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Planning and Community Development Department



    In 2012, the City of Pasadena received a grant from the California Office of Historic Preservation, through the Certified Local Government program, to create a public information program about historic resources in Pasadena.  The program involved the creation of walking & driving tours that would be accessible in three ways:  a smart phone app, the City’s website and a printed brochure.  Each of these components is described in more detail below.  The primary goal of the project is to foster greater understanding of buildings and sites that are important to the City’s history and of the value of the City’s historic preservation program.  We trust that you find these materials to be informative and entertaining and welcome your comments on any suggested improvements. See the bottom of this page for contact information.

    “Historic Pasadena” Smart Phone Application

    intro2The “Historic Pasadena” smart phone app has three primary functions:

    1.  Search for any historic resources near your current location
    2.  Search for specific kinds of historic resources (such as architectural styles, works of a particular architect, etc.)
    3.  Follow pre-defined mobile tours created by the City and other agencies

    Each of these options will include the ability to obtain walking, driving or transit or directions to each point on the tour from your current location.  Information about each stop on the tour will also be accessible, based on data that is included in the City’s online database of historic resources, known as the California Historical Resources Inventory Database, or CHRID.  The smart phone app is available for both iPhone and Android devices and the full CHRID database can also be accessed HERE

    appleapp2 androidapp2  

    Website & Brochure

    intro1Below are links devoted to each of the mobile tours created for this project, as well as a link to download the mobile app.  A separate page for each tour has been created and may be easily printed from a desktop computer.  A color brochure has also been created that provides similar tour information, but most of the tours are shortened due to space constraints.  In addition to the tours developed for this project, the Pasadena Convention & Visitor’s Bureau has developed a series of tours that are accessible from their website, www.visitpasadena.com.  These tours will soon be accessible from the Historic Pasadena Mobile App.

    Historic Preservation

    The City of Pasadena adopted its first ordinance protecting historic structures in 1969 and has been surveying and documenting its historic resources since this time.  The City is widely renowned for its commitment to historic preservation and for the presence of numerous sites and districts that are significant at the local, state and national level.

    The City’s historic preservation program promotes the identification, evaluation, rehabilitation, adaptive use, and restoration of historic structures.  The program also includes incentives for preserving and rehabilitating historic buildings and sites.  For more information about the City’s historic preservation program, or to provide comments or suggestions on the Historic Pasadena app, website or brochure, you may email Kevin Johnson, Project Manager at kevinjohnson@cityofpasadena.net, call (626) 744-7806 or visit our public counter at 175 N. Garfield Avenue, window 4.

    Mobile tours

    Pasadena is considered the birthplace of the bungalow court, and this walking tour of South Marengo Avenue will show you a variety of groupings of small-scale individual housing units around a central focal point – a lawn, planted courtyard, or lamp posts – including some designed by leading Pasadena architects.  Although they represent a range of styles and layouts, these bungalow courts share a connection between their indoor and outdoor spaces that convey a sense of community within them.  In addition to the historic examples illustrated on this tour, look among their neighbors on South Marengo Avenue for contemporary developments that also incorporate this spatial connection between the buildings and the common space between them.  Some of the bungalow courts have been converted to offices, as have a number of the larger Craftsman homes, particularly in the 400-500 blocks. 

    Pasadena is considered the birthplace of the bungalow court, and this driving tour will show you 14 bungalow courts across the city that are individually listed or are eligible to be listed on the National or State Registers of Historic Places.  Some are groupings of small-scale individual housing units around a lawn or planted courtyard, water feature or lamp posts, while others are linear “half courts” on narrow lots, and one is an entire complex of bungalows on a one acre site.  You’ll see a range of design styles and construction, from the simple execution of the general bungalow court format, to the creative use of space, style, and landscaping – including designs by some of Pasadena’s leading architects.  Although they represent a range of styles and layouts, these bungalow courts share a connection between their indoor and outdoor spaces that convey a sense of community within them. 

    Pasadena has a unique legacy of historic designed gardens. Originating as an agricultural settlement, the Pasadena area attracted residents and tourists seeking a healthful climate and new opportunities. Pasadena was soon synonymous with its environment: tranquil orchards, vast estate gardens, and luxurious seasonal resorts populated with specimen trees, shrubs, and flowers.  Many pioneering landscape architects and garden designers, including Florence Yoch and Lucile Council, Katherine Bashford, Ruth Shellhorn, Thomas Church, Garrett Eckbo, and Lawrence Halprin, have designed significant landscapes in the city.  This tour features a combination of significant cultural landscapes that are either publicly accessible or visible from a public street. 

    This tour features the work of architects who were leaders in the development of Modern design such as Richard Neutra, Harwell Hamilton Harris, and John Lautner, as well as the prominent local firm of Buff & Hensman (some with their early partner Calvin Straub), one of the influential Case Study Program houses, and a rare example of an experimental design by Wallace Neff.  These residences include early examples from the 1930s as well as from the post WW II building boom in Southern California – expressing the era’s new sensibilities about structure, materials, and open plans, with efficient designs to meet family needs and tight budgets, while celebrating their connection to the Southern California setting. 

    It was in the post-World-War-II-era that dramatic shifts in commercial development occurred, largely due to the impact of the automobile. Historic downtown centers were abandoned for new regional shopping centers that were developed to serve the sprawling suburbs, and also in response to the automobile culture that enjoyed the freedom of new freeways and improved roads. This tour features non-residential buildings from the mid-twentieth century in various architectural styles including Streamline Moderne, Art Deco, International Style, New Formalism and Googie Style.  It includes commercial, office, industrial and institutional buildings and the work of significant architects including Edward Durell Stone, Craig Ellwood & Associates, Smith & Williams, Ladd & Kelsey, Periera & Luckman, Wurdeman & Becket, Armet & Davis and James Pulliam.

    Neon signs were popular throughout the United States between 1920 and 1960.  Pasadena has many examples from this period, the earliest of which dates back to 1926 (the former Bekins Storage Company Sign at 511 South Fair Oaks Avenue).  The City has surveyed these signs on two occasions for the purpose of protecting them as significant components of the City's history and development.  Many of the signs identified in these surveys, which were conducted in 1982 and 1990, have been removed; however, those that remain are included in this driving tour.  Those signs that are illuminated at night are noted.

    The ranch house was a response to Southern California’s history, climate and lifestyle, and had been popular since the first decades of the 20th century.   After 1955, the more rustic and picturesque Traditional Ranch style began to evolve into the Modern Ranch and then Contemporary Ranch styles.  In common with the tenets of Modern design, these later forms of Ranch design emphasized clean lines, structured forms highlighting undecorated wall planes and glass walls, and celebrated updated materials and technology.  This tour of the western half of the Pegfair Estates development shows its significance as an intact neighborhood from the mid-twentieth-century period, including its integrated site planning and landscaping. 

    On this walking tour, the rich variety of forms and detailing of houses from the turn of the 20th century expresses changing tastes and trends, as designers learned to adapt Eastern and Midwest styles to California’s climate, while responding to advances in technology and the greater availability of a range of building materials.  You will see examples of rusticated Richardsonian Romanesque, detailed Queen Anne, Prairie and American Foursquare, expansive Shingle style and Craftsman homes by noted architects including Charles Buchanan, Sylvanus Marston, Myron Hunt & Elmer Grey, Frederick Roehrig, G. Lawrence Stimson, and Charles & Henry Greene, as well as more modest examples of Folk Victorian and vernacular cottages.

    In these three Victorian-era neighborhoods you will see a variety of homes built in Pasadena's early years.  The Bristol-Cypress historic district is the earliest subdivision of the San Gabriel Orange Grove Association (1886), and its name remembers pioneer A.O. Bristol, whose home was located nearby.  The homes in the slightly-later New Fair Oaks historic district, one block to the east along Lincoln Avenue, are similar, with some showing the introduction of new themes in Pasadena such as the Arts and Crafts movement.  The Raymond-Summit district, nearby on the east side of Fair Oaks Avenue is characteristic of a more middle-class neighborhood and includes examples of high-style Queen Anne, American Foursquare, and Colonial Revival houses as well as vernacular buildings, with designs by noted architects such as Charles Buchanan and three early designs by architects Charles & Henry Greene. 

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