Blog: Library Author Night Explores Mount Lowe

Mount Lowe was the "Disneyland of Its Day" and its historical importance is often underrecognized. Michael Patris and Steve Crise are 'top flight' presenters.

An Author Night with Michael Patris and Steve Crise, two of the foremost chroniclers of the fascinating history of Mount Lowe, will be the centerpiece of the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library on January 31, at 7:00 p.m.

At the beginning of the meeting the Friends will approve their new Board of Directors slate and their 2013 Budget. The public is invited to the
lively event which will also include a presentation by the authors featuring a
PowerPoint of captivating images from their latest book, Mount Lowe Then and

Michael Patris and Steve Crise are researchers for the Mount Lowe Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization working to permanently preserve one of the most important chapters of the history of the San Gabriel Valley. Although it’s their third of three titles on Mount Lowe, it was actually their first book idea.  For their latest, Patris, and Crise juxtaposed historical Mount Lowe photos side-by-side with similar shots recently taken by Crise, a talented photographer. Special
care was taken to accompany the photos with illuminating descriptions, and to
honor the historic images by using the same camera angles, times of day and
locations as seen in the earlier photos. 

The Mount Lowe story began in 1888 when Thaddeus S. C.  Lowe decided to retire as the founder of Citizen’s Bank and after inventing more than 200 patented devices. He decided to move to Southern California to create the Mount Lowe Incline Railway, a world class resort on the top of the mountain. Neither Lowe nor David J. Mac Pherson, the engineer of the project, knew they were building into a national forest that was barely a year old. But when a decision from Washington D. C. finally arrived, they were allowed to continue their project, with the provision that if the railway ever ceased to operate it would revert back to the federal government. 

When the Mount Lowe Incline Railway opened on July 4, 1893, it was called “Earth’s Grandest Mountain Ride.” It transported both local visitors and international tourists alike to a fantastic destination that included lavish accommodations, an alpine tavern, and incredible views. Mount Lowe soon became one of Southern California’s most popular tourist attractions. But unfortunately, by 1897 Lowe had lost control of his railway and was in financial ruin. The Mount Lowe Railway went into receivership and did not obtain a new owner until Henry Huntington purchased it in 1902 and for his Pacific Electric Railway system. But then devastating fires and floods destroyed Mount Lowe’s most prominent buildings, including the Echo Mountain House, the Chalet, Rubio Pavilion, and the Mount Lowe Tavern.

By 1936, the last of the structures succumbed to fire. The right of way was abandoned in 1941, at which time the land reverted to the U.S. Forest Service. The railway itself was scrapped for a meager $800. Almost everything else had already burned to the ground, including stables and railroad cars, which were wooden. Beginning in 1959, the Forest Service blew up whatever remained. By 1962, the Mount Lowe Incline Railway and its fantastic resort were a thing of the past. Although Mount Lowe itself still looms high above the San Gabriel Valley, the history of the railway and the resort can only be found in fading human
memories, works by authors such as Patris and Crise, and the relatively few
remaining artifacts, many of which have been collected and preserved by the
Mount Lowe Preservation Society.

The all-in-one Friends Annual Meeting/Author Night is free and open to the public.
Refreshments will be served and no tickets or reservations are necessary.
Autographed copies of the authors’ books will be available for purchase. The
Community Room is located at 1115 El Centro Street and doors will open at 6:30

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