Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mountain Fortress

Read the whole post to find out why I sing the praises of Pasadena's Public Information Officer, Ann Erdman. Earlier today, I posted the color photo, with the copy below:
I love this fortress on W. Mountain St. near the 210 Freeway. It houses the City Yards portion of Pasadena's Department of Public Works.

But something else was there before Public Works moved in. The security guard I spoke to said nothing remains of the old place but the wall. She thought it was once some kind of "youth facility."

Reform school?

Can't find any historical information on the web. What do you know about it? It's a gorgeous old wall.
Here's an update from Ann, which she sent after a long day of meetings:

"Here are a couple of photos that look like they may be of the same wall. The caption for the first reads 'City Yard Facility circa 1930' and the associated address is 1050 Glen Ave."
"Glen Avenue runs along the east side of our City Yards. The first listing in the Pasadena city directories for 1050 Glen Avenue is in 1938 and is listed as City Street Department Yards. If that address had any previous function before 1938, it’s not recorded in the city directories.

As I mentioned in my comment on your posting today, there’s one article (Pasadena Star-News, Aug. 30, 1939), that states:

“Because of new rulings by the Works Progress Administration, it has been necessary to re-estimate completely its prison camp and park department project it was announced today at the City Hall… The project, which was originally estimated to cost $255,480, of which the WPRA would provide $210,520 and the city $44,060, includes the following improvements: Prison camp to be located within the walls of the park department warehouse and work yard, 1100 Glen Avenue administration building; and ticket office at Rose Bowl…”

The 1938 directory lists 1100 Glen Avenue as City Park Dept Plant."
The "second" photo shows a wall shaped remarkably like the wall in my photo. I put it right under mine so you could compare the two.

Ann, I can't thank you enough. Now get some sleep.


Laurie said...

I'm betting on brothel. No? Oh well...

Vanda said...

For whatever reason the wall made me think of Charles Dickens.

Dina said...

"There's something about a wall..."

A mountain fortress! Your imagination is running wild again, peeping and peering Petrea!

Shell Sherree said...

It does have a 'correctional' look about it to me ~ there's something about the height and those red bricks. Hopefully it was something cheerful instead!

Petrea said...

Too intimidating for the customers, Laurie. But safe for the ladies!

Rather Dickensian I'd say, Vanda.

Dina, I contemplated posting a photo of the red bricks head-on. I do like a good wall.

Maybe a school, Shell. I'm hoping.

Trish said...

Amazingly enough, I don't have a clue.

Though I have to admit, some of the walls remind me of a certain prep school on Madeline just sayin'

Margaret said...

Ohhhh. How mysterious. My mind is spinning: I'm thinking orphanage, I'm thinking Spencer Tracy as as the priest and poor Mickey Rooney, so troubled, will he ever make good?

Petrea said...

Trish, I was sure you'd know. I'd better hope Ann Erdman checks in today! Any other local historians out there?

Could be an orphanage, Margaret. That would be better than a reform school.

altadenahiker said...

Just a public works project during the depression? I've passed by this many times and wondered about the story, then forgot I was wondering.

Lynna said...

So many different hidden gems in Pasadena.. I wonder what it is though?
Thanks for the pic!

elizabeth said...

hmmm... the city directories had reverse-lookup by address sections until the 70's or so. Now I'm all curious. A Dickensian correctional institute sounds so perfect- but so non-Pasadena, too!

If Ann can't tell us, it'll be a game of who can get to the library first.

Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

It is insulting to refer to the former entrance and surround of Satis House as 'correctional'. It was nothing of the kind! Perhaps I was a bit harsh on Pip and Estella, at times. What is wrong with reformation? There. I am such a contradiction. Oh, Charles, what were you thinking?

If you like red brick and structures of this era, you might enjoy stealing a brick or two from the soon to be knock down of the Livingston. A beautiful red brick apartment building across the street from the Hilton on Los Robles. It is scheduled for demolition and it is of this same era-with similar artful architectural touches.

It's really quite heartbreakingly stupid. I don't understand it.

Petrea said...

Ha! I do that all the time, Hiker, unless there's a parking space. Then I take a picture and wonder about it later.

Hi Lynna! I clicked on you--I'm on your mailing list. Being with Hughes Estate Sales you must see a lot of the hidden gems in Pasadena. A few clunkers too, I imagine.

I'm hoping to speak to Ann today and see what she can tell us, Elizabeth. Stay tuned.

Miss Havisham I'm delighted to see you, even when you bring sad news. You're sending me on a heartbreaking errand, you know. Progress can be so despicable as to not be progress at all.

Anonymous said...

Please take a closer look - the livingstone is not going to be torn down.

Petrea said...

Miss H. and Anonymous: I've found a bit of info and will post it tomorrow.

pasadenapio said...

I'm here, I'm here! Busy day with meetings that went on forever.

I have a 1939 newspaper article that states: "Prison camp to be located within the walls of the park department warehouse and work yard."

I'm still trying to track down additional information on that specific wall in the photo. Hopefully I'll be able to do some sort of follow-up comment in the next day or two.

Katie said...

Love the brick and can't wait to hear more about what you've learned about the history of this place. I'm fearing you're right about it being Dickensian though.

pasadenapio said...

Petrea, I've just sent you a couple of historic photos of the wall along with some additional information. I'm afraid that's all I have.

toast said...

It looks like the walls at one of the private schools in my hometown... Maybe it's the schoolhouse brick red color that keeps it from looking sinister in my eyes? I always assumed that the one in my town was built to keep the sketchy people out and the kids in.

Ms M said...

It's fun to have a mystery. I'll be watching for the answers...

Pasadena Restaurants said...

An old school? Or Hogwarts maybe??!!!

J+P said...

That's arresting. Your blog gets better by the week.

J+P said...

Dina, it's the end of the day (here in California), so I'll impose on Petrea and paste in the poem you were thinking of:

Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."



Petrea said...

J, you might be surprised to know that Dina and I have discussed that poem before.

Ann, thank you thank you thank you for the photos and information. If my blog gets better it's because of contributions like yours. Those photos are thrilling.

J+P said...


Dina said...

Petrea, was that other post a YEAR ago already?! Time sure goes fast when you're having a good time blogging.
Thanks to J+P for the full poem.
I loved it as a youngster in America. Here in Israel where we now have a high and ugly concrete security wall since the intifada, the poem takes on added meaning.

Dina said...

Hey Petrea, I just made a wall post for you and J+P and all your wall-loving commenters.

Petrea said...

J, I forgot to thank you for taking the trouble to post one of my favorite poems.

Dina, it's a lovely post. Thank you!

Susan Manning said...

Lots of fun following this story/mystery. This is one of the reasons why we need this fun thing we call 'blog' we can chronicle and share and enrich, enlighten and question...and then answer.
That has also become one of my favorite poems since I took my ugly deteriorating fence down; one neighbor happy, other not. (shrugging shoulders..)
And, every town needs a Miss Havisham!

Petrea said...

Susan Manning, as I live and breathe! How nice. Migrating from Facebook to blog. Lovely to see you! (And I can picture you shrugging your shoulders.)