By Julie BUTCHER
“If you don’t celebrate your history, you don’t have a future, and this community has a lot of history,” said Crescenta Valley Town Council President Harry Leon, sharing his vision for the celebration of the Crescenta Valley’s 135th “birthday” event planned for the evening of Saturday, Sept. 21. It will be held at one of the area’s oldest buildings, St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church at 2563 Foothill Blvd.
“We want to put La Crescenta on a pedestal,” Leon said. The anniversary event is aimed at bringing together community members and organizations that highlight the vast and deep history of the Crescenta Valley.
Mike Lawler is a local historian and the former president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.
“La Crescenta’s birthday has never been celebrated before,” Lawler said. “This was inspired by the yearly ‘Founder’s Day’ event in Montrose, in which Montrose celebrates the first land sales in 1913. Harry [Leon] saw the Montrose celebration and wanted to inspire the same community pride for La Crescenta.”
According to Lawler, the Crescenta Valley was inhabited to varying degrees by Native Americans for several thousand years.
“Sadly, we don’t know what their name for the valley was,” Lawler said. “When the Spanish gained possession of the land, the valley was part of the much larger Rancho San Rafael. During the Mexican period it was known as Rancho La Cañada. When the first Americans began to traverse and settle in the valley it was known informally as ‘Big Rocks.’”
Dr. Benjamin Briggs in 1881 came from the east seeking a place to establish a hospital for lung diseases. He chose the Crescenta Valley. Besides his plans to build a hospital, he purchased and subdivided the entire valley and began to sell land.
“It was at this point in 1884 that Dr. Briggs first coined the name La Crescenta, based on the crescent shapes of the mountains he saw from his new home high on the north slope of our valley,” Lawler explained. “Dr. Briggs had chosen the Crescenta Valley as a place for the treatment of lung diseases due to the clean dry air found here. Other doctors followed with the same idea and established health resorts. This was the first industry of the valley, and many ‘health seekers’ established homes in La Crescenta.”
With the establishment of a trolley line coming from Glendale, a building boom blossomed in the 1920s. Building lots became smaller as the nature of the community shifted away from health resorts and ranches to single-family homes. The valley grew further post-WWII, as did much of LA. A freeway in the early 1970s made the valley “freeway close” to the rest of Greater Los Angeles. Today, 135 years after the community was named, La Crescenta has become a prime residential suburb of Los Angeles, added Lawler.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger is an enthusiastic sponsor of the anniversary commemoration. Her office donated $5,000 to the September event.
“We’re happy and proud to participate in celebrating the present and future of this wonderful community and its history,” Barger spokesperson Tom Bell said.
Tickets to the event are $60 each. Leon reports that there are remaining opportunities for sponsorships.
“The supervisor’s generous sponsorship is appreciated – the County and Supervisor Barger’s office in particular have been supportive of the concerns in our community,” Leon noted, “but it’ll only cover a portion of the costs of the event the way we envision it – catered food and music. We’ll use the proceeds to provide continued assistance to all of the local organizations we support, our scholarships and the youth council, and we’re considering targeting the proceeds of this event to support the programs of the VFW.”
There is limited seating available; for more information, contact Jo Ann at (818) 269-3295.