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Working on Route 66 in Pasadena, CA
The March 2009 issue of the Smithsonian magazine listed Route 66 as one of the "10 Must-See Endangered Cultural Treasures" of the world. It is one among treasures, like the Hill of Tara in Ireland and Fenestrelle Fortress in Italy. The government in Ireland has planned a highway that will shave off part of the Hill of Tara. An action that will certainly make people think later.
I get a feeling of lose when I go down parts of the road along the San Gabriel Valley in LA Basin. The San Gabriel Mountain range is the backdrop of Route 66 for 40 miles, as it makes it way through Southern California to the Pacific Ocean. I wonder what was here in 1929; what did the travelers see and can I capture their impressions on their way to the Pacific?
The traveler would have seen the end of the desert in as they drop from the mountain pass into Cucamonga. Now they see rocks, creosote, and farms, along with eucalyptus wind barriers and grape vines. The grape vines change to orange and lemon groves in Upland, through Claremont/La Verne, and avocado in Glendora. There would be little cafes, filling stations and motels to greet a weary motorist.
Coming up to Arcadia the landscape gets more plush and hints of lazy Southern California weather with palms and mansions hidden among towering trees may excite the observer. Arcadia is the suburb mentioned in Jack Kerouac's On the Road, or was it Dharma Bums? After Arcadia you are in Pasadena, city of the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl constructed in 1922.
This Seventies Building is on Route 66
Pacific Telephone moved into the 177 E. Colorado office, built for its own specifics, in 1971. After 43 years of occupation the phone company has sold the site. I went by one evening in June, 2014. It is dark. It used to be a very busy place. The digital age has come.
The building sits on Route 66, an American icon. It is a wandering road of legends, stories and myths. It is a concrete system that can be stood upon; also a road of liberation. Liberation that can be lost in a few missteps. No other road in the United States has the popularity or recognition in name as this one.
Working on Iconic Route 66
The last twelve years of almost 40 years I worked at the phone company was spent at 177. Not once did it occur to me I was working on the steps of an iconic American roadway!
Yes, there were plenty of days workers did not want to be there, but the street out front always hinted of other possibilities. The road was interesting, noisy, showy and entertaining, even though, it was not officially Route 66. The Mother Road had been decommissioned for awhile.
Old Town Pasadena is Route 66 right at my source of office discontent. I also lived a few miles from the Pasadena location between 1971 and 1984. Past and present hold many memories on the famous road.
The picture above is the San Gabriel Mountains. The area above the range is the Mojave Desert. The down side is the LA Basin and the road hugs the foothills till it turns left towards the ocean at Pasadena.
Many employees at 177 E. Colorado take a winding N3/Rt. 2 through the mountains from the Mojave desert every work day. The mountain part alone is twelve miles and 45 minutes. This part of the mountains is now charred along Rt. 2 from the Station Fire of August 2009.
The Mother Road in Pasadena
Old Town Pasadena since 2005 is about high end money and fancy restaurants.
In the late sixties it was a different kind of hang out. The Free Press Book Store was where the Pottery Barn is now. Adult stores, pawn shops, second hand stores and coffee houses predominated this section of the road. Store and window fronts are still festooned with Leed's or Penny's ground tiling, but occupied by whoever.
There were lots of coffee hang outs, a long established Mexican family restaurant called Ernie's. A small old mission style filling station at the end the area.
The office building I worked in was not even built. It wasn't called Old Town Pasadena.
When phone company jobs were transferred to the the building in 1996 it was "Old Town Pasadena" and updated but still interesting. I enjoyed sellers of import Mexican pottery and goods, and shoe stores that featured Doc Marten's. On lunch break explore Art Galleries, eclectic handmade arts stores, knives, music instruments, handmade papers from Japan, a used record store where you could get music from the latest local area ska band. Tower Records occupied two stories on one old building. There were little eateries that didn't bust your pocket book.
All the businesses taking full advantage of the old feel of the buildings. Old floors, ceilings and old smells still present.
After Heidi Fleiss served her time in jail she opened a little lingerie shop for awhile.
It is a much higher rent district now.
This old drug store is now the J. Crew store at 3 W. Colorado, Blvd.
Old Town Pasadena Now
Explore Pasadena old town at night. The following pictures are some of the sights to see. The original street standards are still present. I have seen them in pictures from the twenties. The city added fluorescent poles that shine down on them.
There are five blocks of original buildings still standing in Old Town at this location of Route 66.
The photo below is taken from the 10th floor of 177 E. Colorado looking towards Marengo and Colorado Blvd., 2008. This is late afternoon.
A 1929 photo of Colorado Blvd. Click to enlarge and note the street lamps and the two buildings at the center of the photo. They are the same buildings as those at right. Now I know those buildings were built before 1929. The 117 building is also visible. 117 was occupied by the phone for many years.
The old photo is interesting because the feel for the old traveler can be imagined.
Route 66 Was Realigned in 1940 - Arroyo Parkway is Opened
In 1940 the Arroyo Parkway was opened as the region's first freeway. Instead of turning left on Fair Oaks or taking an alternate over the Colorado Street Bridge, into cities of Eagle Rock and Glendale, you had the luxury of three lanes of uninterrupted motoring with scenery to downtown Los Angeles.
This freeway still exists and was an unexpected challenge for the first timers driving it. High speed means 55 and ramps only ten feet long and boom you are on the road of curves and turns.
After many art deco tunnels and curving through the hills of Mt. Washington you are in L.A. The original intent was a beautiful leisure drive to the city.
A picture of the famous Rose Parade along Colorado Blvd, but of interest is the building on the right. This is at the northeast corner of Arroyo Parkway and Colorado Blvd. The corner of the building shows the distinctive X tile design over the first floor. You can see it in the picture of Moose McGillycuddy's above. The address of this building is 117 E. Colorado. The Pacific Telephone had working offices there before 177 opened in 1971.
Take note on the upper left Anderson's Typewriter Company. It is still in town in a much smaller building near Arroyo Parkway.
Colorado Street Bridge
Here is the Colorado Street Bridge in 1920. An alternate Route 66 went over the Arroyo Seco River which you see in the foreground. In the late Thirties engineers would follow the river for the scenic parkway opened in 1940. Pasadena City Hall is two miles to the right or east. The San Gabriel's and the origin of the Station Fire in 2009 in the background. The foreground is the precise location of the novel called Pasadena by David Ebershoff.
In Mildred Pierce, 1941, by James M. Cain, Mildred motors the distance from Glendale to Pasadena in driving rain and crosses the Colorado street bridge from left to right.
"She came to a washout, where part of the hill had slid down on the road, but one track was still open, and she slipped easily by. She came back to Colorado Boulevard at a point not far for the high bridge, so popular with suicides at the time, and went splashing across." Cain, James M. Mildred Pierce. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. pg 189.
Interesting, rainfall records for LA show high rain for the years 1938-1941.
Pasadena City Hall
City Hall is visible from Colorado Blvd. From the upper floors of 177 there is a beautiful view of City Hall and the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as northern Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. Penthouse options are a plus for this building.
For many years workers in the building had a view of perching peregrines on a church tower. The birds built their nest on the uppermost floors of 177.
In 2006-2007 the whole City Hall complex was emptied and retrofitted with earthquake safe upgrades and new lighting scheme.
The Pasadena Area
This set of 1000 photos will give you an idea what Pasadena is like and why, authors, artists, actors and more, are and were, drawn to this city at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Photos by okarol give an exciting view of Pasadena, Ca. All these photos are of locations in and around the area. Enjoy.
Have You Traveled on Route 66?
Let us know if you been there.
A Road Has Ended at the "phone company"
This writer is very happy to have retired. The views were grand and the area interesting but I have a much better time telling about it rather than living it.
This photo page is dedicated to all the people who have worked at 177 E. Colorado.
Especially to those that still work there and will ever work there in the future. The "phone company" can be a long route to take. Not as fun as Route 66.
In 1995-6 there were cosmetic upgrades to most floors for new work groups. Many of those groups are now gone because of new technologies in the digital age.
© 2009 Sherry Venegas