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Altadena, California Los Angeles County Photos and Information
altadena sheriffs department on horseback
altadena california vacation pictures
Pictured above are some of the officers riding on horseback, patrolling Farnsworth Park. Contracted for the city police protection, their approach is very hands-on and community friendly. A free summer concert at the park, an historic church and an Altadena store are also shown.


Altadena, California- Altadena is a beautiful community that's an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. Located next to Pasadena, it gets a portion of its name and a portion of its services from its neighbor to the south. Contracting services such as police from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Altadena has some schools to serve its community and also utilizes the public school system of Pasadena for its upper grade students.

 

When visiting Altadena, nature inspires you in a community close to the business centers of Los Angeles. As you drive along Lake Street in Altadena, you may notice fantastic architecture, a blend of old and new buildings and shops, and the towering San Gabriel mountains and Angeles National Forest that line the community's  northern edge with a few houses rising into the lower slopes of those mountains. 

 

Altadena is approx. 14 miles from Los Angeles Civic Center. Bordered by the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Angeles National Forest to the north, the Arroyo Seco and City of Pasadena on the south and west, and Eaton Canyon on the East. In addition to the summer concerts,,  The name Altadena derives from the Spanish alta, meaning "upper," and -dena from Pasadena.

 

What's especially enjoyable and known amongst its residents is the incredible musical talent that fills this community. Accessing and showcasing that, the summer concert series held at Farnsworth Park with free admission features some of the world's great musicians who find commercial success in L.A., Burbank and at the Disney Studios. Talents such as Valarie King, Hubert Laws, Booker T. White, Clayton brothers of big band fame, The Platters and many share their skills as expert musicians and composers at an annual summer series sponsored by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, Altadena division. There's a St. Marks Jazz Festival, as well, but when we called the St. Mark's Church to ask about it, we did not hear back.

 

In the evening as you look from the heights of Lake Street toward L.A, youu're afforded spectacular twinkling lights views of the Los Angeles basin. Altadena, the hidden gem in the hills, enjoys drier weather than its beach counterparts and as night falls, the woodsy fragrance of the mountains sweeps the air with a special scent that you can't help but breathe deep and enjoy. Altadena elevation ranges from 800 to 2000'.

Featuring spectacular views of the San Gabriel Mountains, Altadena was developed as a suburb of Los Angeles in 1887. It has long refused annexation by neighboring Pasadena. Like Pasadena, tall palm trees line the main thoroughfares and streets, providing a very Southern California look and feel. Another set of trees (Deodar) that were imported and planted in the late 1800's have actually been placed on the list of State Historic Landmarks. Every December a tree lighting committee decorates them with strings of lights, stretching nearly one mile along  "Christmas Tree Lane".

Historic Landmarks and Annual Events: Balian House Display - December; Old Fashioned Days & Altadena Festival - October; The Woodbury House (1882) State Historic Landmark; Mount Lowe Railway 1906 Pacific Electric Railway Substation No. 8; St. Elizabeth's Carnival and St. Mark's Jazz Fest.

Official tree: The Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara). Indigenous to the Himalayas, the deodar was brought as seeds to Altadena in 1883 by Founder John Woodbury who saw the beautiful trees in Italy. Two years grown the trees were transplanted to Santa Rosa Avenue where they now stand majestically as Christmas Tree Lane.

Official flower: The California Golden Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Indigenous to the southland the golden poppy was a landmark to Spanish sailors who recognized the area by a sweeping gold carpet. They referred to the marvelous vision as sabanilla de oro, "altar cloth of gold."

Points of interest
Christmas Tree Lane is a 0.7 mile stretch of Santa Rosa Ave from Woodbury Rd. to Altadena Dr. It has been a holiday attraction since 1920 and is the oldest large-scale outdoor Christmas lighting venue in the world. Each December, members of the Christmas Tree Lane Association festoon the 110 still standing giant deodars that line the street with thousands of Christmas lights. Christmas Tree Lane was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, and is a California State Landmark.

Among Altadena's Christmas lighting attractions is the Balian Mansion which collects world-wide tours for its Christmas lighting display. The Balian Mansion has been lighted since 1955 and is arguably the pioneer of home holiday lighting. The Balian Mansion is located at the 5-point junction of Mendocino Street, Mendocino Lane, Allen Avenue, and East Glenview Terrace.

The historic Mount Lowe Railway was once a scenic railway that carried passengers to as many as four resort hotels high in the San Gabriel Mountains above Altadena and Pasadena. Although the mountains and the remains of the railway are not strictly in Altadena, the most direct trail to the sites, the Sam Merill Trail, starts in Altadena at the top of Lake Ave and leads to Mount Echo, about 3 miles. Chaney Trail, just west of the intersection at Fair Oaks Avenue and Loma Alta St., is a forestry service road which leads to the old right of way. At pavements end one can choose a moderate .8 mile hike to the Echo Promontory, or proceed straight toward the site of the Mount Lowe Tavern, about 3.5 miles. The Mount Lowe Railway was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

The Cobb Estate at the top of Lake Avenue is now a free botanical garden of the United States Forest Service. It is guarded by its historic gates which are easily bypassed to allow visitors and hikers to ascend its long and winding paved driveway to the site of what was once Altadena's premier mansions. This is found along side the Sam Merill Trail which accesses Las Flores Canyon on the way to Echo Mountain.

Hahamog-na, a Tongva tribe of native Americans once lived in the Arroyo Seco. Chief Hahamog-na met General Gaspar de PortolĂ  of the Mexican Army in 1770. With the establishment of the San Gabriel Mission (1773) and the Pueblo de Los Angeles (1781), these California lands were claimed in the name of the King of Spain.

Home of Capt. John Woodbury, built 1882. Altadena is the northernmost portion of Rancho San Pascual as established by the Mexican Government in 1826 after they had claimed independence from Spain. California was annexed in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and became a state in 1850. The Mexican Ranchos were then open to settlement from other parts of the Country. Rancho San Pascual was settled by the Indiana Colony in 1874 and incorporated as Pasadena, a Chippewa name derived from a translation for "Crown of the Valley", in 1886. The highland areas, such as Altadena, remained undeveloped areas of the Los Angeles County.

In 1880, Capt. Frederick Woodbury, cavalry retired, and his brother John Woodbury of Marshalltown, Iowa, purchased 937 acres known as the Woodbury Ranch. John Woodbury established the Pasadena Improvement Company in 1887 with a plot plan of residential development referred to as the Woodbury Subdivision. To attach a name to the community, they contacted Byron O. Clark who had established a nursery in the foothills in 1875 and had since moved away. He called his nursery "Altadena Nursery", a name he coined from the Spanish "alta" meaning "upper" and "dena" from Pasadena. Since Clark had moved away, Woodbury asked if he could use the name Altadena for his subdivision. Clark agreed.

The original development rendering shows an Altadena Hotel, a railway yard that ran south to San Pedro and north onto Salt Lake City, and streets named for California counties running east and west, and avenues named for Spanish female saints running north and south. Some of these street names still exist today: Mariposa, Mendocino, Calaveras, Alameda, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Santa Anita. El Molino was named Santa Clara, Fair Oaks was Santa Margarita, Olive Street was Santa Barbara. Lake Avenue was named for a lake that existed in Pasadena, not Lake County. But names like Shasta, Humboldt, Tulare, Santa Inez, Santa Maria and Santa Isabela were never realized.

The first home built on the ranch was that of Col. Jabez Banbury in 1882, a beautiful Italianate Victorian home that was razed in 1919. Banbury was a neighbor and comrade-in-arms of Frederick Woodbury, who built his home on the Ranch two months later. It still stands at the top of Madison Avenue in Altadena behind the Sheriff's Department on El Molino. A plan to build a mansion for John Woodbury at the northwest corner of Santa Rosa was proposed with a long driveway leading up from the Pasadena limit. The drive was planted with two year old Deodar cedar trees grown by Frederick behind the house from seeds brought from Italy by John. This mile long drive of trees has become the world famous Christmas Tree Lane.

The new community of Altadena attracted millionaires from the East. In 1887 Andrew McNally, the printing magnate from Chicago and his friend Col. GG Greene built mansions on what was to become Millionaire's Row, Mariposa Street near Santa Rosa. Newspaper moguls Armiger Scripp and William Kellogg built side by side just east of Fair Oaks Avenue.

L.A. Terminal Railway was laid through town and then the land speculation boom faltered in 1888. Regaining strength as the word spread about the fantastic climate in Southern California, Altadena Country Club was built in 1911 and once had an 18 hole golf course. It is now the Altadena Town & Country Club. An airport adjacent to the country club was established by Cecil B. DeMille, the renown movie director. That airport no longer exists.

The Altadena Country Club Parks development, where the Balian mansion (of Christmas lighting fame) stands, was opened in 1912, and Altadena Woods, where the "president" streets are, was developed in the late 1920's. Famous western novelist Zane Grey bought the 1907 Woodward house near Marengo and Mariposa in 1920. Mrs. Grey helped establish the Altadena Library District in 1926, and was its first Board President.

Prof. Lowe's world famous Mount Lowe Railway, opened in 1893, became part of the Pacific Electric Red Car system until 1936, and the Red Car ran into Altadena until 1941. Gen. Charles S. Farnsworth developed an uninteresting piece of Forestry Department property at Lake and Concha in 1928 to become Altadena (now Farnsworth) Park. In 1934, the Recreation Building on Mount Curve, later to be named the William B. Davies Building, was added to the park through funding by the WPA. In 1938, Davies also secured WPA funding for the Altadena Library Building on Lake Avenue. The library moved to its present location on the corner of Mariposa and Santa Rosa, replacing the Col. Greene mansion in 1968.

The grandson of Andrew McNally, Wallace Neff, became a famous Southern California architect. He started his career in Altadena with the design and construction of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church ( parish est.1918) which was dedicated in October of 1926. A companion parish, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, was established on the west side in 1957. The Church at the northeast corner of Calaveras and El Molino was originally a Methodist-served community church until 1934 when during the depression a Baptist society took over forming the Altadena First Baptist Church. The Altadena Community Church on Altadena Drive just east of Lake was dedicated in 1948. St. Marks Episcopal Church was begun as a mission in 1909, but grew to finally building a parish church on Altadena Drive just east of Lake in 1948.

Altadena school, known as the Calaveras school has been at its present location, given some expansion, since 1906. St. Elizabeth Parish School opened in 1919. Eliot Middle School was completed in 1931 and named for Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard College. Eliot had visited Altadena in the past looking at establishing observatories on Mt. Wilson and Mt. Harvard.

Over the years Altadena has been subject to annexation by Pasadena. Annexation was stopped in 1956 by community campaigns though it has been resurrected several times since without success.