May-Lane Motel Memories
There are many buildings along Foothill Boulevard that echo the past, and the La Crescenta Motel on the corner of Foothill and Briggs is one of the best. Built in the late ’40s as the May-Lane Motel, it was one of several small motels strung along Foothill, then State Highway 118, the route north from Route 66.
When you turn into the driveway of this well maintained old piece of history, you step back in time 50 years. Movie and TV location scouts think so too, and film crews regularly use the motel to put their audiences in the setting of the 1950s or to create the atmosphere of a very small town.
Maynard Hine, who with his dad Glen and sister Alane, built and ran the May-Lane until 2002, gave me his memories of building this CV landmark.
Glen Hine had been a painter for 40 years, putting gold leaf on many of the great movie palaces of Hollywood and Los Angeles. Years of exposure to harsh chemicals in the paints had forced him to consider a career change. In 1946, he was driving down Foothill Boulevard when he noticed a big lot for sale at Briggs and Foothill. He explored the brush-covered property and was impressed with the view from the lot – all the way to Long Beach and Catalina. An idea began to grow for Hine of a home, and small motel, and a restaurant, situated right on the corner where the view to the ocean was best.
He purchased the lot and hired a bulldozer to clear and flatten the land. Water was a huge challenge locally in those days and privately owned water companies controlled local supplies. One had to strike a deal, often influenced by market pressures, and buy “shares” in the company to tap into their water lines. Hine bought several shares and began building a house to live in while he built the motel. In January of 1949, right at the time of the famous L.A. snowstorm, the house was completed and the Hine family moved in.
Anxious to start on the motel, Glen Hine gave his 16-year-old son Maynard $100 to draw the plans for the motel and to get them through the permit process. By summer of 1949, the building of the first seven units closest to Foothill began. Glen and his two teenaged kids knocked the walls and floors together that fall. Quality redwood was used throughout, and the only power tools were a single Skilsaw and an electric drill.
As the walls rose, neighbors began to stop in to check progress and asked Glen if the motel would be done by Christmas to handle their out-of-town visitors. Glen smelled guaranteed bookings and so of course said yes – and the race was on. Long hours after school and weekends, even nights under portable floodlights, were mandatory for the family, with a solid seven rooms booked for Dec. 24.
The last few days were hectic! The sheets and blankets were being laid on the beds literally as the first guests arrived but they made it! On Christmas of 1949, the May-Lane Motel (named for the two Hine kids – Maynard and Alane) opened in La Crescenta.
A second row of rooms was soon built, and the family happily ran the successful little motel. Unfortunately Glen died before the restaurant could be built on the empty lot that still dominates that corner.
Maynard and Alane and their families ran the motel until it was finally sold to a developer in 2002. They felt a strong attachment to the May-Lane name, and so as part of the terms of sale, they took the name and the May-Lane neon sign with them. A series of owners in the past decade have, for various reasons, failed to develop the property, and so it has remained a simple motel. The now-named “La Crescenta Motel” has done well financially with film shoots, and there are no current plans for anything different. Eventually it will be redeveloped, but until then, we’ll enjoy it “as is.”