A few years ago, when the Montrose Trader Joe’s construction pace halted briefly, someone told me they heard it was because they had discovered an ancient Indian burial ground. That’s how myths get started. Here’s 10 myths I’ve heard over the years, some false, some true. Test yourself and see how knowledgeable (or gullible) you are about CV history.
1. La Crescenta is Spanish for “the crescent,” which describes the shape of the valley.
2. The valley was covered with trees before the first settlers arrived.
3. Famous bandit Tiburcio Vasquez had a hideout in Dunsmore Canyon.
4. There was once a proposal to turn the Crescenta Valley into a reservoir.
5. One of the greatest American authors lived in Montrose.
6. An airplane landed and took off from Honolulu Avenue.
7. Hindenburg Park in the late ’30s was the headquarters for the Bund, the American arm of Germany’s Nazi party.
8. Bela Lugosi hosted a party with hundreds of his fellow Hungarians in the Crescenta Valley.
9. There are three bridges across the 210 Freeway that have no streets on them. When the freeway was constructed, they were placed there for planned future streets that were never built.
10. One of the biggest rock bands of all time played a concert in CV.
1. False. Benjamin Briggs made up the word and added “La” to sound Spanish. The “crescent” part of the name was inspired by the crescent shapes of the ridges of the Verdugos and San Rafaels as seen from Briggs Terrace.
2. False. Early photos of the valley from the Verdugo Mountains show sparse growth on the valley floor. Only sagebrush grew, along with a few oaks to the south near the Verdugo Mountains. On the other hand, the San Gabriel Mountains had thick pine forests, particularly in the canyons. Those trees were logged out in the late 1800s and never grew back.
3. Probably false. In the 1920s, historian Will Thrall wrote that Vasquez had a hideout in the Crescenta Valley in Dunsmore Canyon. Thrall described that canyon as having a clear view of Los Angeles and easy escape access out the back of the canyon to Big Tujunga Canyon. Neither of these describes Dunsmore. Most likely Thrall, who didn’t live here, got his canyons mixed up. That didn’t stop a plaque from being installed in the 1980s at Le Mesnager Barn that proclaimed it Vasquez’s hideout. When Glendale developed Deukmejian Park, they quietly put the erroneous plaque in storage.
4. True. In 1892, a proposal was made to dam the Verdugo Canyon and sell water to Glendale and Los Angeles.
5. True. John Steinbeck rented a small shack on Hermosa Avenue between Rosemont and Sunset avenues for a few months in late 1932/early 1933. The house is still there behind an apartment on the north side.
6. True. In 1931 an airplane lost in the dark of night landed on Honolulu Avenue, miraculously missing all the power lines. It took off the next morning in front of a big crowd of onlookers.
7. False. Hindenburg Park was owned by a German-American cultural group that rented out the park facilities to anyone who could pay the rental fee, much in the same way the current CV Park can be rented by organizations today. On several occasions the Bund rented the park, or participated in activities there, but it was in no way their “headquarters.”
8. True. In 1937 Bela Lugosi was master of ceremonies at a huge Hungarian cultural celebration at the Czechoslovakian Hall on Orange Avenue, across from where Monte Vista Elementary School is today.
9. False. While there really are three bridges that cross the 210 that have no street traffic on them, they are actually enclosed flood control channels. One of them recently had a pedestrian walkway built on top of it.
10. True. In 1967, the Doors, just on the cusp of rock fame, were booked to play a concert at CV High School. Their powerful amps blew the auditorium’s electrical system on their first song. They next tried to play “Light My Fire” but the sound was so bad on the now crippled audio system that Jim Morrison got mad and walked off the stage.