The Neighborhood Around Kimball Sanitarium

Last week I featured a piece by Dave Kimball, who grew up at Kimball Sanitarium, which was owned by his parents. Dave sent me something he wrote that described the neighborhood around Rosemont Avenue and Foothill Boulevard 75 years ago. It gives a view into what that area was like in the ’40s and ’50s:

“It was sparsely populated in those years. La Crescenta’s population was listed as 2000 in 1948. By the time I graduated from high school the population had grown to approximately 18,000. There were a lot of vacant lots and undeveloped acreage. My family’s property had a size of 14 acres, which consisted of my father’s business, a 45-bed sanitarium and associated buildings, our family home, an acre or so of orange trees, and two undeveloped parcels, one to the south and one to the north of the developed portion of the property.

“Our family home was on the far eastern edge of the property, on Rosemont Avenue. To the south of our home stood another relatively large property, which at one time was a hotel, but during most of my childhood was abandoned. To the immediate north of our home was another large parcel of several acres which our family eventually purchased. It was called the Reynolds property. The property consisted of one large home, several small cottages and quite a bit of undeveloped acreage consisting of trees, bushes and vegetation. Even though it was not our property at the time, we had permission to access it anytime. There was a stone wall separating the two properties but steps were built at some point allowing us easy access. My brother and I, individually and together, spent quite a bit of time on this property exploring and playing games. I have fond memories of my times on this property. It was also here that Alfred Clark, my adopted ‘grandpa’ lived.

“To the immediate north of the Reynolds property stood another large parcel where an artist Stephen Seymour Thomas lived throughout my younger days. I didn’t know or appreciate at the time that Mr. Thomas was a very well-known artist.

“All these properties were located on Rosemont Avenue. To the north of the Thomas property were a series of standard middle-class homes on both sides of Rosemont Avenue, but not as densely built or populated as today’s typical subdivision neighborhoods.

“To the east of Rosemont Avenue was another, more typical, middle-class neighborhood. As kids, my two siblings and I each made friends within families in that neighborhood but, due to our large property, along with being surrounded by other large properties we were more or less isolated from our neighbors.

“By the time I had left high school, our 10 acres was the largest remaining parcel in La Crescenta. (Four acres of the original 14 acres was sold a few years earlier to the Glendale Unified School District for the construction of a junior high school.) When my father decided to retire in 1962 he leased the remaining acreage to a developer, who demolished all the structures including our home, and built a shopping center, still the largest shopping area in La Crescenta. By then my parents had also purchased the Reynolds property and had sold it to the Mormon Church, which eventually built a chapel on the property.”

Overall a nice description of the development of that area post-WWII. It must have been hard for the old-timers to watch this fast-changing landscape happen.

Let’s compare Dave’s description to today’s layout. The Kimball Sanitarium would have been where today’s Ralphs is. The Kimball home would be Baja Fresh now. The abandoned hotel he mentions would have been where Citi Bank and Baskin-Robbins is. That hotel had been the old Silver Tree Inn, an opulent three-story resort hotel from the late 1800s. The four acres Dave said was sold to the school district would be the lower field of Rosemont Junior High/Rosemont Middle School. As Dave said, the Reynolds property became the Church of Latter-day Saints and its parking lot. The home of artist Seymour Thomas was just above that and is today a developed cul-de-sac.

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