Located on historic Route 66, just 6 miles from downtown Los Angeles, is the city of
South Pasadena. A city that reminds residents and visitors alike of small town Americana.
The city's quaint stores and small town personality draw thousands of tourists each
year while the area's charming streets and historic architecture have made South Pasadena
a mecca for film and television productions who have used the area for everything from
"Back to the Future" to "Stanley and Iris."
Some spots to visit as you travel along Route 66 include the historic Mission West
district, (on Mission Street just east of Orange Grove Boulevard) this area was the
central business district of South Pasadena. In recent years, Mission West has gained a
reputation as one of Southern California's most unique and charming shopping areas. This
well kept secret is frequented by celebrities and designers and still reflects the charm
and character it did in the early 1920's and 1930's. Visitors are invited to browse
through Mission West's antique, curio, gift and collectable shops; or wander through the
galleries and interior design shops; or stop by Buster's Ice Cream and Coffee Shop to
enjoy a refreshing drink or an ice cream cone.
The South Pasadena Museum (at 913 Meridian Avenue) occupies the original Meridian Iron
Works building, one of the oldest structures still standing in the city. Open from 1 pm to
5 pm on the first and third Saturdays of the month, the Historical Museum holds numerous
artifacts tracing the history of this area of the San Gabriel Valley.
Across Mission Street from the Historical Museum is the Century House, one of South
Pasadena's oldest standing residences. The structure was recently moved to its present
location and is currently undergoing extensive renovations. The Century House may look
familiar to some visitors as the centerpiece for a number of major motion pictures
including two of the "Halloween" horror movies.
Photo Courtesy of Guy Randall
Continue traveling east on Route 66 down Mission Street and you will reach the Fair
Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain (corner of Mission Street and Fair Oaks Avenue). This
turn-of-the-century pharmacy has been restored in recent years, and today offers visitors
a glimpse of a simpler time. The Soda Fountain serves everything from phosphates and egg
creams to hot fudge Sundays in surroundings that transport its guests to another time.
At the Pharmacy, Route 66 turns north and heads up Fair Oaks Avenue. In recent years,
Fair Oaks has grown to become the center of South Pasadena's business community. Browse in
the interesting shops and stop by some of the area's unique restaurants, including Gus's
(at 808 Fair Oaks). In 1987 the original building was closed after an earthquake, but
reopened in August 1990. Today, it serves the same family-style barbecue meals that have
made it an institution in South Pasadena.
Despite the area's charm and popularity, its fate is unknown. Since 1947, the city of
South Pasadena has been fighting plans to route an extension of the Long Beach Freeway
through the center of town. While the plans were approved by the state in the early
1960's, South Pasadena has remained successful in its efforts to halt the freeway for
nearly 30 years. This historic area's time may be running out, however, as the state of
California has begun making an increased push for completion of the 6.2 mile extension.
Fear of the completion of this project prompted the National Trust for Historic Places
to designate South Pasadena "One of America's Most Endangered Historic Places."
Visit this quaint area while it retains all the charm it had in the heyday of Route 66.