Neighborhood Spotlight: Sierra Madre is a quaint foothill character (Los Angeles Times link): Nestled in the scenic foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, Sierra Madre retains much of the quaint character that made the town and its surrounding environs a popular tourist destination during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The area was first settled by the Tongva people, who established a village in Sierra Madre Canyon upon moving down from the high desert into the more temperate climes of the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles Basin more than 1,500 years ago.
By 1881, when Massachusetts transplant Nathaniel Carter purchased more than 1,000 acres at the mouth of the canyon (800 from famed California pioneer Lucky Baldwin and the rest cobbled together from Southern Pacific Railroad holdings and other private owners) the Tongva were long gone, scattered to the four winds by Spanish missionaries.
Carter, like so many Easterners who ventured west to California in the late 1800s, had settled in the San Gabriel Valley for the betterment of his respiratory health. Finding the climate to be infinitely more agreeable than that of his native Lowell, he made plans to create a utopian community to be called Nature's Sanitorium, and on 100 nearby acres he built his estate, which he dubbed Carterhia.
Although his naming skills left much to be desired, he had chosen an excellent site for a town, which became known as Sierra Madre. The wildly popular Mt. Wilson trail, which drew hikers from across Southern California in such numbers that the authorities were obliged to levy a toll for its upkeep, had its trailhead just north of the crossroads of Baldwin Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard.
By the time the Pacific Electric Railway established a line to ferry visitors from Los Angeles to Sierra Madre in 1906, it was well on its way to becoming a thriving boomtown, with such modern amenities as paved roads, electric lights and telephones following on the heels of the trolley within the year.
The go-go aughts were not, however, a glimpse of things to come. After that brief growth spurt, development in Sierra Madre slowed dramatically, which had the salutary effect of preserving the rustic character and charm of the village and canyon communities, save for some midcentury suburban infill near the freeway.
Because of its small-town vibe and well-preserved historic downtown and residential neighborhoods, Sierra Madre has become a popular home-buying destination for "creatives" of the marketing variety as well as of the artistic. Close to Pasadena, and freeway-close to Los Angeles, Sierra Madre offers laid-back village living with all the conveniences of the big city a short drive away.
Canyon country: The 1960s are alive and well in the eclectic Sierra Madre Canyon neighborhood, where residents enjoy rustic foothill living in homes that date to the city's earliest days.
Mayberry, USA: Sierra Madre's historic downtown is a charming, walkable area of cafes, restaurants and bars.
Home, sweet home: Sierra Madre's housing stock is a pleasant mixture of styles from a succession of eras ranging from the late 1800s to 21st century.
Price of entry: All of that rustic charm comes at a price, with most homes asking over $1 million, although prices can run as low as the $600,000s.
Mike Paris, a real estate agent who's lived and worked in the area since 1998, said Sierra Madre has maintained its authentic feel through the fierce loyalty of its residents — and that probably won't change anytime soon.
"We had a local election this week, and every City Council member elected has a history of scrutinizing big development and supporting strict zoning laws," Paris said.
The community offers a quirky mix of historic turn-of-the-century estates, 1920s bungalows and post-WWII midcentury builds. Paris said the architectural range is a boon to the neighborhood.
"Homes here range from around $500,000 to $1.7 million," Paris said. "It's not some cookie-cutter community where everyone is in the same income bracket."
In the 91024 ZIP Code, based on seven sales, the median sales price for single-family homes in February was $825,000, down 8.3% year over year, according to CoreLogic.
The single public school within the Sierra Madre boundaries, Sierra Madre Elementary, scored 905 on the 2013 Academic Performance Index.
Highlights in the area include Foothills Middle, which scored 977, and Highland Oaks Elementary, which scored 964.
Mod: All reasonably good news for a Thursday, single public school and whatever else. I promise we'll try and mix things up later this weekend.