How Altadena's Christmas Tree Lane came to be an iconic lighting spectacle every holiday season

A plaque on Santa Rosa Avenue says the lane hosts the "oldest large-scale Christmas lighting spectacle in Southern California."
With Hidden History, ABC7 explores local history and hidden facts in our communities. The series highlights extraordinary details in neighborhoods you may otherwise overlook.

Christmas Tree Lane has been lighting up more than 100 trees each holiday season for over a century, according to local volunteers and the Altadena Historical Society. The large deodars span nearly a mile on Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena.

The association that runs Christmas Tree Lane's annual lighting is made up of volunteers. A plaque that sits on the lane says the California registered historical landmark is the "oldest large-scale Christmas lighting spectacle in Southern California."

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The beginning of the lane goes back to the start of Altadena. Altadena historians say John Woodbury, an early habitant of what we now know as Altadena, had seen the deodar trees on a trip to Italy in the 1880s. They say he liked the trees, which mean 'tree of God,' so much that he checked with the department of agriculture to make sure they would thrive if he were to plant them in California.

Woodbury's brother, Captain Frederick Woodbury, a retired military officer, germinated the deodar seeds in his backyard. He had a house just off Mariposa, which historians say was the first home to be built in the area.
Historians say it is believed John wanted the trees to later line Santa Rosa Avenue, which would have served as the driveway to his estate; however, John's mansion was never built when the land boom went bust.

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The lane was first lit for the holiday season in 1920 with the help of Pasadena Kiwanis and its leader Fred Nash, along with community members who helped raise donations.

The avenue was eventually popularized by color photo postcards, and that's when the name "Christmas Tree Lane" began to appear.
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