Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mystery History -- Solved


I stumped everybody this week.

The Nash Bros. Grocery Store was founded by Iowa-born A.K. and J.D. Nash in 1889 on the south side of Colorado Street. It became a social gathering spot where customers would stop by to visit with each other over a cup of coffee or tea, then shop for their groceries.

The Nashes were pillars of the community. J.D. Nash sat on the first charter commission in 1886 to establish the equivalent of a constitution for the City of Pasadena; Lydia Nash (Mrs. A.K. Nash) was a founder of Pasadena's Shakespeare Club and led the committee that raised money for the bronze statue of the Civil War soldier in Memorial Park.

On Dec. 1, 1895, the Nash brothers ran this ad in the Los Angeles Times:



Another ad, which I don't have a copy of but do have the text from a newspaper article about it, reads:

Are Your Chickens Sick? They ought not to be. They should be laying 2½ cent eggs. We have chicken medicine that will cure roup, swell head, cholera or most any disease."
Another ad told of a customer whose rooster -- slated to be Christmas dinner -- headed for the hills, after which the customer settled on two quarts of fresh oysters from Nash Bros.

Here's the exterior of the store in about 1900:


In 1921 the business morphed into general merchandise, becoming so successful that the Nash family built a two-story building at the northeast corner of Colorado Street and Broadway (later named Arroyo Parkway), where the AT&T building stands today. By then the name of the store had changed to F.C. Nash & Co. to reflect the next generation. In the photo below, the store is on the right under the American flag during the 1926 Rose Parade (click on the photo to enlarge it):


And here's a 1930 photo:


Frederick C. Nash had two claims to fame: (1) he was a civic leader and successful entrepreneur who took the family business into the future; and (2) in 1920 he founded Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena.

A few years later F.C. Nash's son, Hammond G. Nash, became president of the company and in 1950 expanded the business even futher, creating a Nash's chain with department stores in Pasadena, Alhambra, Arcadia, Whittier, Fullerton and Pomona. Here's a photo of the Pasadena store circa 1960, which by now was in a three-story building about a block east:



Carrying on the family tradition of volunteerism, Hammond Nash was active in the Community Chest, Pasadena Boys Club, Kiwanis and the Chamber of Commerce.

Unfortunately the Nash reign began to unravel when the Pasadena store was destroyed in a fire. Forgive the quality of the photo below – I snapped the picture from a photocopy of a May 11, 1976, L.A. Times article about the fire.


Here’s an excerpt of that article:

A $1.5 million fire roared through Nash’s Department Store, a Pasadena landmark on Colorado Blvd., Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of more than 100 employes and shoppers and jamming the business district with onlookers.

The blaze apparently started in a trash can in a storage area in the hosiery department at the rear of the main floor about half an hour after the store opened at 10 a.m., firemen said.

One store employe was injured when she fell as she and a dozen other female workers clambered down a fire escape at the front of the structure. . .

. . .Three firemen were admitted [to Huntington Memorial Hospital] suffering from smoke inhalation. A fourth was treated for cuts on the forearm and released.

Clouds of smoke blanketed the downtown Pasadena area and could be seen for miles. . .

. . .The blaze was battled by a total of 75 fire fighters from Pasadena, Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, South Pasadena and Glendale.

At least 20 off-duty firemen who heard about the blaze were also on the line in civilian clothes.

Despite speculation that someone might be trapped inside the building, fire fighters who cautiously surveyed the weakened structure after the fire found no bodies. . .

. . .Traffic near the scene, just a block from Pasadena’s Civic Center, was tied up for hours. Police cordoned off Colorado Blvd. near the store, which is between Euclid and Marengo Ave.

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

21 comments:

altadenahiker said...

We should have known. Petrea and I read about this place at the Pasadena History Museum. Blast!

Cafe Pasadena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

A cure for Swell Head?

This post is filled with wonderful stuff. We had a Nash's Department Store in Pomona when I was a wee bairn.

Cafe Pasadena said...

Are you sure my answer about the 1st blogger gathering wasn't correct, PIO??

I swear in your foto I could've made out a couple of local bloggers I know: one of Altadena & another a little fotoactress from Pasadena. :)

Oh, well, I gotta spend more time in a museum!

Petrea said...

Ditto, Hiker!

pasadenapio said...

I'm the guy on the left.

Bellis said...

Darn! I was so close - I found pictures of both Blue Front Grocery and Nash's last night, and decided the people in the Nash's photo looked too modern. Now I see it was a 1900 photo. It's good when you beat us now and again, Ann, a little reward for all your hard work with these quizzes. The photos of Colorado Street are new to me - I see no traffic lights or trees, and lots of parking for cars.

kevin at Time River Productions said...

I moved to Pasadena in 1975 and remember walking by the burned-out Nash's in 1976 and seeing burned mannikins in the front window. Never went into the store.

pasadenapio said...

That sounds pretty creepy, Kevin. A segment of the Twilight Zone.

Trish said...

I remember that fire---more to the point, I remember the sound off happening in SoPas when it happened. And then the tittering of my grandmother and ALL her friends, plus my godmother and her friends that Nash's had burned. The story about someone being trapped inside continued as fodder until my grandmother and her friends died. Everyone was sure someone died and it was covered up for some reason.

Up until about 15 years ago, my grandmother still had a box with their logo on it in her basement.

If I recall correctly, this fire led to the mall being built later?

pasadenapio said...

Trish, the fire did not lead to the first mall being built, but it certainly made it easier. The area had already been slated for redevelopment.

michele Zack said...

One reason the Nashes founded Christmas Tree Lane is because they LIVED IN ALTADENA! I'd be interested to know if they ever lived in Pasadena, and then moved here, but at the time he established CTL in 1920, Fred Nash lived on Lincoln Ave. Perhaps he was the son of the department store founder. Because many people of note were active in Pasadena, it is often assumed they lived there.

pasadenapio said...

Michele, A.K. and J.D. lived in Pasadena. Yes, Fred lived in Altadena! I should have mentioned that. I presume he was the son of one of the brothers but I haven't been able to cite that officially yet. I may have time next week to do some more digging.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Mr V's mother worked at Nashes department store

pasadenapio said...

Michele, I now have it on the best authority that Fred C. Nash was the son of A.K. Nash and the nephew of J.D. Nash.

We didn't? said...

Fred was AK's son - or grandson. And he's my great-great grandpa. Nice to see these photos up and hear the old Pasadena gossip!

TSullivan said...

The Nash familly supported the arts and artists in the 1960's in Pasadena. One such arist from N.Y. painted portraits of myself and some of my friends.I am trying to find out what became of those paintings.
Terry Sullivan
go2tms@sbcglobal.net
www.nottinghamarts.org

Tony Destroni said...

Thank you for sharing your experience and success. I hope that everyone who will read your entry will pursue their work also. Likewise to the Latino Business they have to be included on the ranking of paginas amarilla so that their business will be successful and more services they need to provide.

Anonymous said...

I worked at this store when I was 14. Earned the money to buy my first cashmere sweater there. (We were allowed to work in summer, on weekends and during our then-three week Christmas holiday break. It was my first job other than baby-sitting. I felt very grown-up. A few years later I parlayed it into a job at I. Magnin on South Lake. Now there was an elegant store....
Anon2

Donna Machado said...

I am living in the home build and lived in by Carl Enos Nash who I believe is the son of Frederick C. Nash. He built it in 1904 on what is now Oakland Avenue in Pasadena. Does anyone have any memories or information on Carl Enos or the home?

Donna Machado said...
This comment has been removed by the author.