Los Angeles Almanac Logo
Home | All Almanac Topics | Arts

Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena

Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena

Historic Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, 2006, as viewed south from Altadena Drive. Photo courtesy of Geographer at English Wikipedia.

Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena (actually Santa Rosa Avenue, between Woodbury Avenue and Altadena Drive) is reported to be the oldest large-scale Christmas lighting display in the world. In 1885, the Woodbury Family, founders of Altadena, planted the Deodar Cedar trees on the street (inspired by seeing these trees in a visit to Italy and planted with the help of Chinese laborers) as part of their ranch. Stones were collected from the nearby Arroyo Seco to create rain drainage gutters next to the trees. In 1920, with the help of the local Kiwanis Club and the City of Pasadena, Frederick C. Nash first organized a tree lighting spectacle along a quarter mile stretch of the street, then known as the Avenue of the Deodars. He hoped that it would help attract customers to his Pasadena department store. After several more seasons, all 150 trees along the street were eventually lit. Now, each season, volunteers and the non-profit Christmas Tree Lane Association string the “Mile of Christmas Trees” with 10,000 lights. An estimated 50,000 cars drive down the street each lighting season. The only Christmas seasons in which the trees were dark were in 1943 and 1944 (not due to required war blackouts, but due to the need to conserve electricity), 1958 (due to the sharp economic downtown), and 1974 (due to the energy crisis). In 1990, the street became listed as a California Historical Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Prior to utility deregulation in 2000, Southern California Edison donated the power to light Christmas Tree Lane. Since then, however, the Christmas Tree Lane Association has been challenged to provide enough funding for the electricity bills and costly liability insurance. So far, community support in the form of volunteer help and membership contributions have keep Christmas Tree Lane lighted.

Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena, Dec. 25, 1948

Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena on Christmas Day in 1948, from the same viewpoint as in the photo above. Photo from L.A. Times Photographic Collection at UCLA Library.