THROWBACK THURSDAY | Corner of Pasadena and Sycamore (Cawston Ostrich Farm)

Throwback Thursday is Written and Produced by Rick Thomas

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Postcard – Entrance to Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena (1901)

Many people thought Edwin Cawston was crazy when he traveled halfway around the world to acquire ostriches from South Africa to start a feather fashion business on the banks of the Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena. Furthermore, Cawston opened his ostrich farm to the public to take advantage of the tourist trade. One problem: the first major resort hotel in San Gabriel Valley – The Raymond in South Pasadena – burned to the ground.

Cawston opened his ostrich farm anyway in 1896 and proved his critics wrong.

One New York paper described his ostrich farm as “One of the strangest sights in America.” With press like that, the risky business venture was about to pay off. In no time at all the Cawston Ostrich Farm in South Pasadena was a thriving mail-order business, chain of company-owned stores, and one of California’s most popular tourist attractions.

Images of Cawston Ostrich Farm at the Original Entrance

The following images show how the corner of Pasadena Ave. and Sycamore Ave. has changed over time. The property saw many upgrades at this location due to Cawston’s success in the women’s fashion accessory business.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Illustration – Cawston Ostrich Farm from the perspective of Pasadena Ave. and Sycamore Ave. (1908)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Ostrich Farm entrance (1907)
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Ostrich Farm entrance (1911)
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | SouthPasadenan.com News | Cawston Ostrich Farm retail store (1922)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas | SouthPasadenan.com News | Today – Ostrich Farm Lofts, bus stop, and historical marker
PHOTO: Rick Thomas | SouthPasadenan.com News | Today – Cawston Ostrich Farm historical marker
Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here