In memory of a friend and fellow adventurer, Dan Zembrosky, whose time to explore this earth was cut short too soon.
A little over one century and a decade ago, one could could take the Mount Lowe Railway up to Echo Mountain House and spend the night in the $65,000, 70-room Victorian Hotel for only $5 (or in today’s currency, the approximate cost of a burger at any given fast-food joint).
In 1900, exactly 109 years and three days ago, a kitchen fire destroyed the hotel, and in 1938, the scenic railway that took riders up to Echo Mountain was abandoned after floods destroyed the mountainside.
The foundations of the once-luxurious, turn-of-the-century hotel, its incline railway and other surrounding buildings can be seen at the top of a 2.7-mile uphill hike on the Sam Merrill Trail in Altadena. The trail starts at the Cobb Estate where Lake Avenue ends at the mountain. The estate, built by lumber tycoon Charles H. Cobb, is also the site of trails leading to former mining sites (another subject for a future post!). Round-trip, the hike is about 5.4 miles and takes about 2 & 1/2 to 3 hours, plus time to explore the top.
Built by famous balloonist/inventor/scientist, Thaddeus Lowe, along with electrical engineer, A.W. Decker, and railroad engineer, David J. Macpherson, the roughly 7-mile, scenic Mount Lowe incline railway brought passengers to visit various mountainside attractions from the bottom of Lake Avenue, through Rubio Canyon and up to Echo Mountain in Altadena. Along with the Echo Mountain House, there was also the 40-room Chalet Hotel (formerly called the Echo Mountain House until it was replaced by the new 70-room hotel), a powerhouse, an observatory, a zoo, a tavern and other tourist locations.
By the time the railway had been abandoned in 1938, all the other attractions had been destroyed or fell into dilapidation. In 1905, the Chalet, zoo and powerhouse burned down, the observatory was destroyed by a wind storm in 1928, and a fire consumed the tavern in 1936 (see a more detailed timeline at the Mount Lowe Preservation Society’s website).
More on Echo Mountain, the hotel, the Mount Lowe Railway and their builders: