Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Canyon Park Timeline 1932 - 1997

1932:  A Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) camp was established at the mouth of the canyon. This Federal program employed men victimized by the Depression. The U.S. Forest Service extended the fire road from White Saddle to join a network of fire roads around Monrovia Peak. Most of the labor was done by the C.C.C.
1938:  On March 1 through 3, Monrovia experienced severe flooding as a result of a major storm. Flooding affected much of the Southland and cities as far way as Anaheim were also flooded. Southern California had 113 deaths as a result of the storm. Monrovia received over 21 inches of rain in February and March alone. (Average annual rainfall is 19.5 inches)
1940:  Albert Cooke replaced Malcolm Packer as park guard until 1966.
1948:  Ben Overturff is forced to leave Deer Park due to ill health and because the county wanted to discourage public use of the area.
1950:  The debris basin was dug. Cabins had existed there.
1953:  A rental cabin was constructed across from Emerson's Flat.
1953:  December - a large wildfire burned in the San Gabriel Mountains. Fireman's Flat was used as base for hundreds of firefighters.
1958:  The original Nature Center was opened at Mal Packer Mesa.
1964:  Check dams were built in Monrovia and Sawpit Canyons, as well as many other canyons of the San Gabriel Mountains, in order to reduce the velocity of water in the event of flood conditions.
1969:  In the month of January, almost 26 inches of rain fell in Monrovia. All three bridges in the park were washed out. The park was closed for 18 months during reconstruction.
1972:  Tallman H. Trask Boy Scout Camp was dedicated and has remained an actively used outdoor experience for scout troops. The camp is located one mile above the dam in Sawpit Canyon. The camp is named for an executive of the San Gabriel Valley Council (1919-1955).
1973:  An overnight cabin at Emerson's Flat was built.
1979:  A parking fee was initiated for Canyon Park.
1996:  Work began with facility improvements from Proposition A funds from the government.
1997:  In December, the new Nature Center, cabins and restrooms are completed.
1997:  December 13 - Monrovia Canyon Park's grand re-opening.

Information provided by Canyon Park

Friday, December 23, 2011

Canyon Park Timeline 1874 - 1927

1874:  The Rankin Family settled near Emerson's Flat
1880:  L.H. Emerson settled in the canyon
1907:  Ben Overturff began building Deer Park Canyon
1911:  City of Monrovia founders set aside land for Canyon Park
1913:  Road to Mal Packer Mesa (Nature Center) was completed by volunteer efforts. Over 250 trees    were planted. The City of Monrovia incorporated the canyon and starting April 15, maintained the picnic grounds as a City park.
1920:  Malcolm Packer became the park attendant and lived just below Emerson's Flat. He was also in charge of the water lines.
1924:  The Great Fire of 1924. A major forest fire caused by a careless smoker burned out the entire mountain and surrounding canyons. The fire threatened Mt. Wilson Observatory and backfires got out of control, reaching West Fork. The fire burned from August 31 through September 18 and blackened Monrovia Canyon, Spanish Canyon, Fish Canyon, Robert's Canyon, Clamshell Canyon, and Van Tassel. When the fire threatened local Monrovia residents, several hundred volunteers from surrounding cities joined fire fighting efforts and saved homes.
1925: U.S. Forest Service initiated construction of fire roads throughout the San Gabriel Mountains and firebreaks on all ridgelines. This is when the Sawpit fire road was completed.
1927:  Los Angeles County Flood Control District completed the 160-foot Sawpit Dam in June. Construction began in March 1926 with a cost of $637,000. Malcolm Packer became the dam operator, in addition to his duties as the park attendant and water line maintenance operator. Mr. Packer lived in the house on the North side of the dam until 1940. The City and U.S. Forest Service built a road on the Southeast slope of Sawpit Canyon in order to access the far side of the dam.

Information courtesy of Canyon Park

Monday, December 19, 2011

Founder William N. Monroe's House

1978 was a another big year for William N. Monroe - even though he wasn't around to see it. His house at 250 N. Primrose Avenue made it into the National Register of Historic Places. The home was nominated for this honor by the State Historic Preservation Office.

Information provided by Los Angeles Times, June 1, 1978 and the Duartean, May 25, 1978.

Monday, December 12, 2011

'Gem of the Foothills' as 'Petunia City'

Petunia City doesn't have the same ring as Gem of the Foothills, but in 1932, in time for the Olympic games, Monrovia was a "garden of petunias in extravagant flower displays of red, white and blue." The call to plant petunias originated with the then Monrovia Foothill Garden Club. The response from gardeners and businesses was so great, it captured the attention of the horticultural editor of a New York magazine. She toured the City, taking numerous photos, and ultimately published her account in the summer edition of McCall's magazine.

To read the rest of the article about Monrovia's brief flirtation with petunias, ask the Reference Librarian for help with the Heritage Room History file.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

League of Women Voters - Monrovia style

The Monrovia chapter of the League of Women Voters was 27th in California.

It was chartered  in the Fall of 1949 with Mrs. Hubert Ingram serving as President.

The first Board of Directors: Mrs. Ted Maag, Mrs. Kenneth Kentner, Mrs. W.A. Denny, Mrs. John Renaker, Mrs. Arthur Larkin, Mrs. Ervin Miller, Mrs. C. Ray Bass, Mrs. Erma Thompson, Mrs. Charles Crowel and Mrs. Francis Pollard.

By 1956 there were 52 California leagues, with membership for the Monrovia league drawing from Monrovia, Duarte and Arcadia. That same year, Arcadia split off to form their own league.

For more information, refer to the original article from the Monrovia News-Post, January 11, 1979. It is available on microfilm at the Library.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cinco de Mayo - the first of many - we hope

Sunday, May 1, 2011 saw the first Cinco de Mayo celebration in Monrovia. Sponsored and organized by the Monrovia Cinco de Mayo Association and Nuvein Foundation. It was held as a block party on Colorado Boulevard between Myrtle and Ivy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Parks in Monrovia

Recreation Park, 22 acres. Shamrock at Lemon. In anticipation of a housing boom to the East, the City wanted to set aside property for recreational activities, including a municipal swimming pool. Established with the proceeds of a bond issue passed in 1924.

Grand Avenue Park, 3.5 acres. Grand and Prospect. The park was there in 1967, but unknown opening date. No historical significance anyone knows of.

Olive Avenue Park / Lucinda Garcia Park, 1 acre, Olive and Mayflower. Part of the Pacific Electric right-of-way and used until 1951. It was officially abandoned by P.E. on 10/24/1955. The idea for Olive Park came in 1974 when 18 park projects were submitted to the county for approval under the allocation of funds made available by Proposition 1. No particular reason was cited. Completed in 1981(?). May 1, 2011, the park was re-dedicated to honor Lucinda Garcia, a member of the prominent Palomares family.  

Rotary Park, ½ acre, California and Lime. Site of the Lime Avenue City Reservoir, which was abandoned and demolished in 1964. The Rotary Club initiated the creation and realization of a park on the property in 1967.

Julian D. Fisher Park, 1.8 acres, 901 S. California.  Named for the first African-American police officer in Monrovia. Fisher was noted for his ability to calm tense relations between the black and white communities. The Park was formerly part of Huntington School playground. The project started in 1974 and was officially dedicated on Jan. 25, 1981. (Julian Fisher died in 1976.)

Monrovia Library Park, 13 acres, Myrtle at Lime Ave. The Carnegie Library grant was contingent upon providing land for it. The Park was created in 1907 through a bond issue and the library was opened in 1908.

Monrovia Canyon Park, 80 acres, 22 acres developed, 1200 N. Canyon Blvd. The canyon was hardly accessible until a road to Emerson Flats was built by volunteers on July 28, 1911. The waterfall is one of its major attractions.

If anyone has additional information concerning any of the parks, please feel free to comment. Make sure to give us your source. Thanks.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The BIG Five - Five Books about Monrovia History (Book 5)

Charles F. Davis, editor extraordinaire, strikes again in 1943 with a new tome called The Monrovia Blue Book. This is a slim volume, with a one page index in the front right after the page title simply Contents. As with his other two books, Mr. Davis deigns to cite sources other than very generally. The book is a a bit of a re-hash of previous books, with the notable addition of biographies heretofore untold.

The BIG Five - Five Books about Monrovia History (Book 4)

Charles F. Davis apparently couldn't get enough of telling Monrovia's story. He edited a second book called the History of Monrovia and Duarte. Mr. and Mrs. E.B. Norman are listed as authors of Duarte History and this book was published in 1938.

The really nice surprise is the index - not at the back where you'd expect it, but in the front right after the Table of Contents. Though the index certainly is not exhaustive, having any clues to content is welcome.

History of Monrovia and Duarte

Table of Contents

Chapter I. - Discovery of California
Chapter II. - The Mission Fathers
Chapter III. - The Ranchos - Gold - Baldwin
Chapter IV. - A City Comes Into Being
Chapter V. - Monrovia Goes Up - And Down
Chapter VI. - Straws in the Wind - Monrovia Incorporates
Chapter VII. - When the Storm Broke
Chapter VIII. - The Grim Nineties
Chapter IX. - End of An Era
Chapter X. - Before the War
Chapter XI. - 1914 - The Storm Breaks
Chapter XII. - Monrovia Goes Into the War
Chapter XIII. - The Post-War Years
Chapter XIV. - Monrovia's Early-Day Homes
Chapter XV. - Modern Times
Chapter XVI. - The Men Who Ruled Monrovia
Chapter XVII. - Organizations of Monrovia
Notes - On History of Monrovia

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Recreation Park

According to Wiley's History of Monrovia, 22 acre Recreation Park was instigated by the Monrovia Day Association in 1921. The Association presented a petition with 1100 voters asking for a bond election to acquire enough property to be suitable for public recreation. Finally, on Tuesday, January 29, 1924, an election was held to provided for the issuance of $80,000.00 in bonds to build the park.

The swimming pool was built in 1925.

Construction on the YMCA started in July 1984 and it opened February 1, 1985.

In October 1984, the Community Museum Committee formed a foundation to raise money for the museum in Recreation Park.

The BIG Five - Five Books about Monrovia History (Book 3)

Perhaps the most famous of the Big Five collection, the Wiley book has provided the basis for much of the information that made it into later tomes. The book itself has no index. There have been three separate indexes created specifically for this important resource, the last, completed in 2011, is most thoroughly comprehensive. An intrepid volunteer is currently getting the 2011 index all prettied up for access online for any researcher who might find Wiley's book useful.

Some of the stories are quite folksy in style and Wylie cites no sources.

History of Monrovia by John L. Wiley, 1927.

Table of Contents
The Indians of California
The Coming of the Spaniards
The Pioneer Settlement
Founding of the City
Incorporation of Monrovia, 1887
Chronicles from 1890 to 1900
First Decade of the New Century
From 1911 to the World War
Monrovia's Part in the World War
The City from 1917 to 1926
The Great Forest Fire of 1924
Religious, Civic and Social Activities
Monrovia's Water Quest
Monrovia's Destiny

Monday, September 26, 2011

Time Capsules

According to Steve Baker, official historian for the City of Monrovia, there are time capsules buried in Library Park. Don't know about anyone else, but I'd love to know what's in them. That pleasure will belong to someone else as there doesn't appear to be any plan to dig them up anytime soon.
  1. Under the City Christmas tree in front of one of the original City Hall stones is a plaque. A time capsule buried in 1953 rests there.
  2. The Monroe rock marks a time capsule from 1936. Rumor has the capsule not being buried until 1958, but this is not absolutely verified.
  3. Another time capsule was buried by the Monroe rock during the City's Centennial in 1987.
Any guesses for what objects may be inside?

Monday, September 12, 2011


In Southern California, we are particularly vulnerable to fire, especially in the foothills. Dramatic wildfires, like the recent Station Fire, make us all grateful for a fire department. For Monrovia, structure fires drove the community to create a Volunteer Fire Department in March 1906. Jack Crandall acted as Fire Chief. In 1908
John A. Baxter donated a horse-drawn chemical cart with a few lengths of hose.

Alas, the Volunteers were wholly inadequate as fire fighters, allowing several structures to burn to the ground, including the aforementioned John A. Baxter's barn. Chief Crandall tried and failed to pass bonds for the purchase of equipment and hiring paid employees. He resigned in January 1910.

The City adopted Ordinance 491 on January 24, 1910. That ordinance created the Monrovia Fire Department. C.A. Goodale was appointed interim fire chief, and on February 7, 1910, John A. Baxter accepted the position as Fire Chief. He had four full-time firemen, 16 paid-call firemen, and the original donated chemical cart.

The department's first motorized hose and chemical truck was created from a remodeled so-called tourist automobile, debuting on February 19, 1910.

For the full story up through the Centennial, read Monrovia Centennial Review by Peter C. Ostrye, pages 139-147.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The BIG Five - Five Books about Monrovia History (Book 2)

Monrovia-Duarte Community Book, Charles F. Davis, editor-in-chief, 1957.

This book is indexed, though very poorly.

Table of Contents (for Monrovia only)
Chain of Title from the King of Spain
In the Beginning
The Ranchos-Baldwin
A City Comes into Being
The W.N. Monroe Story
Banks for Monrovia
Electric Light and Power
Music Through the Years
Monrovia Public Library
Elementary Schools
Monrovia-Duarte High School
Monrovia Churches
District Health Center
Social Security
War Years
World War II
The Men Who Ruled Monrovia
The Story of a Pioneer

There are several pages biographies for both Monrovia and Duarte citizens at the very end of the book.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The BIG Five - Five Books about Monrovia History

There are 5 major books that bring Monrovia history up to the Centennial in 1986. These books are the jumping off point for historical information. All are available from the Adult Reference Desk as well as the Heritage Room and all are for in Library use only.

Monrovia Centennial Review, 1886-1986 by Peter Ostrye, 1985. The book is indexed for chapters
1-11 only and the index is at best, incomplete.

Table of Contents
Author's Notes
The Times
The Place
The Founders
Chapter One. 1880s
Chapter Two. 1890s
Chapter Three. The Turn of the Century
Chapter Four. 1910-1919
Chapter Five.  1920s
Chapter Six.  1930s
Chapter Seven.  1940s
Chapter Eight.  1950s
Chapter Nine.  1960s
Chapter Ten.  1970s
Chapter Eleven.  1980s
Historical Trivia
Elected Officials and Staff
Fire Department
Heritage Homes
Points of Special Interest
Police Department
In Memoriam

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Important Dates in Monrovia's Historical Timeline

Jan. 1, 1980     Rose Parade Pioneer Trophy goes to Monrovia’s World Vision Float
Jan. 6, 1957     1950s Library dedicated (3rd library in Monrovia after the Granite Bank Building room and the   Carnegie Library)
Jan. 24, 1910   City’s Fire Department established
Jan. 27, 1908   Carnegie Library opened

Feb. 6, 1888    Granite Bank of Monrovia opened for business
Feb. 22, 1888  Monrovia Water Department established

Mar. 1, 1903    Red Cars of the Pacific Electric Railway come to Monrovia                                             
Mar 14, 1978   Pat Ostrye sworn in as 1st woman Mayor

Apr. 10, 1954  City Hall on Ivy dedicated        
Apr. 29, 1954  Monrovia Quota Club received charter

May 2, 1891    Masonic Lodge #308 established
May 14, 2001  Samson the Hot Tub Bear dies in Orange County Zoo
May 16, 2009  Grand Opening of the fourth library in Monrovia
May 17, 1886  Monrovia Founded and first lots go on sale
May 17, 1895  Monrovia Electric Power Co. begins service
May 25, 1938  Monrovia Lions Club organized
May 26, 1911  Live Oak Memorial park (cemetery) incorporated (had been in business before incorporation)
May 27, 1918  First woman police officer, Zella Vining, is hired
May 29, 1926  Citizens Bank of Monrovia opened for business

June 2, 1887    Bank of Monrovia opens
June 4, 1841    William N. Monroe is born (d. Dec. 26, 1935)
June 24, 1954  Optimist Club of Monrovia gains formal recognition from National
June 24, 1995  Monrovia awarded All-America City award
June 29, 2002  Skate Park dedicated

July 7, 1888     Official School District established
July 2, 1926     Exchange Club chartered
July 28, 1911   Trail built to Emerson Flats in Canyon Park  
July 22, 1893   Monrovia City High School District created

Aug. 11, 1961  Santa Anita Family Services opens doors
Aug. 26, 1925  Aztec Hotel opened with a premiere dinner
Aug. 31, 1924  Great forest fire of ’24 started (finally put out September 18)

Sept. 2007       Re-Dedication of renovated Public Works Building
Sept 1915        Monrovia Feature Film Company formed
Sept. 1, 1911   Free mail delivery system began in the City
Sept. 14, 1903 Monrovia Telephone & Telgraph Co. incorporated
Sept. 20, 1878 Upton Sinclair is born  (d. Nov. 25, 1968)

Sept. 20, 2003 Dedication of Mary Wilcox Center (formerly the Armory)
Sept. 30, 1951 Last Red Car of the Pacific Electric Railway arrived in Monrovia

Early Fall 1942 – 1966  Upton Sinclair moves to Monrovia

Oct. 22, 1922 Monrovia Kiwanis Club chartered
Oct. 24, 1922  Rotary Club of Monrovia chartered
Oct. 24, 1947 First performance of the Monrovia Community Concert Association

Nov. 1, 1915   Monrovia Mausoleum construction begun
Nov. 11, 1996 Information Services Dept.  (IT) established for the City
Nov. 20, 1886 First issue of the Monrovia Mountain Planet newspaper

Dec. 5, 1903    Pottenger Sanatorium opens doors
Dec. 8, 1887    Monrovia Incorporated
Dec. 13, 1997  Opening of new Nature Center in Canyon Park
Dec. 16, 1887  William N. Monroe is selected as first mayor (Note: selected, not elected)
Dec. 20, 1939  Chamber of Commerce incorporated
Dec. 21, 1887  Only saloon in Monrovia is padlocked

Can you help us? Anyone know anything more specific than the year of the following 3 entries? If know, please post a comment and give us the source of your knowledge. Thanks.

1903    Police Department established
1919    Monrovia Post #44, American Legion
1912    YMCA opens

Mark Twain in Library Park

Mark Twain, aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), is alive and well in Library Park. You can sit with him any day, even have your picture taken with the famous author, at the corner of Myrtle and Lime.

OK, so it's really a cast bronze Art in Public Places installation, dedicated on March 29, 2003. The artist is Gary Price.

The plaque to the left of the statue starts with a Mark Twain quote:

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can read them.

The plaque further gives the names of the generous donors to the project:
Kenter Family
Cognoro and Biasotti Families
Norman Haley
Peter Jacksen and Vicki Novell

For 10 extra points, what book is in Twain's hand? If you guessed Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you are correct.

The Big Tree in Library Park

 Facing Palm, the Card Shack behind it
At the entrance to the 1957 Library

Facing the Library opened in 2009

One of the most notable features in Library Park is the enormous tree on the North side. There is a post supporting a large overhanging branch. Squirrels love to play up and down the trunk and in the overhead branches. Many people mistake it for a Banyan tree because of the large canopy.

The tree, planted in 1913, is a Moreton Bay Fig. Moreton Bay - as in Australia. Figs, well as in figs. These particular figs are inedible. The squirrels love using them as projectiles though, so watch out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Seeds of Big Business to Come

Monrovia is now home to many businesses, many of which are part of huge chain stores or are internationally known because of their unique product. But perhaps the most obscure bit of history is the Airdrome, named for its proximity north of the Monrovia Airport. Built by two brothers, it was an octagonal juice stand they cobbled together from scrap lumber and dreams. In addition to all the orange juice you could drink, they also served hot dogs, burgers, coffee and beer.

In 1940, with business booming and expansion on their minds, Richard and Maurice had the Airdrome dismantled and moved to San Bernardino, where they re-opened under the now ubiquitous name McDonald’s. If you go to the company’s website today, you won’t find any mention of Monrovia or the Airdrome, but Monrovia obviously gave the brothers their start to fame and fortune.

All the News That’s Fit to Print

Like many enterprising small towns, Monrovia wanted to have its own newspaper. On November 20, 1886, Monrovians enjoyed the first issue of the Monrovia Planet, which continued until 1889. The Planet ran simultaneously with The Leader until they merged to become the Monrovia Messenger (1889 – 1915).  The Messenger overlapped with the Monrovia News (1907 – 1910). Monrovia News morphed into the Monrovia Daily News (1910 – 1929) and then into the Monrovia News-Post (1929 – 1968). As if that wasn’t dizzying enough, the last stab at a local newspaper was the Monrovia Journal (1968 – 1975). Today the Monrovia Weekly lends local flavor to the news, but it is not owned by a local company. An interesting side note: the News-Post building now houses Community Services.

Magnificent Fliers and their Flying Machines

Foot-Hill Flying Field, later referred to as the Monrovia Airport, operated from 1928 – 1953. Leroy Criss (1925 – 2008) learned to fly at the Foothill Flying Field. This training inspired him to become one of the crack pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen during WWII. After the war, Criss returned to the Los Angeles area to teach flying and later became a schoolteacher. Ellenor and Frank Bell were siblings who lived near the airport and couldn’t get enough of flying. Ellenor first soloed on March 6, 1940 and later took the Civil Pilot Training course which allowed her to join the Woman Air Force Service Pilots in 1943. Her brother Frank enlisted in the Army Air Corps and piloted bombing missions until 1945, when his plane was shot down over Germany. He became a prisoner of war. Fortunately he was released after only 17 days.

A Big Brass Band

Albert E. Cronenwett, a jeweler by trade, formed the first city brass band in the late 1880’s. His love of his silver coronet prompted him to persuade like-minded gentlemen in town to play up and down the streets of Monrovia, to “boost the morale” of working people along the street. Nicknamed Cronnie’s Band, it holds the distinction of being the first musical organization to march in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

Hiking in Canyon Park to Emerson Flats

What a difference a day (or two) makes. The scenic mesa at the divergence of two canyons had no road leading to it. After spirited discussion, the town decided to call for a volunteer army for hard labor on the road. This grass-roots call to labor, rather than asking the City to take on the project, had startling results. On July 28, 1911, citizens who normally would not swing a pick or wield a shovel willingly worked with picks and shovels to build a road to Canyon Park. Doctors, lawyers, clerks, ministers and businessmen finished the road (granite blasted out and prepared for work the day before) in one very full day and a clear way to Emerson Flats became a reality.

Rancho Land Grants Create Monrovia

Monrovia occupies portions of two Mexican land grants called Rancho Santa Anita and Rancho Azusa de Duarte. The boundary between the two ranchos is Norumbega Drive. However, Monroe and his partners E.F. Spence, J.D. Bicknell and J.F. Crank purchased the land not directly from the Rancho owners, but from E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin and L.L. Bradbury. The only one of the original four partners who never made his home in Monrovia was James F. Crank.

The Proud Tradition of the Monrovia Day Parade

Monrovia was officially founded on May 17, 1886, with the sale of the first town lots by the four founders of Monrovia. For a 10% down payment buyers were promised free water, electric street lamps and pepper trees to line the streets. Starting in 1892, Monrovians chose to celebrate the founding of their town with a grand parade down Myrtle Avenue.
Horse-drawn wagons decorated as floats, private buggies carrying prominent citizens, and a small brass band marked the early parades. A Queen and her court graced one of the floats. Zella Vining, first female police officer, was a Princess for the Monrovia Day Queen’s Court in 1912. This proud yearly tradition continues with a full day of events and fun for all ages.

Two firsts in Monrovia: Julian Fisher and Zella Vining

Monrovia starting keeping the peace with the election of a Town Marshall, but by 1903 established the seeds for the Police Department we have today. The jail was built sometime in 1904, and operated out of the Granite Bank Building until 1925, when a dedicated station house was built for the force.

 Julian Fisher and Zella L. Vining represented firsts. Julian Fisher, after whom the park is named, was the first African American police officer. Son of Lucky Baldwin’s blacksmith, Fisher was seen as an effective mediator between the black and white communities.

According to the Monrovia Daily News,  Ms. Vining was hired as a deputy marshal on May 27, 1918, without pay, to facilitate the handling of the rare female prisoner arrested in Monrovia.The article went on to say she was a stenographer and accountant in City Hall and would likely not be "burdened with police work." The non-paying job apparently didn't suit her as she quit on June 17, 1918.

Books and Afternoon Tea

The leading ladies of Monrovia wanted a library. With patience, determination and hard work, the Saturday Afternoon Club (later the Woman’s Club) held teas. The price of admission was a book. Lobbying the City Council to create a Library Board, they were able to encourage the City to budget for the rental of the Southeast room in the Granite Bank Building for $2.50 per month in 1895. Their initial collection of 150 books formed the nucleus for what is now the fourth public library. The Carnegie Library replaced the room in the Granite Bank and opened January 27, 1908. It was torn down and a new library opened January 6, 1957, serving Monrovia for 50 years. The soaring new library dominating Library Park today opened on May 16, 2009, housing approximately 125,000 volumes and adding up-to-date technology available for the public.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gem of the Foothills

Gem of the Foothills, also known as Gem City of the Foothills, is the present slogan for Monrovia, but not its first. It replaced The Tropical Paradise of Los Angeles County, which was a bit of a mouthful. In 1905, when the Board of Trade realized Whittier was also using Gem of the Foothills, they staked prior claim and forced Whittier to cease and desist. Monrovians liked the current slogan so much they have a song about it, written in 1950 by Elizabeth Graeme.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Other TB Clinic

Dr. Pottenger’s Sanatorium was renowned for treating tuberculosis, but he was not the only resident who cared for those stricken with the disease. Fondly known as Aunt Kate, Kate Wright (1861- 1937) was a remarkable woman who opened her heart and her home to indigent men with tuberculosis. Having no wealth of her own, she depended on the community to donate food and money to ease the suffering of men who could not afford treatment or whose disease was too advanced for recovery. She also asked for and received donations of building materials to build small one room cottages on her property to give patients privacy and dignity. At Thanksgiving, she distributed baskets of food for needy families. She was respected and revered by Monrovians from all walks of life.

Monrovia and the Movies

Pure air and good light were big draws for Rufus M. Francisco, self-styled agent, and Henry Kabierski, self-styled director. Together, these men swept into town to create a motion picture company in the autumn of 1915. They raised money, named the enterprise Monrovia Feature Film Company, made two feature films and created high hopes. I didn't take long for the venture to collapse in losses for all the star-struck investors.

The Argonauts of '49 and The Daughter of the Don were the first films made in Monrovia, but not the last.
Monrovia is still a thriving motion picture town. Commercials, TV shows and rock videos are frequently filmed in an around town.

The town has been dressed up to look like New York City in winter (Ally McBeal), a small town in the Midwest (Grosse Pointe Blank), and the backdrop for a Smashing Pumpkins hit song, among others.

The Heritage Room has a collection of newspaper articles about Monrovia's flirtation with film: Monrovia's Venture with Motion Pictures 1915-18. This is found in the Film file. There is also a short chapter about the film venture in History of Monrovia by John L. Wiley, pp. 150 - 155.

Samson the Hot Tub Bear

Samson is probably the most famous furry resident of Monrovia. Books have celebrated his unusual life. A statue was erected in Canyon Park in his honor. The world came to his aid when he was in need. His story in a nutshell....

Samson spent his early years roaming the Foothills above Monrovia. Later the aging bear discovered the easy life of living on trash. In 1994, after several months of enjoying a backyard pool and hot tub, he ingested a plastic bag and fell ill. Captured by the California State Department of Fish and Game, the old, toothless bear quickly grew accustomed to the people caring for him. He couldn't be released to the wild, so Samson was sentenced to death.

Outraged Monrovians united and Samson became an international celebrity for his stay of execution. Forest DeSpain, Director of the Orange County Zoo, sought contributions from people worldwide to create an enclosure complete with hot tub. Samson lived there until his death of old age on May 14, 2001.

Samson bears are everywhere. Rummaging around in the files of the Heritage Room, an article leaped out to solve a long-time question. There is an adorable stuffed bear on one of the shelves with a green scarf sporting the name Samson and Monrovia's City Seal on it. Well, everyone who's anyone knows about Samson the Hot Tub Bear, but what was the stuffed bear all about? Turns out, it was part of the 2001 Samson Monument Committee's fundraising effort for a life sized wood carving of Samson near the Nature Center in Canyon Park. At the time of the fundraiser, $50 or over got you a coin and the stuffed bear. We wouldn't let go of our bear for ANY price!

For information on the dedication of the statue in Samson's honor, go to http://hikertechnologies.com/samsonhp.htm

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Utilities in Monrovia

From Monrovia-Duarte Community Book, edited by Charles F. Davis, 1957, pp. 36-40


Water was free from the Sawpit and adjacent canyons above Monrovia in the 1880s. Free water became an inducement to purchase lots in Monrovia.

February 22, 1888, Monrovia Water Department was formed, and the water, still free, was regulated to provide fair distribution to property owners.

July 19, 1888, Ordinance 21 fixed penalties for violating water regulations.

In April 1890, Monrovia voted to spend $400,000.00 for water distribution facilities.

December 8, 1894, William N. Monroe proposed (approved) meters on water lines to sell water.

In 1897, A.B. Chapman successfully developed artesian wells on acreage between Monrovia and Pasadena. He sold the water bearing 5-1/2 acres to Monrovia.

Lime Avenue Reservoir had been in use since 1894. The Ivy Avenue Reservoir was constructed in the late 1890s.

1917, the City bought 2 acres called the Monrovia San Gabriel Wells property (Peck Road @ Jeffries.

1928, the City acquired the Norumbaga Heights Water Company.

September 1955, Cloverleaf Canyon Reservoir bond approved.


Monrovia's first source of electricity came from the waterfall over Sawpit Falls.

May 1895, Monrovia Electric Company begins service with completion of a small hydro-electric plant in Sawpit Canyon.

1900, Monrovia Electric taken over by United Electric, Gas & Power Company.

1903, Edison Electric Company buys out United.

1905, The Peoples Gas Company begins service in March.

1906, Edison Electric buys out Peoples Gas.

1909, Southern California Edison Company takes over Edison Electric and Peoples Gas.
           (side note: Southern California Edison is electric provider as of today's date)
1909, Southern California Edison sells Peoples Gas to Piedmont Gas Company

1911, Piedmont Gas Company sold out to Southern Counties Gas Company