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.


  1. Thats a Great Photograph of the Market Basket market on Lake in ALTADENA. The Market Basket chain was of course founded in a store on Mariposa in ALTADENA where ALTADAENA HARDWARE is today.

    What no mention of the Venetian Room?

  2. Steve,
    This photo is the Market Basket at Claremont and North Lake in Lake Washington Village in Pasadena, not Altadena. Please send information on the Venetian Room located at the Altadena Junction on North Lake!