Christmas Tree Lane: The Origins of a Southern California Tradition | KCET
Christmas Tree Lane: The Origins of a Southern California Tradition
Woodbury ranch superintendent Thomas Hoag had no idea the three-foot seedlings he was planting would someday become a major Yuletide attraction. It was 1885, and Hoag and his Chinese American ranch hands were building a driveway that climbed a steady grade from the Pasadena city limit up to the ranch house of Altadena founders Frederick and John Woodbury. Sweating under the June sun, Hoag and his workers dug ditches on each side of the drive and lined them with granite stones transported by mule from nearby Rubio Canyon. Behind the ditches they planted roughly 150 young deodar cedars, which Hoag had grown from seed in the Woodburys' greenhouse over the previous two years.
Thirty-five years later, in 1920, the Woodburys' driveway had become Santa Rosa Avenue, the ranch had evolved into now-suburban Altadena, and the fragile seedlings had matured into robust cedar trees. Their conical shape and low-slung branches inspired Pasadena merchant Fred Nash to transform the Himalayan conifers into Christmas trees. Enlisting the aid of the Pasadena Kiwanis Club, Nash festooned the trees with red, white, blue, and green electric lights, and an annual holiday tradition was born.
In Christmas Tree Lane's early years, pedestrians strolled in the soft glow of 10,000 electric bulbs. But it soon became an attraction to be seen from the seat of a car, as an endless nighttime procession of automobiles, their headlights dark, crawled up the one-mile stretch of Santa Rosa Avenue. In 1935, the display drew more than 20,000 people on a single Christmas evening. The glittering trees fell outside Pasadena's corporate limits, but for several decades Crown City workers strung the lights while Southern California Edison provided the electricity for free.
In 1930, Hoag returned for the attraction's annual dedication ceremony. The former ranch foreman might have felt some ambivalence about using a tree considered divine among Hindus as a decoration for a Christian holiday. Hoag recalled hearing Frederick Woodbury remark, he told the Los Angeles Times, that "the seeds were from a heathen land, but the California sun would civilize them if anything could." Pulling a switch that Christmas Eve, the 79-year-old Hoag closed an electric circuit and illuminated the trees he'd once planted to shade a rural ranch road.
You May Also Like
Connect with KCET
All around the United States is a 100-mile border zone where one can be searched and one's things seized. Policies way beyond what the constitution allows is regularly implemented. Artists drew on select sites. Here's what they realized.
Created by policymakers in the 1940s, the border zone extends 100 miles inland from the nation’s land and sea boundaries and houses nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population. It's also where the 4th amendment rights of the people have been subverted.
We have forgotten how to be medicine to the land, and to ourselves. The members of Syuxtun Collective are revisiting lost indigenous wisdom of learning and listening, of harvesting and preparing plant medicine in participation with nature.
What is nature? Evan Meyer of UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden; Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, disability justice and culture expert; and Rebeca Méndez, a designer and artist whose work addresses climate change, tackle this complex topic.
California’s deserts have sparked imaginations around the world. This episode explores the creation of the Salton Sea; the effort to preserve Joshua Tree National Park; and how commercial interests created desert utopias like Palm Springs.
This episode explores how surfers, bodybuilders, and acrobats taught Californians how to have fun and stay young at the beach — and how the 1966 documentary The Endless Summer shared the Southern California idea of the beach with the rest of the world.
From its origins as a seaside resort to its fame as a countercultural hub, Venice Beach boasts a rich history. This episode explores the original plans for Venice, the Beat poets who lived there and the history of the Abbot Kinney commercial district.