Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mystery History -- Solved!

Cafe Pasadena with his 11:30 p.m. Wednesday guess "Well, it looks like early Pasadena in the late 1800s...Could easily be a tent or a barn since not much was built yet."

In the circa 1887 photo above, two adult males hang out on the back side of a barn that was used temporarily as living quarters.

During the building boom of 1886 to 1888, settlers were teeming to put down roots in the newly incorporated city. Many put up barns first -- some quite fancy architecturally -- and lived in them until homes could be built.

Pasadena looked like this in 1883 (looking north from Raymond Hill)...

...and like this seven years later (shot from the rooftop of the Hotel Green:

Here's an excerpt from my favorite local reference book, "Pasadena: Historical and Personal" by J.W. Wood, published in 1917, which can be found in the Centennial Room at Pasadena Central Library:

It was a strange overturning that began in 1886 and drove hitherto placid-minded, contented citizens to acts of frenzy and drew to the village of Pasadena thousands of boomers and speculators, turning the ordinary conditions topsy-turvy and firing the imagination of the most phlegmatic*...

...There had been occasional movements in real estate prior to the end of 1865. Now and then some one would drop into the village of Pasadena and buy ten or twenty acres of land and pay from $100 to $300 per acre, according as to whether improved and how. In 1886 there was a sudden stimulus; why, no one can exactly say. In 1887 Southern California, especially Los Angeles and Pasadena, was on the high plane of boom prices, and in 1888 -- the beginning of that year -- it had reached the climax: the blue, blue sky! Then it was
facilis decensus, indeed! leaving numerous putative "millionaires" stranded, financial wrecks -- dazed and amazed at the sudden and tragic conclusion of their dreams. This quick finish to their rose-hued visions was sickening and remorseless. 

* Tuberculosis was a big issue back then. See a related blog post here.

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


Cafe Pasadena said...

It was a just general guess for which I was rewarded. Thks, PIO. But can't make the Lit Fest this Sat. Can I take a rain check for an Italian meal instead?

altadenahiker said...

You mean the thing that looked like nothing more than a barn was -- nothing more than a barn? You're trickier than I thought.

Bellis said...

But why would they put such a lovely tower on a mere barn?

I guess this property boom was what made the Lukens family rich. they came over to California dirt poor, and ended up wealthy when Theodor got into real estate. I love it that he devoted himself to the environment and reforesting the San Gabriels. But that's for a future Mystery History, I guess.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

If I recall - thats an Italian meal in the Adjacents. Pass me the doggie bag. I think I'm entitled to at the least, an after dinner mint for bringing up the sanatorium/phlegmatic* aspect of Mr Woods observations

Unknown said...

Hi Ann, this image appears in Altadena's Golden Years by Peterson on p. 35. As soon as I saw it I knew I'd seen it before but couldn't remember where and consulted with Tim Gregory, the "Building Biographer, who has memory like steel trap! (He should win your prize, but is too late!" Peterson id's it as the Rowan Home at the southwest corner of Lake Avenue and Sacramento (where Altadena's doomed "town hall" and the erstwhile Blockbuster now stands empty. According to Peterson, GD Rowen was a Los Angeles grocer who moved to Altadena in 1891 and was the father of 8 children. HIs wife had respiratory problems and the family slept up in a cabin in Las Flores Canyon until she eventually recovered. He sold the property and built a more conventional home on the site of the Star News in Pasadena by 1897.

Thal Armathura said...

Actually, back then phlegmatic was just a nice word for "lazy", and means according to the dictionary
1. having a stolid or unemotional disposition
2. not easily excited
It still means lazy in a few European languages.

pasadenapio said...

Unknown, if that's the case, the Pasadena Museum of History steered me wrong. I'll still vote for them as the best source for this photo that is in their archives.

Cafe Pasadena said...

I'm unsure which, if any, of these 2 authorities really know the truth about this photo.

The Altadena Golden Years book itself does not make a conclusive statement on the background of the foto.

Do we know more about this foto today than we knew last century?

Perhaps a third researcher, such as Tim, has more & brighter light to shed on this barn. I wood ask the Unknown to ask him to provide that info here, if he has it.

Shovro said...

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