• crowd of people listening to history of an area

      Jennifer Trotoux (L) and Mark Gallatin (R) speaking to attendees (Photos – Michael Siegel)

      On Saturday June 1st, the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation (SPPF), in conjunction with South Pas Active Streets and Twohey’s Restaurant, hosted a historic and architectural walking tour of the Raymond Hill area.

      By Michael Siegel

      The 90-minute walk covered the history of the Raymond Hotel, notable local architects from the area’s early years, and apartment design changes on the hill over the decades.

      “This tour allowed us to walk through a significant and fascinating chapter in South Pasadena’s history that has long since passed into legend, since the Raymond Hotel has been gone for 90 years,” noted SPPF president and tour docent Jennifer Trotoux. “But it also shows us how the redevelopment of the site responded to the housing needs of the community and the region through the changes of the immediate post-war period into the 1950s. We have some great examples of multi-family housing that illustrate these shifts and still provide pleasant neighborhoods and good housing stock today.”

      Originally named Bacon Hill and surrounded by citrus groves, the area was transformed in 1886 when Walter Raymond opened the hotel, forever changing the dusty small town. Saturday’s first stop on the walking tour was the Raymond Hill Waiting Station, an important remnant of the transportation infrastructure that allowed wealthy Easterners, celebrities, and even President Theodore Roosevelt easy access to the resort hotel via rail. Still standing today on the corner of Fair Oaks and Columbia, the waiting station, now used as cover for the bus stop, looks almost exactly as it did at the beginning of the 20th century.

      After a fire destroyed the hotel on Easter 1895, Raymond rebuilt a more extravagant hotel in 1901, but the second iteration eventually was foreclosed on and razed in 1934, a victim of the Great Depression and Americans’ changing vacation habits. Remnants of the hotel can still be seen today at the corner of Mockingbird Lane and Raymond Hill Road, where stone retaining walls line the street.

      As the tour made its way down from the hill, Trotoux and the tour’s creator, SPPF board member Mark Gallatin, pointed out the architectural designs of the newer types of apartments that were built post-WWII.  The earliest of these were four-unit buildings resembling single-family houses. They were built across the top of the hill in the late 40’s by Paul Trousdale, who would become a significant post-war Los Angeles developer. The highlight was near the end of the tour, at Edward H. Fickett’s Fireside Lanai (located at 1633 Amberwood Drive), where Trotoux emphasized the large expanses of glass, sweeping roofline, lightweight corrugated balcony fronts, and interior court centered on a swimming pool.

      “Ed Fickett designed some of the splashiest examples of 1950s apartment buildings in West Hollywood,” added Trotoux. “It’s a fun surprise to see him bringing that same Mid-Century Modern spirit to a South Pasadena hillside.”

      people exploring an area

      Raymond Hill walking tour (Photos – Michael Siegel)

      The tour wound its way back to finish where it started: Twohey’s Restaurant. Participants were greeted with free lemonade and ice cream sundaes as they chatted about Raymond Hill.

      “Walking back in time with the docents from SPPF was fun,” said participant Pilar Reynaldo of Pasadena, “They were well informed and taught us all a lot of what was once the Crown Jewel of Hotels in Southern California,”

      South Pas Active, who co-organized the event and advocates for a more walkable South Pasadena, focused participants’ attention on the accessibility of the area, both historically and today.

      “Before the tour, I’d only driven through Raymond Hill, and there were so many things I could only notice and appreciate once I was on foot,” said participant Katy Femia of South Pasadena. “It was a bit tricky to get around at times, since parts of the neighborhood are missing basic pedestrian infrastructure like sidewalks. I hope we see some improvements to make the roads safer for people who aren’t driving, so residents are able to get around on foot and enjoy their neighborhood even more.”

      “Great event overall, from the history and architecture, to learning about our street infrastructure,” added Reynaldo. “Looking forward to the next one hosted by South Pas Active.”

      For more information on upcoming walking and biking events in South Pasadena, visit southpasactive.org.  To learn more about the historic heritage of South Pasadena, visit sppreservation.org.

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