Rubio Canyon: Famous visionary
capitalized on the canyon's beauty
By Becky Oskin
ALTADENA -- The history of Rubio Canyon is inextricably linked
with its reliable water supply.
The first person to take the water was
Jesus Rubio Maron, a native Californian who first used the
year-round stream to irrigate his crops in 1867.
Rubio sold the property in 1877 to a
Dr. Hall, who died only two years later. Hall's widow then sold
the land to the Woodbury brothers, Altadena's founders.
The Woodburys had grand dreams for
building a new community in the foothills north of Pasadena. In
1883, the brothers began piping Rubio Canyon water down to
Altadena and tunneling in the canyon's west wall. Three years
later, they named their new water company Rubio Canon Land and
Rubio Canyon's renown, however, comes
from one of southern California's famous visionaries, Professor
The professor -- immortalized by Mt.
Lowe -- and engineer David Macpherson built the Great Incline, a
cable car system that transported city-dwellers from Rubio
Canyon to Echo Mountain and the alpine peaks of the San Gabriel
Electric trolley tracks were laid in
Rubio Canyon in 1893, ending at a transfer site about half a
mile from the canyon's mouth. There, Lowe built the Rubio
Pavilion and his Great Incline.
Set high on a wooden trestle, the
pavilion straddled a narrow point in the canyon while the stream
ran below. The two-story building included a 10-room hotel,
dance hall and kitchen. A small dam at the head of Grand Chasm
Falls, further north in the canyon, powered a hydroelectric
generator at the Pavilion.
Lowe never missed an opportunity to
capitalize on the mountain's beauty. The steep upper reaches of
Rubio Canyon had abundant trees, huge ferns and many waterfalls,
which provided cool respite during the hot summers. Lowe built a
steep and sometimes rickety wooden walkway along the waterfalls,
lit with Japanese paper lanterns at night -- a magical setting.
In 1902, Pacific Electric took over the
railway, regrading and straightening the tracks and building a
small rail car storage yard at the pavilion.
Rubio Canyon's decline started in 1909
when a storm washed away the staircase, destroyed the pavilion
and killed the son of the hotel's caretakers.
The pavilion became a mere stopover
point, marked by a wood shed slapped together by Pacific
Electric. As highways and cars grew more popular, travelers
stopped using the railway and the incline closed in 1936. The
train shed was taken down in 1939 and the rails were salvaged
for scrap steel during World War II.
Over the years, floods and fire damaged
the remaining railway and building artifacts, leaving only a few
stone foundations as a reminder of Rubio Canyon's early
-- Becky Oskin can be reached at
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4451, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.