Wednesday, April 16, 2014


How did poppies play a role in the early growth of Monrovia? It all began with increased options for transportation, one hundred and ten years ago. In 1903 the Pacific Electric line opened in Monrovia, offering service to Los Angeles. For the first time, it became possible for Monrovians to seek employment in the city, while enjoying the benefits of home life in the suburbs. Automobiles were also increasingly popular, apparently so much so that in 1904, it became necessary for an ordinance to limit the speed of vehicles on Monrovia’s main streets to a mere eight miles per hour. Imagine crawling up and down Myrtle Avenue at that rate! 

Monrovians also saw the need to maintain the beauty of their roadways. City officials spent five dollars on poppy seed to be scattered alongside the roads that year. Perhaps this paved the way for the Poppy Car, which was established the following summer. This railroad car traveled along the Orange Grove route and made stops of an hour or more at each station, allowing excursionists to disembark to explore the surrounding city and neighborhoods. It was said that Monrovia saw a thousand visitors per week thanks to the Poppy Car, and many of the excursionists chose to make Monrovia their home.

Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 92-93, 96-97.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Saloons, Tippling Houses and Disorderly Places - Oh My!

At the time of Monrovia’s incorporation in 1887, it was of particular importance to the city founders that an ordinance be established to outlaw the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquors. Ordinance No. 4, therefore, prohibited saloons, “tippling houses,” and other disorderly places. A saloon, however, was already in operation on Myrtle Avenue, so Deputy City Marshal Oglesby and several members of the city council decided to take matters into their own hands. As a group, they entered the saloon, and each requested a different alcoholic beverage – whiskey, wine, or beer. The saloon keeper served their drinks, and after the men had the opportunity to sample them and confirm that these were, indeed, intoxicating liquors, the Deputy City Marshal, a native of Texas, made the announcement, “We-all have incorporated and we-all don’t want you here. This place is closed – now.”

Of course, although this first saloon was closed down, Ordinance No. 4 did not prevail over the long term. Myrtle Avenue now boasts a bustling nightlife with multiple establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. What would our city founders have to say about that?

Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 65.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mules Did What Now?

Monrovia once had a unique mode of transportation. An influx of visitors via the Santa Fe Railroad led Louis Bradbury to oversee the construction of an additional line for those wishing to travel east from Myrtle Avenue along Lime Avenue, then north on Heliotrope Avenue to White Oak (now Foothill Boulevard). May of 1887 saw the debut of the Myrtle Avenue Railroad, which had a single passenger car pulled by mules. At the end of the line, the mules were allowed to board a trailer as gravity did the work for them on the return. One day, however, as the car picked up speed on the downhill journey, the driver lost control and was unable to make the turn at Heliotrope and Lime Avenues – now the location of the Monrovia Memorial Hospital, just south of Wild Rose Elementary School. The trailer toppled and the mules fell into the street, after which they refused to be passengers on the Myrtle Avenue Railroad.
If you would like to read more about the early days of Monrovia, History of Monrovia is available for library use at the Monrovia Public Library.
Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 57.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The First School in Monrovia

Have you ever wondered why Monrovia has such a strange shape? According to John L. Wiley's  History of Monrovia, it all goes back to the establishment of Monrovia's first school district. William Monroe, Monrovia's founder, desired that his children should have a school to attend. However, according to the law, there needed to be fifteen children of school age in a district in order for a school to be formed and to be eligible for county aid. Monroe had four children, and his brother had three more. Of course, this wasn't enough. A couple of families were located who lived further south, however, near the San Gabriel River, and they had five children between them. Their location resulted in the extension of the city's boundaries south of Duarte Road. With just three children to go in order to meet the requirements, Lucky Baldwin, owner of the Santa Anita Rancho to the west, stepped in. He “loaned” a family with three children to the district, and they were housed in a tent while the school was organized. Miss Anna Dickey of Pasadena, formerly a governess to the Monroe family, became the first schoolteacher in the district.
 If you would like to read more about the early days of Monrovia, History of Monrovia is available for library use at the Monrovia Public Library.

Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 45-46.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Francis Marion Pottenger: Founder of the Pottenger Sanatorium

The climate of Southern California was said to be ideal for those who suffered from tuberculosis, so when Francis Marion Pottenger’s young wife was stricken with the disease, Dr. Pottenger, a recent graduate of medical school, moved with her to California. Despite his tireless care, constant observation, and continued study of all published medical articles about tuberculosis, her condition worsened. Eventually, the couple returned to their native Ohio where Carrie (Burtner) Pottenger died in 1898.

The loss of his wife to what was considered at that time to be an essentially hopeless disease had a tremendous impact on Dr. Pottenger. He soon became a leader in the study of tuberculosis, and challenged previously accepted methods of treatment, such as exercise, in favor of rest. In 1902, he was on the committee that founded the Southern California Anti-Tuberculosis League, later the California Tuberculosis Association, and in 1903, he refuted a bill that would have excluded tuberculosis patients from the state, arguing that those seeking health in California should be welcomed.
That same year, he founded the Pottenger Sanatorium in Monrovia, California.

If you would like to learn more about Francis Marion Pottenger and the Pottenger Sanatorium, the Monrovia Public Library has a collection of local history books that are available for library use.

Source: “Pottenger, Francis Marion, M.D.,” Encyclopedia of Biography; folder: “Pottenger Family,” vertical files; Heritage Room, Monrovia Public Library, Monrovia, California.