Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mystery History -- Solved!

I liked the variety of guesses for this one, from "miners digging out the last of our coal and/or gold reserves" to "it has something to do with a dam being built at the bottom of Hahamongna."

Frank Girardot wins with his 3:56 p.m. Tuesday guess "building of the rose bowl in arroyo seco."

I tried to throw everybody off the scent by cropping in on this photo:

Architect Myron Hunt designed the Rose Bowl Stadium, which for several years was a horseshoe shape that was open on the south side. Here's Hunt, right, looking over an early model with builder William A. Taylor:

And here's an aerial shot of the nearly completed stadium:

But the project really began with laborers and mules. Imagine the back-breaking work of digging out all that dirt along with all those rocks and boulders.

In 1920, to fund the stadium's $272,000 construction, Myron Hunt, Tournament of Roses President William Leishman and several others devised a plan to sell subscription tickets for stadium events for the next 10 years at a cost of $10 per person per year -- $100 total -- all up front. It worked.

Construction took less than a year; the stadium was ready in time for the 1923 football game with USC vs. Penn State (USC won, 14 to 3).

And now the stadium is poised for a $171 million renovation and expansion. Design plans are going through the commission process and the financial plan will be coming to the Pasadena City Council soon.

It's a far cry from the $272,000 raised to build the stadium 90 years ago but it sure will be worth it!

I'll leave you with this aerial shot of the stadium during the BCS final game on Jan. 7 this year (Alabama 37, Texas 21):

Many thanks to the Pasadena Museum of History, Rose Bowl Stadium and Tournament of Roses Association.


Jean Spitzer said...

I liked the mining guess, for its romance. But the Rose Bowl story is fascinating.

Cafe Pasadena said...

Congratulations to our Editor!
While I'm happy he won, I'm even happier that USC won.

ben wideman said...

Alright, something has been bothering me. They piled up these mounds of dirt to make the original seating bowl, but that dirt and fill does not still exist beneath the stands today. At what point did it get removed? Or did the whole thing come down and they started over?

Petrea said...

You had me.

I'd love to hear the answer to Ben's question. It's a good one.

pasadenapio said...

Ben: Peyton Hall, the historic preservation consultant to the Rose Bowl Stadium, has this to say:

"Certainly a good portion of it went into the berm. If you look at the general topography, I suspect that there was a lot of 'cut and fill,' leveling out the concourse and parking areas, from what was an irregular dry wash (arroyo). I doubt that there was 'export' of soil and stones to other areas. This is not a documented answer, but a common sense observation. I do not recall reading about this during our research. Detailed archival research of photographs, and narratives could possibly turn up some additional details.

ben wideman said...

So the seating bowl as it exists today is not the original one built on the dirt, right? At some point the whole thing has been replaced with the structure that stands today.

JM in Pasadena said...


Your original premise is incorrect, the dirt and fill does still exist under a good portion of the stands today and the bowl today is the original one built. However, the south end, which was built later, does not have a dirt berm. Those long tunnels you walk through as you enter the stadium go through the original dirt berms. Which is why enlarging the tunnels for better ingress/egress is not a simple matter.

ben wideman said...

No way! That is incredibly helpful. Thanks JM!