Monday, March 28, 2011

Busch's Gardens--Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena

Busch Gardens, Van Nuys in 1968--plant is the building at back right
I can remember in 1968 going to the Busch beer factory and gardens in Van Nuys. After a monorail tour of the factory, you were dropped off at the back in a huge garden set up. With beautiful greenery everywhere, it was inviting to taste the various Busch products at no charge (at the time Michelob, Budweiser, and Busch Bavarian) while one strolled the gardens. Like many others, I had no idea of the all started in Pasadena.

Adolphus Busch (1839-1913) was a successful brewer, emigrating from Germany, then partnering with his wife's father in St. Louis. His idea of using pasteurization and of creating a light lager that was acceptable to a broad section of the population (it's called Budweiser) made him a very wealthy man.

Cravens Residence, ca. 1903
Wanting to spend winters in a warmer clime, he purchased "Ivy Wall" in Pasadena from the John S. Cravens family around 1905. Located at 1021 South Orange Grove Ave., the large house was a Frederick Roehrig designed Tudor mix built in 1898. With a 150 ft. frontage, the lot extended deeply along Arlington Ave. to the south. The Cravens moved only a block south to the rest of their property where they built a large mansion at Madeline Dr. That house is now owned by the American Red Cross, San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter.

Evidently it had been in the plan to develop the arroyo behind the house into lush walking gardens from the beginning, and by 1909 it was one of the most popular tourist attractions in Southern California, with trolley car lines announcing special "Triangle Trolley Trips" that included the Gardens, Santa Monica, and L.A. oil fields! Adolphus continued to purchase land behind the house (as well as to the north) such that he ended up with over 30 acres in gardens, with major divisions of an upper arroyo and lower arroyo. A significant addition was the purchase of the former Thaddeus Lowe house (he of the famous Mt. Lowe Railway) and gardens in 1910.

Upper Arroyo Gardens ca. 1915 (Ivy Wall at upper rt. behind trees)
Thaddeus Lowe House (with flag) at upper left

The house and property were in wife Lilly's name, so the gardens continued when Adolphus passed away in 1913.  Upon Lilly's death in 1928, no future plan for the gardens had been made, and so they were closed to the public. In 1937 parts of the upper garden were sold and subdivided, and in 1943 the house was sold by the Busch estate, and the house was then razed in 1952.

The lower gardens were offered twice to the City of Pasadena, but refused because of perceived high maintenance costs. In 1949 the lower gardens were sold and the property developed into residential lots and houses.

Today remnants of the original gardens rest along each homeowner's property in the arroyo, including the Old Mill, and one of the concrete water fountains, along with some of the original wire fencing. A recent tour in 2010 by Pasadena Heritage allowed tourists to once again see "Busch's Gardens".

Ivy Wall ca. 1910 with Arlington Drive in front

And once again in 2014 another Pasadena Heritage tour was organized.


1. Sam Watters; Houses of Los Angeles 1885-1919

3. Postcards of the Gardens


  1. Once went to an open house in the subdivision that was built on bush gardens. The house was very traditional and nodescript from the front, but as soon as you entered the back yard that changed amazingly. First thing you saw was a pool with a waterfall that emptied into it, then you looked further up and up and kept seeing more water falls and little streams. Apparently they just built a pool at the base of one of the grand waterfall/fountains that was still in the backyard from the gardens.. it was amazing.. climbed a good 60 ft up the hill

  2. Thanks for the additional info, Tonyschmo. And that was just one small part of the gardens!

  3. Excellent info! The house was used in the film, It Happened One Night, in 1934, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.

  4. In the movie "Gone With The wind" the outdoor filming at the BBQ was done at Busch Gardens. The scenes at the BBQ with Scarlett surrounded with men their is a white structure visible, it is also visible where Ashley & Mellie are walking, and again when Mellie and Ashley on the terrace. I am looking to see if the structure is still standing is someones yard.


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