I recently received a request from a reader to post some history of Sierra Madre street names, i.e., Michillinda – Michigan, Illinois and Indiana merged. Sounded like a good idea, and since I recently saw an article that did exactly that in the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society newsletter, written by Library archivist Debbie Henderson, I contacted her and asked if I might be able to re-print it here on my site. Got the okay. Thanks to Debbie Henderson and to SMHPS for this…
Streetwise in Sierra Madre
by Debbie Henderson, Associate Librarian-Archival Collection
You probably noticed that the City of Sierra Madre recently replaced its street signs. The replacement was implemented in order to meet federal nighttime reflectivity requirements. But did you know that City Staff consulted historical maps so that street names would be spelled, spaced, and punctuated correctly? Public Works Staff carefully consulted traffic maps and old parcel maps to get the signage correct.
Grand View Avenue historically appears as two words not just on early maps but also in early tract advertisements. An April 21, 1888 issue of the Sierra Madre Vista, one of Sierra Madre’s earliest newspapers, clearly shows Grand View rather than Grandview.
Street names were generally assigned by early landowners in Sierra Madre. Many owners of Sierra Madre tracts named streets in honor of family members or former places of residence. Carter Avenue is of course named for founder Nathaniel C. Carter. Mr. Carter’s middle initial C. stands for Coburn, also a street name. Sturtevant Drive is named for Wilbur M. Sturtevant, an early resident who was a mountain guide, trail builder, resort manager and stable operator. Auburn Avenue was agreed upon by adjacent landowners C.E. Cook (from Auburn, Maine) and Irving White (from Auburn, New York). Mr. S. R. Norris named Laurel Avenue for his sister and Victoria Lane for his former Canadian home.
Many street names were given in beautiful Spanish to boost property sales: Alegria (joy) Avenue, Bonita (pretty) Avenue, Cañon (canyon) Avenue, Esperanza (hope) Avenue, Hermosa (beautiful) Avenue, Mariposa (butterfly) Avenue, and Los Rocas (rocks) Drive. Other streets were named for the flora of Sierra Madre: Acacia Street, Chaparral Road, Deodar Drive, Fern Glen, Manzanita Avenue, Oak Crest Drive, Olive Avenue, Orange Drive, Toyon Road, and Yucca Trail.
Over time, several street names changed. Michillinda is formerly known as Sierra Madre Avenue. Michillinda is not a Spanish name but a name derived from Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana for its populace having relocated from those states. Central Avenue was renamed Sierra Madre Boulevard in 1936. Hotel Street became Grove Street. Before it was known as Lima, North Lima was known as Markham (to honor California Governor Henry H. Markham) and South Lima was called Prospect. The present Montecito Avenue had three names (Grandin, Dixie, and LaBelle) depending on how far east or west you were located. Orange Grove Boulevard used to be called Live Oak Avenue. Palm Avenue was renamed Mira Monte Avenue. Sierra Madre Place was shortened to Sierra Place around 1911. Wilcox Road is now known as Sierra Meadow Drive.
Who says there’s no future in the past? Sierra Madre looked to historical materials find accurate street names for its new signs. Best of all, revenues from the sales of the old street signs covered the cost of replacement.