Treasures of the Valley

The Silver Tree Inn

I have written before about the original La Crescenta Hotel, which blew down in a terrible windstorm, taking two lives. The two-story hotel was located on the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Rosemont Avenue, a little behind Foster’s Donuts. It was built in 1887 and blew down in December of that same year.

Almost immediately the hotel was rebuilt in 1888, in time to host a Thanksgiving feast for 50 guests. It was bigger and grander than the first, renamed the Silver Tree Inn. Built of redwood, it was three stories tall, had columns in a Colonial architectural style and boasted 36 rooms. Entering from Foothill, one first passed a wide fishpond built of stone. Because of the sloping lot, the front porch facing Foothill was raised above the ground, and wood lattice covered the stone foundation. Continuing up the stairs to the front door, one crossed a wide porch and then entered the front door.

Entering the front hallway, the office was to the right while to the left was a huge social room. In it was a big fireplace and a grand piano. Hallways ran from front to rear on each floor with rooms off to the sides. Each room of the first two floors had an ample balcony looking out over the landscaped grounds. The third floor featured dormer windows on a slanting portion of the roof. The dining room and kitchen were in back in a separate building. Sadly we have no photos of the interior.

The grounds were lushly planted with a variety of trees, including the “silver tree” of the inn’s name. The silver tree was a sprawling Moreton Bay fig tree located on the west side of the building with a light grey, almost silver, bark. (It was probably planted at the same time as the Moreton Bay fig tree directly across Foothill in front of the New Star Realty building, although that one has been trimmed back significantly.) Rock-lined paths wound though the gardens.

Here is how the Silver Tree Inn portrayed itself in the L.A. Times in 1904, calling itself a “health resort:” “The ideal foothill resort for those seeking health, rest and recreation. Two hours carriage drive from Los Angeles through the Verdugo Canyon. Drive from Pasadena via Devil’s Gate through the beautiful La Canyada Valley. Carriage will meet guests at Pasadena by appointment.

“Some of the special features are: a thoroughly equipped up-to-date medical department. Absolute quiet. Pure mountain air (elevation 1800 feet). Ocean breezes during the day and mountain breezes at night. Beautiful grounds. Mountains on all sides. View of Catalina and Mt. Lowe. In the ‘heart of nature,’ yet easy of access. Not a tuberculosis sanitorium or hospital.”

All this for $7 per week, a significant sum in those days. I suppose it would be the equivalent of the “health resorts” offered today in Temecula or Ojai, remote and beautiful, yet accessible. And just like those resorts today attract the famous and wealthy, so did the Silver Tree Inn. Some of the names of guests are recognizable today but most, although famous in their time, have faded to obscurity. In the former category is Charlie Chaplin, who is said to have been a guest with his good friend, the socialist author Rob Wagner, who falls into the latter category. Also in the “was famous” list of guests was Ellen Beach Yaw, a top opera star known as the “California Lark,” opera and movie star Lawrence Tibbett and Jan Paderewski, Polish pianist and politician, and Thomas Lee Woolwine, LA district attorney and gubernatorial candidate who kept a suite there for many years.

As the Crescenta Valley moved into the Great Depression, it became clear the grand hotel was not going to make it. A family bought the rambling hotel for a pittance, lived there and operated a real estate office. It was briefly a boys’ military academy and then was repurposed as a cheap boarding house. It was torn down in 1960 to make way for the shopping center.

Today nothing remains of the Silver Tree Inn but the memory of a grand resort visited by the rich and famous.

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