Pasadena History
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A Brief History of Pasadena, CA

a picture of downtown pasadena in southern california

When most people think of the city of Pasadena California they see images of the Rose Bowl, the Tournament of Roses and all of its color and pageantry come to mind. There are also the headline-grabbing accomplishments of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Cal Institute of Technology. But few consider that 200 years ago, Pasadena was home to little more than a pueblo of the Hahamogna tribe of native Americans.

Enter the Mission Era

Just as is the case with much of California, things started to change with the arrival of the Spaniards, whose goal was to evangelize the native population and convert them to Christianity. The natives also provided a rich source of labor which was used to build the San Gabriel Mission, which was established on September 8, 1771. Almost immediately, the mission grew prosperous with an abundance of vineyards, orchards, and herds.

After the rule of California passed from Spain to Mexico, the focus of missions changed from a religious orientation to business. As a result, Mexico deeded land that once belonged to the missions to individuals to establish individual farms and ranches. One of the largest was Rincon de San Pascual, a 14,000-acre ranch that was located on the northeast corner of the mission. On February 18, 1835, the land was formally granted to Don Juan Marine by the Mexican government. Within a few years, ownership of the rancho was passed to Marine’s sons, who eventually lost the title, changing ownership several times until November 28, 1843, when the Governor deeded it to his friend, Colonel Manuel Garfias, the son of a distinguished Mexican family.

California Becomes a State

In 1850, California became a state of the Union. Two years later, Garfias built a hacienda on the banks of the Arroyo, where his family settled and started living in grand style. All of this ended in 1859 when Garfias fell on hard economic times and had to give up his title to his lenders, Benjamin “Don Benito” Wilson and Dr. John S. Griffin. Parts of the ranch were eventually sold in 1873, leaving the two men with 5,328 acres.

By this time, things were booming in the area. In fact, the economic outlook hadn’t looked this good in years, so the city was incorporated in 1886, in part to rid itself of a saloon. The good news in this was that in the ensuing decade amenities such as paved streets, sewers, and electric street lighting popped up all over the area. Citizens were prosperous, so much so that they decided to celebrate on January 1, 1890, by establishing a mid-winter festival featuring horses and carriages decored with flowers, a tradition that eventually become known as the Tournament of Roses Association.

On the business end of the spectrum, not only were business tycoons being attracted to the area, but new entrepreneurs were being enticed as well by a city government that encouraged growth. In fact, the population of the city grew from 9,117 in 1900 to 30,291 in 1910.

Grand hotels and other businesses were created virtually overnight with not only the businessmen who flocked to the area to invest, but numerous other groups, among them blacks, Chinese, and Mexicans, were brought in to spur development of businesses, the railroad, and other infrastructure. Once construction of these establishments was complete, the members of these groups stayed to become laborers in the homes and businesses.

By this time the educational institutions in the area were expanding, most notably Throop Polytechnic Institute, which later became what is now known as the California Institute of Technology.

Pasadena’s Golden Era

Spurred primarily by Southern California’s burgeoning movie industry, by the 1920s, Pasadena had become a major attraction as a tourist destination and winter resort for the rich and famous. As has always been the case, a large part of the success of this can be attributed to the economic environment that has been fostered by the city since its beginning.

World War II ushered in a reinvigorated burst of prosperity that has never slowed. In fact, as business has continued to grow, so has the infrastructure to support it. In fact, with the growth of infrastructure, the attraction of Pasadena as a quiet place to live and grow a business has only increased. Even as the remainder of the country suffered economic slowdown like never before, Pasadena enjoyed new growth and a revitalization that continues to this day.

Pasadena is now home to a booming business and young professional district know as Old Town Pasadena, and the Paseo. Filled with restaurants, local businesses, nightlife, and major retail outlets, it is an excellent destination for anyone looking to assimilate in the metropolitan area of Greater Los Angeles, CA – and of course, is home to the headquarters of SEO Firepower. Visit us here at