Friday, August 14, 2009

Shaped by Fire

Pasadena began life in 1880 as the Indiana Colony, developed and populated by high-spirited people who considered themselves on the right side of things. The right side of the law, the right side of history, the right side of god.

Known as “The Corners,” the intersection of Fair Oaks and Colorado boulevard formed the hub of this community, and produced a series of firsts: First school, library, market, telephone, power company.

In another first, The Corner’s own Fair Oaks was the first major artery through the three Denas. Traffic, such as it was, flowed southward to South Pasadena and northward to Altadena, in each direction for quite different reasons.

The northern flow was intended to service the quick and the dead.

Most of the quick were very quick indeed, and demonstrated this by making, or amassing or at least hanging on to, a fast buck. These millionaires were quick to build mansions, and quick to lay tracks along Fair Oaks, bringing the railroad cars up the hill and into their own backyards.



The dead can still be found (slow as they are) in the Mountain View cemetery, some taking a century-long breather. If you walk around the cemetery, you’ll notice among the dead, some of the erstwhile quick. But it appears to be a democratic kind of place, with many ethnic groups represented, and monuments ranging from mausoleums to a single stone.

Altadena burns, a lot and often. In fact most of the early history is written in flames. Half the fantastic mansions of the last century never celebrated their own centennial. And a quarter never made it to sterling silver. Maybe that’s why many of the wealthy pulled up stakes, both their own and the railroad’s. Of course, the depression didn’t help.

But given time, Altadena has been known to renew itself, rising from chaparral, or ashes, or poverty.

Our most recent real estate boom never reached the southern part of Fair Oaks, so neither did the bust. How can you bust what is already broken? Just bust it more?

But now I digress. You thought I was going to show you another smashed gas station or blighted alley. No, today, we dedicate to the quick. And why not? Speed may take you far and fast, but it will never take you past the finish line.


19 comments:

  1. I love KB's choice of guest blogger historian! Great historical info & other stuff here. I hope you come back soon.

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  2. Yes, I'm channeling AH, and you know how she likes to edit.

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  3. That was quick.

    GG

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  4. Speed sometimes looks like the only way, ……… or maybe should I say last way.

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  5. Hmmmm....I'm going to ponder your last line. Very profound. I may need a bit more coffee first...

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  6. There are some fancy houses up there. And some odd ones.

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  7. In all the time I've known you, I even imagined this other AH. That's OK. I like meeting new people.

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  8. This was maybe cruel! Playing with words can be fun, sometimes.
    I want to rewind to my original message:

    Don’t worry, I’ve speeded down to normal level now (day(s) ago), which some people find a little too slow.

    Btw: I don’t need any of your kindly recommendations.

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  9. Kind of spooky in these days of wild fires. Hope y'all will be safe up there.

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  10. I took a class once in California history over at PCC. I remember being told that one had to go to the third "dena" if they wanted to participate in the vices (drinking and prostitution). Don't tell Laurie.

    I thought those mansions were razed for development. This is a very different story and I love a good story. What is it with the rich and high hedges? Back in the day such a thing was unheard of. It was all about being seen and not just in a big ass mausoleum after death.

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  11. Actually PA, the population & number of houses in Altadena has not increased much at all over the years, relative to the surrounding areas. What I don't understand is why so many of the grand old places burned to the ground, and little houses like mine didn't.

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  12. I've missed a couple of your posts and I hate missing your posts. This one doesn't need my comment or opinion. I just like soaking it in. Like soaking in the history of the area in which we live.

    Every time I learn something new about the history of the Denas, I walk around with a heightened awareness of walking among the dead, and I mean that in the most delightful, delighted way.

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  13. Altadena does feel less regulated, more "western" than Pasadena.

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  14. I took a post-grad class once, back at de turn of de century, in world history over at PCC. That's WORLD history. I don't remember being told anything about wild AltaDena (or Alameda 4 that matter). Don't tell PA.

    But, do tell PA that P is over here cking out the 2nd act of AltaDena as a historian.

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  15. Ssshhhh - don't tell people about Mountain View Cemetery! It's a lovely quiet place to walk and shouldn't be ruined by too many live bodies.

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  16. I suppose I should have said 'too many quick bodies' in keeping with the post. That's how fear will ruin one's thinking!

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  17. I do believe you've taken hiker/biker vs. rocker/sitter to a new and epic stature.

    Maybe I'm serious here: dark and light, good and evil, illusion and reality--all those PAIRS that make up major concepts and themes. Why not fast and slow, it seems?--not so much anyway.

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