Saturday, December 5, 2009

Abbot Kinney and the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel

The extension of Kinneloa Avenue brings to mind the name of Abbot Kinney. He is celebrated for founding Venice. Before that he was an influential conservationist and rancher. He and good friend, John Muir, were instrumental in establishing the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve, forerunner to the Angeles National Forest.

But, were it not for the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel, Abbot Kinney may never have set foot in Southern California.

It's a good story and here it is:

Sierra Madre Villa Hotel, ca. 1886, Carleton E. Watkins
Courtesy of the California History Room
California State Library, Sacramento, California

Abbot Kinney was both gifted and privileged. Educated on the east coast and in Europe, young Kinney became fluent in six languages. At the age of 26, Kinney travelled to Egypt in search of fine tobaccos for the family business. But, instead of returning home when business was done, Kinney embarked on a world tour. Over a three year period, he travelled through Europe, Asia, Australia and Hawaii.

Having seen the world, Kinney decided to return to New York. In January 1880, he arrived in San Francisco and waited for a train to take him east. However,travel eastward was temporarily blocked by snow storms in the Sierras.

Rather than sit idle in San Fransisco, Kinney booked a train south to visit the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel. Kinney had heard of the Villa and its healthful climate. He was an insomniac and asthma sufferer and anxious for a respite. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, he immediately drove out to the Villa. But, in his haste, he had not made reservations.

So it was that one January evening in 1880, Abbot Kinney arrived at the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel only to find that the hotel was full. Fortunately for Kinney, the owner (possibly William Cogswell) took pity on the weary traveller. Kinney was offered accommodations in the Villa's parlor. He would have a pool table for a bed.

Kinney had a magnificent night's sleep. He awoke refreshed and quickly became enamored with the area. He cancelled his plans to return to New York and continued his stay at the Villa.

Abbot Kinney had found home. He had visited the world's greatest cities and had the means to live anywhere in the world. But, he chose for himself the foothills above what is now East Pasadena.

Soon, Kinney purchased 550 acres of mesa land just west of the Villa. There, he built Kinneloa. The rest, as they say, is history.


Petrea said...

I enjoy the history of the Villa and have bookmarked other posts of yours about it, so I can (one of these days) go searching for its traces.

Bellis said...

There seem to be a lot of new houses on Kinneloa Mesa - seen from below, they look rather raw. Was this area burnt down in the Eaton Canyon fire?

Cafe Pasadena said...

I wunder how many residents of Venice know about the father of their community.

Excellent history! I wish I had the time to go back into history more often.

Michael Coppess said...

Thanks all.

P: Maybe sometime I can point you toward a remnant or two and some other fun stuff on the mesa.

Bellis: Raw is a good word for the houses being built. Reminds me of the hills north of Glendale. I don't think they are replacements for burned homes, but I'm not sure.

CP: Those Venice folks are on top of their history. Other than Wikipedia, my sources all came from that part of town. Oh, they have an annual Abbot Kinney Festival. He's big time out there.

Petrea said...

I'd love that!

pasadenapio said...

Fascinating, as always!

Virginia bed and breakfast said...

Sierra Madre is historically linked to the old mountain resorts of the San Gabriel Mountains and Valley. The Sierra Madre Villa Hotel was a pioneer of summer resorts that populated the San Gabriel Valley.

altadenahiker said...

You're right, that is a good story.

Anonymous said...
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villa costa blanca said...

I simply liked it..Really..?????