by encouraging the investment we are now beginning to see.

The new owners of the historic Mission Candies Building located at 1445, 1447 & 1449 North Lake Avenue need to be encouraged to restore the building’s existing historic façade. Please encourage the new owners, Deanne and George, the proprietors of Pinocchio’s Pizza located at 1427 North Lake Avenue, (626) 791-7591, to bring back the wonderful Mediterranean Revival architecture to its full glory.

The Mission Candies Building was designated a local landmark by Pasadena City Council in 2005.