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Verdugo Views: Montrose took shape in some unexpected ways

The new “planned community” of Montrose was such a success that, in 1915, two years after it opened, homeowners presented the developer with a silver cup to thank him for his vision in laying out the hillside streets.

Those same streets were the setting for the well-known 1950 film noir “Gun Crazy.”

Here’s the back story: On Feb. 22, 1913, 4,000-plus prospective buyers arrived on horseback — or on horse-drawn vehicles — for the opening of the 300-acre project developed by Robert A. Walton and J. Frank Walters.

Walton, a Southerner who moved to this area after serving in the Army, had previously been a junior partner in the Frederick A. Holmes real estate company.

After Holmes retired, Walton continued the business as Holmes-Walton Co.

He and his new partner, Walters, placed a large display ad in the Feb. 21, 1913, Glendale News to inform readers that “Montrose, a few minutes ride up Foothill Boulevard from Glendale, is right at the junction of the Verdugo, La Crescenta and La Cañada valleys.”

The ad was also directed to land speculators: “Be prepared to buy a lot or two. You’ve made money on your holdings in Glendale. You’ll make a bigger profit if you buy at the opening prices of Montrose.”

The streets, laid out in a circular pattern leading from the broad curve of Montrose Avenue, were built wide to accommodate planned street-car tracks that were to extend an existing line from Verdugo Park in Glendale to La Crescenta Avenue.

Although Montrose was to be the main shopping street, the shops never really materialized.

Carroll W. Parcher wrote in the 1957 “Glendale Area History” that “an age-old law regarding the preferences of shoppers was rediscovered — shoppers don’t care to walk uphill to visit stores.”

Instead, level Honolulu Avenue became the main shopping street.

Later, those small, individually owned shops on Honolulu provided the perfect location for the 1950 movie, “Gun Crazy.” (Read more about the movie below.)

After his success with Montrose, Walton developed parts of La Crescenta and Oakdale (later Verdugo City).

In 1915, he was honored by the citizens with a silver cup, thanking him for making their town and their railroad a reality, as noted in the June 2017 issue of the Crescenta Valley Historical Society’s Ledger.

Flash forward to May 2017 when the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce was contacted by an antique dealer in Maine who had just purchased the cup.

Recognizing its historic value, the dealer offered to return the artifact to its geographical home. After local experts verified the cup’s authenticity, members of the community — along with members of the Valley Automotive Group — raised the necessary funds.

Upon arrival, the cup was displayed at a historical society meeting and a Silent Movie Night at Two Strike Park in August.

It will be placed in a protective case after some necessary conservation measures are completed.

Society President Michael Morgan, who provided much of the information about the cup, emailed his thoughts on the outcome.

“This story has been embraced by the community. It meant a lot to them to bring this 102-year-old cup back home. Each week, people would come up and ask how close are we to reaching our goal.” he wrote. “Not much up here in Montrose in 1915, so this artifact is very important.”

Readers Write:

The streets of downtown Montrose provided the setting for the 1950 film, “Gun Crazy,” best known for its three-minute, one-take shot of a bank robbery, filmed without cuts from the back seat of the bank robbers’ car.

It gives a great glimpse of what the village looked like then, according to information provided by film historian Paul Ayers for a March 2, 2007, Verdugo Views column about the movie.

The scene opens on Verdugo Road, with the car going north, then turning onto Broadview Drive.

“A fast right up Market Street, past the back of the Anawalt (ex-Montrose Railway) shed, left onto westbound Honolulu, then to park at the corner of Honolulu and Ocean View Boulevard, where the ‘bank’ is located. The male lead goes in to rob the bank and the female waits,” Ayers said.

“During this time,” Ayers added, “a street sign with the words ‘Ocean View’ can be seen through the windshield. The female lead encounters a policeman, knocks him down as the male emerges and they take off, left onto southbound Ocean View, left on Broadview, then right onto Verdugo Road, where the scene ends.”

“Gun Crazy,” part of this year’s Jewel City Noir film series, will be screened at 2 p.m. on Oct. 21 in the auditorium at the Downtown Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St. The free event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Glendale Public Library and the Museum of Neon Art.

To RSVP, visit eventbrite.com and search for “Jewel City Noir.”

KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached at katherineyamada@gmail.com. or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. First St., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.

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