Mystery History No. 5

Dec 31, 2012

Mystery HistoryWhere are we? What is happening?

In the circa 1887 photo above, two adult males hang out on the back side of a barn that was used temporarily as living quarters.

During the building boom of 1886 to 1888, settlers were teeming to put down roots in the newly incorporated city. Many put up barns first — some quite fancy architecturally — and lived in them until homes could be built.

Pasadena looked like this in 1883 (looking north from Raymond Hill)…


1883 looking north from Raymond Hill

…and like this seven years later (shot from the rooftop of the Hotel Green):

1900 shot from roof of Hotel Green


Here’s an excerpt from my favorite local reference book, Pasadena: Historical and Personal by J.W. Wood, published in 1917, which can be found in the Centennial Room at Pasadena Central Library:

It was a strange overturning that began in 1886 and drove hitherto placid-minded, contented citizens to acts of frenzy and drew to the village of Pasadena thousands of boomers and speculators, turning the ordinary conditions topsy-turvy and firing the imagination of the most phlegmatic*…

…There had been occasional movements in real estate prior to the end of 1865. Now and then some one would drop into the village of Pasadena and buy ten or twenty acres of land and pay from $100 to $300 per acre, according as to whether improved and how. In 1886 there was a sudden stimulus; why, no one can exactly say. In 1887 Southern California, especially Los Angeles and Pasadena, was on the high plane of boom prices, and in 1888 — the beginning of that year — it had reached the climax: the blue, blue sky! Then it was facilis decensus, indeed! leaving numerous putative “millionaires” stranded, financial wrecks — dazed and amazed at the sudden and tragic conclusion of their dreams. This quick finish to their rose-hued visions was sickening and remorseless.

* Tuberculosis was a big issue back then. See a related blog post here.

Many thanks to Pasadena Museum of History and Pasadena Public Library.

Ann Erdman1 Mystery History Comes to Town Pasadena Star News Pasadena Circus Clyde Beatty and the Russell Brothers Circus Clyde Beatty Arroyo Seco Animal trainers  photo

Ann Erdman is happily retired after decades of loyal service to the City of Pasadena as the Public Information Officer. Her blog can be found at

1 Response for “Mystery History No. 5”

  1. Always fascinating, Ann. Thank you.



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