Saturday, September 27, 2008

The San Gabriel Mountains: Our "Dominant Scenic Assets"

San Gabriel Valley ca. 1890
Pasadena Cal: C.J. Randall
Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento

I've posted on this before, but I like the old panoramic views of the mountains. There is a dramatic and awe inspiring feel to these old photos.

In 1930, a group of eminent landscape architects examined the sprawling Los Angeles region. At a time when land was still available, they wrote an ambitious plan for parks and open spaces. They had this to say about our mountains:

“The mountains, which are the dominant scenic assets, are slowly losing value because of the intensive urban growth. On the one hand, such growth is steadily cutting off views of the mountains, views that can be obtained only across open foregrounds sufficient in scale to complete and unify the landscape. The constant process of building upon open areas, the confinement of highways between rows of dwellings, stores, advertising structures and other nearby obstructions is gradually eliminating the enjoyment of the inspiring mountain scenery from the plains. This is a great loss which can be stopped only by reservation of occasional public foregrounds.”

(Quoted from “Parks, Playgrounds and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region” a 1930 plan prepared by the Olmsted Brothers and Harland Bartholomew & Associates and submitted to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.)

The Olmstead plan appears in the excellent book, Eden By Design: the 1930 Olmstead-Bartholmew Plan for the Los Angeles Region, by Greg Hise and William Deverell. In their book, Hise and Deverell tell the story of the Olmstead plan and its ambitious recommendations for parks and open spaces. As they explain, the plan was quickly shelved and never implemented. The story is a good one and the Olmstead plan is fascinating.

In a future post, I'll take a look at East Pasadena's mountain views.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Garden Update

We gardened this year like we never have before. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers were probably the best producers. But, experiments with cantalopes and corn were fun too. The whole family got into the act -- from preparing the soil last winter to pulling the weeds to picking the vegetables. And its kind of fun toward the evening to say "let's go out and pick some tomatoes and basil for dinner."

It sure seems to me like more and more people are growing their own vegetables. Marcia found a group of local gardeners who swap their extra produce and we've been able to trade for grapefruit and other fruits we don't grow. The group was profiled in an LA Times piece last week.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Opening Ceremonies

One of the great things about playing AYSO soccer in Pasadena is that opening ceremonies are held in the Rose Bowl.

This was the view as I entered the tunnel leading to the Rose Bowl field with my daughter's team -- the Lightening Lizards. Dozens of teams preceded us onto the field, each with their own banner and each with a bunch of screaming kids. As each team reaches the end of the tunnel, their team name is called, the kids go crazy and run out onto the field. The kids get to watch their pictures on the Rose Bowl's JumboTron.

For me, I can't walk through that tunnel without thinking of all the great players and teams that trod that space in times past. It is amazing to live in a city that has one of the most storied and historic stadiums in the country.

The AYSO program is huge. More than 3400 kids play AYSO soccer in this region, which covers Pasadena, Altadena and La Canada.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mystery of the Missing Lincoln Portrait

In an earlier post I presented a short biography of William Cogswell, the famous artist and founder of the Sierra Madre Villa. Cogswell was an amazing guy -- a self taught artist, a 49'er, painter of Lincoln, Grant and others, and an East Pasadena pioneer. The post includes a photo of Cogswell's most famous work, his portrait of President Lincoln, which is the official White House portrait of Lincoln, and today remains as part of the White House Collection.

Cogswell's obituary ran on page 1 of the Pasadena Evening Star December 26, 1903. The full obituary is here. The title and lead refer to a Cogswell painting that was a replica of his famous Lincoln portrait and says that the painting hangs in the Pasadena Public Library.

In fact, the enterprising Cogswell appears to have painted at least three replicas of his White House Lincoln portrait. One of the portraits is in the California State Capitol in Sacramento and hangs over the Speaker's podium in the Assembly. Correspondence in the Pasadena PL's Cogswell file indicates that a another portrait hung in the Royal Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii. (In 1890 Cogswell travelled to the islands to paint Queen Liliuokalani and Hawaiian royalty).

A third Cogswell replica of his White House Lincoln portrait was in the possession of the Pasadena Public Library and the Pasadena Historical Society. It appears the Lincoln portrait hung in the library from at least 1903 to 1961. A 1961 letter to the Pasadena Public Library and correspondence with the Library of Congress and Frick Art Reference Library state that Cogswell's Lincoln portrait belonged to the Pasadena Historical Society and was hanging in the Pasadena Public Library.

But, sometime after 1961, the portrait seems to have vanished.

So Where is the Lincoln Portrait Today?

After learning Cogswell's story and that of Pasadena's Lincoln portrait, I wanted to see the portrait. How incredible, I thought, that our library should have one of the few replicas of Cogswell's official White House Lincoln portrait -- a replica like the one hanging in the California State Assembly. And given Cogswell's connection to Pasadena's pioneer days, I thought it very appropriate that the library should have a replica of Cogswell's most famous portrait.

So I went to the library to see the painting. But, there was no painting. I called the Historical Museum and the city. But neither had any record of the painting.

I emailed the Hawaiian State Archivist asking about the Lincoln portrait in Hawaii. But the archivist emailed back stating they had no record of Cogswell's Lincoln portrait.

So, we seem to have a mystery. Based on Cogswell's obituary and the 1961 correspondence, we know that from at least 1903 to 1961 Cogswell's replica of his famous Lincoln portrait hung in the Pasadena Public Library. Based on the 1961 correspondence from the Hawaiian Historical Society, we know that Cogswell left another replica of his famous Lincoln portrait in the Royal Palace. It wouldn't seem that such paintings could just vanish, but that is what seems to have occurred. So, where is the Lincoln portrait that hung for so many decades in the Pasadena Public Library?