Different eras of Pasadena’s past are visible in the architecture found in all corners of town and one local historian says that city would look much different if the once-booming railroad that surged through the downtown area hadn’t been laid at all.
This time period in the late 1800s helped put Pasadena on the map as an ideal western United States destination for wealthy east coasters who could now easily and leisurely make the trek in comfort and style, in which their tastes in arts and culture and more would eventually stay for decades to come.
A virtual tour series hosted by Pasadena Walking Tours on Friday will take a look at decorative arts in Pasadena in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how the railroad and other forms of transportation during that period helped shape the landscape and connect early Pasadenans to the rest of the world.
“That direct connection that we were able to forge with the sort of cultured east coast of the United States allowed Pasadena very quickly to become, not just an agricultural community that had a lot of orange grow, but to sort of take a huge leap forward and become a massive center of culture and arts and sciences and culture. It really did affect things quite a lot,” said Julia Long, Founder of Pasadena Walking Tours.
The new series kicked off three months ago and includes interactive lectures followed by museum visits.
“I’ve always been a huge believer that all lectures and talks should have lots of images and videos if possible,” said Long about the new format designed to accommodate people who are unable to perform long walking tours. “So everything from the geography of the city and the way that the business district and the residential districts grew up as well as the interior furnishings of the houses,” Long added.
Friday’s lecture will be followed by a trip to the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
“Henry Huntington was a major player in the railroad in the early 20th century late 19th century and so his house really stands as sort of a testament to what the railroad was able to do “civilize” the West,” Long explained.
The development of the railroad on the west coast in the the late 1800s was critical to Pasadena’s development.
According to Long, the arrival of the railroad in the year 1885 subsequently brought a couple of Pasadena’s most iconic landmarks of its time: the Castle Green and the Langham Huntington Hotel.
“There is no way that those could have been built unless the railroad was offering sort of comfortable safe passage for people coming in from the East Coast or middle of the country,” said Long.
Travelers tended to make the long journey to Pasadena well before the advent of the railroad system.
“Pasadena started as a destination as for people who were sick,” said Long. “If you had tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses it was considered to be sort of the place to be to get well again, but then that sort of opened up a lot of awareness about it and once the railroad made it a lot easier to be connected, it was very much one of the top places to spend the winter season,” said Long.
The convenience of the railroad allowed vacationers to get to the city in record time, approximately two and a half days from Chicago and three and a half days from New York City.
“At that point, it makes it a lot easier for the wealthy people to come and spend the winter season and the resort hotel kind of grew up alongside that,” said Long. “Wealthy people could just sort of connect their personal rail cars which most of them had and just basically hitch on to the train and come to Pasadena,” Long added.
Those rail cars would often be filled with various goods and items that locals can see on display still to this day.
According to Long, stained glass made by the manufacturer, Tiffany Favrile Glass was a loved east coast commodity and was put in windows in various Churches throughout the city.
“All Saints has Tiffany windows that were brought over by train,” said Long.
“It was sort of the status symbol to be able to utilize these very highly coveted decorative arts object that were not at all available in Los Angeles or even Chicago for the most part, but had to be brought over from New York City essentially,” added Long.
The glamourous railroad line is now defunct and was officially closed in 1994, according to Long, who says it still has a new life of its own in the present day.
“The [Metro] Gold Line as it goes through Pasadena is actually for the most part on the same route that the railroad went,” said Long.
The Virtual Tour: The Effect of the Transcontinental Railroad on Pasadena Homes hosted by Pasadena Walking Tours kicks off Friday at 10:00 a.m at the Pasadena Senior Center located at 85 E Holly St.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling 626-795-4331.
The tour will be followed by a visit to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens to view the exhibition “Tiffany Favrile Glass” and additional admission fees apply.