The Pioneers of My Street
My wife and I have been very fortunate to live here in the Crescenta Valley. As historians of the valley’s past, we are even more fortunate to live in a century-old house. We even got to meet the woman who grew up in our house in the ’20s and hear her stories.
Recently while looking through old newspapers I came across a fascinating 1966 article profiling the first four families that lived on my street (including my own house) in the 2700 block of Altura Avenue. In 1966, after nearly 50 years, they all still lived in their original homes.
The first profiled are Albert and Nellie Cox. They moved from Indiana to Los Angeles in 1906, and then to CV in 1918. They came here, as did so many, for Albert’s health. The Crescenta Valley was famed for its clean dry air, which back then was the only treatment for lung diseases like asthma, bronchitis and tuberculosis. They purchased an acre lot, and pitched a tent to live in as they built their house. Materials were hauled there by horse and wagon. Native stone was laid for foundations by Joe Urquidez, a direct descendent of the Verdugo family. They had a beautiful view of the ocean all the way to Catalina.
Next were Ernest and Bertha Kliewer. Bertha came to La Crescenta in 1912 from Kansas as a teenager with her family. They cleared an acre of sagebrush and built a house on La Crescenta Avenue across from the schoolhouse. Bertha soon met Ernest and they were married in 1914. They decided to return to Kansas for a few years, but came back in 1922. They moved to a lot on Altura, near Bertha’s family, where they built a house. Ernest worked for decades at Bonetto Brothers Feed and Fuel on the southwest corner of La Crescenta and Montrose avenues, and probably walked there each day from Altura.
The Angiers, Carroll and Miranda, had a two-story house just down the street, now long gone. They came from Minnesota to LA in 1912, and to CV in 1920. They were both highly educated. Carroll Angier was a teacher and organized the first Boy Scout troop in the valley. Miranda was on the board of education.
Lastly profiled in the article are Mr. and Mrs. Valentine (Val) Findley. The Findleys were immigrants having moved to the U.S. from Scotland. They grew up together in the same neighborhood in Edinburgh, and were married in New York when they arrived in 1913. There they had two daughters, Vi and Nancy. They moved to La Crescenta in 1922 into the house my wife and I have owned for over 40 years now.
The two families, the Findleys and the Lawlers, have meshed. The Findleys celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary here in our home in 1963. My wife and I will celebrate our 50th in just eight years, most likely in the same house. The Findleys raised two daughters here; the Lawlers raised four.
When my wife and I first moved into the house in the late ’70s, we were able to look up the Findleys’ daughter Vi, who then still lived in the La Crescenta area. She told us that the house was as big when they moved in in 1922 as it is today. Yet when I look at old landscape photos from the late teens, there is nothing on the property, meaning it was built by someone just before the Findleys moved in. Our renovations show that the house began as a one-room shack, and was quickly added on to.
We frequently find remnants of the Findleys’ residence as we do renovations. We find children’s toys in hidden places, paper dolls, old newspapers from the ’40s line shelves we replace. When digging in the yard we find bottles, bits of metal and leather. My favorite find: Inside the wall of the garage was an old empty scotch bottle. Perhaps that was Val Findley’s secret stash.
To touch our history in such an intimate way is deeply moving. We have been fortunate to find this connection to the past.