Friday, November 11, 2011

MINIT-MAN Automatic Car Wash, 140 N. Lake Avenue (Next to Farmers Market), SYcamore 6-2747

The beautiful Beaux-Arts style Columbia School was discontinued at the end of the school year 1930-31 and the property on the North East corner of North Lake Avenue and Walnut Street was sold.

The school building was demolished and the Farmer's Market complex was built on the site and today Ralphs market is located here, the only remnant of an early shopping center complex, comparable to the still existing Farmer's Market Shopping Center located at Fairfax and 3rd in Hollywood. There were many individual shops located at the Pasadena complex, including Japanese owned and operated fresh fruit and vegetable grocers and florists who used to be a fixture of the Pasadena landscape. We sadly miss most of those businesses, but a few survive in the city such as Johnny's Sport Shop located at 1402 N. Lincoln, a walk back in time, and the Bellefontaine Nursery located at 838 S. Fair Oaks. The Japanese community has always been an important part of Pasadena history.

Recently found at a local estate, an advertising pencil for the MINIT-MAN Automatic Car Wash which was located just south of the Pasadena Farmer's Market Shopping Center.

Does anyone remember the Farmer's Market Shopping Center and/or the MINIT-MAN Automatic Car Wash? I would love to see some photographs.....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Port O'Call Gifts and Antiques, 388 South Lake Avenue, Historic "Oak Knoll" South Lake Shopping District

In 1957, Mary Elizabeth Colby co-founded with her husband Port O'Call Gifts and Antiques in a tiny gray bungalow on Granite Drive in Pasadena, also soon including a larger bungalow located at 388 South Lake Avenue. The shop complex offered contemporary California gifts and crafts and European gifts and antiques, and later clothing. It was a remarkable institution which lasted from 1957 through 200?, when the property was sold and the bungalow at 388 South Lake was demolished and replaced with a modern non-descript stucco box which now houses a realtor.

I remember the buyer coming to American Express on South Lake Avenue and purchasing British Pound denominated Travelers Cheques to go on annual buying trips. The Port O'Call shop complex always had unusual treasures, both contemporary and antique, from the entire world. Such an unusual and upscale shopping experience is sorely missed on South Lake, just as Gump's Luggage, I. Magnin, Hall's Jewelers and Bullocks are missing from the once high end exclusive "Oak Knoll" South Lake Shopping District.

There are remains of Port O'Call behind the businesses on Granite and South Lake, Ghost signs showing the way to the dearly departed destination. I found a gift box from Port O'Call recently, with the tasteful Tarot Card design covering, just as with their gift bags, and containing a piece of Meissen German porcelain, a beautiful pheasant. What a nice gift!

Here is an article from the Los Angeles Times in January 19, 2008, about Mary Elizabeth Colby, co-founder of the Port O'Call chain of gift stores:

What will become of bricks and mortar shopping? Will the exclusive "Oak Knoll" South Lake Shopping District ever come back? Please share your memories of shopping on Lake Avenue in Pasadena....

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Presenting in Pictures - PASADENA DEPARTMENT STORES - Each Distinct in Their Chosen Architectural Loveliness

This is a page from the Pasadena Independent, Wednesday, January 1, 1947, celebrating all things Pasadena. Department Stores were destinations here at that time, a place to go to shop, dine, experience.

Unfortunately, all we have left in Pasadena Department Stores are two Macy's, one in the old Bullocks Pasadena on South Lake and one in the Broadway Bunker in the Paseo, two Targets on East Colorado, and one almost dead Sears in Hastings Ranch. Small locally owned retail is certainly almost dead in Pasadena save for Berg and Crown Hardware and Vroman's, otherwise we have a ghost town on North and South Lake with retail vacancies at more than 50%! Reminds me of Jerome, Arizona, the old mining ghost town on the hill where they put cardboard ghosts in the empty shop windows. Charming.......

I do see that on North Mentor and sometimes on Colorado and sometimes on South Lake there are art installations in the vacant storefronts. Until the City of Pasadena and the diverse shopping districts figure out a way to allow Live/Work space for artisans and art galleries in these vacant retail spaces, empty space is what we will have to live with.

Small locally owned retail is unlikely to come back even in better economic times; that business model is probably headed for extinction. The restaurants like Hamburger Hamlet and Bob's Big Boy on South Lake seem to be doing o.k., also Burger Continental and bars like Magnolia. So hopefully the City of Pasadena and our business community will figure out a new model to fill up all that "haunted" space and make the urban streetscape more interesting. Hope springs eternal!

Do you remember when Mather's was on the NW corner of Marengo and Colorado, Nash's was on the NE corner of Arroyo Parkway and Colorado, Broadway was on the NW corner of Los Robles and Colorado and Sears was on the SW corner of Madison and Colorado, just west of the ornate I. Magnin which was torn down to make room for a parking lot for Sears in the late 1940's!! and then built a new building just south of the new Oak Knoll Shopping District's Bullocks?

I like that previous classy name for South Lake " The Oak Knoll Shopping District !" Now that label sounds like a million bucks! Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and the South Lake Shopping District, are you listening? Try a rebranding and then a rezoning for an Arts District, how about " The Oak Knoll Arts, Entertainment, and Shopping District?" Watch out "Playhouse District!"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Washington Blvd. Road Widening - Perhaps Now Needs to be Reversed - How About a Road Diet?

Here you have the before and after of the 1958 Washington Blvd. street widening. looking west from the intersection of Washington Blvd. and North Los Robles Ave., which was protested against by neighbors, unsuccessfully. As you can see, part of the front yards on the south side and north side were taken, along with the street trees (ever wondered why there are no stately palms along this stretch, like there are east of Lake Avenue?) The City did go to a lot of trouble to rebuild the stone retaining walls on the north side of Washington Blvd., we have to give them credit for that.

Here you have the before and after of the 1957 Washington Blvd. street widening, which appears to be taken looking west somewhere east? of the intersection of Washington Blvd. and Navarro Ave., with the absence of retaining walls and the slope downward. Let me know if you can find the location exactly. (Update: the row of palms on either side in the distance appears to be West Washington Street west of North Lincoln Avenue, so this picture in the foreground is likely a portion of Washington Blvd. looking west from about just east of Mentone Avenue, an area erased by the building of the Foothill Freeway through this stretch.)

Since the City of Pasadena has put Cordova Street on a "Road Diet", it seems like Washington Blvd. could use also the same "Road Diet" from El Molino Ave. west to Lincoln Ave. Let's give back the front yards and parkways and make this stretch of Washington Blvd. back into Washington Street and give more room for pedestrians, bicyclists and street trees. It really would improve the feel and look of the neighborhood and slow down traffic.

There were plans by the City, at one time, to widen North Los Robles Ave., North Fair Oaks Ave., North Marengo Ave., North Fair Oaks Ave., North El Molino Ave., etc. in the interest of improving "traffic circulation." Just recently, North Lake Ave. was widened just south of Walnut Ave. to facilitate a right turn lane! Notice how North El Molino widens just north of the freeway bridge, and how North Fair Oaks widens just north of the freeway.

Our friends in Altadena would like to see North Marengo narrowed north of Woodbury, a street that receives little traffic anyway (at least from the living....the Columbarium excepted) and the street could be narrowed and the resulting land on either side given back to the property owners for reconstituted front garden traffic buffering beauty zones.

What is possible? We probably should forget about widening freeways and streets, like the money wasting San Diego Freeway/Sepulveda Pass project starting this weekend, and go back to alternative ways of getting around. Let's try to get the City of Pasadena and L.A. County in Altadena to start putting many of our local streets on a "Road Diet" to fight street obesity! See you out on our widened tree shaded sidewalks.......

Thursday, July 7, 2011

1958 Demonstration Against Washington Blvd. Street Widening - 292 E. Washington Blvd.

When the City of Pasadena wanted to widen Washington Blvd. west from Los Robles Ave. in 1958 to facilitate traffic flow, making the picturesque two lane country road into a four lane expressway, the residents protested having their front yards being obliterated, their street trees being pulled out and cars racing along a wide Washington Blvd.

The residents took it to the Board of Directors (City Council) at City Hall and also demonstrated on the street. This picture was taken by the Pasadena Star News of the housewives demonstrating against the street widening in front of the house located at 292 E. Washington Blvd., which would end up losing most of its front yard.

These housewife protestors look like they're having fund in the midst of a serious citizen uprising, their husbands, however, put on a stern face at City Hall. I'll have to find the additional photos I have of this neighborhood tempest and add them later.

So we haven't changed all that much and with the pending General Plan Survey I hope you'll join me in voting for less density and less congestion. I think we could all do with less roads and cars, and much more open/green space and trees. Maybe we need another good neighborhood protest. Let's hear it for more picturesque and less asphalt!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Acacia Inn of Pasadena, 811 East Washington Blvd.

Acacia Inn of Pasadena - An Exclusive Residence for the Retired, 811 East Washington Blvd., SYcamore 4-1131, All Private Rooms with Baths and Patios, Delicious Meals, Daily Maid Service, Nurse for Emergencies, Monthly Rates - BROCHURE ON REQUEST

This postcard is from about 1958, notice the brilliant blue sky, and the note on the back "Where I live, Oats." The Acacia Inn is now the Arbor Vista and they unfortunately destroyed their historic neon sign recently, although they did use the original frame for their new sign.

Lake Washington Village looked almost like a resort town in the old photographs. I like the copy "An Exclusive Residence for the Retired", and it's true that a movie theater, drug store, soda fountain, dime store, bank, beauty parlor, restaurant, park with tennnis courts and other amenities were only 5 minutes or less by foot away.

Hopefully, in our old age we will have things so nice and easy.

By the way, take a look at Cafe Pasadena's Pasadena History posts. Then and now, they're great:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

White House Country Store, 188 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena, Oak Knoll Shopping District

This postcard is probably from the late 1930's, when Lake Avenue south of Colorado was known as the Oak Knoll Shopping District and was served by the Pacific Electric Streetcars.

As you probably know, Lake Avenue turns into Oak Knoll Avenue south of California Boulevard, with a few shops still south of California, such as the very old French Laundry and the former Jurgensens Market, now Fresh and Easy. The stretch north of California to about Green Street was made up of residential dwellings, many converted by the 1930's into retail establishments, similar to what is seen on North Lake north of the freeway today going up into Altadena.

South Lake remained nearly only residential structures, with restaurants and retail in some, until 1947 when the fashionable Bullocks Department Store was built just south of Del Mar. With the opening of Bullocks, more and more purpose built retail came to South Lake, such as I. Magnin moving from their beautiful Beaux Arts Style Colorado and Madison shop location to a new Streamline Moderne Style building just south of Bullocks, this in 1949.

Still, South Lake had many old homes hosting retail and dining up until the 1960's, when the Union Bank project between Cordova and Del Mar was built, spelling the demise of the charming Oak Knoll Shopping District and ushering in the upscale South Lake Shopping District.

A Japanese Florist managed to survive in a Victorian Style home just south of Wells Fargo Bank up until the 1990's, when it was demolished and replaced with a modern building. The Magnolia Lounge Speakeasy Bar just south of the Mobil Station, 492 South Lake, is located in a bungalow which has survived, well worth a visit. Another large home survives in the middle of the block on the east side at 142 South Lake, the present home of the Williams-Sonoma store.

The White House Country Store looks so inviting with its old wagons in front and promise of antiques. What antiques may have been available in 1939? Perhaps a Wells Fargo strongbox or an 1849 gold panning dish? One can only imagine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

John R. MacDonald, President, Lake Washington Association, 1958

Once upon a time, Lake Washington Village was a happening place. The time period from the 1920's through the 1960's found the area with a very active and engaged business association, which organized many events. The trouble brewing in Europe from the 1930's and its aftermath post 1945 brought many European immigrants to the area, particularly from Germany, as was also the case in Montrose and La Crescenta.

Many German immigrants were learned craftsman and left their mark on the homes in the area. Also, many were involved with the Hollywood film studios in one capacity or another. The previous owner of my home was an accountant for Pathe Studios in Hollywood.

Many events were put on by the Lake Washington Business Association during these years, such as " Moonlight Madness " sales, cooking classes at the Washington Theatre, and evening street dance and music festivals featuring German Oompah-pah music and polka dancing.

This 1950's desk lamp was found at a local antique mall, with an engraved brass plaque dedicated to " John R. MacDonald, President, Lake Washington Association, 1958 ." Remember when they used to meet at the restaurant on Washington Blvd. just east of Lake?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pasadena Streetcar Plan - From the January 22, 2011 Regional Transportation Forum

Here is the map of the tentative first stage route of the proposed Pasadena Streetcar System, presented by the Pasadena Department of Transportation at the January 22, 2011 Regional Transportation Forum held in Pasadena.

Trolleys on tracks would run east on Green Street from Pasadena Avenue in Old Pasadena to Lake Avenue, eventually continuing in the next phase to Hill Street and Pasadena City College, and then turn north to Union Street and run west back to Pasadena Avenue completing the loop. There would also be a spur serving South Lake Avenue to California Boulevard, eventually in the next phase linking to CalTech.

This is no doubt the future, with an increased emphasis on public transportation and a deemphasis on cars and busses. Hopefully, when this recession is over, we can find a way to pay for this and a greater regional trolley systen which would also link up Altadena and boost tourism to our mountains from the Altadena/North Pasadena Portal.

I wrote about this previously on Avenue to the Sky on August 5, 2009.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Marcell Inn - Altadena's Famous Speakeasy Club, 2900 Lincoln Avenue

The Marcell Inn opened in 1922 on Lincoln Avenue and was very popular with the Hollywood crowd, bootleg alcohol being served along with fine French food, and all that was necessary to find the out-of-the-way location was to look for the searchlight beacon mounted on a tower on the roof of the Inn. Altadena Drive back then was called North Foothill Boulevard, and was used as a major east-west thoroughfare, so most folks could see the beacon coming from either direction without too much trouble.
The story was, during Prohibition, that if you needed to find the Altadena Sheriff, just look for his car in the parking lot of the Marcell Inn first, as usually he hung out there as his unofficial office. Apparently, he was good pals with the owner, Joe Marcell Annechini. However, the local cops weren't able to help Joe on November 12, 1923, when the Feds busted him and nine others, after showing up unexpectedly and a full house of 300 headed for the hills. The L.A. Times story doesn't say if the Altadena Sheriff got hauled in, too, but back in those days law enforcement usually gave other law enforcement a free pass. Joe posted $2000 bond and could go home.
The Marcell Inn was written up at the time in the 1930's as a great place to go and get excellent cuisine. It was also popular with the Santa Anita horse racing set when California allowed horse racing again in 1933 at the same time Prohibition was ended.
However, the Marcell Inn was just too out of the way as the Depression dragged on and it was out of business and sold in 1937. For a number of years the Mt. Lowe Military Academy used the buildings and grounds for their school, and now the grounds, the buildings being long since demolished, are the location of a community garden, with only the front gate stone columns and ornamental ironwork still surviving to be seen on West Palm Street just east of Lincoln Avenue.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lake Pasadena Adjacent - The View from Linda Vista Avenue in the 1920's

The View from Linda Vista Avenue, Circa 1929, attributed to Orrin A. White, Oil on Board, Courtesy of the Armitrading Foundation

As promised, here is another oil painting in the collection, looking north on Linda Vista Avenue towards Lake Pasadena and the San Gabriels with what I believe is Orrin White's house, located now at 1860 Linda Vista Avenue.
The above oil painting featuring the Flintridge Biltmore Hotel Hill and the San Gabriel Mountain peaks was possibly painted by Orrin A. White, a local Arroyo painter who lived just below the hotel at what was then 1205 Linda Vista Road in a Spanish Hacienda designed by noted local architect Garret Van Pelt. The artist's signature may be hidden by the frame, which I have not yet removed from the painting, but the style seems to be similar to White's and the structure featured seems to he his house, at least this is the oldest remaining house in the area, built in 1921.,-pasadena,-ca_rb/
Over the years, as an area is built up, addresses change to reflect the growing number of individual lots. In 1921, this area was relatively sparsely populated, and White's house was on a curve on the western edge of the Arroyo, giving him a commanding view north to the mountains and south of the Arroyo.
At one time, Linda Vista Avenue was proposed to be part of a major north south boulevard, the "Proposed Boulevard from the Mountains to the Sea" (Plan of the Los Angeles Park Commission, 1912). More on that in the future.