Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Altadena's Notable Residents - Mabel Normand

In 1922, silent film screen actress and comedian Mabel Normand  (1892-1930) lived in Altadena, residing in a house on Foothill Blvd (now Altadena Drive).

Normand began her film career making a name for herself in slapstick comedy. She helped Mack Sennett launch Keystone Studios where they produced Keystone Cop comedies. Normand also wrote and directed many of Charlie Chaplin's earliest shorts, often acting in them as well. In 1916, she opened her own production company and studio.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Historian Michele Zack to Speak at Altadena Historical Society October 24, 2016

October Program Focuses on Illness as
A Southern California Immigration Driver

Historian Michele Zack will speak on illness as a Southern California immigration driver at the 7:30 Monday Oct. 24 program of the Altadena Historical Society.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Exhibit at AHS Showcases 51 Accomplished Altadena Residents

New Exhibit at Altadena Historical Society Showcases Scores of Accomplished Altadenans Then and Now

Fifty famous and fascinating Altadenans--movie stars, artists, authors, scientists, athletes and more--are highlighted in a new exhibit at the Altadena Historical Society.

“We’ve had great fun researching and producing this exhibit,” said Jane Brackman, Society president.  “The trouble has been choosing those to include, as we have far more than our gallery can accommodate.”

The show--which opens Monday Oct. 3--is in both the Historical Society’s gallery and in the lobby of the Altadena Community Center, 730 E. Altadena Drive, just west of the Sheriff’s Station.

It is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, and by appointment for groups and others, (626) 797-8016.  It is free of charge, but donations toward the Society’s work are welcomed.

“Many of the people featured are our current neighbors and gave their kind permission for us to include them, while others have passed on,” Brackman said.  “In fact, we didn’t include several Altadena residents who are major stars in their fields, but cherish the privacy they have by living here.“

Current or former Altadenans included in the new exhibit include:

*The Smothers Brothers.  Singers, musicians, comedians and television stars; as boys, Tom and Dick Smothers lived with relatives on Santa Anita Avenue.

*Noted contemporary authors Miles Corwin, Naomi Hirahara, Jervey Tervalon and Michelle Huneven; deceased best-seller Zane Grey.

*Entrepreneur Horace Dobbins.  Dobbins proposed an elevated bikeway between Pasadena and Los Angeles, some of which was built.  His beautiful and innovative home was near the top of Lincoln Avenue.

*Tennis great Stan Smith, who trained at the Altadena Town and Country Club, winner of the 1971 U.S. Open and 1972 Wimbledon, and LPGA golfer Mo Martin, winner of the 2014 Women’s British Open.

*Mary Colter.  One of America’s first and most celebrated female architects, designing and overseeing construction of iconic tourist attractions and hotels at the Grand Canyon and throughout the Southwest. 

*Famed seismologist Charles Richter; legendary astronomer George Ellery Hale; and brilliant physicist, exuberant adventurer and best-selling author Richard Feynman.

*Octavia Butler.  A science fiction writer who received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 1995 and was a PEN Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Butler’s work is still selling.

*Johnny Otis. Called “The King of Rock and Roll” and “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues,” he was a singer, musician, composer, arranger, bandleader, talent scout, disk jockey, record producer, television show host, artist, author, journalist, minister and impresario.

Society President Jane Brackman said the most frequent comments overheard from people viewing the exhibit are “No kidding!,” “Oh, really!!,” and “Come look at this!,” which is her invitation to the public: “Come look at this!”

The Altadena Historical Society was founded in 1935 and is a tax-exempt non-profit whose mission is to gather, preserve and present information about the people, places and events that have shaped the community.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tim Rutt's altadenablog now accessible through AHS home page

They may say "Old news is no news," 
but here at archives we believe old news is priceless.

Altadena Historical Society has successfully archived Tim Rutt's award winning altadenablog, Altadena's local news source that ran September 2007 through January 2014. Additionally, we're almost ready to launch Tim's Altadena Point published January 2014 to April 10 2015.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

JR Coffee Shop - An Altadena Icon

Although this little pie-shaped building on North Lake Avenue has served as a real estate office and seen its share of struggling restaurants, in the 1960s it was the successful "J.R. Coffee Shop". The diner was one of three restaurants that made up a small chain called "The Headliner" on Pasadena's Colorado Street between the old Star-News building (hence the name) and the Presbyterian Church. 

Matchbook Cover
A second restaurant was located on the southeast corner of Altadena Drive and Washington where McDonald's is currently located. And the smallest in the chain was in Altadena - thus the Junior moniker. (Some locals refer to the diner by its initials, J.R.)

A long time Altadena resident said "It was a hamburger, fries and milk-shake kind of place, much like Bob's Big Boy. I ate there often with my family. It was so nice to have a local diner."

Today it's the location of the popular restaurant, El Patron.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Altadena's Building Boom

This photo is from our archives. The workers are posing with horse-drawn road grading equipment.

The street sign says Piedmont and Glen Avenue.  Piedmont was renamed Foothill, and finally Altadena Drive.

The citrus orchard was being graded for the Orange Blossom Homes subdivision.

If you go north on Glen Avenue from Altadena Drive, the houses on the street are part of the Janes' development, built after World War One. Glen Avenue is a few blocks east of Lincoln.

Below is a photo of the same shot as it appears today.

Circa 1920s

Monday, May 9, 2016

Altadena's Devil's Gate Dam

Built in 1920 by the Bent Bros Company, the Arroyo Seco's Devil's Gate Dam, was the first flood control dam in L. A. County. Its construction followed the devastating 1914 flood that sent dozens of homes down the arroyo.

The dam under construction 

The Devil's profile is downstream from the dam and
except for graffiti looks the same as in this photo.

The view before JPL was built
The dam soon after it was built in 1920.

The dam as it appears today.
Connecting Altadena to La CaƱada Flintridge, the structure spans the narrowest place in the Arroyo Seco watershed at Devil's Gate Gorge named after the shape of the rocks.

The watershed begins at Red Box Saddle in the Angeles National Forest near Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains. Although the dam was primarily built for flood control, the reservoir was used for recreation until the Sylmar earthquake compromised the integrity of the concrete structure in 1971.

Photo taken soon after the structure was completed.
When the first section of the 210 freeway opened in 1966, the road was largely circumvented. Today the old road is closed to motor vehicles and is enjoyed by recreational enthusiasts and dog-walkers.

A series of plans to manage the Arroyo Seco watershed near the dam have been established. The Los Angeles Times published an informative article about the controversy surrounding the cleaning out of the debris basin.

(Photos in this post are from the AHS archives, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Wikipedia.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Author Naomi Hirahara Speaks at AHS


Program at Altadena Community Center is Free and Open to Public
730 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena CA 91001

The star of author Naomi Hirahara’s series of award-winning mystery books, Mas Arai, is a Japanese gardener living in post-World War II Altadena.

Now, Ms. Hirahara will speak on her childhood years in Altadena and the experiences of Japanese-Americans in 20th century Los Angeles, at 7:30 p.m. Monday April 25 at the Altadena Community Center, 730 E. Altadena Drive.

The free, illustrated program, open to the public, is sponsored by the Altadena Historical Society.

“Altadena had a small community of Japanese immigrants and their families, with a church and at least one business, in the pre- and post-war years,” said Jane Brackman, Ph.D., president of the Historical Society.

“Ms. Hirahara has woven her experiences and memories of those years into her books, and we are honored and delighted that she will share them with everyone on April 25,” Brackman said.

Hirahara is the author of five books in the Mas Arai series, with the sixth--”Sayonara Slam”--due out in May.  She also has authored two mystery books featuring a Los Angeles bicycle policeman.

Hirahara was born in Pasasdena in 1962, and lived in Altadena with her family until they moved to South Pasadena in 1971.  She still lives in South Pasadena.

Her father was born in California, but was taken to Hiroshima, Japan, as an infant, and was only miles away from the epicenter when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb there in 1945.  Her mother, born in Hiroshima, also survived, but lost her father in the blast.

After the war, her father returned to California and eventually established himself in the gardening and landscaping business, as did so many other Japanese-Americans after being released from the camps in which they were incarcerated during the war.

Naomi and a younger brother were raised in Altadena and then South Pasadena.  She graduated from Stanford University, and was a reporter and editor for Los Angeles’s Rafu Shimpo Japanese newspaper, covering the reparations movement for Japanese-Americans forced from their homes and businesses and incarcerated during the war, as well as the L.A. riots and their aftermath.

In addition to her mystery novels, she is the editor of “Greenmakers: Japanese American Gardeners in Southern California;” an award-winning book for young adults; and several biographies and histories.

She will bring several of her books to the April 25 program for sale and autographing.

Altadena Historical Society has its offices and archives in the Altadena Community Center, and is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, and by appointment.

The current exhibit at the society is “Altadena in the Rose Parade,” which will run through June.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Altadena Woodlands: The Subdivision Beautiful

As this brochure from the AHS collection indicates, in the 1920s development real estate agency Rigali & Vaselish purchased land from the Allen family who owned Sphinx Ranch, and paid $1800 and acre.

"A Sales Achievement!" 
The sales brochures aimed at investors said: 
"The first portion of Altadena Woodlands offered for sale was sold out within five weeks, gross sales titling over four hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  The instant public approval accorded Altadena Woodlands as shown through the tremendous volume of sales in a short space of time demonstrated the high character and desirability of the homesites offered and brought out the fact that at the prices offered, the discriminating realty buyer recognized an investment opportunity.  You are invited to investigate.  Branch office Phoone colorado 2748, Main office Phone 875-633"
The development encompassed area between 
Allen and Foothill Blvd. (now called Altadena Drive), 
and was bordered by New York Avenue on the south. 

Red lines indicate developed area 
delineated by Allan (left) New York 
and Altadena Drive as it appears today. 

Michele Zack wrote:
"...A number of charming historical revival homes, mostly English and Spanish, were built before the stock market crashed, and in the 1930s some modern ranch-styles usually associated with the post WWII era began appearing here.  These are considered some of the best and earliest surviving examples of the style.…" Altadena: Between Wilderness and City  p 128

Thursday, March 3, 2016

AHS 2016 Membership Drive

It’s Altadena Historical Society membership drive time again.

We thank you for your past support and urge you to join AHS or renew your 2016 membership now. AHS is a federally recognized not-for-profit organization and your membership and donations are tax deductible.

Dues remain $25 for individuals and families. If you’ve had an individual membership please consider upgrading to the $50 premium membership level. Not only will your extra dollars add support to our programs, you’ll also receive a hardback copy of “Altadena’s Golden Years” by Robert H. Peterson, with 100 pages and more than 250 photographs.

2016 Premium Membership Gift
Because of support from people like you, AHS has had an exceptionally successful 2015 with fascinating quarterly programs, an expanded newsletter, more volunteers to assist with research requests and the opening of the Altadena History Museum at the Altadena Community Center.

Your support makes all of this possible.  Please join AHS or renew your membership today.

Friday, February 12, 2016

An Altadena Love of Historic Proportion

In honor of Valentine's Day

Artist Charles White (1918-1979) and author/educator Frances Barrett White (1926-2000) were married in 1950.  Frances wrote Reaches of the Heart in 1994, a loving literary tribute to her husband.  

Noted painter and lithographer, Charles White was a significant part of the twentieth century social realist art scene. The book is an endearing love story, and an intimate picture of what life was like for an interracial couple in a world not ready to accept such a union. The family eventually moved to Altadena, where they were active in civil rights issues and the integration of local public schools.