Throwback Thursday | Rise and Fall of SPHS Original Buildings

Throwback Thursday is Written and Produced by Rick Thomas

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com | South Pasadena High School (1907)

The original $65,000 bond issue for a new high school easily passed with the required two-thirds majority. Shortly after, a second bond of $10,000 also passed to cover the skyrocketing cost of construction due to the price of materials following the San Francisco earthquake.

South Pasadena’s first high school building opened on April 8, 1907, graduating only five students in June.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com | Postcard of South Pasadena High School (1915)

In 1912, the impressive neoclassic building expanded with two more “wing buildings” designed by South Pasadena architect Norman Foote Marsh. The school’s landscaping on Fremont Avenue consisted of an expansive lawn, wide concrete walkways, and a forest of palm trees.

PHOTO: SPHS yearbook “Copa de Oro” | Graduation Ceremony (1938)

The school district staged an extravagant graduation commencement ceremony every year on the school’s sweeping lawn and grand staircase. Floral arrangements for the lavish affair was a gift to the graduating class compliments of the Sato family nursery.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | SouthPasadenan.com | South Pasadena High School (1943)

San Marino students attended South Pasadena High School beginning in 1921 – staying for the next 30 years. During this time the high school’s enrollment reached a thousand students on its eleven-acre campus designed for five hundred.

By the middle of the century, many of the core buildings were declared unsafe and demolished, including the original columned academic building built in 1907. And in 1954, voters passed a bond issue to raise money for construction of a new gymnasium, library, cafeteria, and classrooms.

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.

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