Pasadena - A Village Inside
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Located just 10 miles northeast of downtown
Pasadena was first inhabited by the Hahanog-na
tribe, who lived in villages scattered along the Arroyo Seco and the
canyons from the mountains down to the South Pasadena area. But, like the
California, the Spanish moved in the late 1700’s and in 1771
established the San Gabriel Mission and began to convert the Indians
to Christianity. The mission was prosperous, surrounded by orchards,
vineyards and livestock.
When the land passed from Spain to Mexico in
1833, the vast lands of California were granted to Mexican citizens and
divided into ranchos. The area that would later become Pasadena was named
the Rancho del Rincon de San Pascual. The last owner of the 14,000 acre
land grant was Manuel Garfias who was allowed to keep the property after
California became a state in 1850. However, over the next two decades,
portions of the Rancho were sold off to new white settlers. In 1873, Dr.
John S. Griffin and Benjamin Wilson owned more than 5,000 acres of the
original land grant.
Wilson, who would later become the first
Anglo major of Los Angeles,
agreed to sell some 4,000 acres to Dr. Daniel M. Berry of Indiana in
1873. To raise funds to bring a group from Indiana who were seeking
fairer weather following an exceptionally bad winter, Berry formed the
Southern California Orange and Citrus Growers Association and sold
stock. On January 31, 1874, Berry and the Indiana newcomers
incorporated the "Indiana Colony.” The colony was named "pa-sa-de-na”
meaning "of the valley” to the Chippewa Indians.
In 1886, the settlement became the second incorporated city in
Before long the city was growing quickly and became an important stop
on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, bringing even more
people to the city and creating a real estate boom that would last
from the 1880’s until the Great Depression. Pasadena became a winter
resort for wealthy Easterners and a number of grand hotels were built
in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Of these, two buildings continue
to survive today, including the Hotel Green, built in 1888, and the
Vista Del Arroyo, built in 1903. The Hotel Green, once the social
center of Pasadena, is now called the Castle Green and serves as both
individual housing units, and a location to be rented for parties and
events. The Vista Del Arroyo, now houses the Ninth Circuit Court of
At the turn of the century, Pasadena boasted a little more than 9,000
residents, but just a decade later had grown to over 30,000. This
period also saw a number of craftsman style homes built in Pasadena,
many of which still stand. The most notable is the Gamble House, built
in 1908 by David and Mary Gamble of Procter & Gamble fame. Today, The
Gamble House operates as a museum.
In 1913, the beautiful 150 foot high Colorado Street Bridge was
constructed across the dry Arroyo Seco, spanning nearly 1,500 feet
across the riverbed. Though notable for its distinctive arches and
railings, it also became notorious for something else – suicides.
Before, long, it had gained the nickname of "Suicide Bridge” after
dozens of people had tumbled to their deaths. Later a suicide barrier
was added that reduced the number of ghastly jumpers, but the bridge
has always retained the nickname. Not surprisingly, another legend
surrounds the bridge – the ghostly tales of those who died there. But
that’s another story -- see
1920’s continued to be profitable for Pasadena as it hosted tourists as a
winter resort and began to grow culturally, adding the Pasadena Playhouse
in 1917, the Rose Bowl Stadium in 1922, the Grace Nicholson Gallery in
1926, which is now the Pacific Asia Museum, and a number of other local
The Rose Bowl Stadium was built in 1922.
This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
It was during this time that
Route 66 was commissioned, coming straight
through the heart of Pasadena and bringing even more people to the city.
However, the boom was short-lived as the Depression signaled the end of an
era for Pasadena, disrupting its tourist economy which never resumed at
its previous level.
During World War II, Pasadena became a base for much of the military
traffic, turning many of the hotels into military command headquarters and
lodging for soldiers. The Vista del Arroyo Hotel was purchased by the Army
and became a convalescent hospital for the wounded. In the meantime, the
city was turning to a more industrial focus.
In December, 1940, the Arroyo Seco Parkway was completed, which became the
new alignment of Route 66 from Pasadena to Los Angeles
and the first "freeway" in the United States.
Providing a faster and more direct route from Pasadena to
the city began to boom again, especially after World War II was over.
By 1950 the population had increased to more than 100,000 and the city
that was once known for its attraction to tourists, was inundated with
smog from its high industrial areas. The heart of the city became
dilapidated and major companies began to leave.
However, over the next several decades, Pasadena recovered with the help
of redevelopment and preservation groups. Historic homes and buildings
began to be renovated and restored, most especially in Old Pasadena, where
the city's business district first started. Today, the city provides a
number of historical and architectural gems, with Old Pasadena being the focus
of revitalization and now serving as a dining, shopping, and entertainment mecca.
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