Modern Street Patterns are Rooted in Old Trolley Line
The Glendale and Montrose Railway operated from 1913 until 1930, finally killed off by the Great Depression. At its height, the electric trolley ran from its terminus at Pennsylvania and Montrose avenues, down through Glendale, all the way to Glassell Park where it met the mighty Pacific Electric Railway. My good friend Mike Morgan, currently writing a book on the G&M (Glendale and Montrose Railway), has revealed to me the modern streets that were formed by the development of this electric trolley route.
The main wagon road from Glendale going north was once Verdugo Road, which curves up the east side of the Verdugo Canyon following the contours of the terrain. Added later on the west side was Cañada Boulevard. It runs ramrod straight because it was originally built for G&M tracks (trains don’t like curves), and the auto road was added later. As we come up Verdugo, past Oakmont Golf Course and into Sparr Heights, we pick up the beautiful center median with its deodars and liquid amber trees. That, of course, was the trolley track bed in the middle of the road. After the rails were torn out and weeds began to grow in the abandoned center, trees were planted by locals to beautify the roadway. The deodars there today are those original trees.
Going past Honolulu, Verdugo becomes Montrose Avenue, gently curving to the west (again, trains don’t like curves). Montrose Avenue is ridiculously wide for a mainly residential street –one of widest streets in the valley. It was built that way to accommodate the trolley tracks down the center with auto lanes on either side. It ends abruptly at Pennsylvania, but was intended to continue across the valley and into Tujunga. Driving west on Foothill Boulevard past In-N-Out Burgers, turn right onto Tujunga Canyon Boulevard, and you again encounter a residential street that is unusually wide, with gentle sweeping curves and long straight-aways. It was built wide to accommodate the G&M trolley tracks down the center, but sadly the G&M never made it that far.
Back in Montrose, the G&M had planned a spur line to La Cañada and purchased a right-of-way coming off Montrose Avenue to the east. It’s still there, visible from the air, seen easily by pulling up Google Maps satellite view on your computer. Look at the block just south of Waltonia and east of Montrose Avenue. Amongst the rectangular lots of that block are a series of odd curved lots that clearly form a sweeping curve coming off Montrose Avenue. That was that right-of-way for the never-built La Cañada spur line.
Continuing east across Park Place, there is a house at 3834 Park Place that is weirdly long and narrow. It’s constructed that way because it is built in the railroad right-of-way that had been sold as a long, skinny residential lot once the G&M folded. The line to La Cañada would have continued up the hillside, which was cut away in the late ‘60s to build the Indian Springs Shopping Center.
By the way, Mike Morgan, a veritable encyclopedia of Montrose history, disagreed with the tone of my previous articles on “Hucksterism in Early Montrose.” I tend to have a jaundiced view of history, and I was implying that the developers of Montrose – J. Frank Walters and Robert Walton – were pulling a con job by promising a country club and Japanese gardens to prospective Montrose lot owners. Mike reminds me that they spent too much money building the G&M Railway and then weren’t able to sell enough lots in Montrose. They simply ran out of capital, and so were unable to build the promised clubhouse, parks and water system. I also implied that they snuck out of town after not delivering the promised features. Mike says the reality is that once they sold the “money pit” G&M Railway, they continued selling Montrose lots, but moved onto other ventures – Walton in Glendale real estate, and Walters as a rancher in Riverside. Neither Mike nor I were there, and we both interpreted history in different ways, a constant struggle for historians.