What It Is: An 8.7-square-mile area in unincorporated L.A County, located between the San Gabriels and Pasadena, seventeen miles northeast of downtown L.A.
Elevation: 1,342 ft.
Ethnic Diversity: 39% Caucasian, 31% African American, 20% Hispanic, 3% Asian, 2 % American Indian
Median Household Income: 60,549
In 1882, brothers John and Frederick Woodbury bought 937 acres from the Indiana Colony (which founded Pasadena) and began planning a residential development called the Highlands, which they later named Altadena. This subdivision of Pasadena promised health and wealth, attracting Midwestern tycoons and farmers to build mansions and ranches. Sanitariums were numerous, as were olive and citrus orchards and vineyards.
While the conservative neighborhoods of 19th-century Pasadena were dry, Altadena took pride in its vineyards and its variety of locally produced wines (some of which managed to find their way down the hill into Pasadena’s hotels). Despite its disapproval of its wanton neighbor, Pasadena chipped away at Altadena’s borders, subsuming property for the increased tax base. In 1950, Altadena put a stop to takeover efforts, but it never incorporated as a city.
Then & Now
Starting with former slave Robert Owens, an entrepreneur who became L.A’s richest black man in the 1850s, Altadena has been home to one of the largest, most thriving African-American populations in Southern California. And it is the fictional home of Marty Culp and Bobbi Moughan-Culp (aka SNL’s Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer), music teachers at Altadena Middle School (which doesn’t actually exist).
Library: Altadena Public Library, 600 E Mariposa; don’t miss preschool story time, especially the ones with Pearl, the book-loving standard poodle
Park: Loma Alta Park, atop Lincoln—little used, with great tennis courts, playing fields and even equestrian facilities.
Theater: Farnsworth Park’s old-timey amphitheater (summer concerts) and WPA-built Davies Memorial building, on the National Register of Historic Places
Parade: February’s Black History Parade, down Fair Oaks
View: Take the 2.5-mile hike up Echo Mountain (trailhead atop Lake Ave.)
Hospital: Down the hill to Huntington in Pasadena.
Websites: altadenatowncouncil.org, altadenablog.com
At Mountain View Cemetery on Fair Oaks, actor George Reeves, TV’s Superman, slumbers near black activist Eldridge Cleaver, architect Wallace Neff and John Ransom (author of Andersonville Diary, the 1881 book about a notorious Civil War POW camp). Seinfeld’s funeral for Susan, George’s finacé who died from poisonous wedding-invitation glue, was filmed here.
Under Christmas Tree Lane‘s 140-year-old deodars, on Santa Rosa south of Altadena Drive.
What He Said
“That first spring, we marveled to see the slope ablaze with poppies and were told that ships steered their course by the bright color.”
–Rufus Fiske Bishop, recalling his first sights of Altadena, in 1858
Born in Altadena
California’s Boy Scout Troop #1, in 1919
Slept in Altadena (But Not Together)
Painter Charles White, actors Ivan Dixon, Sidney Poitier and Claude Akins, pulp-Western writer Zane Grey and Keystone Cop Fatty Arbuckle