Monday, March 1, 2010

The Sad Fate of the Towne Furniture Store Bldg., 854 E. Washington Blvd. and the need for "Edge Repair"

Towne Furniture Store, 854 E. Washington Blvd. in 1947

The Towne Furniture Store just before its demolition in 1985

The Towne Furniture Store was a handsome building as seen in the drawing of the shop in the Pasadena Independent Newspaper dated January 1, 1947. The 1920's commercial building, very much like the remaining historic commercial buildings in the Lake Washington Village area, had a very pleasing ornamental facade, but over the years it succumbed to the decline of the commercial center and was ingloriously covered over with a slab of stucco.
In the end the building was demolished in 1985 to make way for the Food 4 Less Shopping Center parking lot. Nothing remains today except an empty hole of parking spaces just across from the Oversen Building and the Washington Theatre on the north side of Washington Blvd., both landmark buildings.
When we conceived the North Lake Specific Plan for this area in 1997, we proposed that "Edge Repair" would happen to replace the missing buildings on the south side of Washington Blvd. west of North Lake Avenue and also along the west side of North Lake Avenue south of Washington Blvd. along the outer perimeter of the Food 4 Less Shopping Center parking lot. This "Edge Repair" would be done by building "Main Street Architecture" buildings along these perimeters to give an urban edge back to the streetscape. Looking across from the Oversen Building and the Washington Theatre south now, it is a very depressing view of a wide expanse of a parking lot with no buildings to frame the view and not a pleasant or interesting walk for pedestrians.
Lake Washington Village has suffered much from the declines of the 1970's through the 1990's. How do we change the ambiance from check cashing outlets, payday loan shops, storefront churches, liquor stores, filling stations and auto repair into a village of a hardware store, a theater, art galleries, coffee houses, antique shops, nice restaurants, a bike shop and specialty shops, as was once more the case? Did you know that the Union 76 gas station is built on the site of a former popular soda fountain and ice cream shop and that the other two corners had drug stores and the fourth had a Van de Kamp's Bakery?
It will take each and one of us to voice our wishes to the City of Pasadena and our respective neighborhood associations and to the business people we wish to see flourish in our neighborhood Lake Washington Village. We will make it happen!


  1. I learn so much from your blog! Thanks for all the fascinating posts.

  2. Hi Ann, I'm glad you find the information interesting. I have a lot of research material I would like to put up here so the public can see it. I'm trying to post as often as I can and I think the upcoming posts will be very informative about little known topics, history and photos about the area. Please keep stopping by and also please post comments and share information.

  3. Keep it up, Thal. I'd like to see those changes, too. I guess that Food4Less isn't going anywhere. It's not very pretty but I think the neighborhood needs a grocery store.

  4. Petrea, We really need a Trader Joe's rather than this dingy market, and the prices and quality are both nothing to write home about. Really rather sad we have something like this right in the middle of our Lake Washington Village. I don't know anyone who shops there; not one of my neighbors claims to step foot in there after the first visit. I'll be soon posting about the history of Trader Joe's, started in Pasadena as the Pronto Market; here is the history on Wikipedia:
    Believe me, we have been working on Trader Joe's management for a long time to come to Lake Washington Village, even our Councilmembers habe tried and are trying. We wish the City would give Trader Joe's some financial and tax incentives to locate on North Lake. Councilmembers, please help us!!!!

  5. Thal -

    As always, thanks for the great history lessons.

    Do you know if the Food for Less corner is where
    the dark brown Security Pacific bank used to be ?

    - Steve

  6. I've heard good things about the fate of the Ghetto Basket--- namely, it's demise. Parking is going to be an issue, though. One advocate suggested that it's close enough to walk from the Gold Line. I laugh.

  7. Boy that would be a dream to have a Trader Joe's there.

  8. About 15 years ago there were discussions between the City of Pasadena and Trader Joe's about establishing a store at the northeast corner of Hill and Washington since it's adjacent to Bungalow Heaven and the Armenian grocery store that was there at the time had closed. Those talks ultimately didn't get us anywhere, and eventually Rite-Aid moved in.

  9. Congratulations on the Larry Wilson/Star-News mention today, Thal.

  10. Talk all you want, but as long as the intersection of Lake and Washington is an economic redevelopment area, it will continue to have sad little retail store fronts who take in federal $$ rather than become actual retail establishments who pay the rent.