Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mystery History -- Solved

Petrea almost became a three-time winner with her guess of "Teddy Roosevelt's visit" but then Paul Little, CEO of Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, came in with the specific location so he wins the fabulous prize!

Sure enough, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Pasadena on May 8, 1903. In the photo above, Benjamin D. Wilson School* stands decorated and ready for this unusual state occasion. Roosevelt gave a speech at the school, which was one of many Pasadena locations to be festooned to the hilt.

It was a high school from 1892 to 1903. Here's how it looked without all those decorations:

Newspapers throughout the land were reporting on the planning of Roosevelt's Great Western Tour during which he would visit states from Kansas to California, including a walk through Yosemite with the great John Muir himself.

When Pasadena community leaders learned of the upcoming tour, they sent a specially made key to the city along with an invitation to visit this community during his travels.

From the Feb. 28, 1903, New York Times:

President Roosevelt today received a valuable invitation from the citizens of Pasadena, Cal. What its exact value is has not been made known, but it is worth a good deal, for it is in gold. The invitation, which was handed to the President today by Representative McLachlan of California, asks Mr. Roosevelt to visit Pasadena on his coming trip to the West. It is in the form of a key of solid gold, and around the stem of the key is a splendidly engraved crown.

The key is emblematic of the key of Pasadena, and the crown is emblematic of the Indian name for Pasadena, "The crown of the valley." Pasadena is located at the head of the San Gabriel Valley. The invitation is extended by the Mayor and business officials of the town. The key is four inches long and is a good representation of the mammoth keys of the olden days. It is attached to a small piece of native wood that lies in the bottom of a specially made box. The box is of orange wood, with hinges of gold, and gold trimmings at the corners. A gold plate in the centre is inscribed as follows:

"Presented to Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, by resolution of the citizens of Pasadena, Cal., Jan. 6, 1903."

On the inside of the lid of the box is the following inscription:

"Pasadena. Greetings to our President."

Then follows a formal invitation for a visit, signed by W.A. Heiss of the City Council, and members of the trade organizations of the city.

Most of the invitations received by the President have met with the reply that the matter would be taken under consideration. The President, however, was so much pleased with this invitation that he directed Secretary Loeb to arrange for a stop in Pasadena in May.
On the way to Benjamin D. Wilson School, the president's coach came down Marengo Avenue, which was decorated with a huge, elaborate arch of lilies and tall wooden posts with palm fronds and wreaths on them.

Then, when he arrived at Wilson School, a rose-strewn walkway had been laid down for him.

And here's the man himself, giving his speech, no doubt saying "Bully" to this stuffed grizzly bear!

Roosevelt was a passionate conservationist. While in Pasadena, he was taken to the Arroyo Seco where he famously declared his support to Mayor William H. Vedder for the movement to keep it as a natural park: "Oh, Mr. Mayor, don't let them spoil that! Just keep it as it is."

That was just the momentum that was needed, and within eight years the City of Pasadena began acquiring acreage in the Arroyo Seco.

You know I can't miss the opportunity to show you Mayor Vedder from the Hall of Mayors, right?

By the way, son of Pasadena and baseball great Jackie Robinson's middle name was Roosevelt in honor of this President.

Come back tomorrow (Friday) for the speech President Roosevelt delivered to the people of Pasadena.

Many thanks to Pasadena Public Library and Pasadena Museum of History.

*Benjamin Davis Wilson, for whom this school was named, was more popularly known as Don Benito. Mt. Wilson, Wilson Avenue and Don Benito School were named in his honor. The current Wilson Middle School was named for President Woodrow Wilson.


Cindy said...

Wow, this has been one of the most interesting Mystery History...

Just one question, what happened to the school building?! The corner of Walnut & Marengo would be much more interesting if it was still standing.

pasadenapio said...

It seems Pasadena school buildings came and went in those days, just like the hotels did. In some cases the clapboard construction presented fire hazards and in others the buildings were simply in the way of downtown progress.

Cindy said...

Thanks so much for the response! That would also explain the absence of the menagerie of locations in the latest Mystery History.

Latino Heritage said...

What a great post Ann. Loved it all.
In all likelihood Wilson was known as Don Benito, since like so many who became naturalized Mexican citizens. Michael White became Miguel Blanco, Hugo Reid was known as Don Perfecto. Depending on the era they may have also become Catholic.