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.

2 comments: said...

I heard William Deverell lecture at the Pasadena museum of history. The subject was the history of school busing in Pasadena. He's a great lecturer. His wife curated the recent photography show at the Huntington. Ground breaking stuff for the Huntington. (Sorry, I can't recall her name at the moment)

From de Cafe said...

pa, I'd rather not here about the history of school busing. Just meditate on this panoramic mountainscape!

and of good homegrown organic food.

When I 1st looked at this photo my thought was, "this isn't from my generation." Indeed from 2 centuries ago.

Still, mc, great shot!!