Sunday, July 12, 2009

A View from Raymond Hill

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. )


Mister Earl said...

Nice pastels in the upper portion of the shot, and I like the way the stacks frame the shot. Don't know a lot about this place, but I think it's Pasadena's power plant.

Dancing at the Paseo last night was great fun. Next week, it's a choice between that and Glendale Cruise Night. They have a fantastic collection of cars there, Laurie, and several top bands Four Preps, Sha Na Na, and Jan & Dean. Last year they had the Tokens and Peter Noone (Herman's Hermits.) I try not to miss it.

Judy Williams said...

Definitely a study in contrasts. The undulating hills, the verticals of the smokestacks, the natural feel of the cactus. Loved your history lesson. :~)

altadenahiker said...

I love the little Raymond restaurant. The only bit that remains of the old Raymond Hotel. Sorry, I mean, the old Raymond.

WV: Sanki. Sanki very much for lovely post.

Jean Spitzer said...

Now you've made me want to see Double Indemnity again. I watched the clip you linked to, and then one of the market scene, but not enough.

Great contrast between the cacti and the industrial scene; sums up a lot of what LA is like, as you say.

Trish said...

Laurie, you've done an amazing job of presenting one of the premier SoPas landmarks and yet, showcasing most of western Pasadena all in one.

The shot includes the power plant (folks know it better as the place at Glenarm and Fair Oaks with the fountain). Few get to see the inner workings of the plant and this is about the best shot I think I've seen.

But in that same shot you picked up the power plant, Huntington (the hospital, not the hotel), the Gold Line tracks, Inverness overlooking Linda Vista, the Parsons building, JPL buildings and if we were able to zoom in, Petrea's building 107 S Fair Oaks, among other things.

I took a shot the other day and thought it was pure cr@p, I ended up capturing an aura shot---but only after looking at it again and more carefully did I see all that I'd caught.

wv: fibleetr...fib-bleeter, a lying goat?

ben wideman said...

I really like today's post! Great job Laurie.

TheChieftess said...

Love Double Indemnity!!! Great movie...I'm always a bit sad when I see pics or hear stories of old magnificent buildings that are no more...much like the original building of the Glendale Adventist Hospital...which I think was originally a hotel as well...glad we still have the Green Hotel!!!

Petrea said...

What a beautifully-written post, Laurie. And what a vantage point over the power plant! Believe it or not, this is one of my favorite buildings in town. I find its 1920's architecture and eerie smokestacks compelling. It's so Vonnegut, don't you think?

dbdubya said...

Great shot, Laurie. The fountain Trish mentions is often overlooked by people driving on Fair Oaks. It was recently renovated and it reminds me of a slightly smaller version of the one at the entrance of Griffith Park at Riverside Drive and Los Feliz.

At the turn of the last century there were several destination hotels in the Pasadena area. Wealthy easterners were an early version of "snow birds" who came out west to escape the winters. None of the hotels was grander than the Raymond.

Laurie said...

Thanks so much, everyone. Petrea, I agree about that power plant. It makes me think (obviously) of old LA film noir. And the fountain! Db, I'll have to check out the other one you mentioned at Griffeth. I don't remember it.

I appreciate all the kind words, people. Til tomorrow!

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