When I was a kid, my family and I would frequently travel through the intersection of Fair Oaks Ave and Colorado Blvd in Pasadena. During those times in the early 80’s, this area was so very dilapidated and neglected. I can recall that the area appeared like a run down ghost town covered in layers and layers of soot. Once colorful business signs were faded and reflective of times that once were. I remember that every single time we passed this area in our car, my aunt would emphatically make the same repeated statement; “This is the ugliest area of Pasadena.” Perhaps she said it only once or twice, but this statement stayed in my mind until this day because the visions of the time, matched the statement. Yet, despite the depressed state of this area, one can easily see that in it’s heyday, it must have been a very vibrant and energetic center of the city.
Flash forward to the late 80’s, as an early teen I saw and visited small independent shops and boutiques that began to sprout here at there. A slight clean up effort was taking place but still not a lot of foot traffic. However, this small effort must have made many see the possibility of this area.
Then in the early 90’s, this area which was now becoming well known as Old Town Pasadena began to flourish as a center to shop, dine and hang out. It was an exciting time to see these old buildings receive new colorful coats of paint. Most structures were being revived of their former glory inside and out. Streets were rehabilitated. As a young adult, it was a really great place to take a date, watch a movie and have dinner.
Since this time, Old Town has seen many well known and national retailers move in. It’s face is constantly changing but still maintains it’s energetic vibrancy from those exciting initial days. I don’t visit Old Town as frequently as I did when I was younger. Partly due to the large crowds and partly because at my age, I feel like there is not much there for me. But that story is for another day.
I’ve recently come across a post of photographs that illustrate what Old Town Pasadena looked like in those early 80’s. If you have visited Old Town before, you will see a stark difference. If you are someone who remembers what Old Town looked like before, these photographs will provide much nostalgia.
You can see more from the collection here: Our Heritage: The Revitalization Movement of Old Pasadena