Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

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The Elusive History of the Montrose Motel

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Steve Russell, owner of Interscape Construction at 2047 Montrose Ave. His office is part of a complex of cute cottage offices and residences. He wanted to know what I could tell him about his building’s previous life as the Montrose Motel, and about the building’s odd shape. I know little about the motel, but lots about the odd shape.

Mike Lawler is the former  president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at lawlerdad@yahoo.com.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at
lawlerdad@yahoo.com.

Its origins go back to the very beginnings of Montrose in 1913. Land sales in Los Angeles during that era were often tied to electric trolley lines built to bring customers to the new lots. The Glendale and Montrose Railway was built from Glendale, running up Verdugo Boulevard and along Montrose Avenue. Just above Honolulu Avenue, an offshoot of the line was planned to go to La Cañada, but was never built. Nonetheless a 30-foot wide curved swath from Montrose Avenue to Park Place existed on all the old maps and the path was clearly visible on old aerial photographs. Next to it, the trolley’s powerhouse was built to house the massive generators that supplied electricity to the line.

In 1930, the trolley went out of business and the powerhouse, the land around it, and the odd curved path of the proposed La Cañada spur were put up for sale. The first sold was a lot fronting Montrose Avenue where a dentist built his office in 1938. That building is now the beauty salon at 2037 Montrose. Sometime after that, perhaps just after WWII, half the long 30-foot wide lot was sold, and the Montrose Motel was built. (This is not to be confused with the Montrose Hotel, on Honolulu where Andersen’s Pets is today.) A long, skinny, slightly curving building was constructed. A few tiny cottages were built for it as well, and the old powerhouse was incorporated into the motel complex.

I don’t know when the motel went out of business. Today the long skinny building is the office of Interscape Construction, the entrances to the individual motel rooms still visible. The little cottages are charming small offices, the old powerhouse being one of them. It’s officially the oldest building in Montrose – 1913. Stop in and take a stroll around the gorgeous complex. While you’re there poke your head into Interscape’s office lobby. Thanks to Steve Russell saving it from a trash pile, the hand-lettered Montrose Motel sign proudly hangs on the wall. It reads: “Montrose Motel, TV, Air-conditioned, Kitchens, Daily, Weekly.”

Backtracking a little, I have updates on two articles I wrote recently. In the middle of April I wrote, “Turn-of-the-century Balloonists Crash in the San Gabriel Mountains” about a hot-air balloon excursion from Pasadena that crashed on a mountaintop, stranding its passengers for several days. CV resident Elizabeth Neil wrote to tell me that one of the balloonists, Harold Parker, was her grandfather! She said that family history said Harold had asked a girl to marry him, and she had turned him down. But she was so distraught by his disappearance that she accepted, and became Elizabeth’s grandmother. Elizabeth’s dad was fascinated by his father’s balloon adventure and he wrote a book about it in “Perilous Journey.” She dropped a copy off at my house (Thanks, Elizabeth!) and it’s next up in my “books to read” pile.

Two weeks ago I wrote “Mysterious Woman Lost In Pickens Canyon” about the odd five-day search for young Alberta McCreery in 1948. Reader Greg Curtis sent me her obituary! Turns out she just died at the end of December. Apparently after her adventures in California, she returned to the Midwest. She never married but became a favorite aunt and an adored member of the community. She was a musician and was very spiritual. Her family and friends started a Facebook page for people to share memories of her. I contacted them (haven’t heard back yet) to see if they know about this part of her life. She died at just the time that I got the idea to write her story. I wonder if her spirit was reaching out to have that story told?

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