Wednesday, November 4, 2009


As promised, I recently took some photographs of Woodbury Creek and the former Lone Pine Ranch, all near the intersection of North El Molino Avenue and Atchinson Street, just west of North Lake Avenue.
The first photo shows the entrance pillar to Lone Pine Ranch on the northwest corner of El Molino and Atchinson, and this is apparently the location that one person remembers having a corral back in the 1950's still, which had smelly runoff into the creek. The original house appears to still be on the lot nearest to the intersection with the rest of the lot having apparently been subdivided for other homes starting in the 1950's and later. Atchinson wasn't put through to El Molino until sometime around 1907 and and the original ranch home in Craftsman style was built around 1903, so originally the ranch had a large area with Woodbury Creek running northwest to southeast through its parcel, where the corral would have been, most likely behind the house to the west on Atchinson, making a slope into the creek.
The next photos show the storm drain which passes under Atchinson just west of Madison, and then the natural creek is visible, although channelized, as it passes further south. A Craftsman era home is built on the lot directly to the west and the lot slopes down to the creek, allowing this seemingly one story bungalow actually to have a substory with windows below the street level. Sorry the pictures don't show the situation too well, but there is a lot of shrubbery and if you look closely you'll see the substory in a couple of the photos. All of the creek photos are looking south off of Atchinson towards the house located on the southside of Atchinson just west of Madison.
If you're in the area, take a look at this in person. It is truly amazing and can't be covered over by the city since the house has a substory below the street level!
If you have any stories about our lost Woodbury Creek, please comment.


  1. Wasn't there an El Molino Park up in that area too ? I'm the one that commented on Woodbury creek as it ran south at Elizabeth Street. Is it still open up that way ? I would've thought the city would have tried to cover every inch of it by now.

    - Steve

  2. Hi Steve,
    I found your comments very interesting. When were you taking the tours of Woodbury Creek, in the 1960's or earlier? The only park now in the area is Washington Park on the SE corner of El Molino and Washington. Where would another park have been located on North El Molino? On Elizabeth, midway between Lake and El Molino, on the southside, was Gaylord Wilshire's orange ranch, Gaylord Wilshire being the original developer of Wilshire Boulevard and the leading socialist of the 20th Century, and his property remained undeveloped until the 1960's, so it remained open space for quite a long time. The history of the area is fascinating, as it was the meeting place for the rich and famous, particularly socialist minded authors, philathropists and politicians of the early 20th Century. Upton Sinclair, author and socialist, lived on the SE corner of Belvidere and Hudson, quite close to Woodbury Creek; Kate Crane Gartz, leading socialite and social justice philanthropist lived in a mansion across from what is now the Altadena Library, right next to Woodbury Creek on Santa Rosa and, as mentioned, Gaylord Wilshire and his wife, she a noted Psychotherapist, pupil of Freud and Jung, lived just east of Woodbury Creek on Elizabeth. They would meet once a week for a socialist social justice salon at Gartz' mansion called The Cloister. Leading authors and socialists of the era came calling regularly such as H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and George Bernard Shaw, including other members of the Fabian Society.
    I would love to hear more of your tales of growing up in this interesting neighborhood, known for its orchards, bungalows, mansions and eccentric millionaires and socialists.

  3. Steve,
    With your anticipated permission I'm going to copy your comment to this blog. Hope this is o.k.
    "Steve R. Says:

    July 22, 2009 at 8:07 pm | Reply
    Below is a post I made to Petrea’s Pasadena Daily Photo blog, where she brought up the subject of Woodbury Creek and this posting (I’ve since added some more comments in this post):


    As a teenagers (back in the 70’s), us kids would play in the “storm drain” as we called it.

    It was open mid block on Elizabeth Street and we would walk it all the way up to Woodbury, where it turned into a 2ft diameter hole with a metal grate that none of us wanted to go into. Thinking back, it probably went under Woodbury to collect the runoff from Santa Rosa, which has quite a bit of downward slope to it. It also has these water runoff collection ditches that run parallel to the street.

    At Atchison or Highland, there was an opening that was near a horse
    corral that (illegally?) emptied into this drain/creek. I remember we’d always have to hop over it. That was about the only real “dirty” section.
    Also in this area, a tunnel branches off to the northeast. As kids, we called this the “dark” tunnel and no of us had the courage to explore it.

    The Elizabeth opening was covered with concrete several years ago and the homeowner next door got the land (and added grass on top so there’s
    no trace of what’s below).

    Going south, it became a long tunnel somewhere around Rio Grande and didn’t open to the outside again until the an opening down on Mountain.

    The tunnels we were in were about 6-7 feet high. About half way through this tunnel, another section joined this one coming from the east. This other section was only 4 feet high and a much wetter so we’d stayed out.

    Mountain Ave is always where we hopped out- that’s as far south as we ever went, although you could go further.

    During the dry months, there was only a trickle of water down the middle and, despite what our parents at the time believed, we never saw a single rat, mouse, or other rodents. (We did run into some other kids down there once in the tunnel which gave us a good scare!).

    You can find more maps about this on the LA County Tax Assessor’s web site by looking at the Assesor’s maps, which still show some of the old above-ground easements.

    As for re-opening it, I’m all for it. I remember a couple of times during heavy rains running down to check out the water level in the storm drain and only once did I see water come close to the top of the 7 ft walls. I would watch this for quite awhile, noticing the water level changing slightly as the minutes ticked past and the intensity of the rain changed.

    - Steve "

  4. Also, here is Petrea's Pasadena Daily Photo blog entry on Woodbury Creek:
    and also Jessica's L.A. Creek Freak blog entry on Woodbury Creek:

  5. I had no idea! They've been hiding in plain sight.

  6. The reason I asked about El Molino Orchard Park isn't because I remembered it, but because I found a reference to it when looking at a LA County Tax Assessor's index map. According to the map, it was on El Molino (west side) with Highland on the north and Atchison on the south. It may not have been a real park but the name of a housing tract.

    Most of my Woodbury Creek explorations were when it was a concrete channel with periodic openings.

    For what it's worth, I still live on Elizabeth just west of the "creek".

    I'm quite intrigued by your knowledge of the area and I probably have a million or so questions, but I'll hold off on bombarding you :-).

    One thing I've been trying to figure out for several years though: On my legal property description, (south side of Elizabeth just east of El Molino) it describes the tract # etc, and then says "except south 50 ft.".
    That south 50 ft has been claimed by myself and the other neighbors who also have this notation on their assessor's descriptions.

    We've been theorizing that perhaps an alley ran behind this area. Any ideas ?


    - Steve

  7. Are you going to do the bridge soon? It was one of my first makeout spots. I'd tell you to go see the part of the creek that's still exposed but it's QUITE dangerous.

    Has anyone told you about the North Lake Avenue crash?


  8. Thal, it was Steve who alerted me to Woodbury Creek in the first place, by linking me to the maps Jessica had posted over at LA Creek Freak (which is a great blog).

    This is such intriguing information. It seems every inch of Pasadena has a story. I'll never get to it all!

  9. Steve,

    Most likely El Molino Orchard Park was a subdivision, possibly when the Lone Pine Ranch (established circa 1903?) was subdivided in circa 1907 to ? I will see what I can find out from the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. I believe Atchinson and Highland were put through about 1907, so the subdivision was probably done about that time. The reason subdivisions in our area were after 1904 in our area, is because the area was annexed to the city of Pasadena in 1904 and with annexation came Pasadena municipal water, electricity and other services.

    The 50 feet on the south of the south lots on Elizabeth is probably a city utility easement and is fairly common. Do the utilities run over the southside of your lots?

    Ann, we are always trying to slow down and walk the neighborhoods with our eyes open and trying to figure out why things turned out the way they have. There may be some things which have gotten forgotten and we might want to bring back.

    Robert, I did do some about Washington Park and the bridge in Washington Park, should take you right to it, but otherwise the only bridge I know otherwise in the area, which doesn't exist anymore, is the Washington Blvd. bridge at what is now El Molino, but that was removed when the city built the East Side Storm Drain to encapsulate
    Woodbury Creek and put through El Molino north of Washington, this all was done in the 1920's.
    What is the "North Lake Avenue Crash"? Do you mean when a streetcar let loose going downhill in the 1920's and destroyed a few cars? And I know the area you're talking about south of Mountain, but I don't find it very scary. It's beautiful the way the Morning Glories blossom and it's very wild. It was that way from Belvidere south until the city decided to destroy it and put up grafitti magnet walls on the northside of Mountain. What a waste of taxpayer money! Take a look at Petrea's post with photos:

    Petrea, I did look at the LA Creek Freak site when Michele Zack alerted me to the postings, thanks. I appreciate Steve's contribution to the experience of exploring our lost creek. Hopefully, others are out there who have also rememberances of the old days in the neighborhood.

  10. Ann, I wonder if your archives might have more information on Woodbury Creek to just enlighten and inform?

  11. Ann,
    It's known to the city as the East Side Storm Drain. Would you see if Dan Rix at Public Works has a file on it? We would love to see what might be in such a file. I tried to get into Public Works' archives just about the time everyone moved out of City Hall for the seismic work, and Dan told me I would have to wait to see if they had Public Works' photos and records of North Pasadena, particularly North Lake. Also, Public Works should have a record of the Washington Bridge (not to be confused with the current Washington Bridge which cuts through the Brookside Golf Course in the northern end of the Arroyo) which was located at what is now El Molino and Washington, just on the NW edge of what is now Washington Park, which at the time was just a large vacant lot.
    Thanks, and looking forward to what you might find!