Raymond Hill is situated on the north side of South Pasadena with panoramic views of Pasadena, San Marino and Los Angeles. The area has been the site of two very fancy, very doomed hotels. In 1886, the luxurious Raymond Hotel opened with great fanfare. It was built by Walter Raymond, owner of a Boston area travel agency who made his fortune packaging warm Southern California winter vacations to cold East Coast residents. Perhaps I should say that the Raymond opened with great fanfare. As a guidebook at the time pointed out, "It is not necessary that one should say Raymond Hotel. There is but one Notre Dame, but one Acropolis, but one Colossus, and so there is but one Raymond." But one Raymond burned to the ground in less than an hour on Easter Sunday in 1895.
So, the hotel was rebuilt at the turn of the century and served as a destination spot for several decades until it was consumed by the economic inferno of the Great Depression. As tourism dwindled in the years following the stock market crash, Walter Raymond could no longer pay the mortgage and eventually the hotel was destroyed by a wrecking ball.
The housing boom of the post-war mid 1940s to early 1950s brought new growth to Raymond Hill. Where the rich and famous once wined and dined, working families now filled dozens of modest apartment houses. Many buildings are still there, giving the place a distinct mid-century vibe that reminds me of a different Southern California Raymond: Raymond Chandler.
This view, looking out over Pasadena, makes me understand why Chandler saw Los Angeles as both dark and light. The cactus, the smokestacks, the city, the mountains -- it's such a study in contrast. Trouble boiling beneath a surface paradise. Flowers growing over a rotten underbelly. And wouldn't you know? As I was taking this shot, I smelled an overpowering scent of honeysuckle. Or, as Walter Neff said in the classic Chandler-penned film noir Double Indemnity, "It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street..." Check out a great scene from the film right here.
(For all things related to Raymond Hill history, you can't beat Jane Apostol's magnificent book highlighted here. )