Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Normandie Heights Historical Background

March 15, 2005

Historical Background:

Clarence Bowen, a prominent Pasadena realtor, established the Normandie Heights tract in 1906. North Pasadena had been annexed to the City of Pasadena in 1904, which brought electricity, sewers, and other municipal services, greatly increasing both the desirability and price of lots in the annexed area. Mr. Bowen had purchased the parcel of land from Messrs. Painter and Ball, prominent land owners and speculators in this part of town around 1904.

With Mr. Bowen’s subdivision of the purchased tract of land in 1906, he graded a standard size street from the west towards the east, entering from Los Robles Ave. Unfortunately, the most easterly lots were somewhat valueless, since several sat in the Woodbury Creek wash, and were virtually unbuildable. The street, first named Pleasant View, dead ended on the east due to the wash running diagonal north to south. Also, access from the east was limited, as El Molino (Moline) Ave. did not go through south of Rio Grande Street to Washington Ave, again due to the Woodbury Creek. The remains of the wash may be seen today in Washington Park, the picturesque arroyo which runs north to south diagonally through the park spanned by a stone footbridge.

The Normandie Heights tract was divided by Mr. Bowen into 43 mostly standard sized lots, 50 foot wide and 120 foot deep. Sales were not very brisk, but a few lots were sold, nothing actually was built until 1908, although some of the lots changed hands a few times. In 1907, the street name was changed from Pleasant View to Normandie Street, also shown in street directories of the time as Normandie Court. The reason for the name change is not known, and the origin of the name Normandie is not known for sure, although the wealthy Mr. Bowen most likely traveled to Europe on Grand Tour as was the custom of his time in pre World War I America and he was no doubt familiar with the beautiful area of northern France known as the Normandie. The origin of the name Pleasant View and Heights is quite obvious, since before any building took place and the shrubbery grew up, this former walnut grove on a very noticeable incline had quite a view of the mountains to the north and the growing city to the south.

In 1908, two homes were built for two separate owners on adjacent lots by the Robert Foss Company. These homes at 618 and 622 Normandie (Rio Grande) Street are very similar in design. The original owners at 618 and at 622 were among the first residents of Normandie Street. In 1911, noted Pasadena architect Sylvanus Marston designed the Colonial Revival style Normandie Heights Estate at 1440 N. Los Robles. The name Normandie Heights was taken from the already existing subdivision. The Normandie Heights Estate, as one of the showpieces of Pasadena, was featured with pictures of the home and gardens in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Pictorial of 1913.

A number of homes were built in the Craftsman style in the period from 1909 to 1915 and a number of homes were built in the California Bungalow style and Colonial Revival style after World War I through the 1920’s. As time passed, the True Estate, at 1404 N. Los Robles, and the Normandie Heights Estate, at 1440 N. Los Robles, sold off some of their original grounds and the land was subdivided with homes being built on the former estate grounds during the 1930’s to the 1980’s. Newer infill development was minimal and reflects the history of many older neighborhoods in Pasadena. The recent restoration of the True Estate has reversed the trend towards subdivision.

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