Treasures of the Valley

Memories of Early Montrose/La Crescenta – Part 1

I recently found a wonderful set of memories penned by Bob Potts in 1953. Bob was the son of T.O. Potts who in 1915 opened the very first store in Montrose at the intersection of Honolulu and Verdugo. That’s the building that recently housed the closed restaurant Benitoite. The memories have some fascinating details of the beginnings of Montrose and life in early La Crescenta. I’ll continue my plagiaristic ways by printing the words Bob wrote, with my notes in [brackets].

“In 1914 a man by the name of Robert Walton decided to be the first big promoter of this section [Montrose]. He conceived the idea of laying the streets out in circles, and to his everlasting credit, he laid them out wide.

“He had visions of a copious park, something like Brookside in Pasadena, that he located in the wash that lies along the hills east of Verdugo Road and that forms the west boundary of Vali-Hi subdivision. He laid out plans, constructed bridges, seats and tables from oak limbs and other trees.

“The construction camp that laid out the town was situated on the west side of Ocean View, between Del Mar and Montrose Avenue. The men lived in tents and to a great extent were Austrians, Slavs, etc.

“On January 15, 1915, my father, Theodore O. Potts, known as T-O, established the first business in Montrose, excluding of course the real estate office of Fred Anderson. This was a grocery store at 2200 Honolulu Avenue. Besides groceries we also handled all kinds of hardware, stationery, and general items … cheese, crackers, dried fruits, coffee and almost everything not contained in cans. Kerosene of course was one of our most popular items. In part of that white brick building was kept hay and grain. On the sidewalk outside was what I believe to be the first gas pump in the valley.

“In the spring of 1915 heavy rains fell, and curbs and sidewalks suffered heavily. No streets, of course, were paved.

“Quite a bit of advertising, for those days, was done for the new town, and Walton had throngs eating sumptuous barbeque feasts almost every Sunday. I might say that at this time there were but five houses in Montrose.

“At this time adversity stepped in, in the form of war, and things went into a tailspin. Whether Walton went broke, or wisely got out I do not know. I do know that he departed our fair valley, and except for the wide, curving and beautiful avenue called Waltonia, we have nothing to remind us of our town’s creator.

“Our one source of pride was the trolley line, affectionately called ‘The Dinky,’ which some very optimistic souls strung up the valley. It started at the intersection of Verdugo and San Fernando Roads [in Glassell Park], meeting the Yellow Car line from Eagle Rock [in Glendale], came up Glendale Avenue, straight up Canada Boulevard, alongside Verdugo to Montrose, and from there it arbitrarily hogged the center of Montrose Avenue to Los Angeles Street, now known as La Crescenta Avenue. Down around Opechee Way was a side-track that allowed cars to pass. As La Crescenta built up, the line was extended to Pennsylvania Avenue.

“The trolleys were the type with both ends open, and were painted an olive green. Later, in the interest of economy, the little one-man trolleys were adopted. These were a delight to the high school kids going and coming from Glendale, for with concerted bouncing, they could soon have the car leaping like a hooked tuna. Inevitably the trolley came off the tracks. Then too, the roadbed was about as smooth as a lava bed, and every time a car sped over 25 miles per hour, the trolley came off the tracks anyway. The motorman probably stopped and put the trolley back on the tracks fifty times a day.

“The roundhouse was where Anawalt Lumber Company is today. Also a repair shop was situated on Montrose Avenue just east of where Rosemont is now.”

More memories next week.

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