Throwback Thursday | South Pasadena’s World-Famous Ostrich Farm

In 1901, the farm was the site of the world’s first successful solar power experiment for commercial use.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | | Artist rendering of South Pasadena’s Cawston Ostrich Farm from the corner of Pasadena Ave. and Sycamore Ave. (1915)

Edwin Cawston, English adventurer and world traveler, was one of the first to realize there was big money to be made ostrich farming in America. He established an ostrich breeding farm in Norwalk in 1886 then opened a factory with tourist attractions in South Pasadena in 1896. With nearby Pasadena winter tourism at an all-time high, his goal was to attract large numbers of visitors to his farm and gain national attention in the process.

Visitors could take a tour of the feather dye factory, watch attendants feed whole oranges to the ostriches, and witness trainers ride ostriches bareback. After a mid-day stroll in the semitropical gardens, they have tea at the Japanese Tea House. At the end of their visit, they pose for a souvenir photo with a live or stuffed ostrich.

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas

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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.