Then and Now

Glendale has grown dramatically in the last few decades and, as a matter of city policy, seems to have few limits on what sort of project can be built where and with what repercussions.  From the ubiquitous apartment buildings that dot the neighborhoods of predominantly single family houses, to the pair of giant malls that exist side-by-side in the center of city, Glendale’s urban planning for years has favored wiping swaths of small structures clean to make way for larger commercial projects.  Whether this is a triumph or a travesty depends on your point of view.

The evolution of Glendale’s downtown area from typical turn-of-the-century residences to bustling commercial district is most evident in a five block stretch of Central Avenue.  The photos below illustrate this trajectory of development from modest houses to apartment and office buildings, then to department stores, followed by a giant indoor mall, and culminating in a mega-outdoor mall that typifies early 21st century retail development in Southern California.

Central Ave. was home to mostly Craftsman bungalows at the turn of the last century.  This undated photo was taken on Central at California looking north.  As the area started to commercialize, the white Craftsman house across California was eventually replaced by a gas station some time in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.  The houses behind it were eventually replaced with an apartment building.  Now, the site is an empty lot.  The wall in the foreground belongs to Sears.

1932.  Half a block south.  The left picture shows not only snow on the ground but the apartment building has replaced the houses in the distance.  The Sears would eventually replace these houses three years later.  I found an image of the store from nearly the same angle and overlayed it, but there are two possible ways to line the lamp posts up, so both versions are here.  In either case, the change from Craftsman residential to Streamline Moderne retail is dramatic.

The apartment building in the 1932 photo above being demolished in 2008.  The abandoned gas station is where the white Craftsman once stood.

What’s planned for the corner.

The empty lot in the lower left corner that’s there now.  That’s why I snapped the photo.  There’s nothing else of interest in this picture.

Back to Sears…

Coincidentally, the old Sears advertising slogan “Come to Sears Brand Central” has a special meaning in Glendale, as this Sears is situated between Brand Blvd. and Central Ave.  Completed in 1935, this was the first Sears store in the world to be custom-built as such. Up until that point, Sears-Roebuck had taken over existing structures.

Very little of the original interior exists, and the exterior was extensively and poorly remodeled some time in the 70’s or 80’s.  Notice how the house on the right had been repurposed as a clinic by the 30’s.  Though the structure is long gone, a medical clinic still occupies the lot just south of the Sears today.

Looking south at the Sears in the 1940’s

The lamp posts are still there, now with ficus trees along the sidewalk.  The high resolution photo shows the sign for a malt shop in the building on the near right (razed a few years ago to build a 6-story mixed use development and is still a vacant lot).

In the distance on the right is the art deco “Professional Building” at 229 N. Central.  I haven’t been able to find any formal documentation on the place, but years ago I was treated to some history from a longtime tenant, the late Dr. Sol Balkin whose podiatry practice was there for decades.  According to Dr. Balkin, when built, the Professional Building was one of the tallest buildings in the city, and one of the first such buildings solely for medical offices in the area.  These days, it only houses only one or two doctors, the rest of the tenants being other businesses.  When Dr. Balkin first started working there, he used to chat with the elderly man who owned the (long gone) house next door, who in turn recalled that people rode horse carriages up to the building when it was new, alongside the cars.  Dr. Lawrence Craven, who in 1948 anecdotally observed that his patients who were taking aspirin suffered fewer heart attacks, housed his practice in the building.  It would be decades before Dr. Craven’s recommendation of an aspirin a day would gain wide acceptance, but today his work is commemorated by a plaque at Glendale Memorial Hospital.

Looking north on Central at Salem.  Notice in the top picture how the right-most house the old white Craftsman, only in its original color.  The second picture shows larger trees and the house has been painted white.  The third picture is present day, the Professional Building in the foreground.

For you Hallmark Channel McBride fans, this building was used for the exterior establishing shots for John Larroquette’s office.

Working our way south:

Central and Broadway, 1930.

Central and Colorado, 1930.

Several city blocks of old buildings, small strip malls, and industrial facilities were replaced with the Americana at Brand.  It’s ironic that a whole chunk of operating city would be removed and rebuilt as a “Main Street USA” mixed-use shopping center.

Bing’s aerial maps show the 4-block area of the city that is now the Americana.  (Pan to the left to the big vacant lot.  That’s the site just after demolition.  If you keep panning around, updated photos take over showing the mall under construction).

Central and Harvard, 1930.

In researching where exactly this was, I couldn’t search this intersection in Google maps because Harvard no longer crosses Central.  The block west of Central was first taken over by the Galleria,  and the rest wiped off the map when Harvard became the entrance to the Americana parking garage.

The Glendale Galleria straddles Central Avenue.

Two aerial views of the area shot eight years apart.  In 1929, the Professional Building is there, but not much else.  In 1937, the Sears is by far the largest building on Central.  Today, it’s dwarfed by the neighboring malls.

Satellite view of Glendale’s central core.  They say there are two structures that can be seen from outer space:  the Great Wall of China and the Galleria (The Great Mall of Glendale).

(Historic photo credits: Los Angeles Public Library, California Digital Library, USC Digital Library)

I remember watching the Emmys years ago, seeing an actress accept her award by gushing something to the effect of thanking “the people of this town for your support.”  A few minutes later, David Letterman, either as host or winner, dryly wondered aloud whether when she referred to the people of “this town,” she was referring to Hollywood… or to Pasadena?

From 1977 to 1997, the Primetime Emmys were held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.  Between 1998 and 2001, Pasadena was relegated to the Creative Arts Emmys.  Now, there are none handed out here at all.  The awards are coming up this weekend and I thought we could take a look back at some great Pasadena Emmy moments.

So let’s take our Emmy time machine to that magical decade known as the 80’s and see the glamour on the red carpet on Green Street.

Not much has changed at the Auditorium since 1980.  Though the area around it is quite different these days, now that the new convention center next door is complete.  Let’s run across the street and watch the stars as they arrive…

Why there’s Danny Glover in 1985.  And what’s that behind him?  It IS!  The Plaza Pasadena mall, replaced by the Paseo!

Could anyone outdo Danny’s fabulous outfit?  Of course Betty White can.  There she is, sassy as always, nominated for her role on “Saturday Night Live.”  I mean “The Golden Girls.”  Jamie Lee Curtis has a warm glow around her.  And there’s Fred Savage, and Tim Reid!  All from 1989.

Let’s sneak inside…

The 1980 set design is definitely pre-high-def.

But I don’t want to miss the action out front.  Back outside we go…

What happened?!  Our time machine seems to have malfunctioned and taken us back to 1932.  These unidentified young ladies happened by a construction site and posed for a picture in front of the nearly completed building.  Just look at them there.  What riffraff.  What commoners.  They don’t know the meaning of well-dressed or style or glamour.

At last.  Back to the 80’s.  I’ll leave you with some well-dressed celebrities arriving in their Emmy finest for television’s most important night.  What style!  What glamour!

Happy Emmy watching!

The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards.  Sunday Aug. 29, 8:00ET (5:00PT), NBC.

(Images from the LA Public Library Photo Collection)

Yesterday was the South Pasadena Eclectic Music Festival and it was a wonderful event.  There was plenty of fantastic free music and it looked like the event did a lot to continue the revitalization of South Pas’s beautiful central business district.  As a salute to one of my favorite cities, here are some images of Pasadena’s small neighbor to the south:

South Pasadena Bank, now Kaldi Coffee Shop at 1019 El Centro Street.  This and other area banks were founded by George W. E. Griffith, who relocated from Kansas to the Highland Park neighborhood of LA in 1900.  The photo was taken c. 1907.  The building was built in 1904 and was the first bank building in South Pas.  It held the city’s offices from 1908 until 1914 when the town finished its city hall.  Kaldi has been used as a location for several TV shows and movies, recently including Brothers & Sisters and a great episode of Modern Family.

First National Bank at Fair Oaks and Mission St.  Notice how all of the overhead power and phone lines have been moved underground?  The photo on the left appears to have been taken when it was about to open, as there is a man lifting a door into place.  Either that or he’s robbing the joint.  The image is dated 1922, and the original caption states that Security First National Bank later occupied this location at 824 Fair Oaks.  The building underwent a renovation in what I think was the 1940’s, and was Gandell’s Furniture when I lived in South Pas (lower image).  It is currently being remodeled again and some of the historical detailing that had been covered up is now being restored.  Its original use will also be restored—ComericA bank is moving in to the location.

The view north on Fair Oaks, 1936.  The row of attractive buildings on the left including a liquor store, Ford dealership, and drug store have been replaced by the parking lots for Pavillions and Vons.  The Masonic Temple on the right side of the street is still there, along with the adjacent structures.  The site of the Chevron gas station is still occupied by a gas station, only now a 76.  The most striking difference is the absence of the Red Car tracks down the middle of the street, which ran from Oneonta Junction at Huntington (behind us) up through Pasadena.  The Northern District passenger service was discontinued September 30, 1951.

The Lucretia R. Garfield House.   The house was designed by Greene and Greene for the widow of James Garfield, the U. S. President who was assassinated in 1881.  Lucretia Garfield was a distant relative of the Greenes, and they made many compromises on the design in deference to her active involvement with the project.  The house was completed in 1904.  She died March 14, 1918.

Bonus (as seen on TV!):

Just a few doors down from the Garfield House is a filming location for Brothers & Sisters.  This is Sarah Walker’s house as seen in Season 4 Episode 17 “”  I’m pretty sure this is not the place that was previously used for exterior establishing shots of Sarah’s house.

(Photos from the LA Public Library, South Pasadena Public Library, Google Street View)

We recently drove up to Mount Waterman in the Angeles National Forest.  It was great to see some snow, especially so near by, but it was shocking to see the destruction of the Station Fire first hand.  The vastness of the burn area defies description.  Mile after mile, ridge after ridge, the hills are bare, the erosion is evident, and, in some places, green (probably non-native) grass is growing under the blackened skeletons of trees, which is quite eerie.  And this is only one corner of what was destroyed last year.

Angeles Crest Highway is closed, so we took Big Tujunga Canyon up.  We passed the foundations and chimneys of destroyed houses, and there were a lot of fire-damaged road signs.  There were a number of backhoes and bulldozers along the way, probably trying to buttress the road up and clear debris.  Technically, the forest is closed, so you can drive through it and see it, but you can’t get out and hike.  And who would WANT want to?

Unlike most before-and-afters here, I used Google Streetview after the fact to match up to some of the shots I took.  Most of them were taken at Angeles Forest Highway and Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road where we had to stop and wait for the road to reopen after a motorcycle accident.

It’s only about a 1-hour drive to Waterman Mountain.  The day we went, it was cold, foggy, windy, and rainy after 5000 feet, though it was oddly sunny on the other side of Cloudburst Summit.  There was a point where one side of the road looked warm and sunny with no snow, and the other side of the road was cloudy and covered with snow, almost like a split-screen.

Here’s some video of our journey up the mountain:

On the way back down, we stopped at Newcomb’s Ranch for some coffee and chili.  It’s finally only recently reopened, though the weather that day was keeping a lot of people off the roads up there.

The number of full-sized trees gone is staggering, and I hope there are no other fires that cause that sort of damage.  The forest is a lot smaller now than it was a year ago.  But it will come back some day, though not in our lifetime, and LA will have some of its backyard back again.

(Thanks to Mike Schnieder at Franklin Avenue for the idea).

After the 4.4 earthquake hit earlier this month at 4:04am, I thought two things:  1) We sure dodged a bullet at 10:00am when nothing happened.  2) I need to do a Then and Now about earthquakes.

On the left is earthquake pioneer, nudist, and Pasadena resident Charles Richter.  As a researcher at Cal Tech in the mid-1930’s, he and several others created what came to be known as the Richter scale .  The photo above was taken in his living room in 1963 as he observes his newly-installed seismograph.  The caption of the photo which originally appeared in the Herald-Examiner reads, “The Caltech professor of seismology had the instrument installed to facilitate his participation at night in two projects: the exchange of earthquake information with news people and the Seismic Sea Wave Warning Systerm of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.”  Richter’s private life was quite tumultuous, and unconventional (given the times), and his high-profile public persona as a scientist was not without detractors, but his contribution to the first standardized measure of seismic activity had a profound effect in the region and worldwide almost immediately.  In 1979, the Richter Scale was replaced by the Moment Magnitude Scale, which is still in use today.  Charles Richter died in 1985 and is buried in Altadena.

On the right is Lucy Jones, the current media face of all things earthquake.  Though not a Pasadena resident, she is a Visiting Associate in Geophysics at the Cal Tech’s Seismology Laboratory, and Chief Scientist of the US Geological Survey’s Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project for Southern California.  I’ve seen her give a lecture and she’s very entertaining.

On March 10, 1933, the Newport-Inglewood fault ruptured with a magnitude of 6.4.  The Long Beach Earthquake caused great destruction around the Southern California area, as well as over 115 deaths.  Many schools and public buildings in the Long Beach area were constructed of unreinforced masonry and collapsed.  Had the trembler occurred during the school day and not at 5:54pm, countless children would have been killed.  The event ushered in the era of modern building codes with the passage of the Field Act by the California State Legislature, a mere month after the catastrophe.

The left photo is of the Huntington Hotel in Pasadena (built 1907), shortly after the earthquake.  The damage was repaired and the hotel continued to function as an opulent retreat for wealthy Easterners in search of warm winters.  By 1985, the facility, operated as a Sheraton, was deemed to be unsafe in the event of a major earthquake, and was closed.   After the Gemtel corporation purchased it, they decided to raze the building and construct a new hotel on the site.  Pasadena preservationists fought the proposal, but the project was approved by a voter referendum, and the old hotel was torn down in 1989.  Not many people realize that the Ritz-Carlton—now the Langham—is actually a relatively new building, opened in 1991 (pictured right).

The Whittier Narrows earthquake on October 1, 1987  killed eight people and caused widespread damage, especially in the San Gabriel Valley.  This building in Old Town Pasadena collapsed during the 5.9 quake.  Here’s the Herald-Examiner’s caption for the photo on the left (incorrectly stating the city):

Dave Adams (L) was working inside when this building collapsed at 101 South Fair Oaks, in South Pasadena. This was a two story auto repair shop. The roof pancaked and the north wall fell over onto parked cars which were flattened. Adams was one of the two men who escaped.

Flattened cars along the north wall.

This is what the building looked like before the earthquake (it’s the smaller of the two buildings that is now a parking lot).  The photo on the left was taken by Terry Griest in 1984 and is part of a great collection of images on Petrea Burchard’s Pasadena Daily Photo blog.  She also has a wonderful then and now about the adjacent Hotel Carver.

Also damaged in the 1987 quake was the Pasadena Elk’s lodge across the street from the Norton Simon on Colorado.  This fallen chimney was among the $358 million in total damage to property caused by the earthquake.

Two interesting bits regarding Charles Richter.  He reportedly kept detailed logs of Star Trek episodes.  And he offered this piece of earthquake safety advice in a 1971 interview:

Q: If the building you are in now started to shake and you knew an earthquake was occurring, what would you do?
A: I would walk – not run – to the nearest seismograph.

According to Brigham Yen’s blog,  the Pasadena city council voted 6-1 earlier this month to permit the IDS Playhouse Plaza to go ahead.  Apparently, the project had met with some resistance from the neighbors, but many think the 5-story mixed-use development will revitalize the area.  Personally, I think the development looks a bit big, not so much for Colorado Blvd. but the side facing El Molino.  The Pasadena Playhouse District is characterized by a lot of cute commercial buildings.  The area is sleepy but far from run down, and from the architectural rendering, it seems like the Playhouse Plaza will dwarf the famed Pasadena Playhouse that’s right across the small side street from it.

I was in the area and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the furniture store that’s on the site now and doing a then-and-now style comparison.  I’m not sure what to call it, though.

In a similar vein, here’s a then and now comparison of Macy’s on Lake.  The building was originally built as Bullock’s Pasadena, designed by architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket.  The architectural rendering on the left is dated December 21, 1944 (coincidentally 66 years ago today).  I couldn’t get the same angle of the Del Mar entrance, as a new retail building housing a Trader Joe’s was constructed right up against it a few years ago.  Thankfully, Macy’s hadn’t ruined the interior of the old Bullock’s, and in fact restored it within this last year.  It’s a beautiful place to shop.  There aren’t too many old department stores left.


We revisit the same Kress store from a previous post, except we’re across the street at the Pasadena post office and the year is 1972.  Instead of a civil rights protest, this is an anti-war protest.  Robert O. Hahn is in the foreground, with other members of the Orange Grove Friends Meeting, in a silent vigil held in front of this post office by the Quaker group for, at the time, six years.


I think this scene took place in The Mecca Room (“Air Cooled!”) in Old Town, and is now part of Louise’s Restaurant, but I’m not certain.  What is happening in the scene, though, is well-documented.  The Pasadena chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union marched on local bars in an effort to stop the sale of liquor in town.  They were met with indifference from bar patrons and staff, as this was 1947–many years after the constitutional amendment they championed banning the sale of liquor nationwide was repealed.  Their leader was 86-year-old Australian-born Bessie Lee Cowie, who was active in the movement from 1887 until her death in 1950.  This photo is from the April 26, 1947 LA Times, but the next month, LIFE magazine published an article about the protests.  Here’s an excerpt:

These ladies have replaced the direct action of earlier days with persuasion.  Like members of other dry organizations who are becoming active again, they are advocating measures short of an immediate campaign for outright prohibition.  Using only prayer and petition, and guided, as they believe, by God, they paraded last week into barrooms of Pasadena, Calif.  There they urged barkeepers to seek “more honorable” jobs.  They pointed out possible law violations to proprietors.  They pleaded with customers to sign no-drink pledges.   At one bar they found a mother with her daughter, embraced the mother and prayed for her.  Later the mother joined them in singing Onward Christian Soldiers.


Pasadena’s Centennial celebration at City Hall, June 20, 1986.  The caption reads, “Now they are 100–Thousands of balloons rise past Pasadena’s City Hall in a celebration marking the city’s official 100th birthday. Church bells were rung in unison, an orchestra played and tap dancers performed in the event, a high point of festivities that began last week.”

I ran across some great images of Pasadena in the UCLA Library’s online archive.  I’ve always been a fan of “Then and Now” photo books as far back as high school.  So, when I saw these photos of long-forgotten activism, and immediately recognized where they were taken, I decided to compare what these locations look like today.

Pasadena Civil Rights Protest

A nationwide boycott and picket of Kress department stores was launched in the spring of 1960 in reaction to the company’s refusal to serve blacks at their lunch counters.  Most of this city block was razed in the late 70’s to make way for the Plaza Pasadena shopping mall, which, in turn, was demolished.  The Paseo Colorado is now on the site.  Several of the older buildings and facades are still visible down the street.

Pasadena War Protest

The building pictured at right may or may not be the structure seen at left.  If not, it was most likely in the same block near Colorado and Rosemead Boulevards.  The protesters are members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, marching 25 miles from Pasadena through Glendale to Hollywood in December 1948.  They were protesting the draft and Universal Military Training.  It doesn’t look like they’re stopping for Chicken Pie, though.  As you can see from the signs, Long Beach is still 29 miles south.  Now, though, the only person holding a sign on the street is at the corner waving an oversized placard to direct drivers to insurance office in the building.

Pasadena School Protest

On the first day of school at Pasadena High School in September 1965, students were greeted by teachers protesting on the sidewalk.  A Spanish teacher named Jack Battaglia filed grievances against the school after his evaluation.  He was then transferred to a position at MCKinley Junior High.  This set off a firestorm of acrimony and recriminations between the American Federation of Teachers, School Board, and administrators.  The teachers’ union stopped the picketing in November, and in January 1966, the district’s newly-formed  grievance panel issued a favorable ruling for Battalia.  The Board then voted to increase his salary.  Patrons of the Saturday Pasadena Farmers’ Market will recognize the parking lot in the distance.  It’s amazing what 44 years will do to trees.

Pasadena Self Serve Post Office

When I first spotted this forlorn structure in a shopping center parking lot near Hastings Ranch, I thought it had seen better days.  The photo on the left proves it.  The caption in the December 19, 1966 LA Times read “Automated post office in Pasadena shopping center makes it possible for customers to weigh, stamp and mail packages and letters at all hours. Most varieties of stamps and change machines are available there.”