Friday, September 18, 2015



The current library, opened on May 16, 2009, was designed by Gonzalez Goodale Architects to be the striking showpiece of Old Town Monrovia. With its slim profile, it nestles between the old trees Library Park is famous for. Inside there is a spacious central atrium and clerestory to allow maximum natural light into the building. The building is 28,000 square feet and cost just under the 16 million dollars Monrovia residents voted on as a bond issue in March 2007.

Yamada furniture and shelving
Bernards was Construction Manager for the new LEED® Silver library. The Library and Library Park are Monrovia’s first U.S. Green Building Council LEED® certified facilities.
Sustainable cork flooring covers the main portion of the building, while carpets that contain up to 49% pre-consumer recycled content, cover the Youth areas and Community Room. Low or no-VOC paint and sealants were used, and energy efficient lighting is featured throughout. The steel used in construction contains at least 25% recycled materials, the HVAC system is high-efficiency and the building features a cool roof to reflect the sun’s energy away from the building.
Warren Hile furniture in the Large Print Collection alcove
Even the furniture uses recycled content. The furniture for the public is designed by Yamada Enterprises; for the staff workroom by Tangram Designs. Craftsman style Heritage Room cabinets, tables and chairs, and the furniture in the entrance tunnel were designed specifically for the Library by Warren Hile of Hile Studio.

Warren Hile furniture and cabinets in the Heritage Room

Lawrence R. Moss & Associates of Glendale designed landscaping to be drought tolerant and easily sustainable.

For more pictures of the Library and Library Park, visit our Flickr site.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Family History Research at the Monrovia Public Library

You are not alone if an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? or Genealogy Roadshow got you thinking about your own family history. How can you get started on your search?

1.          Gather information at home. The sources you have at home, or at the homes of your family members, may include family photographs, scrapbooks, letters, diaries, Bibles, obituaries, funeral cards, or birth, marriage, and death certificates. All of these are pieces of the puzzle of your family history. If you come up empty handed, reach out to relatives.

2.            Talk to your family members. Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles about their childhoods, what they remember about their own parents and grandparents, and what family stories they may have been told. Some family stories are passed down for generations! Be sure to record your interview – many phones can do this – or take notes.

3.            Record your information. Start with yourself and work back in time to fill in a family tree or pedigree chart with the names and dates that you already know. If you prefer not to work with paper and pencil, there are several computer software programs available.

4.            Focus your research. Review your information and note where there might be gaps that need to be filled. What questions do you want to answer about your ancestors’ lives? In order to stay on track, focus on one individual, family, or surname at a time.

5.            Search online. There are countless websites and databases that can help you find your ancestors, and while many are free, some require subscriptions. A world of information is at your fingertips, including ship passenger lists, census records, city directories, military records, historic newspapers, gravestones, photographs, and vital records.

6.            Search offline. While more information is online every day, you may find that you need to turn to libraries, archives, courthouses, and historical societies as well. You may also choose to view records on microfilm at your local Family History Center. Eventually, you might decide to travel to see the places where your ancestors lived for yourself.

7.            Organize your research. Whether you use paper files, computer software, or both, organize the information that you find and be sure to cite each source as precisely as possible. You will also want to keep a record of which sources you have searched.

8.            Share! Don’t keep your hard work to yourself. Consider creating an online family tree, website, blog, or even a book or scrapbook to share with your family members in order to document the fascinating stories you have found. The next generation will thank you!

The Monrovia Public Library has a number of resources to assist you in your research. Check out some of our new titles on genealogy, including The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy, Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques, The Family Photo Detective, and How to Archive Family Keepsakes. For those with roots in Monrovia, ask at the Adult Services desk about viewing our city directories and historic newspapers. And of course, library card holders are welcome to use our computers to access and other free genealogy databases.

Friday, August 7, 2015


A relic of the past will be around for awhile to see the future. Monrovia Historic Preservation Group (MOPHG) and a private citizen stepped forward to save the last remaining vestige of Monrovia's horse and buggy past. The carriage barn, built in 1890, was slated for demolition when the new owners of the property wanted to build a second house on their lot. MOPHG members pledged money to move the barn to a new site and a private owner agreed to house the barn and pay for reconstruction. Jimmy Hendrix coordinated the move and restoration. A small celebration for the completion of the project was held on Saturday, July 4, 2015. Pictures courtesy Ms. Annette. They were taken before the completion of the barn.

Story based on article appearing in Monrovia Weekly, July 2-8, 2015, pages 1 & 12.


This is a quick random facts about Monrovia section. The question: DID YOU KNOW?

1.  Monrovia had its own marching band, started in 1889 by avid musician Albert E. Cronenwett. Mr. C. owned a jewelry store and optician shop and played the cornet. The band was affectionately known as Cronie's Band.

2.  Continuing in the musical vein, Monrovia has not one, but two orchestras. Both were formed in 1906. The Apollo Club started one of the orchestras and the other was called the Aeolian Orchestra.

3.  Monrovia had its own airport, originally called the Foothill Flying Club before being named Monrovia Airport. It operated from 1928 - 1953.

4.  Two brothers started a juice stand near the airport and called it the Airdrome. By 1940, they moved their operation to San Bernardino under the now ubiquitous name, McDonald's.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Monrovia - Incorporated 4th in Los Angeles County

You may have heard it from time to time: Monrovia is the fourth oldest city in Los Angeles County. Well - yes and no. It certainly and definitively was the 4th city to be incorporated in the County, after Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Santa Monica. But it was not the fourth city founded in the County. A cursory noodling around yielded many cities that were around before Monrovia was a gleam in William Monroe's eye.

Los Angeles:  1781
Baldwin Park, formerly known as Vineland:  1860
Compton:  1869

Then the County woke up and got busy. 1874 was a very popular year with the founding of Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Alhambra, followed in 1875 by Pomona and 1878 by South Pasadena. Covina was founded in 1882, with La Puente hard on its heels in 1884.

By 1886, when Monrovia was founded, a veritable landslide of towns popped up and by the time Monrovia incorporated in 1887, the County was well on its way to the full complement of 88 cities we have today.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Quick - what two Presidents of the United States visited Monrovia? The first was President William Howard Taft who made a brief whistle-stop appearance in 1909. The second was President William Jefferson Clinton, who spoke at Monrovia High School on July 22, 1996.

President Taft's train in Monrovia 1909
Perhaps even more intriguing, is Congressional candidate Richard M. Nixon. According to Charles F. Davis in the Monrovia-Duarte Community Book, Nixon was a frequent visitor to Monrovia even after he became Vice President. He mentions the debate between Nixon and Jerry Voorhis as taking place in the Monrovia High School, and later the Nixons entertaining at the Woman's Clubhouse. (p.126)

Saturday, December 20, 2014


The Library Heritage Room has some interesting artifacts that aren't books. Samson the Bear (stuffed) happily resides on a shelf. There's an antique book press that was used when the Library did some of its own book mending. Looking across from the book press is another artifact of interest. It's a small statuette of a kneeling Mayan. This statuette, encased in glass, was presented to Mayor Lara Blakely in 2002 by the Mayor of Guadalajara. Monrovia and Guadalajara had just become sister cities.

The artwork is a partial scene from the Tablet of the Slaves. In the complete work, King K’inich Ahkal Mo’Naab is shown in the center sitting on the backs of two slaves. He faces his father who presents him the royal headdress (our portion), while his mother presents a personified flint and shield, emblems of warfare. From Palenque, Chiapas, Maya culture, classic period: 300-650 A.D.

For  a drawing of the complete wall relief, click on this link:

Thursday, November 6, 2014


On the evening of August 6, 2013 the past and present collided at the Farmers’ Club Monument at Library Park, when a motorist jumped the curb and crashed into the structure. The following morning, only a crumble of stone and a fascinating Monrovia mystery remained. In subsequent weeks, the accident brought to light exactly how important this community landmark had become in its 100 plus year history, and even City Hall, in a wistful moment of municipal remembrance, rechristened the monument as "The Monrovia Wishing Well." What wasn't brought to light, though, were the whereabouts of the time capsule that had been placed by Farmers’ Club members over a century ago.  

A time capsule in the Farmer's Club monument, you ask?

Indeed, members of the agricultural club built and dedicated the fountain monument in 1909 to much civic fanfare.  On the November dedication day, they buried a time capsule for future Monrovians that included copies of the Monrovia Messenger (October 9, 1909), Monrovia News (October 15, 1909) and the Los Angeles Times (November 1, 1909) newspapers.  The club members also included a letter addressed "To Posterity." 

The contents of the letter, in a modest way, reads: Those who had most to do with the building of this fountain hope that if the contents of this box is ever to light it will be so far in the future that the names of all having in any way to do with it will have been forgotten. It is dedicated by the people and for the people. May it outlast the everlasting hills that tower above it. Monrovia, California, November one, Nineteen hundred and nine. (Monrovia Daily News).

Where does this time capsule, its letters and documents reside? When the question was posed to City Historian Steve Baker, even he was stumped by its whereabouts.  Presently, the capsule remains elusive. Was it removed long before the traffic collision in 2013? Is it still buried within the monument? Though we can all rejoice now that Farmers’ Club monument is being reconstructed, the historical mystery remains. 

Speaking of the reconstruction, the remaining pieces of tile and stone were removed by the Public Works Department and stored while awaiting a stone mason to piece the structure back together. Bill Goss was selected as the contractor for the site. The stones have been cleaned so upon reassembly the parts would appear whole. Only one stone needed to be fabricated to complete the base. Stainless steel threaded anchor rods were embedded to securely attach the roof. The original structure relied on its own weight to hold it down.

This project is supported by the City of Monrovia and the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group (MOHPG) who have pledged to provide the wood framing and installation of the roof to match the original structure. The 80 missing roof tiles are being provided by Architectural Detail in Pasadena.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


As dynamic as Monrovia is, one aspect of city life that has not changed much over the past 127 years is, surprisingly enough, residential street names. Despite some spirited citizens’ zealous efforts to alter them, only a handful of street modifications have been made. As our city thoroughfares were being shaped in the late 19th century, city founders decided that a street grid with a framework of flora would be best. North-Southbound streets would be named for flowers, while all East-Westbound streets would be named after trees. Two bucolic exceptions were made in honor of William Monroe’s daughter, which gave us Myrtle Avenue, and Colonel Samuel Keefer's daughter, giving us Charlotte Avenue (now Canyon Boulevard).      

Within 30 years of the city’s founding, many Monrovians questioned the suitability of the flowery names for future generations. In 1911 a fairly contentious civic argument broke out in the Monrovia Daily News. Several editorials voiced support in erasing the trees and flowers framework, and suggesting that Spanish translations and the inclusion of more indigenous plant life would represent the City better.   

From this public outcry in 1911, some immediate changes occurred, while others crept up more gradually over the years, with history claiming such streets as Banana Avenue, Daffodil Avenue, and JIC Avenue. Many lost streets have fascinating origin stories that may go unnoticed without checking in with Monrovia history. Banana Avenue* got its name because residents on the street believed the temperate climate of Monrovia would be an ideal place to grow bananas. That the name changed in January 1913 speaks to the horticultural success of the trees that grew on Hillcrest then.  JIC Avenue**, another street that didn’t conform to the plant-inspired street grid, has an ambiguous, and somewhat disputed origin story. The street was either named after a prominent farm tools manufacturer, J.I. Case, or a famed racehorse that belonged to him. Whatever the real story may be, this one and only initialed street in town became Alta Vista Avenue.   

Not all the modified street names have been relegated to the history books, though. Walking around town, you may notice that the walkways adjacent to Colorado Commons are all named. In fact, they honor several of the more popular fallen streets. White Oak Avenue is now White Oak Alley and there’s nearby Date Court, named for Date Avenue. See how many more street signs you can spot next time you’re in the area.       

* Named after banana trees that proved unsuitable for the San Gabriel Valley climate (Monrovia Daily News,  01/31/1911, pg 1)  

** There are two competing stories about the origin of J.I.C. Street.  John L. Wiley, in his History of Monrovia, states it was named after after J.I. Case, a famous farm implement manufacturer that city trustees wanted to honor by naming a street after him (p. 118). Another story is that the street was named after the racehorse Jay Eye See that belonged to Mr. Case. 

What follows is a key to all curious-minded Monrovians who may come across a street name that no longer exists because at some point it was changed to better suit the community’s needs or municipal image. The list doesn't track streets that were lost to land or other economic development, and is by no means definitive.  Any amendments, suggestions, or corrections are appreciated.
Street Change Date Original Street Name New Street Name
1/28/1913 Banana Avenue Hillcrest
8/12/1929 White Oak Avenue Foothill
6/5/1916 Falling Leaf Avenue Huntington
5/1/1962 Falling Leaf Avenue Cypress
8/13/1934 Orange Avenue/Rte 66 Colorado
6/15/1925 East Avenue Norumbega Drive
5/15/1951 Plum Ave Los Angeles Ave
12/19/1910 JIC Avenue Alta Vista Ave
1/20/1914 Violet Highland Ave
1/28/1913 Charlotte Avenue Canyon
2/16/1965 Daffodil Avenue California
unknown Oak Park Lane E. Greystone Ave.
11/16/1936 Date Avenue Cherry

4/19/1966 Bonita Court Court Street
5/5/1958 Live Oak Avenue Walker Avenue
11/19/1957 Hill Street Crestview
4/4/1949 Duarte Ave Royal Oaks Avenue
12/5/1949 Royal Oaks Avenue Royal Oaks Drive
7/19/1926 6th Avenue Madison Avenue
7/30/1923 Center Street Avocado Place
11/3/1930 Main Street Duarte Road
11/16/1936 Marie Avenue May Avenue
11/16/1936 Centre Ave Greystone Ave
11/16/1936 Diamond Street Central Street
11/16/1936 Route 9 Huntington Drive