By Natalie MAIER
Did you know that inside Julian’s Dog Gone Cute store in the 3800 block of Oceanview Boulevard are old jail cells from when it was a police station in the 1920s until the 1970s? Or that the building that Polkatots Cupcakes occupies in the 2200 block of Honolulu Avenue was the first structure built in Montrose 100 years ago? Or that a town in Scotland inspired Montrose’s name?
On Sunday, Once Upon A Time bookstore hosted a book signing and walking tour promoting local historian and author Robert Newcombe and his new book, “Images of America: Montrose.”
The popularity of the book – and the author – is not in doubt. Released on Jan 21, Newcombe’s book had more presale orders in OUAT than “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” On Sunday alone, more than 150 books were sold.
This is Newcombe’s third historical book. He previously co-authored with fellow historian Mike Lawler, “The Crescenta Valley: Then and Now” and “Images of America: La Crescenta.”
Despite the chilly weather, more than 50 people attended Newcombe’s first book signing and walking tour of the afternoon at 2 p.m. at Once Upon A Time. Clad in warm coats, boots and scarves, the walking tour welcomed many guests from around the local area. Fifteen hearty souls attended the second tour at 3:30 p.m. that was led in the pouring rain.
After a brief introduction, Newcombe began the tour at the corner of Montrose and Honolulu avenues in front of the recently closed Rocky Cola restaurant.
He began by explaining how Montrose was born. In the 1880s, Benjamin Briggs bought 2,500 acres of the Crescenta Valley because the warm climate attracted him. In 1910, Robert Walton and J. Frank Walters teamed up to purchase 250 acres of land from Briggs’ daughter Irene Briggs Ward. On Feb. 22, 1913 the two men hosted a barbecue that attracted many land buyers. That day is commemorated as Montrose’s Founder’s Day.
The tour continued down Honolulu; every so often Newcombe would stop and talk about historical buildings, relay the back story of a certain landmark or tell an amusing anecdote. After passing Montrose Travel Agency, the tour circled around and made its way back to OUAT.
Newcombe has been coming to Montrose since the 1980s and has always possessed a love and fascination of it. Since 2003, he has been a member of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley. Former historical society president Mike Lawler helped encourage Newcombe to write the book.
“Last year, when I realized the centennial was coming up, I said to the president [Lawler of the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley] that we need to write a book on Montrose,” said Newcombe. “He said he didn’t have time and that I should do it. That was all the inspiration I needed.”
Newcombe gathered most of his information by checking old local newspapers, such as The Ledger, and speaking with local merchants in Montrose and the general area. Ken Grayson of Grayson’s Tune Town and Maureen Palacios, owner of OUAT, were both sources of lots of information, he said.
“I think that this book makes people aware of what has come before,” Newcombe said. “What I hope is that people will appreciate Montrose and want to preserve the small town atmosphere of it and not try to ‘modernize’ it.”
Lawler said that Newcombe’s book is probably the best reminder for the community that Montrose has “survived and thrived” for a century.
“I think people probably wouldn’t even realize that the community is 100 years old if not for this book,” Lawler said.
He went on to say that from reading “Images of America: Montrose” one would gain “a sense of place.”
“When you realize what your roots are, you feel more connected with the community,” Lawler added.
One thing Newcombe wants people to know is that the back cover text of the book is incorrect. The back cover explains that the streets of Montrose were planned to look like a rose – a common story. However, the real reason that the streets are curved is because the Eagle Rock railroad was extended to La Crescenta.
You can purchase “Images of America: Montrose” online or at Once Upon A Time bookstore in Montrose.