Pasadena's Busch Gardens Property Still Transports Visitors to Days of Shangri-La Long Ago

Published : Thursday, March 28, 2019 | 4:52 AM

Busch Gardens in Pasadena in the early 1900s was like a Shangri-La on Earth, but remnants of that far-away world can still be admired today, a local historian will explain Thursday.

“Uncovering History in Pasadena’s Busch Gardens with Michael Logan” will be presented by the Pasadena Heritage at Maranatha High School.

Michael Logan, who will reveal recent research, said while the Pasadena Busch Gardens in its original form may be gone, modern developers did a pretty good job of keeping many of the rare trees and foliage alive for the generations.

The original Busch Gardens park opened to the public in 1905 and closed in 1938, but served as a model for the well-known theme park attractions of the same name in Tampa and Williamsburg, Va. But the original Pasadena property still grows untouched flora and fauna that conjures up a paradise of long ago.

During his presentation, Logan will mainly use images depicting then and now and he says there’s a lot to be learned.

“We’ll show the old pictures on the left and the new on the right,” he said. “You’d be amazed how much stuff is still there from 100 years ago.”

Adolphus Busch, co-founder of Anheuser-Busch Corp., and his wife Lily bought their winter home in Pasadena in 1904 and beautified the rolling property with rare exotic plants, water features and rare trees. A botanical wonderland, Busch Gardens became a tourist attraction until its closing in 1938.

Logan teamed with Gary Cowles on the Busch Gardens research project. They soon found they made a good team, and each took a different medium, with Cowles manning the website and aerial photos, and Logan and Cowles together taking an archaeological approach.

“Gary’s finesse was going to institutions of learning and fleshing out information I never would have looked for,” Logan said. “I was referred to Gary Cowles and that partnership just clicked,” Logan said. “We would meet every weekend and say ‘OK, this is what we got.’ And we compiled a very impressive amount of images and information about the gardens. And that’s how I got going. “

The research done by Cowles and Logan brought interest and in 2005 they put together an exhibit about the park at the Pasadena History Museum.

Logan is a historian by nature.

“When I was a kid my parents took us around to ghost towns, so I’ve always been interested in history,” he said. “I don’t have any kind of plant background but I’m interested in the idea that something big used to be there that’s gone, and it’s thrilling to go in and dig and excavate.

“For example, in one yard, the owners had lived there for 16 or 17 years and they had no idea that these massive volutes, or massive stone terraces, were in their yard, they were covered by ivy. They look like scroll-shaped giant bookends.”

One thing that modern developers can take a lesson from is the care with which structures were built into the historic gardens, he said.

“These developers did a really good job on this one,” Logan said. “It’s a perfect example for any of us to do. They showed respect for the plants and the features. So that’s a good thing right there. But now it’s really up to the individuals that live there if they want to maintain those features because it’s up to them to maintain. The vast majority of those residents know what they have and appreciate it. And I’ve seen over the years I’ve seen a lot of effort to maintain the stuff and not tear it out.”

Logan is doing a yet-untitled book on the Busch Gardens property, complete with photographs and “more Busch Gardens information than anyone could ever want,” he said. In addition to photographs, the book will contain maps and, of course, the history of the property.

The event runs from to 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Maranatha High School, 169 S. St. John Ave.

Free parking is available. The cost is $25. For more see https://pasadenaheritage.org/springlecture/

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