Monday, December 29, 2014

Altadena's Banyard Smith House and the Pasadena Rose Parade

Although Pasadena lays claim to the Rose Parade, Altadena played a role in its beginning. 

Banyard Smith house designed by Frederick Roehrig 
Photo: Huntington Library digital collection

Michele Zack tells us that the connection can be found within the Altadena home of Banyard Smith (now the site of the Theosophical Society on the northeast corner of Santa Rosa and Mariposa, across from the McNally house). "It was at Smith’s home that the Valley Hunt Club was founded in the early 1890s, from whence grew Pasadena’s Rose Parade."  (Michele Zack, Altadena: Between Wilderness and City, 2003, p. 121)

This is the home in the 1890s. Look closely and you can see Mt. Lowe's Echo Mountain House in the background.
Photo: Huntington Library digital collection

Unfortunately, the Smith house burned to the ground shortly after this picture was taken. But the Rose Parade lives on.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

An Altadena Christmas

This hand-tinted postcard features Altadena's McNally house nestled in a lush winter garden with snow-covered mountains in the background.  It seems to say, "Christmas in Southern California - warm enough to grow oranges, cold enough to bring snow.  Don't you wish you were here."

Merry Christmas from Altadena Historical Society.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Altadena's New Museum

You donations are building the new Altadena museum! 
Not quite this big

With your financial support, we'll  renovate the 250 square ft corridor leading from our entrance doors to create an efficient museum space with permanent walls and movable partitions, display cases for artifacts and documents, modern graphics and spotlighting.
Sara Noble Ives sent her check early.

The museum space will showcase revolving exhibits of all imaginable facets of Altadena history drawn from the thousands of historical photographs, newspapers, letters and postcards, maps and ephemera that pack the Society’s space.

Wouldn't you like to see what's in all these boxes?

We're Almost There

Two anonymous Altadena donors have kicked off the campaign with promises to match donations to $6,250-- challenge grants that, with your support, could raise $12,500 toward the museum project. We're more than two thirds way to our goal. Everyone is helping!
Museum support from Zane Grey?
He would if he could.
Please take time now, as the tax year comes to a close, to write a check to AHS and make this much needed project a reality. Send your donation to AHS, 730 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena CA 91001.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Tree Lane's Star of Palawoo

Perfectly aligned with Altadena's Christmas Tree Lane, built far above in the foothills, was a five pointed star built on a thirty-five foot tall wood scaffold, with seventy-five forty watt light bulbs.  
The star didn't float in the sky. 
This is an artist's rendering.

But it did look like this.

The star was built by F. B. Nightingale in the 1920s. Nightingale worked for General Electric.We were thrilled to find this 1939 letter written to the Altadena's Chamber of Commerce, from F. B. Nightingale describing the history of the "Star of Palawoo".

Mr. Charles D. Perlee                                                                  November 11, 1939
SecretaryAltadena Chamber of Commerce
Dear Mr. Perlee;
In reply to your letter regarding the Christmas Star which we erect each Christmas sass.
The star was first erected for Christmas 1926, It is 35 feet high and contains 75 forty watt lamps. It is located on the mountain directly above our home which is some 1400 fee above Colorado St. in Pasadena and five miles distant. A high wind destroyed the first star at the close of the Christmas season, , a second one was destroyed by the forest fire in 1935 but the third one is still in service & if we loose it there will be another one built. We originally called it "The Star of Palawoo" (Palawoo, and Indian word meaning the birds next -- the Nightingales home).
Very little may be seen of the star by day as it is colored to match the shrubbery but at night it may be seen many miles distant, the star, gleaming out of the night is the only visible light in the great silent mountain space. 
Yours very truly, 
F. B. Nightingale"The Magician of Light"

Read a detailed history about the Star of Palowoo at Bill Westphal's site. He has vintage photos of the star under construction. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Altadena's Rose Bowl Motel

Long before the Rose Bowl Motel fell victim to vandalism and criminal activity, Tournament of Roses parade fans booked rooms here well in advance of the New Year's Day festivities.

Situated a mile north of the Rose Bowl on a precipice just above Devil’s Gate dam, near the northwest corner of Windsor and Woodbury Road, the motel was the place to stay for thousands of Rose Bowl football fans.

The mid-century motel adjoined the La Canada-Flintridge, Pasadena and Altadena communities. Conveniently located less than a mile south of Jet Propulsion Lab, it also served as temporary housing for numerous scientists visiting both JPL and Caltech.

According to text on the back of the post card, the motel featured "fully carpeted units with tubs and showers, free TV, room phones and kitchenettes, a picture window sky lounge and coffee shop that looks out over the magnificent San Gabriel Mountains".

Photo courtesy of Rod Holcomb

Blighted from years of neglect and gang activities, the building eventually fell into disrepair. The photo above documents the motel in July 2003, shortly before it was demolished.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Altadena's Larry Harmon Studio

We were pleased to find in our collection this photograph of The Larry Harmon Studio, 2605 N. Lake Avenue, taken by Larry Harmon, who by the way was not the same Larry Harmon who played Bozo the Clown.

The commercial photographer opened the studio in 1959. The building replaced the Amos Dance Studio at the northwest corner of Lake and Altadena Drive.   

After a successful career spanning almost three decades, Harmon sold the property. Following further sales, the site ended up as the future location for a McDonald’s restaurant. The community protested and McDonalds later built at the corner of Lincoln and Woodbury.  

Until 2010 the building belonged to commercial photographer Brian Goodman who revitalized the 6000 square foot facility and turned it into a photo/design studio.