Throwback Thursday | Walter Raymond Gentleman of the Old School

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | | Walter Raymond (1929)

Walter Raymond managed a successful travel agency in Boston, then turned California hotel man. His two hotels on a hill in South Pasadena were vital to the prestige and early development of the region. Many visitors who first came to know the area while staying at his hotel later built homes here.

Walter’s son Arthur went on to become vice-president of Douglas Aircraft Company, helping to design the DC-3 and DC-8.

Royal Raymond: 1886 to 1895  (razed by fire on Easter Sunday)

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The Raymond hotel is a grand story. What makes it so alluring to historians and the public alike is the hotels’ place and time – the formative years of California history and defining years of modern American culture.

The original hotel depicted better than any built structure of its time, the grand opulence of the Victorian age.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | | The Royal Raymond, South Pasadena (1888)
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | | The Royal Raymond’s grand hotel lobby (1890)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | | The Royal Raymond’s rose parade entry, South Pasadena (1893)


The Raymond: 1901 to 1933

When the hotel was rebuilt, it became a regional cultural icon again – this time during the age of the great American industrialist and local area’s Arroyo craftsman movement.

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | | The Raymond surrounded by orange groves, South Pasadena (1907)
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | | Walter Raymond installed a golf course, South Pasadena (1911)
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | | President Roosevelt visits The Raymond, South Pasadena (1903)


Tribute to Walter Raymond

Over 130 years ago Walter Raymond built a magnificent hotel on a hill in South Pasadena. Today he is remembered for the way he lived and what he gave to others. Walter was first and foremost a gentleman of the old school – a respectful, hardworking man who never uttered a dirty word (not even to say darn). He built a hotel. But he also created something much more significant. Walter Raymond was a builder of dreams in a new land, for himself, and everyone who knew him.

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | | Walter Raymond (1933)

On October 3, 1934, the hotel was closed due to sustained losses since the Great Depression. While the bank was demolishing his hotel, Walter died in his bungalow just fifty yards from the hotel’s main entrance.

On the hilltop today there is still evidence of the grand hotel that once stood majestically overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and South Pasadena. First, you notice the mature palms that line the road to the hilltop. The hilltop is flat. This is the site of Raymond’s dream for the last 45 years of his life.

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.