Saturday, May 19, 2012

John B. Coulston -- 1090 New York Ave., Altadena

John Bishop Coulston (1869-1928) first came to southern California in 1905 as a tourist seeking relief from his asthma. He returned and sold his interests back home in northwestern Pennsylvania, where the then 35-year old had been successful in both banking and natural gas industries. With his wife Nora and three children John T.(b.1892), George S., and Lillian M., he chose to settle near Pasadena.

Recent photo of Bank Entry
(courtesy of
He immediately engaged in what had brought him earlier business success--he began forming small banks in Covina (Covina National Bank), Colton (Colton National Bank), Riverside (National Bank of Riverside), and Los Angeles (Traders Bank of Los Angeles). Looking closer to home in 1907 he bought the Crown City Bank in east Pasadena from the original owners--it had been in business less than a year.  Within six months he relocated it from Michigan and Colorado Blvd. to Marengo and Colorado Blvd., paying $75,000 for the building and lot. Not all traces of the bank's existence at the Michigan Ave. location were erased however, as evidence of the bank still exists on the entry walk to the building (see image at right).

While he established himself in the bank business of the southland, Coulston was also having a new house built just northeast of town in Altadena.  The Craftsman-style house held 5 bedrooms in 2 1/2 stories plus basement, with a great room on the third floor, and a large pond out back. The family had moved in by 1907.

View from the back yard of Coulston Residence ca. 1910
(today's 1100 New York Ave., Altadena)

 The 1910 census shows sons John T. and George, daughter Lillian, a niece on Nora's side, and a gardener and "domestic" in the house.
J.B. in 1910

In 1911 J.B. was a Rose Parade director. Participating in the parade on a "one-horse" float were Lillian and friend Genevieve Seyler.  George "drove".  The float won 1st place in its category.

In his spare time, when not running his Wildwood Ranch of orange groves near Glendora, Coulston pursued an avocation of golf, founding Altadena Country Club, and serving as its president for multiple years. Along with the Club, "cottages" were built along the west side of the course, and by 1918 the Coulstons had moved into #35, after living for two years in the bungalow cottages at the Maryland Hotel, which had just finished rebuilding after a devastating fire in 1914.

Son John in a 1918
UC Berkeley photo
In 1917 son John T. joined the army to serve in WWI.  Early the next year John B. signed up (age 49) to assist the American Expeditionary Forces under the aegis of the Red Cross.  Leaving in May of that year, he engaged in "home service" duty, visiting American troops in France, passing communications back home, while building troop morale.

In 1919 Coulston ventured into a new area of business. According to a December article in the New York Herald,

"D. M. Linnard, manager and owner of the Maryland, Huntington and Green, the city's largest resort hotels recently disposed of a controlling interest in the California Hotel Company, the holding corporation, to J.B. Coulston, a Pasadena banker, and some of his associates."

Coulston was to take an active role in the management of the hotels, negotiating agreements for guests to have "golfing privileges" at nearby courses, as well as moving into one of the bungalows on the backside of the Maryland Hotel. As part of the publicity generation, Coulston was noted in a 1921 article in a golfing magazine about his daily "flying routine", as seen below.

In 1926 J.B. headed up the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, while still managing the California Hotel Company.

In 1928 he was found dead at the Maryland Hotel. The obituary indicated his death was due to heart disease, and that he was under a strain from some negotiations in progress.

Nora remained in the Maryland bungalow through 1930, eventually removing to 695 Belvedere.  She died in 1946.

And what of the house?  Today it still exists, albeit with some of the roof extras removed. provides this aerial.

1100 New York Ave. today (even the pond!)


Sign from one of Coulston's orange groves