Growth Wiped Out Old Neighborhoods

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Chihuahita, or Titleyville.

Sonora Town, or Little Mexico.


These were the names given Pasadena’s early Latino areas.

“Pasadena’s forgotten neighborhoods,” historian Marguerite Duncan-Abrams calls them.

They are sections bypassed by earlier historians, who sketched the broad avenues of the city’s movers and shakers and omitted the working-class streets populated by Latinos and other minorities, Duncan-Abrams said.

Yet, the history of these little-known neighborhoods helps explain why Pasadena’s Latinos, despite more than 80 years of recent history in the city, are still struggling to wield influence.

Their history in Pasadena is of a tiny populace, ignored and segregated, whose streets yielded to offices, freeways and suburbs--until their neighborhoods vanished.


* Sonora Town, which ran between Del Mar Boulevard and Glenarm Street along the railroad tracks, is the best historically documented of the three Latino sections.

It was also the worst, according to accounts from the 1910s and 1920s.

The area was “traversed by two railroad tracks, having gas tanks, electric power plants, several factories, laundries and a heterogeneous huddle of adobes,” according to a 1922 study by USC sociology student Christine Lofstedt. With 984 people, it had 57% of the Latinos in the city.

Mexican men generally were employed as street workers or railroad companyworkers and day laborers, whereas Mexican women did seasonal work in the fruit-packing plants along the railroad tracks.

They earned $1.25 daily and paid $11 monthly rent “for a place that you might be able to keep chickens in, if they weren’t very fancy chickens,” according to a 1913 newspaper article.

Old, vacant homes, shacks of tin and scrap lumber, renovated barns, garages and tents made up the housing stock. Nearly a third of the abodes lacked outhouses, or outside flush toilets. Most had no garbage collection service, electricity or bathtubs.

“A good many people think that Pasadena hasn’t any poor quarter, but if they could see some of the things over here, they would change their minds,” the 1913 article said.


Spurred by conditions there, the city condemned some of the houses in 1913. A Mexican Home Assn. was organized to build decent homes, whose cost would be paid back by rents. Pacific Electric Co., a railroad company, later replaced its substandard housing with new concrete structures.

Also about 1913, community activist Clara Morgan Odell began encouraging the area’s Mexican mothers to send their children to nearby Garfield Elementary School.

Her efforts, however, ended in segregation in 1914. Wealthy Anglos from “Millionaire’s Row” on Orange Grove Boulevard, whose children attended the same school, decided to create Junipero Sierra School for the Mexicans, Duncan-Abrams said. There, instead of the three Rs--reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic--Mexican children were taught the three Hs--heart, head and hands--to equip them for manual labor.

Sonora Town also contained the Pasadena Settlement House Assn., begun in 1914 to provide medical care and sewing classes for women. The maternity section later became the Municipal Hospital and evolved into the current Huntington Memorial Hospital.

Also within the neighborhood was the Roman Catholic Mission of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which operated out of a converted stable on South Raymond Avenue. Mexicans attended religious services, in Spanish, there from 1911 until it burned down in 1980.

The neighborhood also spawned the social service agency, El Centro de Accion Social, which now operates on Del Mar Boulevard. But the area’s Latino neighborhood is mostly gone, displaced by offices, light manufacturing buildings and apartment complexes.


* Chihuahita, or Little Chihuahua, took its name from the Mexican immigrants who came from the state of Chihuahua fleeing the upheavals of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

Roughly bounded by Avocado Lane and Sierra Madre, Foothill and Orange Grove boulevards, it stood outside the Pasadena city limits, near avocado and citrus groves, and was in “marked contrast to Little Mexico,” according to a 1911 newspaper account.

Its residents were orchard workers who picked fruit and worked as gardeners, stone masons and cement workers. Many owned small houses with flower gardens, and their children attended the Titleyville school, established in 1915.

The area, which in 1922 was home to 350 Latinos, or 20% of the city’s Latino population, later became absorbed by upscale suburban Anglo neighborhoods, such as Hastings Ranch, which sprang up around it. But a number of Latinos still live there in houses that have been in their families since the original settlers.

* Winona, where many Latinos lived, was named after the avenue that paralleled Lincoln Avenue, north of Colorado Boulevard.

In 1922, 402 Latinos, or 23% of the city’s Latino population, lived there. It had a small grocery, owned by Andreita Gonzalez, now in her 80s and still living in the San Gabriel Valley.


An independent woman known for her strongly voiced opinions, Gonzalez was an early leader in Pasadena’s Latino community, volunteering for more than a decade on El Centro’s board of directors and active in the Virgin of Guadalupe mission.

The neighborhood disappeared in the 1970s, when the northern leg of the Foothill Freeway was built.