Tree Lane - Altadena California
Christmas Tree Lane in
Altadena is a state historical site on the
California Historical Register. The nearly mile-long street garners
a street sign pointing to Christmas Tree Lane on Santa Rosa Avenue,
where a grove of Deodar cedar trees line the street that lovingly
the holiday season each Christmas. The trees have outlived their age
expectancy of over 100 years and continue to delight young and old
each November - December. Community volunteers string lights
along the length of these trees for thousands of people to drive by and look at.
They are part of a tradition that's been around for over 80 years.
They herald the holiday season, bringing an old-fashioned Christmas
to the foothills of Altadena.
Altadena Library grounds
is where the ceremony begins on the 2nd Saturday in December. There
are speeches, children singing and then the tree lighting. The
ceremony usually is held from 5 to 7 p.m.
Christmas Tree Lane (actually Santa Rosa Avenue, between Woodbury
Avenue and Altadena Drive) in Altadena is one of the oldest Christmas lighting spectacles in Southern California.
It became a tradition in 1920 when a local named Nash decided to
brighten up the holiday with some lights on the quickly growing
Deodars that the Woodbury
Family, founders of Altadena, planted in 1885. Nearly 135
Deodar Cedar trees are decorated by the
Christmas Tree Lane Association in what's known as “Mile of Christmas Trees”
(containing 10,000 lights.) The oldest large-scale outdoor
Christmas display in the world is a designated California
Historical Landmark No. 990 (1990), and listed in the National
Register of Historic Places (1990).
Christmas Tree Lane at the base of the San
Gabriel Mountains, was established along the lane of deodar cedars
that John Woodbury discovered on a trip through Italy, and
envisioned for Altadena. His ranch hands transplanted more than 100
trees each 2-foot-tall running along both sides of a straight avenue
running uphill from Woodbury Road.
These very old
Deodars that came from
Italy in 1883 as youngsters, were a hit.
In 1920 Altadena resident and Pasadena businessman Frederick C. Nash
sought help from Pasadena Kiwanis Club
and from the City of Pasadena to light a quarter- mile section
of the roadway. Over the next few years the lighting expanded until
the entire row of trees, 150 in all, were lighted. The boulevard at
that time was referred to as the “Avenue of the Deodars.” Though
many pedestrians would walk along the lighted street, it was really
a spectacle to behold from the seats of slowly passing automobiles.
In 1927 the newer Altadena Kiwanis Club began the custom of taking
less fortunate children for rides along what they joyfully called
“Christmas Tree Street.” More than
50,000 cars traveled the avenue during the weeks of the lighting and
today, interest is still strong, but not without some historical
The lane actually went dark
for several years and the City of Pasadena dropped out of
participation as Altadena fought annexation from its neighbor.
The Altadena community
formed the Christmas Tree Lane Association (CTLA) and in 1964 Southern
California Edison agreed to help out by installing a permanent grid along the trees with
special throw switches in three intersection locations, all for free
(before the energy shortage occurred).
Christmas Tree Lane was listed in
the National Register of Historic Places and became California State
Landmark No. 990 for significance in its singularly significant social convergence of two relatively new
commoditiess: the outdoor electric light and the automobile.
Christmas Tree Lane is also recognized as the only botanical
landmark on the State Registry.
Southern California Edison no longer sought to provide free energy
in 2000 and the annual celebration was jeopardized.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Fifth
District, saved Christmas by spending discretionary funds to upgrade
the poor electrical wiring system and grid that lights the trees.
Some saw him as Santa Claus. He threw the switch on the lights and
everyone cheered in delight.
Christmas Tree Lane "Lighting Ceremony" is held on the second
Saturday of December, unless otherwise indicated, begins a two to
three-week tradition. The lights go
on at dark and turn off around midnight. The lighting continues to January 1st, or 2nd if its on a weekend. It has been
customarily lighted on January 6 for the Eastern Right faiths who
celebrate Christmas on the Feast of the Epiphany.
In 2009 rains caused the 89th annual lighting to be canceled. A
Winter Arts and Crafts Festival coinciding with the Tree Lighting or
some other civic event is usually held. The lights went on minus the
fanfare and are lit to Jan. 6. just without the ceremony. "We hope
to see all of you either in February when we start to take down the
lights or next year for the lighting," said locals who volunteer
their time to put this event together.