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Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

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Historical Highlights for Your Tour of La Crescenta

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.

For those who take part in Friday’s Celebrate La Crescenta 91214 tour, here’s some interesting history tidbits to make some of the stops on the tour just a little more compelling.

The first stop is Rosemont and Fairway where a memorial was dedicated to those who died in the 1934 flood of New Year’s Eve. The American Legion Hall, scene of much of the death, was situated just a few feet from this spot, next to what was then a dry wash. It had been built by Easterners who didn’t understand that these dry California streambeds erupted into violent torrents of water, mud and rocks every few years. At midnight of New Year’s Eve 1934, flash floods creamed the Legion Hall. The concrete channel before you was built in response to that flood. But could it handle a flood as big as the 1934 flood? Someday we’ll find out.

Next is St. Luke’s – so beautiful! It was built after a famous artist set up his easel across the street from its current site, then a vacant lot, and painted his vision of the church that would be built there. Accordingly, St. Luke’s was built to that painting. Wander the grounds and feel the peace emanating from the beautiful stone work.

Up the street is Two Strike Park, which was the brainchild of top Hollywood actor Dennis Morgan. He enlisted his A-list film star friends (such as Errol Flynn, Roy Rodgers, and Gene Kelly) to put on a series of celebrity baseball games against all-star teams of pro ball players, and the proceeds from the exhibition games paid for the park.

Ananda Ashrama is one of those gems that few know even exist. It was founded by a Swami Paramanada, part of the wave of “Indian mystics” who came after the turn of the century, a movement that gave America Self Realization Fellowship and Hari Krishna. Ananda Ashrama is a women’s order, run by nuns. Their leader today is a local woman, who was once the vice-principal at Clark Junior High. The Ashrama is a beautiful, peaceful place – a preserved piece of “old La Crescenta.” If you plan to stop by, make sure to exit before 6 p.m. as the gates automatically close at that time.

Another piece of old La Crescenta is Deukmejian Park, where the century old Le Mesnager stone barn overlooks a small vineyard. Here grapes are made into wine each year by volunteers with the Stonebarn Vineyard Conservancy. Vineyards such as this once covered the Crescenta Valley.

Next go by Clark Magnet High School, what used to be Clark Junior High and is now a science and technology high school. So who was “Clark?” Just to the left of the entrance is a photo and info plaque for Andy Clark. He was a midwestern minister who, after his retirement to CV, did so many good works, and was so loved, that when he died in 1938 they named the school after him.

CV Park is the next stop. From the early ’30s to the late ’50s it was called Hindenburg Park. It was a major German cultural center and on weekends, thousands of Germans from all over California flocked here for big festivals. The first Oktoberfest in California was held here.

Swing by Whiting Woods, the home of our first brothel, the “Pasadena Mountain Club,” which featured a bar with 10 shacks out back for the girls. During Prohibition a speakeasy located here was the site of an ugly racially motivated murder in which a black man shot a white man to death. The locals tried unsuccessfully to lynch the killer. Despite its sordid past, it is today one of the prettiest neighborhoods in CV.

Just down the street is Rockhaven Sanitarium, now abandoned and dark, but hopefully a future park. Peer in through the classic iron gates. If you stop by between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., a member of the Friends of Rockhaven will be onsite to offer some info about the property.

The last stop is the Woman’s Club, celebrating its 101st year of charitable works, and the American Legion Hall, in the very same building that got flooded in 1934 at Fairway and Rosemont. They simply picked up the shattered shell of the building and moved it here.

CV has a lot to offer, and its dynamic history is just one part. Enjoy the tour!

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