Monday, May 18, 2009


One of the still existing major landmarks on North Lake Avenue is the home of Charles Francis Saunders, named Ah-Tshi-Quah-Nah, at 580 North Lake Avenue, which was, along with its gardens, a major tourist attraction in Pasadena during the great hiking era which existed from the early 1900's through the early 1930's. Charles Saunders (1859-1941) moved to Pasadena in the early part of the 2oth century.

His contributions were as an author, naturalist and collector, who practiced and promoted ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement and also promoted the beauty and allure of the Southwest. He was responsible, along with Charles Lummis, for fostering interest in restoring the deteriorating California missions and reestablishing the El Camino Real.

Charles Francis Saunders was born in Bucks County Village, Pennsylvania in 1859 and moved to California in 1906. While he was a resident of Pasadena he became a noted author and naturalist, writing numerous books on topics of the California missions, California and Southwestern flora and fauna, and Native Americans. His books were widely read, from his first book, “In a Poppy Garden,” published in 1904 through his last, “Western Wild Flowers and Their Stories,” published in the late 1930’s. Many of his books were published in multiple editions and are still in print today. He collected Southwestern Native American pottery, basketry and other items and his wife, Mira Culin Saunders, donated his collection after his death to the Southwest Museum.

His home is a designated local landmark of Pasadena and looks much the same as it looked in Saunders' day, although the gardens have gone to rough and the creek, Wilson's Creek, and lagoon behind the house have been channelized in concrete. Still one can see how residential, bucolic and garden-like North Lake Avenue was, by the remnants of many bungalows between the commercial nodes located at the major cross streets. The home was almost destroyed, after having an interior fire in the 1980's and facing a long period of abandonment. It was restored by the new owner in 2005.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Here is additional information from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1931 showing the layout of the Ralphs Supermarket a few doors down from the gas station which was on the SW corner of Lake and Walnut. Look at the footprint of the magnificent entrance tower to parking off of Lake. It is painful to lose such a beautiful building. Notice the Pacific Electric double track in the middle of Lake Avenue. Do you remember when there was a gas station practically on every corner? Times change.

At this time the Columbia Grammar School of the Pasadena Unified School District was on the SE corner of Lake and Walnut, which was sold by PUSD in the ensuing years and the Farmer's Market was constructed and later partially demolished leaving what is now Ralphs Supermarket.

Ralphs certainly lost a wonderful home on Lake Avenue in Pasadena when they moved out of this Spanish Colonial Revival style temple. Most likely this building was damaged in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake leading to its demolition shortly thereafter, the fate of many unreinforced masonry buildings, both after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. Seismic reinforcement would have been a much better option in hindsight.

Ralphs Supermarket on North Lake Avenue was originally located in a wonderful Spanish Colonial Revival style building which was on the Southwest corner of Lake and Walnut and ran from 171 to 181 North Lake Avenue, including a tower and an ornamental driveway entrance gate. The beauty of the architecture in this part of Pasadena from the 1920's to the end of the 1940's is beyond our present day conception.

Alas, the Ralphs Supermarket moved into the non-descript former Farmers Market location across the street on the Southeast corner of Lake and Walnut in the late 1960's when the new Pasadena Mutual Savings Building in a modern style was built on the site of the former Ralphs Supermarket, it being also now demolished for the present IndyMac Bank building. So many demolitions and reconstructions, but nothing will be built to match the beauty of the Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings of this pictured Ralphs Supermarket building on North Lake Avenue or the previous post of the Security Pacific Bank tower building on the Southeast corner of Lake and Colorado. We do not seem to be progressing toward beauty as far as architecture is concerned on Lake Avenue in Pasadena. This is what makes historic preservation all the more important, when we learn what we've lost, we know we need to preserve the beauty which still exists.