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

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