Old meets new in Pasadena

Fix up a classic house, fix up a great city — that's what they do in this LA suburb

Matthew Jaffe

Just inside Pasadena's city limits, Colorado Boulevard opens up as it reaches the Arroyo Seco. There, a curving quarter-mile bridge crosses the gorge, its roadbed hanging 150 feet above the canyon.

The old Vista del Arroyo Hotel, now a courthouse, looms like a sentry tower guarding the city. The San Gabriel Mountains, topped with snow, form a surprisingly wintry backdrop.

This is the classic view of Pasadena: The arroyo is the city's symbolic heart and the center of the Arts and Crafts tradition that arose in Pasadena a century ago. Architectural historian and Pasadena resident Robert Winter says the bridge enhances the arroyo's beauty by bringing together the manmade and the natural worlds. "The bridge almost completes the place," he says. "It's lovely. And they practically had to tear it down to save it."

Once closed because of seismic concerns, the 1913 bridge underwent a complex restoration in the 1990s. Each summer thousands of people from the city's diverse neighborhoods converge on the bridge during a festival celebrating its survival.

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