California Cities


Altadena, California Nestled in Foothills

Altadena is a suburb of Los Angeles, but not an incorporated city within L.A. County. Located in the hills north of Pasadena, the bucolic tree-lined community is home to a delightful holiday tradition, Christmas Tree Lane.

Beautiful Altadena, California is located north of Pasadena on the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. Cool air from the mountains drops down into Altadena located a short drive from the Entertainment Capital of the World. Many world class musicians and industry leaders live in places such as Altadena, close enough to the recording studios and film facilities to make the commute an easy one.

During the summer, be sure to check out the free concerts in Farnsworth Park if you can. Many of the musicians are recording studio professionals, and their talents will amaze and entertain you.

A favorite tourist attraction is the Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, a state historical site listed in the California Historical Register. The almost one mile-long street can be found at Santa Rosa Avenue, where a grove of Deodar cedar trees shine especially bright during the holiday season each year between December and January. The trees have outlived their age expectancy of over 100 years and continue to delight young and old each November - December. Community volunteers string lights along the length of these trees for thousands of people to drive by and look at. They are part of a tradition that's been around for over 80 years, heralding the holiday season.

Christmas Tree Lane "Lighting Ceremony" at Altadena Library grounds held the second Saturday of December, unless otherwise indicated, begins a two to three-week tradition. The lights go on at dark and turn off around midnight. The lighting continues to January 1st, or 2nd if its on a weekend. It has been customarily lighted on January 6 for the Eastern Right faiths who celebrate Christmas on the Feast of the Epiphany. A Winter Arts and Crafts Festival coinciding with the Tree Lighting or some other civic event is usually held.

There are speeches, children singing and then the tree lighting. The ceremony usually is held from 5 to 7 p.m.

Christmas Tree Lane (actually Santa Rosa Avenue, between Woodbury Avenue and Altadena Drive) in Altadena is one of the oldest Christmas lighting spectacles in Southern California. It became a tradition in 1920 when a local named Nash decided to brighten up the holiday with some lights on the quickly growing Deodars that the Woodbury Family, founders of Altadena, planted in 1885.

Nearly 135 Deodar Cedar trees are decorated by the Christmas Tree Lane Association in what's known as "Mile of Christmas Trees" (containing 10,000 lights.) The oldest large-scale outdoor Christmas display in the world is a designated California Historical Landmark No. 990 (1990), and listed in the National Register of Historic Places (1990). Christmas Tree Lane at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, was established along the lane of deodar cedars that John Woodbury discovered on a trip through Italy, and envisioned for Altadena. His ranch hands transplanted more than 100 trees each 2-foot-tall running along both sides of a straight avenue running uphill from Woodbury Road.

These very old Deodars that came from Italy in 1883 as youngsters, were a hit. In 1920 Altadena resident and Pasadena businessman Frederick C. Nash sought help from Pasadena Kiwanis Club and from the City of Pasadena to light a quarter- mile section of the roadway. Over the next few years the lighting expanded until the entire row of trees, 150 in all, were lighted. The boulevard at that time was referred to as the "Avenue of the Deodars." Though many pedestrians would walk along the lighted street, it was really a spectacle to behold from the seats of slowly passing automobiles.

In 1927 the newer Altadena Kiwanis Club began the custom of taking less fortunate children for rides along what they joyfully called "Christmas Tree Street." More than 50,000 cars traveled the avenue during the weeks of the lighting and today, interest is still strong, but not without some historical footnotes.

The lane actually went dark for several years and the City of Pasadena dropped out of participation as Altadena fought annexation from its neighbor. The Altadena community formed the Christmas Tree Lane Association (CTLA) and in 1964 Southern California Edison agreed to help out by installing a permanent grid along the trees with special throw switches in three intersection locations, all for free (before the energy shortage occurred).

Christmas Tree Lane was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and became California State Landmark No. 990 for significance in its singularly significant social convergence of two relatively new commodities: the outdoor electric light and the automobile. Christmas Tree Lane is also recognized as the only botanical landmark on the State Registry.

Southern California Edison no longer sought to provide free energy in 2000 and the annual celebration was jeopardized. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Fifth District, saved Christmas by spending discretionary funds to upgrade the poor electrical wiring system and grid that lights the trees. Some saw him as Santa Claus. He threw the switch on the lights and everyone cheered in delight.

Altadena Chamber of Commerce provides a great resource for visiting this city.

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