Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

When I recently wrote a column about CV myths, I received a lot of positive feedback. The only complaint I got (only half-serious) was from Robert Newcombe, author of the history book “Montrose.” He said, “You forgot to mention the myths surrounding the name ‘Montrose.’” He’s right, and in fact there are several myths about Montrose, and here they are.

1. Montrose was named after Montrose, Pennsylvania. Probably false. The naming origin of Montrose is convoluted and mysterious, and no one knows the truth. Briefly, the popular story is that a contest was held to name the town, and the winner named it for his hometown of Montrose, Pennsylvania. The problem with this is that the stated winner was not from Montrose, Pennsylvania. There are other myths that it was named for a novel by Sir Walter Scott, “The Legend of Montrose,” or that it was named so by local rose fanciers. Both sound like conjecture. My favorite is put forth by Robert Newcombe himself. He proposes that when the developer of Montrose drove to the Crescenta Valley each day from his office in downtown L.A., he passed through the intersection of Glendale Avenue and Montrose Street, next to beautiful Echo Park Lake. Maybe he just liked the name. Maybe it was that simple.

2. The streets of Montrose were laid out in the shape of a rose. Probably false. The circular streets were planned long before the name Montrose was attached to the development. And nowhere in their advertising do the developers mention that the streets are in the shape of a rose, and you know they would have capitalized on that! They only advertise that it had “unique street patterns.”

3. The Red Car trolley ran through Montrose. False. It was not, as many assume, the electric trolleys of the huge Pacific Electric (Red Cars). It was a tiny independent system, the Glendale and Montrose Railway. It ran between Glendale and Montrose from 1913 to 1930.

5. Honolulu Avenue was developed as Montrose’s business district. False. The developers intended Montrose Avenue to be the main street, with the “town center” at Ocean View and Montrose Avenue. That’s why Montrose Avenue was built so wide. It was only by chance that businesses ended up building along Honolulu in the teens and ’20s.

6. The Montrose Town Clock at Honolulu and Market Street has been there since the old days. False. The Montrose Town Clock is an instantly recognizable icon of historic old town Montrose, but it hasn’t been an icon very long. It was installed in 2005 as a gift from Anita Peet Geyer, long-time Montrose merchant.

7. Serial arsonist and former Glendale Fire Captain John Orr set the fire that burned down the old Montrose Theater. Probably false. Others and I have spread the above myth for years. The theater burned in 1987 during his arson spree, and he was the first fire investigator on the scene the next morning. It made sense that he torched it himself. But a year or so ago, a reader wrote to me about my allegation that Orr set the Montrose Theater fire. He told me that he had done some construction work for the Montrose Theater the year before the fire and noted burned wiring. He reported it to the owners, but apparently it never got fixed. Perhaps it was just an electrical fire as was reported at the time.

8. The jail cells from the old Montrose Sheriff station are still there. True. The old Montrose Sheriff Station at 3809 Ocean View now houses a dog grooming business. The barred jail cells in back are used for storage.

9. There are secret rooms above and below the new Starbucks at Ocean View and Honolulu.

True. That building was built as a bank in the ’20s. There is a big vault below ground in the back. The manager’s offices were upstairs, above ceiling level of the current Starbucks. The offices featured peepholes so the bank manager could spy on both the customers and tellers. Employees in the various businesses there over the years report that the building is haunted.

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