Thursday, December 24, 2009

Memory and Christmas Tree Lane

Hmm. Now that I upload the photo it looks a little abstract. But click to enlarge it and you see it's a tree-lined street. Not just any street, but Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena, better known as Christmas Tree Lane.

I parked myself and my tripod in the gully at the end of a driveway to get this picture and the homeowner took a peek to see what I was doing. "Oh, you're filming," he said.

"Just taking pictures. Is it okay?"

"Oh sure."

"I wonder if you get tired of all this traffic," I said.

"Oh no! I don't mind," he said. "It's all about the Christmas spirit."

A couple of miles east there's a home where every Christmas decoration you can imagine is packed into one yard. It's bright enough to light the neighborhood, and you can hear the electricity buzz. People crowd around taking pictures and loving it, and I'm glad they do. But it's not my cup of tea.

I go for the simplicity and silence of Christmas Tree Lane. Just a mile or so of deodar cedars strung with old-fashioned lights. People drive slowly and dim their lights. It's quiet and kind of magical.

Those cedars were planted in 1885. A tree gets pretty tall in 125 years. I love this Altadena Historical Society photo of Christmas Tree Lane in the early 1900s, back when the trees were young.

Read the LA Times article or the links above first, to get a sense of the history. Then have a look at the Woodbury House. The Woodbury brothers founded Altadena and one of them planted those deodars (scroll down for old photos and a mention of the nursery where the trees were first planted). The house is still there. Well-hidden, but still there. And so are the beautiful trees and the sweet town those brothers planted.


Cafe Pasadena said...

Imho, the photo looks as much like a 4th of July work of art as a Christmas lighting.

Thanks again for braving the cold nite air, P. It seems only appropriate we send an Illinois girl out for these kinda missions. This allows me to enjoy the comforts of my dog house.

Shell Sherree said...

It is kind of magical. And I love the sound of the dimming of lights as people drive through. My cup of tea too, Petrea.

Katie said...

Beautiful lights. Have a wonderful holiday, and I'll say hi to Chicago for you today on my way through! (Unless I get stuck there, in which case I might have unkind words for Chicago.)

Monica Hubbard said...

Ah, Petrea - you bring us such lovely gifts all year 'round. Thank you!

Jilly said...

such colourful lights and interesting history as always. Love the name Christmas Tree Lane.

Wishing you and your loved one and that gorgeous dog a very merry Christmas, Petrea

altadenahiker said...

It's all here in Altadena, isn't it? (My gosh, all this time I've been mis-identifying the Woodbury House?)

Michael Coppess said...

Wonderful shot. Thank you. We've driven Christmas Tree Lane with our lights out and the sunroof open. Great stuff.

JM said...

Happy Holidays, Petrea!

Brenda's Arizona said...

Christmas Tree Lane - oh my, I have been searching in my brain for the name of this place! We used to drive down (sin headlights) every year, at Christmas time. Dad would drive us in the family station wagon - my brother, Iilya and I watching from the "way back" at all the trees and lights, the boy scouts directing traffic as all the cars creeped along. It was such magic for a child! And all I could think of was 'Candy Stick Lane'! But your links have led me to the answer! Oh, to 4 years ago, in the station wagon with the simple wonder of family all over again. Thanks, Petrea!!!

Petrea said...

I may have to go out again tonight, Cafe, to have a pic for tomorrow. Remember how cold it was across from City Hall last year? Brrr.

Shell, "the sound of the dimming lights" is an apt phrase. I don't know why but it's quieter when the lights are dim.

Katie, I fear for you. I hope you don't get stuck at O'Hare! Take a laptop.

Thank you, Monica. I appreciate that very much.

Thanks Jilly. All good wishes to you and yours, as well.

Karin, it's the one you pointed out behind the parking lot at the Community Center. Which were you thinking it was? After I left you that day I drove to it on the other side (north end of Madison) but didn't take a photo. You'd hardly recognize it--the world has encroached up to its edges. There's no longer a broad lawn--hardly a lawn at all. But if you imagine away the invading, lesser homes that surround it you can picture its loveliness.

Sunroof open, Michael! Wonderful. I take it that wasn't this year.

Thanks, JM! Merry Christmas to you.

Brenda, what a sweet memory. I didn't see any boy scouts, but there was a lone man in shorts, waving his arms and stomping his feet to keep warm.

Laurie said...

We finally took a trip up to Christmas Tree Lane the other night. I love the old-school lights. It was magical and wonderful.

Happy Christmas to you and John, Ms. P!

Virginia said...

So peaceful and beautiful. Bravo for getting in the gully with that tripod. Merry merry Christmas to you and John and of course, Boz!!

Cafe Pasadena said...

I was gonna go out the last 2 nites to try some nite shots in the neighborhood but, uh, 4 some reason or weather I decided to stay in.

I wood go with you again tonite, PDP, but I Do remember last December! I think my dog house will bee warmer.

I do think, however, you can pull one over on old Boz tonite!

btw, I'm suprised they haven't succumbed to the times yet to call it Holiday Tree Lane.

TheChieftess said...

Beautiful photo Petrea!!! And I loved the old pic of the same lane...our street is also lined with Deodors...we have one that was planted the year my hubby was's now about 250 feet tall!!!

One of my favorite aspects of the Christmas season is all of the lights...Honolulu Blvd in Montrose is absolutely spectacular at Christmas time...

Thanks Petrea for both a beautiful and thoughtful post!!!

Petrea said...

Same to you and yours, Laurie. I'll bet Little Bit loved the trees.

Thanks, Virginia. No red high heels for me. All my shoes are practical, for the gully-walking, you know.

Don't give 'em any ideas, Cafe. I understand why we wish each other Happy Holidays in America, where so many cultures merge. But those are Christmas trees, pure and simple, no matter what religion you celebrate. And they're pretty either way.

Thanks, Chieftess. Maybe I'll check out Honolulu Blvd. tonight. Though City Hall tempts me, too. The tree is always so beautiful. I may just roam and see what I can find.

I may not. Depends on how cold it gets. Tomorrow there may be another picture of Hahamongna on the blog.

Greg Sweet said...

If the place to the east to which you refer is at Allen & Mendocino, that is the "Balian House". The Balians are an Armenian family that made their money in ice cream.

Petrea said...

Thanks, Greg. I linked to the Balian Mansion in my 12/19 post, for those who want to take a look.

Greg Sweet said...

I guess I don't tune in often enough :(

AmyR said...

One word: PRETTY!

Have a lovely holiday Petrea. :)

Petrea said...

Greg, you tune in whenever you want to. I'm glad for your input.

Thanks, Amy! Same to you.

Ms M said...

Magical lights!
You and your family have a wonderful holiday together!

FA said...

Merry Christmas, Petrea. Thanks for another lovely post.

Dina said...

All your lights became shining stars! Beautiful.

Danial said...

Beforehand,happy Christmas .

Petrea said...

Thanks, all! Merry Christmas.

Steve said...

Petrea -

Great photo! And just think, that "gulley" you were standing in to take that photo was the beginning (or what's left of it) of Woodbury Creek!

- Steve

Colleen said...

Fabulous photo. You totally captured it. On Wednesday night we were in Altadena near the Balian house, and the over-the-top light show there made us all a little queasy. On the way home we drove down Christmas tree lane, and it was going back in time-- so simple and beautiful. It reminded our 16-year-old that we had not yet honored our tradition of watching A Christmas Story, which has the vintage feel of Christmas Tree Lane, so we went home and watched it.

Anyway, Petrea, you nailed it with that photo!

Petrea said...

Are you sure, Steve? The maps from LA Creek Freak didn't show anything north of Woodbury. If you look at the 1900s photo of Christmas Tree Lane there's no creek. Was Woodbury Creek already redirected by then?

Thanks, Colleen. Yeah, I know a lot of people love the Balian but it's not my style. Christmas Tree Lane is IT!