Since 1769, when the colonizing expedition of Gaspar de Portola crossed this 3.44-square-mile piece of wild land on the way to Monterey, modernizing forces have assaulted South Pasadena from all sides. Remarkably, however, the city has retained its peaceful and secure small-town feel, along with a distinct community pride.
Early residents of the South Pasadena area included the Gabrielino Indians, numbering approximately 5,000, whose territory extended from present-day El Toro to the San Gabriel Mountains. The area was colonized by the Spaniards who established Mission San Gabriel Arcangel in September of 1771.
The first recorded history of South Pasadena came with the missionaries.
Much of the area now occupied by Altadena, Pasadena, and South Pasadena was included in a tract called "El Rincon de San Pascual." The grant passed to Manuel Garfias in 1843. Between 1843 and 1846 he built "El Adobe Flores," the oldest house in South Pasadena. Today it is a private residence and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
With the arrival of colonists from the Midwest and eastern areas in the late 1800s, the first business was established in 1870 with David M. Raabs Oak Hill Dairy. Rapid growth resulted in the pulling away from Pasadena with the establishment of their own school district in 1878, the first post office in
1882, the real estate office 1885. The 200-room Raymond Hotel opened with a grand ball on November 17, 1886. Fifteen hundred guests attended the opening, described by one reporter as the most notable and brilliant event that had yet occurred in Southern California. Shortly after, four churches were built in 1887, and South Pasadenas first newspaper, the South Pasadena Bell, began publication in 1888. Then, with a population under 500, South Pasadena was incorporated on March 2, 1888 as a general law city.
In 1896, South Pasadena gained a world-famous tourist attraction - the Cawston Ostrich Farm, which opened on November 17th, on a wooded plot bounded by Sycamore Avenue, Pasadena Avenue, and the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. For 25 cents, visitors could stroll in a setting advertised as "free from any boisterous element and strictly first class."
At the turn of the 20th Century, South Pasadenas population doubled to 1,001 while businesses sprung up along Mission Street and Fair Oaks. The first Big Red Cars of the Pacific Electric Railway ran through South Pasadena in 1902, the first bank opened in 1904, a volunteer fire department formed in 1907, the high school opened and graduated six students in 1907, and businessmen organized the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce in 1909.
For South Pasadena, the past is in our future. Though geographically and demographically part of the greater Los Angeles area, South Pasadena leads a charmed and charming existence, providing refuge and respite for those weary of life on a scale measured in millions. At the turn of the 21st Century, South Pasadenas population was approximately 25,000. Today, with its grand oaks and unique architecture, South Pasadena is renowned as a pleasant place to live, work, play and visit.
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