Flowers of Marengo

History of Area:

By Maggie Valentine, 1984

(Note: Pictures and map refered to in the following are from Pasadena Historic Survey area #22. Contact the city or the Library to see copies)

Pasadena was founded on January 24, 1874 by a group of Indianans and Los Angeles investors under the name "The San Gabriel Orange Grove Association." Members of the colony intended to support themselves through farming and fruit growing. A real estate boom between 1886 and 1888 increased speculation and settlement. Schools, shops, businesses, a post office, a newspaper, and a bank were established, and Pasadena was officially chartered on June 19, 1886. Because of the pleasant climate, the city was advertised as a health resort and winter retreat. The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Railroad brought visitors to Pasadena from Los Angeles. Resort hotels and winter homes began to appear to serve wealthy Easterners, and houses and businesses were built for the expanding permanent population. The city prospered and grew as a haven for artists, scientists, and intellectuals who enjoyed its small town atmosphere and proximity to Los Angeles.

The area know as Monk Hill commands a view of the city in all directions from atop a steeply sloping hill. Originally part of the Wilson Ranch, the area came to be called Monk Hill following its purchase in 1986 by Henry G. Monk of Boston. Monk bought about 2,000 aches, including the "red hill," named for the color of the soil. With the land came rights to all the waters flowing into Millard's Canyon above its mouth.

In the early 1880', John H. Painter and Benjamin Franklin Ball acquired the land, bounded by Altadena on the north, Villa Street on the south, Lake Avenue on the east, and the Arroyo on the west, for $25 an acre. Painter and Ball founded the North Pasadena Land and Water Company. They later divided the land into approximately fifty to sixty tracts, and sold it at a sizable profit. Known as North Pasadena, most of this area was annexed to the City in 1904.

A friend of abolitionist John Brown who led an attack on Harper's Ferry in 1859, John H. Painter was a fellow abolitionist and Quaker, and opened his home for Quaker meetings. He donated lumber, land, and money to both causes, including aiding the construction of a Meeting House on Marengo Avenue near Orange Grove Boulevard. Painter Street was later named for him. His sons, Alonzo and Milton, built a horse-car line up Fair Oaks Avenue from Colorado Boulevard to Mountain View Cemetery in altadena. It ran past their three-story hotel on Washington Boulevard, built in 1887-1888, which extended from Fair Oaks to Raymond Avenue. Originally called the Painter Hotel, it was renamed "La Pintoresca.". "Pintor" means painter in Spanish, and the name referred both to the owners and the picturesque setting and beautiful architecture. The hotel was the northernmost of the tree resort hotels along Raymond; the souther two were the Raymond and the Green. In 1912 the hotel burned down, and the land was purchased soon afterward by the City of Pasadena for a park and branch library. (See #1 on the map and in the text).

Although the present library was not built until 1930, the neighborhood already had a small library started by the Women's Christian Temperance Union in 1905. It was the first branch library in Pasadena, and was housed in the basement of the Washington Street Methodist church.

The Methodist church is closely linked with the history of this area. The current church building at Washington Boulevard and Iowa Avenue was built in 1905 after the previous building was struck by lightning and burned down. The small hill to the southeast of Monk Hill, known as Crown Hill, was acquired in the 1880's by Colonel W.H. Harrison who built "the Castle." (#28) After passing through several hands, the property was purchased in 1922 by Mrs. George Robinson. A former university professor active in the Methodist Church, she gave the house and grounds to the church to serve as a home for retired deaconesses, naming it "Robincroft," a combination of her names (Boncroft and Robinson). Small bungalows built around the castle in the 1920's served as retirement homes for Methodist ministers and missionaries from around the world.

The highest rise, know as Monk Hill, was for years the site of the annual Independence Day fireworks celebration. Because of its ideal location and magnificent view of the city, the city considered making the site a permanent park. Architects Greene and Greene designed a large pergola crowning the hill and known as the "Shelter for View lovers." It was replaced by Washington School in 1924.

Washington School, the first school in the area, was called the "Monk Hill" School. Seen in the photograph below, it was located on Washington near Raymond. In 1888 a red brick school house was built at Summit Avenue and Howard (then known as Dakota) Street. This was replaced by Washington Elementary and Junior High Schools in the 1920's. Designed by Allison and Allison, the familiar tower atop the hill dominated the city skyline and is still a landmark. (#22) Generations of Pasadena residents graduated from Washington, including Jackie Robinson, the first black player in major league baseball.

Many people prominent in the history of Pasadena lived in the neighborhood of Monk Hill during its early years. Pasadena pioneer James Forbes built the house at 1393 North Marengo built their home at Marengo and Grand View Street. (#20) Judson F. Jones, secretary of the Pasadena Orange Grower Association at the turn of the century, built the house at 1443 North Raymond about 1=895. Alfred C. Howland, a nationally renowned 19th-century artist, retired to Pasadena and lived at 333 Howard Street (#19) The house later became the home of another well-known artist, Geraldine Birch Duncan, who lived there for about fifty years. Elizabeth Morrison Boynton Harbert was a nationally prominent feminist, suffragette, and friend of Susan B. Anthony. She and her husband, a prominent Chicago attorney, lived at 1671 North Raymond from about 1903 until the 1920's. (#6)

While Raymond Avenue still reflects its grand past with large Victorian and Craftsman houses built between the 1890's and 1920 and set back from the street, most of the houses in the neighborhood were built or purchased by working class families in the 1920's and 1930's. Howard Street, for example, is lined with small bungalows in a variety of twentieth century styles reflecting this history. Many early residents on the streets were firemen, as the fire station, seen in the photograph below was located at Marengo and Howard. The new fire station at 1435 Raymond was built in 1938, as a WPA project of the New Deal. (#2) With its new fire station, school, library, and dozens of modest homes, the neighborhood blossomed during these two decades.

The origin of the street names also reflects the neighborhood's history and development. Penn Street was probably named for Quaker William Penn by John H. Painter, and Iowa Street may have been named by Henry Rank, one of Pasadena's earliest pioneers who came from Iowa and lived in the neighborhood as early as the 1880's. Rank built the house at 1409 Summit around 1900. Marengo Avenue, which runs the entire length of the city, sloping steeply through Monk Hill, was named for Joseph Brent's Marengo ranch, which was, in turn named from Napoleon's victory at Marengo in northern Italy. President James Garfield, whose widow lived in Pasadena, was the inspiration for Garfield Avenue, while Raymond Avenue was the namesake of Walter E. Raymond, owner of the Raymond Hotel. Grand View Street was named for its view of the city, and Summit Avenue because it climbed to the summit of Monk Hill. Elizabeth (originally Cherry) and Howard (Dakota) Streets were named for Elizabeth and John Howard, who lived at Howard and Lake Avenue.

The streets themselves add beauty and interest to the neighborhood. Many of the street trees date to the 1920's and form canopies over the streets, uniting the houses along both sides. Howard and Penn streets feature mature oak trees, while immature oaks line Garfield. Young live oaks grow along Washington. Elizabeth hosts camphor trees, Marengo sports cherry and oak trees, and young ash trees are found along Raymond. In addition to the trees, many streets feature original arroyo stone retaining walls. Beautiful examples are found along Washington, Raymond, and Garfield. Remnants of decorative pillars and retaining walls can be seen in front of houses throughout the neighborhood, including those along Hoard and Summit.

Some of the buildings in Monk Hill date from the 1890's, and their architectural styles range from Victorian Queen Anne and vernacular, to early twentieth-century Mission, Craftsman, and Period Revivals, to 1920's mediterranean and Colonial Revival bungalows, to 1930's Streamline Modern and 1950's International Style. As you walk through the neighborhood, notice how the integration of styles reflects the changing history of the area.

1 La Pintoresca Park and Library, 1925; 1930
Washington Boulevard and Raymond Avenue

The site of La Pintoresca (Painter) Hotel, the land was acquired by the City when the hotel burned down. Landscape architects Theodore Payne and Ralph Cornell laid out the park in 1925. Many of the trees and plantings date from the 1880's, when they were part of the grounds of the hotel. The spanish Revival library, designed by Cyril Benett and Fitch Haskell in 1930, complements the 1925 Electric Substation, also by Bennett and haskell, at the northeast corner of the park. Clerestory windows in the central tower illuminate the reading room and circulation desk in the center of the building, which is laid out in a Greek cross plan. The library and park are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2. Raymond Avenue Fire Station, 1938
1435 North Raymond Avenue

This 1938 Mediterranean style fire station by Glenn Elwood Smith was a Works Progress Administration project of the New Deal. The large arches providing access for the fire trucks are flanked by iron lanterns, and the building features interesting detailing around the doors and windows. This fire station replaced the original one at the corner of Marengo and Howard.

3. Washington Elementary School 1922
1520 North Raymond Avenue

Arcaded passageways connect the classrooms in this Mediterranean style complex built around landscaped courtyards. Allison and Allison designed the elementary school in 1922 and the junior high school behind it (see #22) to replace the earlier red bric schoolhouse. The first "Home and School League" in California, the forerunner of the PTA, was organized to Washington in 1895.

6. Raymond Peen Court, 1890; 1930
1673-1693 North Raymond Avenue

This Mediterranean bungalow court was built around the ca. 1890 home of Elizabeth and William Harbert, the two-story building in the center. Mrs. Harbert was a nationally known suffrage leader. Eleven new units were added to the property in 1930, utilizing the same stylistic elements. Bungalow courts combined the advantages of private homes with the economy of multi-family living. Behind the complex is an underground parking facility. Entered from Penn, it is an innovative solution th the parking problem of a multiple-dwelling unit.

22. Washington Junior High School
1923-1927
195 Grand View Street

The Mediterranean style school complex with its landmark tower and red tile roofs crows the summit of Monk Hill. The main building, designed by Allison and Allison, who designed Royce Hall at UCLA, is built in a square with a landscaped interior courtyard. Entries to the building are marked by formal stairs and arches. The central octagonal tower affords a view of Pasadena in all directions. Additional buildings have been added over the years as well as a bridge across Howard Street, also designed by Allison and Allison. Following an earthquake in 1933, the buildings were reinforced and remodeled by Frederick Kennedy Jr. , in accordance with the original plans.

26. North Pasadena Methodist Episcopal Church and Parsonage
1905; 1913
119; 121 East Washington Boulevard

Now the Grace United Methodist Church, this unusual 1905 church combines both Mission Revival and Victorian Gothic elements. In addition to the two-story tower, Mission features include the corner treatments and plain stucco walls. Victorian characteristics include the accentuated verticals, high-pitched roofs, bareboards and wooden brackets and trim, and lancet windows. The Craftsman airplane bungalow next door, built in 1913, served as the parsonage for the church. While it is larger than most bungalows, its composition is that of a Craftsman airplane bungalow, with its prominent use of natural material, open porch, and extensive landscaping. The second story, set back from the first, creates a cockpit over the body of the house, giving this style its name.

27. Robincroft Drive Group, 1950-1957
270; 272; 280 Robincroft Drive

Good examples of California architecture and the 1950's, these duplexes represent the contemporary domestic derivation of the International Style, an architectural tradition which exploited the materials and technology of the time and emphasized the functional aspects of the building. Structural walls have been replaced with window walls expressing the freedom of the skeletal frame. Other characteristics of these style seen here are the minimal use of decoration and the materials used - concrete, glass, and wood.

28. Robincroft Castle, ca 1899
275 Robincroft Drive

This romantic Victorian-Spanish castle atop what was called "Crown Hill" is one of Pasadena's last surviving mansions form the turn of the century. The Castle was designed in the Spanish tradition and landscaped with beautiful gardens and exotic plants as well as a small lake, and was feathered in the Tournament of Roses Souvenir Book in 1910. Jane Bancroft Robinson acquired the site in 1922 and transformed it into a retirement home for Methodist deaconesses and missionaries renaming it Robincroft. The lot, which once extended to Washington Boulevard, Garfield Avenue, Marengo Avenue and Grand View Street, was subdivided, and a number of bungalows were built on the property as a part of Robincroft. Most of these were eventually sold. The complex, which includes later additions, was acquired by a private corporation in 1980 to provide a retirement home for the community.

29. Charleston Terrace Court, 1939
393 East Washington Boulevard

This unique Modern bungalow court applied popular Streamlined detailing of the 1930's to the bungalow court for prevalent in Pasadena. The twelve units are united by a common tree-lined courtyard down the center. Streamlined details include the curved window bays with recessed lighting, smooth stucco walls, pipe railing ornamentation, and decorative mail slots. The sleek surfaces, curved lines, and horizontal emphasis of Streamline Modern celebrated the machine aesthetic, especially transportation machines, during the Depression decade.

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