Throwback Thursday | Famous Firsts in South Pas History

PHOTO: Lauren Thomas | News | City of South Pasadena water tower where, the to the left, cell towers can be visibly be seen

In this week’s Throwback Thursday, we will honor four “famous firsts” in South Pasadena history. They are quite remarkable concerning the relative small size of our city.

Major Resort Hotel

PHOTO: The Thomas Collection | | The Royal Raymond (1888)

In 1886, The Royal Raymond was the first major resort hotel in the San Gabriel Valley.

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PHOTO: The Thomas Collection | | Raymond Hotel (1909)

After a devastating fire razed The Royal Raymond, the hotel was rebuilt and reopened in 1901. A 9-hole golf course was installed making it the only resort hotel in Southern California with golf links on its grounds.

Ostrich Farm and Mail Order

PHOTO: The Thomas Collection | | Artist rendering of the Cawston Ostrich Farm at the corner of Pasadena Avenue and Sycamore Avenue (1915)

 The Cawston Ostrich Farm was the largest ostrich farm in America and the most successful mail order business of its kind in the world. Edwin Cawston boasted during the holidays that he received more orders by mail for ostrich feathers than Santa received letters at the North Pole.

Solar Power Experiment

PHOTO: The Thomas Collection | | The Solar Motor, Cawston Ostrich Farm (1901)

In 1901, The Solar Power Motor at the ostrich farm was the world’s first successful solar power experiment for commercial use. Its 1,788 mirrors powered a steam engine which pumped water from a well at the ostrich farm.

Passenger Air Service

PHOTO: The Thomas Collection | | Roy’s dirigible with passengers from The Raymond (1913)

In 1913, Roy Knabenshue piloted a dirigible becoming the first passenger air service in America. Roy took paying customers from The Raymond hotel grounds on regular flights over the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles.



Rick Thomas
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.