Pasadena: An Introduction

History & Background:

After the horrible winter of 1872, the asthma-ridden Dr. D.M. Berry traveled west from Indiana to find a nice warm place to send his patients with respiratory ailments, and Pasadena is what he found. Eventually, this city became a popular tourist attraction and winter resort during the economic boom of the 1880s.


Fun Fact: The city was incorporated in 1886 just as a formality so they could officially ban liquor in the area.


When the city was incorporated, they chose the name Pasadena which roughly translates “of the valley” in Chippewa. During the naming process, they translated several phrases like Crown of the Valley, Hill of the Valley, Rose of the Valley, and ultimately named the city after a prepositional phrase, and botched the spelling and pronunciation to boot. Before the Great Depression, the area of Old Town Pasadena had many large resort hotels. Today, the only two resorts still standing are the Castle Green on Raymond and the Vista Del Arroyo Hotel on Grand which is now a district court.


Ironically, the large Castle Green structure we all know was only a small annex to the larger Hotel Green resort which was across the street. Due to the advent of the transcontinental railroad, transportation became more convenient and economical, and people began to move to the area. The 110 Freeway was built in the 1940s to connect Pasadena to LA, and the two were informally referred to as the Twin Cities. In fact, the freeway was intended to bring people from Pasadena into Los Angeles, but instead, had the opposite effect. This trend continued until just a few years ago when we began to see the Northeast and Downtown Los Angeles Renaissance.


Fun Fact: If you’ve ever Googled "Pasadena" before, you have probably seen results for Pasadena, Texas as the two frequently get confused. This is not a coincidence. After a Texas man visited the city of Pasadena in California, he went back to Galviston and founded his very own Pasadena in the 1890s. Interestingly, Pasadena, TX has a larger population than Pasadena, CA.


Pasadena Landmarks:

  • City Hall: For people who live in Pasadena, this is one of the first things that come to mind, and is easily the most recognizable landmark in the city. Mediterranean meets Spanish design, this building has been as a backdrop for popular movies and TV shows due to its close proximity to Hollywood.

  • Rose Bowl: The Rose Bowl game was originally added to the list of New Year’s festivities of 1902 in order to help fund the Rose Parade. Due to the inaugural game’s tedious “shutout” of 49-0, a second game was not played for another 14 years, and the actual Rose Bowl stadium wasn’t built until 1923. Before then, the games were played at the newly named CalTech (formerly Throop) campus.

  • Caltech: Let’s put it this way, Einstein taught here. This campus manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and is home to literally dozens of Nobel laureates.

  • Colorado Street Bridge: Today, we take the 134 and 210 freeways for granted, but before those were built in the late 1950s, the Colorado Street Bridge was the only way to cross the Arroyo Seco into Eagle Rock and Glendale. For obvious reasons, the bridge is referred to as “Suicide Bridge”. This bridge saw a lot of activity when Pasadena’s resort hotel business was declining during the Great Depression.

  • Pasadena Architecture: The Rose City is packed with wonderful architecture from craftsman bungalows like the Gamble House, elegant mansions like the Fenyes and Wrigley mansions, beautiful museums and theaters like the Pasadena Playhouse and Norton Simon Museum, St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, this list could go on for days.

Entertainment & Nightlife

If there’s one place that has it all (and there’s certainly more than just one), it’s Old Town Pasadena. This area has easy access to many freeways (210, 134, 110) which makes it an extremely popular destination for shopping, eating, drinking, catching a movie, or just hanging out in the park. Whether you’re looking for Asian-fusion, fine dining, Indian food, English pubs, sushi, wine bars, night clubs, or just a quick burger, Old Town is the place to be. Unlike other popular nightlife areas, there is literally a parking garage on every corner. Or, take the Gold Line right into Memorial Park. Beyond Old Town, there is the Paseo shopping center, the Playhouse District, and South Lake neighborhood. Each of these areas has dozens of restaurants, entertainment venues, movie theaters, and so on.


Urban Housing

Pasadena is one city where there is a plethora of urban housing developments. South of the 210 Freeway, stretching from Old Town to South Lake and beyond, there is a nonstop supply of condos and apartments all with countless places within walking distance to eat, drink, and be merry. In Old Town, there is the Holly Street Village, Avalon Del Mar Station, Palmero, DeLacey at Green, Messina, and the brand new DeLacey Place just south of Colorado Blvd.


Just to the east of Old Town is the very large and luxurious Terraces at Paseo. Beyond these giant complexes, Pasadena offers hundreds of smaller apartment buildings of which there are just too many to name here.

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