The Development of Pasadena & Washington Square

Early Pasadena History

The origins of the City of Pasadena are usually traced to the establishment of the “Indiana Colony.” Organized as the San Gabriel Orange Grove Association, the group of investors from Indiana purchased 4000 acres of the Rancho San Pasqual from its owners, Dr. John S. Griffin and Benjamin D. (“Don Benito”) Wilson, in December 1873. In January 1874, the new settlement was divided among the settlers and mapped. Generously sized parcels which were intended for the planting of orange groves were arranged on either side of the north-south axis of the colony, a street soon known as Orange Grove Boulevard. The San Gabriel Orange Grove Association lands extended from north of what is today Mountain Avenue south to the Monterey Hills and from the Arroyo on the west to Fair Oaks Avenue on the east. Houses for the new residents began to be built on the parcels, the first of which was the A. O. Bristol home near the corner of Orange Grove and Lincoln Avenue, finished in March 1874. By the end of 1875, there were 40 houses set among orchards, groves and vineyards.
Pasadena, CA 1903

Arroyo Seco, Colorado Street Bridge

Prior to the establishment of the Indiana Colony, Griffin and Wilson had sold portions of the Rancho in the vicinity of the Washington Square neighborhood to others. Alexander Grogan of San Francisco and his agent, James Craig, has purchased a large block of land in north Pasadena, The Grogan Tract was located north of the county road (now Villa Street) and ran from Altadena Avenue to west of Lake. Three parcels along Hudson Avenue are still legally described as part of the Grogan Tract; however, most of the area was subdivided for development at a later date. Just west of the Grogan Tract, Wilson sold another sizeable chunk of land in 1970 to Henry G. Monk of Boston. The Monk Tract included the highest point in Pasadena, Monk’s Hill.

Snow Capped Mountains from Pasadena

In 1876, Benjamin Wilson, spurred by the success of the Indiana Colony, subdivided a large portion of his land as the Lake Vineyard Land and Water Association. The Lake Vineyard Tract bordered the San Gabriel Orange Grove Ave on the east. Growth of Pasadena proceeded steadily, and the center of the town shifted from Orange Grove and California in the former Colony too the intersection of Colorado and Fair Oaks. “Pasadena” became the officially accepted name when a post office was opened in J. D. Hollingsworth’s general store on the northeast corner of the intersection. Homes, churches, schools, and commercial establishments were constructed, with extensive tracts planted with citrus and other fruit bearing trees and grapevines. By 1880, Pasadena had a population of nearly 400.

Orange Grove and Great Arroyo Seco Bridge, Pasadena, California

The following decade was one of enormous growth and change for the young community. Pasadena acquired an identity as a resort town with the construction of several grand hotels and winter home of wealthy industrialists from the East and Midwest. Increasingly, vacationers decided to spend their retirement in Pasadena, while those sent to Southern California for health reasons were also attracted to the town. Railroad connections to Los Angeles and the east coast enabled these developments. Within Pasadena, Trolley cars linked sections of the expanding town with downtown, the railroad stations, and the hotels. In 1886, the city incorporated.

Mt. Lowe Incline

From, 1886 to 1888, Pasadena was engulfed by the real estate boom which reverberated throughout the Los Angeles region. Commercial growth was triggered by the subdivision and auction of lots carved from the former schoolhouse site at Fair Oaks and Colorado. Residential tracts were subdivided and re-subdivided, individual lots were bought and sold with equal fervor, and homes ranging in size from cottage to mansion were erected. Orchards began to give way to buildings, although the rural character of the city, one of its tourist attractions, remained intact outside of the burgeoning commercials center for about another decade. The population of Pasadena, which has grown to an astounding 12,000 to 15,000 at the height of the boom, settle back to 5,000 in 1890.

The Origins of the Washington Square Neighborhood

North Pasadena was affected to some degree by all of the development activity. In 1881, John H. Painter and Benjamin F. Ball bought 2000 acres of the Monk Tract lying between the Arroyo and Lake Avenue. They installed a water supply system, the crucial first step for any development in arid Southern California. The Painter and Ball Tract was resold in sections, at triple the price of the original investment. Interest in the area was stimulated by the erection of an elegant hotel, the Painter (later La Pintoresca), by John Painter in 1887. Although Pasadena had, by this time, a reputation as a city of millionaires, nearly all of those who built in North Pasadena were of the middle or working class. One story cottage and occasionally two story residences with Queen Anne style details were built during the 1880s and 1890s. Most of the development before the turn of the century in North Pasadena took place west of the El Molino, however two homes in Washington Square do suggest nineteenth century or turn-of-the-century residential architecture (1041 North Hudson and 1050 North El Molino).

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Pasadena’s population tripled, growing from nearly 10,000 in 1900 to over 30,000 in 1910. Construction of homes began in earnest on newly surveyed subdivision in the Washington Square neighborhood during this period. The annexation of 3.5 square miles of North Pasadena in 1904 coincided with the recordation of three tracts in Washington Square. Olive Heights, which encompassed the southern three quarters of Hudson Avenue (then called Henry) between Mountain and Belvidere was subdivided in April 1905. The Crown Tract, composed of the section of Hudson between Olive Heights and Belvidere, was recorded two months oater, in June 1905. In September 1908, Tract 265, which consisted of the east side of El Molino and both sides of Palm Terrace between Mountain and Belivdere, opened. At least 12 homes in the Washington Square area survive from the years 1906 through 1910. All exhibit Craftsman characteristics.

A custom that distinguished Pasadena streets almost from the inception of the town became official in the first decade of the twentieth century. The planting of street trees in parkways during this early period has lent a special quality to Pasadena’s residential streets that is apparent today. In Washington Square, most of the streets share this Pasadena hallmark. The most notable are the olive trees planted in Olive Heights, the palms which line Palm Terrace in Tract 265, and the canopy of camphor trees which shades Belvidere.

Construction accelerated in Washington Square during the subsequent decade, paralleling the growth experienced elsewhere in the city. Pasadena’s population more than doubled during the teens, reaching 45,000 in 1920. Another tract in Washington Square, No. 1905, was subdivided on the block of Hudson between Claremont and Mountain, in 1913. Around 35 homes were built on the four open tracts in the years 1911 through 1915. During this period all of the houses continued to reflect the Craftsman aesthetic. Construction in the neighborhood and in Pasadena generally ceased as a consequence of the outbreak of World War I.

A Tree-lined Street in North Pasadena

Building activity in the 1900s markedly increased city-wide; this is reflected in Washington Square. By 1930 the City’s population had grown to 76,000. At least 175 of the home in Washington Square were built in the years 1920 through 1929. Six new tracts were opened in 1921-1925 and Washington Park, located at the southeast corner of Washington and El Molino, was developed by the city during the 1920s. Landscape architects Theodore Payne and Ralph Cornell designed the park. Although a taste for the Craftsman style lingered, the new revival styles of architecture, especially those derived from the American Colonial, Mediterranean, and English tradition, predominated. By 1920, relatively few Washington Square parcels remained unimproved.

Small scale residential building in the 1930s in Pasadena continued in the revival mode, and this is evidenced in Washington Square. Approximately 20 Spanish, English, and American Colonial Revival bungalows date to this era in the neighborhood. In Pasadena after 1930 the urge to be “modern” manifested itself mostly in a severe simplification and elimination of ornament, resulting in plan stucco boxes, rather than the more adventurous forays into Art Deco and the International Style seen more often elsewhere in Los Angeles. This trend continued into the 1940s when about 15 stucco residences were constructed.
Floral Path, Pasadena, California

Property Types in the Washington Square Landmark District

Since Washington Square is a residential neighborhood, the building types which define the area are single family houses and to a very limited degree, duplexes. The majority of buildings are bungalows; one to one-and-a-half story, 5 to 6 room, detached residences.

Built at modest cost, bungalows offered many amenities: porches and patios, built-in cabinetry and nooks, fireplaces, interior finishes of wood and tile, and modern plumbing. Variously described as “simple but artistic,” “snug,” “homey,” “democratic,” and “respectable,” bungalows could be built with or without the services of an architect or contractor. Complete plans and specifications could be purchased from magazines or “bungalow books,” essentially catalogs of home illustrated by photographs, renderings, and plans. Some companies even offered pre-fabricated parts which could be assembled on site. The enthusiasm and innovation with which bungalows were designed and built in Southern California, and in Pasadena in particular, was a primary influence in the construction of the “California Bungalow” nationwide in the first third of the century.

One of California’s Cozy little Bungalows: Craftsman

Until the end of World War I, most bungalows in Pasadena could be described as “Craftsman” in style. Named after the publication of Gustav Stickley which advanced the philosophy and aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Craftsman home drew inspiration from several sources, including the wood traditions of Japanese architecture and the Swiss Chalet, the American Colonial home and barn, and the half-timbered Tudor building of medieval England. The result in Pasadena was often labeled “rustic” because of its prominent use of wood, often dark coloring, and integration with nature through its garden. 

Some of most common characteristics of Craftsman bungalows are:
  • Very low pitched, often multiple, gable roofs, with deep overhangs and exposed rafters, beams, braces, and venting in the eaves and gable end
  • A symmetrical massing and composition with a porch spanning all or part of the facade and occasionally wrapping a corner of the building to assume an “L” shape (adaptation to more vernacular form in the 1920s tends to be symmetrical in massing and composition)
  • Exterior cladding of wood shingles or overlapping boards, traditionally painted or weathered to a dark brown or other earth tone
  • Secondary materials such as arroyo stone, common and clinker brick, art stone, and stucco used for porch piers, porch walls, foundations, and chimneys
  • Massive porch piers which may taper towards the top
  • Exposed structural elements such as trusses, joints, and roof members
  • Clustering of windows into bands of three or four using casement, fixed pane, and double hung sash
  • Strong horizontal emphasis keynoted by the roof design and massing and emphasized by details such as continuous moldings or extended headers
  • Interior use of wood for floors, plate rails and moldings, built in cabinetry (often in the dining room or separating the living and dining areas), posts, and ceiling details
Representative examples of Craftsman bungalows in Washington Square are located at:

North El Molino (936 and 994)

North Hudson (915, 920, 965, 966, 991, 999, 1008, 1028, 1034, 1055 and 1262-64)

Palm Terrace (919, 935, 942, 950, 959, 960, 967, 990, 1008, and 1014)

American Colonial Revival

When residential building resumed after World War I, architectural tastes underwent noticeable change. While bungalows continued to be the preferred building type for the middle class, Craftsman styling no longer dominated. Craftsman detailing persisted through the mid 1920s, but in pared down form. Stylistic features were reduced to signature elements or combined with Classical details. This coincided with a new American Colonial Revival which drew from the vocabulary of New England frame construction. Colonial bungalows were popular from about 1920 through 1924. 

Characteristics include:
  • Side gable roofs usually punctuated by dormer windows or vents, commonly either gabled or eyebrow in form
    Boxed eaves
  • Symmetrical, three bay facades, usually with a central, front gabled, portico-like entry and tripartite window openings in the side bays
    Wood horizontal siding
  • Incorporation of elements derived from the American Colonial era, such as Tuscan columns, dentils, or entries with side light and lunettes or transoms
  • Multi-light windows, either double hung sash or casement
  • Combinations of Colonial and Craftsman features such as pergolas extended from the portico over half or all of the front porch
Examples of Colonial bungalows in Washington Square include:

Belvedere (704)

Claremont (846-48, a duplex)

El Molino (1166)

Hudson (984, 1109, 1156, and 1188)

Palm Terrace (982 and 1033)

A Typical Spanish Bungalow in California:

Spanish Colonial Revival

The most influential of the revival styles in Southern California during the 1920s and 1930s were those derived from the climatically compatible Mediterranean region, in particular those representing the Hispanic antecedents of California. Spanish Colonial Revival bungalows varied in size and complexity, and sometimes referred to the Mission Revival popular around the turn of the century. Other precedents were Italian and Andalusian. Stimulated by the scheme of the Pan Pacific exposition in San Diego n 1913-1915, many designers sought inspiration from the baroque architecture of Mexico and Spain. Some trademarks of the style include:

  • A ubiquitous use of stucco exterior sheathing and clay tile roofs, even if only a simple coping atop a parapet
  • Arched openings
  • Patios, often defined by stucco walls, and porches
  • Casement windows
  • Entries emphasized by decorative surrounds or tiled hoods
  • Window grilles of wood or iron
  • Implications of adobe construction, such as “buttressed” corners or deep reveals
Examples of Spanish Colonial Revival bungalows in Washington Square include:

Belvedere (742, 757, 765, 773, and 779)

Claremont (677, 685, 690, 703, 708, 741, 751, 757, 767)

Heather Square (1158)

Hudson (959, 1005)

Palm Terrace (1090, 1115)

Medieval and English Country

Medieval themes persisted from the Craftsman era into the Revival period (circa 1924-1937) and manifested themselves in bungalows which seemed to refer to English Country and Tudor buildings. Often the reference was quite vague or consisted of just one or two characteristics, such as:

  • Mostly stucco exteriors, combined with brick and wood accents
  • Fairly steeply pitched gable roofs, usually with at least one front gable extending from the principal side gable forming an L-shaped facade
  • Tudor elements, such as pseudo half-timbering, Gothic arched openings, diamond-paned windows or leaded glass
  • Somewhat common use of round arches for entries and focal windows
  • Asymmetry
  • Multi-pane casement windows
Some examples in Washington Square are:

Belvedere (675, 752, 807, and 831)

Claremont (700 and 735)

El Molino (1008, 1070, 1158, 1234, and 1250)

Heather Square (1149)

Hudson (1142)

Palm Terrace (981, 1180, 1190, and 1194)

Other Styles

One residence predates the bungalows in Washington Square and represent earlier trends in domestic architecture in Pasadena. 1041 North Hudson exemplifies the “settlement” house type. Settlement houses are a vernacular housing type of wood frame construction, rectangular of “L” plans, and gable roofs. Originating in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states, the form spread as the country expanded westward in the mid to late nineteenth century. Ornamentation was derived from the Greek or Colonial Revivals or the Carpenter Gothic. Typical feature of the Pasadena variant are a rectangular plan, side gable roof sometimes steep enough to accommodate a second story room or two; porches with plain or turned posts and stick railings across all or a portion of the facade; wood siding, either horizontal or board and batten; tall and narrow window and door openings; and double-hung sash windows, usually with two-over-two lights.

At the turn-of-the-century, a very popular house type in most Southern California communities and elsewhere in the United States was a box-like cottage, sometimes referred to as a “proto-bungalow”. This one to one-and-a half story vernacular form featured a rectangular floor plan, one story frame construction, and a hipped roof. A dormer was often centered over the facade and had either hipped or gabled roof; sometimes formers appeared on the side elevations as well. In some earlier examples, a front gable was offset over a window or bay on the facade. Porches spanned all or a portion of the facade and were usually recessed. Bay windows were often located on the front or side elevations. Siding was usually narrow clapboard. Leaded glass transoms over at least one front window were favored. Detailing depended on the date of the house and its stylistic reference. Late nineteenth century residences often exhibited Queen Anne characteristics while later models had Colonial elements which were often explicitly Classical in derivation. Columns, dentils, and boxed eaves typify this variation. Exposed rafters and tapered columns after the turn-of-the-century reflect the new popularity of the Craftsman style. In its simplicity and roof and porch treatments, 1050 North El Molino falls within the Colonial Revival tradition. Related features, such as the arroyo stone foundation and the palms in the garden, firmly anchor the house to Pasadena and Southern California.

In Conclusion

A total of 259 properties within the survey area were evaluated in a survey in 1994. Of these, 207 were determined to be significant and were assigned a National Register eligibility status. 52 are considered “non-contributing” which means they are incompatible buildings constructed after the period of significance or buildings whose integrity was substantially impaired by alterations such as texture-coating and the installation of vinyl windows.

All contributing properties are eligible for the Mills Act which gives the home owner a substantial real estate tax savings for maintaining their historic home. For more information, please call 626-744-4342.