History of the Lane
Vintage postcard of Santa Rosa, captioned "Driveway in Altadena, Calif."
Planting the Lane
Deodars were introduced in 1883 to Southern California by Altadena founder John P. Woodbury who first saw a stand of the deodars in Italy. Proclaiming them the most beautiful trees he had ever seen, he returned with seeds, and getting assurance from a friend of his at the Department of Agriculture that the trees would do well in California, had his brother Frederick nurse them at the Altadena ranch. In two years they were transplanted to Santa Rosa Avenue, which would become a driveway from Pasadena up the near mile stretch to Woodburyâs planned estate. The mansion was never realized, but the deodar legacy was left and it flourished for over a century to follow.
In 1920 Altadena resident and Pasadena businessman Frederick C. Nash came up with an idea of lighting the trees for the holidays. He sought assistance from his organization The Pasadena Kiwanis Club and from the City of Pasadena to initially light a 1/4 mile section of the roadway. Over the next few years the lighting expanded until the entire row of trees, 150 in all, were lighted. The boulevard at that time was referred to as the Avenue of the Deodars. Though many pedestrians would walk along the lighted street, it was really a spectacle to behold from the seats of slowly passing automobiles.
In 1927 the newer Altadena Kiwanis Club began the custom of taking less fortunate children for rides along what they joyfully called ãChristmas Tree Street. It was estimated that annually more than 50,000 automobiles travel the avenue during the weeks of the lighting, and modern statistics show that number has not changed much.
Lighting went on for the next three decades with Mr. Tom Hoag, the foreman of the Woodbury Ranch who saw to the planting of the lane, doing the honor of "pulling the switch" for each lighting ceremony. In the years 1943 and 1944 the Lane was let go dark, not for anything to do with the war effort, but for the fact that the winter snow packs were low and conservation of electricity became a concern. During that period Mr. Hoag passed away.
The Lane had its share of postcards which were published internationally, but after the war many of the cards came up with the caption, "Christmas Tree Lane." It is supposed that is where the street actually took its present-day name.