Author Archive


How a Former Isolation Hospital Became a Public Library

How a Former Isolation Hospital Became a Public Library

You can read about infectious diseases at the Allendale Public Library, but you won’t contract one – I promise. Still, it’s a little unnerving that Pasadena’s smallest branch library was once used as a contagion ward for deadly illnesses, including smallpox. Built in 1923, the building began life as the Pasadena Isolation Hospital, became a research […]

Courage and Cowardice in San Marino

Courage and Cowardice in San Marino

  It was such a frightful torrent of abuse that it made her physically ill – sick enough that she had to retire from her job as a math teacher at Huntington Middle School in San Marino. “Filthy Jew – drop dead,” threatened one anonymous late-night phone call. “Jew, get out of San Marino,” read […]

The Lost Airport of East Pasadena

The Lost Airport of East Pasadena

The small Kinner Airster biplane soared like a hawk over East Pasadena. In it sat a 24-year-old woman in goggles and a battered leather flight jacket. The year was 1921 and the woman was Amelia Earhart, the soon-to-be-famous aviator. On a chilly December day, seven thousand spectators thronged the small Sierra Airdrome in East Pasadena to watch the […]

Pasadena in Song

Pasadena in Song

“Fair Pasadena, Crown of the Valley, Diadem set on the brow of the hills, Bright was the promise thy christening gave thee, And Fate, thy handmaiden, fulfills.”    – William Andrew Spalding, Snatches of Song: With Verses of Lighter and More Sober Moods, 1907 “Pasadena town is where I’m goin’,There ain’t no other town that […]

A Class Act

A Class Act

  Back in June, I wrote an article for the Pasadena Weekly on my great-uncle, Helmuth Hormann, who taught theater history at the famous Pasadena Playhouse drama school from 1949 until 1967. Helmuth, or “Tutti,” as my family knew him, died in 2001, at the age of 92, leaving behind a life of deep creativity, […]

When South Pasadena Was For Whites Only

When South Pasadena Was For Whites Only

“In South Pasadena, restrictive racial covenants, denying persons not of the Caucasian race the right to live within its municipal boundaries, are a matter of official policy. […] Of course, persons not of Caucasian ancestry will not be completely barred from residence in South Pasadena. The restrictive covenants specify that non-Caucasians may reside in the […]

Even More Ghost Signs of Pasadena

Even More Ghost Signs of Pasadena

In Pasadena, faded signs serve as emblems of the past. You see them on buildings, sidewalks, and rooftops—the enigmatic reminders of a time gone by. They may consist of a disembodied sentence fragment, a single word, or even a few mysterious letters. Standing in dissonant contrast to their surroundings, they add to the quirk and character of […]

Digging Up Secrets in Lamanda Park (Part 3)

Digging Up Secrets in Lamanda Park (Part 3)

“We wish to do the tourist who reads this book a good turn, having his comfort and enjoyment at heart; therefore we advise him to stop at Lamanda Park and make his headquarters for a day, or a week, or a fortnight, in this delightful spot.” – Over the Range to the Golden Gate: A Complete Tourist’s […]

Caught in a Zoot Suit Riot

Caught in a Zoot Suit Riot

June 10, 1943. An overcast and unseasonably cold evening in Pasadena. The time: World War II. The place: a street corner at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Raymond Avenue. It was the middle of the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles, and on this particular night, two African-American teenagers with a fondness for flamboyant clothing […]

Vintage Car Show for Dreamkeepers

Vintage Car Show for Dreamkeepers

It’s time to channel your inner Steve McQueen. This Saturday, Thorson Motors in East Pasadena will present its Second Annual Classic Car Show, featuring drool-worthy vintage hot rods from the 1930s to the present, all lovingly restored. The show is being produced by Great Autos of Yesteryear, with food provided by Pasadena’s Stonefire Grill. This is no ordinary […]

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