Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

Mysteries and Questions on CV History, Part 2

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

Question: Now that the Verdugo Hills Golf Course has been declared an historic landmark, does that mean the golf course is saved from development?

Answer: Unfortunately, no. The developer who owns the golf course is still determined to build 200-plus homes there. The historic designation requires the developer to put aside a set portion of the housing development (about one acre) for a significant monument, and does add some further paperwork for him. But as the economy heats back up and housing prices rise, the developer will undoubtedly move forward with his plans.

If you want to preserve the golf course, check in with the website to find out how you can help.

How do I know if I live in Glendale-La Crescenta or unincorporated county-La Crescenta?

The civic boundaries are indeed confusing! There are several zoning maps online through the City of Glendale’s website that are very detailed. For the “old-schoolers,” the paper Thomas Guide shows the boundaries well. The two tried-and-true residency indicators I know are street signs and trashcans. If your street sign is white with black lettering, you’re in Glendale. If your street sign is blue with white lettering, you’re in unincorporated county. In Glendale, the trashcans are: yard waste – green, recycling – grey, and trash – brown. In the unincorporated county, the trashcans are: yard waste – black, recycling – blue, trash – brown.

The reality is that most of us think of the Crescenta Valley as a geographic place, a community as a whole. I’d say the average resident doesn’t know or even care if they’re in Glendale or unincorporated county.

What’s the oldest house in La Crescenta?

Naming the “oldest” house is a slippery slope for historians as build dates get murky in pre-building permit times. Theodor Pickens’ cabin was built in the early 1870s, but was moved intact up to a fire station above Altadena a few decades ago. Dr. Benjamin Briggs bought Pickens out in 1881 and built several structures on Briggs Terrace at the top of Briggs Avenue. Local lore has it that there was a water tower as part of Briggs’ compound. An old photo shows a high-spraying fountain in Briggs’ yard, which would have needed some water pressure to work, so a water tower would have made sense.

The bottom line is that there is a water tower that was built in the late 1800s on Freeman Avenue just below the intersection of Manzanita. It has been enclosed and adapted into the cutest little house, but you can still see that it was a water tower.

What’s the oldest house in Montrose?

Again, very hard to pin down! In what we think of as Montrose proper – the shopping park and the curved streets around it – there are a handful of structures that were built in 1914. Which was first, I don’t know. Regarding homes, three show up in 1914 photos. One was in the middle of the 2200 block of Florencita Avenue, torn down a couple decades ago for apartments. Another was on Glenada just above Montrose Avenue, and it too was torn down about five years ago for apartments. The last one is still there, almost 100 years old, at 2218 Montrose Ave! It’s zoned for apartments though, so it probably won’t last long. It’s in the county section of Montrose and has no protection based on its historic value.

Of commercial buildings, I think the oldest would be the old Glendale and Montrose trolley powerhouse, built to house the generators that powered the electric trolley. It’s still there, but is quite hidden from view. To find it, turn up the alley that is between Vendome Liquor and Furniture 2001 on Verdugo Road. It’s the first little cottage you come to, distinctive for its rock foundation and green paint job. It’s now a small office, but it was built to house massive 30-tone generators. A close second in age would be the curved building right on the southwest corner of Verdugo and Honolulu that now houses PolkaTots, the cupcake store. It was built in 1914 as a general store, and is virtually unchanged.

  • Michael W Love

    In reading your article with the Questions it reminded me that when we first moved to La Crescenta Residents were still allowed to Burn Trash in incinerators
    the AQMD made that illegal. My Dad being scotch did not want to pay for trash removal. He dug a Large Pit approx. 12′ x 12′ x 12′ behind the Garage where we would bury our trash. Until we filled it up and he refused to dig another. I still remember my uncle who was 7 Yrs my senior and lived with us dumped a large container of Kitchen waste on my head. Thanks for the memories that your columns have brought back too me.