Picturing Crescenta Valley's changing history

Photographs illustrate the area's rich past and present.

October 27, 2010|By Lyda Truick
(Photo by Art Cobery )

Historically speaking, the Crescenta Valley was renowned for its sanitariums. Now, it is the home of sleepy little suburbs connected by the 210 Freeway. As you can imagine, a lot has changed visually over the years, and author Robert Newcombe of Montrose, and Mike Lawler, local resident and president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, have compiled scenes from "Then & Now."

The book is in no way a comprehensive, linear history of the Crescenta Valley and all its communities, nor was that the intent. It is "merely an entertaining way of introducing those new to the community to the changes, both good and bad, that have taken place in the last century." Essentially, this is a compilation of random photographs taken throughout the Crescenta Valley over the past 130 years or so, and comparing them to the same locations as they look today. Some photos date back to the 1880s, while others are from the more recent past, circa 1970.


Each chapter is based on the four towns making up the valley — La Crescenta, Montrose, Glendale (mostly the northern portion) and La Ca??ada. The majority of the photographs illustrate vast changes, while some reflect how things have stayed the same. For example, a stone barn originally built in 1914 still stands today on part of the Deukmejian Wilderness Park grounds. Two of the most ironically intriguing photos involve a now-vacant lot on the corner of Berkshire and Commonwealth Avenue in La Ca??ada.

Apparently, the lot once housed a sales office for multiple tracts of land owned by Frank Flint around 1910. According to the book, "this particular tract office … seemed to be doing a brisk business, but apparently could not sell that very lot, which mysteriously sits empty today." Could it be a Native American burial site? Perhaps even something a little more questionable? It is definitely an interesting discovery waiting to be unearthed.

There are times when a little more information on the selected photographs would be helpful, but the layout and purpose of the book did not lend itself to more detail, and most likely in some instances, further information just was not available.

While brief and rather haphazard, this book is certainly an introduction to the Crescenta Valley's visual history, and will inspire some people to delve further into the growth of the community and visit some of the sites still standing. Most importantly, the purchase of this book benefits the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, which will no doubt assist in funding the future preservation and documentation of this community's rich and vibrant history.

LYDA TRUICK has a masters of library and information science degree and can be reached at



Book: "The Crescenta Valley" by Robert Newcombe, Mike Lawler and the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley

Publisher: Arcadia Publishing, June 2008

Cost: Paperback: $21.99

Available: Local retailers, online bookstores or through Arcadia publishing at or (888) 313-2665

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