Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Photo Essay: Tracing the Remains of the First Busch Gardens

There's magic to be found in LA, but even if you know where to look and what you're looking for, it helps to have someone guide you.


Scan by NYPL [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For example, I knew that there were some vestiges of Busch Gardens (founded by Adolphus and Lilly Busch, of the Anheuser-Busch brewing conglomerate) in Pasadena, and I even knew the general area that they were in.



But without a local expert as my companion, I would've never gotten so close to the Old Mill...



...a replica of a mill found in Banbury Cross, England built to delight the Busch grandchildren who'd heard about it in a nursery rhyme by Mother Goose.



You can barely even see it from the street—and you'd have no way of knowing that the old mill pond that was on east side of the former upper garden is still there, kind of, though it's been converted into a swimming pool.



The nexus of the extant relics is where Busch Garden Drive meets Busch Place and Busch Garden Court (which also meets Busch Garden Lane).



The street signs and the carved curbs will tip you off as to where you might be...



...but with all of the development that's occurred on these hillsides...



...and all the plots that have been subdivided...



...it takes a little hunting to find some original stonework...



...like on the once-picturesque cactus wall.



Hiding in plain view are also some faux bois pillars and railings...



...with many decorative features secreted away in private backyards, invisible even to the most scrutinous eye of a passerby.



But in an area where so many of our hills have been leveled and our landscape features flattened, it's nice to see some embankments and winding paths looming high above the Arroyo Seco.



And among all the build-outs of these subdivisions, there are pieces of the old garden attraction—a precursor to the brewery tour / amusement park experience in Van Nuys and a distant ancestor to the theme parks / water parks that still operate in Florida and Virginia.



One contemporary house has been built as an attachment to an original pergola...



...which the homeowners have kept in its (more or less) open-air original state.



Another original pergola stands as a gateway to the former natatorium...



...which has been unrecognizably converted into a private home, though the original bones are still in there somewhere.



Other skeletal features include Arroyo rock markers at various former entrances to the gardens...



...a paved, stone-lined "trail" that once meandered through the gardens...



...and the original V-mesh fencing that kept critters out and prevented horse hooves from getting caught in it.



In 1906 when the gardens were opened to the public, nearly everything was covered in ivy.



Now, those crawling vines have largely given way to dead leaves...



...and the shadows of a horticultural wonder of days gone by.



Busch Gardens' demise came slowly but decisively, first with the death of Adolphus in 1913 and then with the start of World War I in 1914—which was complicated for his widow, German-born Lilly Anheuser, who was an American citizen but the mother-in-law of two German nationals.

Of course, the start of Prohibition in 1920 hit the Anheuser and Busch families where it hurt most, their fortunes predicated on the sale of alcohol to beer-guzzling Americans.

Lilly's death in 1928 marked the loss of the gardens' main steward—and although it changed hands a few times in the years that followed, Busch Gardens closed to the public in 1937.

And all we have left are the postcards, a few movies that were shot there, and a jigsaw puzzle of remaining pieces scattered throughout private lots and yards and lawns.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: A 1950s Time Capsule in LA's Oldest Operating Brewery
Photo Essay: The Ghost Town of Cornell and Its Abandoned Lake Enchanto