Hucksterism in the Birth of Montrose
As we run up to the 100th anniversary of Montrose next month, we’ll see a fair amount of flowery talk about its founding and growth. Robert Newcombe’s new book “Montrose” (on the shelves in just a couple of weeks) covers all that and more. But I’m a guy who likes my history flavored with both sweet and sour, so I’ll write a couple of slightly cynical columns here about the projections for Montrose that never happened, and were probably only dreamed up to sell a few more lots.
There’s no doubt that early promotions of Montrose were just a wee bit on the optimistic side. Take for example this news column from the Glendale News Press in August of 1913. The article is titled, “The Lure of Montrose,” and here’s a compilation of what the News Press reporter wrote.
The reporter boarded the Glendale and Montrose trolley car at Broadway and Brand in downtown Glendale for the 25-minute ride up the beautiful Verdugo Canyon to Montrose – “the city of the hills.” He wrote much about the tiny electric railway. The writer described how the rail line is free from curves and well ballasted, making for a smooth and gentle ride. He goes on to say that 13,000 rail ties had been ordered to extend the line. (In truth, there were proposals to extend it to Tujunga and La Cañada, but those never materialized.) Also talked about are the plans to broad-gauge the railway – move the rails farther apart to accommodate larger cars – and how the moving of the rails would be completed in one night, a Herculean task.
Another story told to the reporter is the one about the 40-acre park being created for the new residents of Montrose. According to the developers, it was currently being cleared of brush and weeds “among the big oaks,” and would be named “Aquadena Park.” It was said to have a wealth of shade, and was to accommodate a baseball diamond as well.
As we know from old photos, Montrose was a dry treeless place. We can only guess where this Aquadena Park would have been. Perhaps they were thinking of the little canyon that Indian Springs Shopping Center now sits atop. It had oaks and a small spring (thus the name Aquadena) but it was never designated a park and was privately developed as the Indian Springs Resort and Swimming Pool in the early ’20s.
There was a section in the article that talked about the new hotel to be built soon “on a commanding location.” That never happened. Also written about was the ongoing construction of the “Wilson Building,” presumably the building on the corner of Verdugo and Honolulu that until recently was the Slender Sweet Shoppe. (For a few sparse years after the founding of Montrose it was the only building in the business district.) Talk of the Wilson Building brought up the subject of building restrictions. According to the article, there were to be no frame buildings in the business area – all were to be stone, brick or concrete, and all were to have white fronts. In the residential areas, since every lot was a view lot, no house was to obstruct the views of his neighbor.
The reporter is then told that deciduous fruit trees such as pear, apple and peach flourish with no irrigation necessary. The water supply is “splendid.” Vegetable gardens can be grown “with water supplied by nature in nature’s own way” (whatever that means). The reporter then effuses that at one point, clear, soft and pure mountain water gushes out of the rocks, and that from Montrose, one can spot the homes of 11 multi-millionaires on the hillsides of La Cañada, and the mountains above never have snow on them!
After a quick tour of Montrose, the realtors sent the reporter back to Glendale with an armful of oleander blooms. The boosterizing reporter finishes the article with the counsel that Montrose’s current slogan of “Watch Montrose grow” will soon be changed to “You can’t keep pace with the growth of Montrose.”