Mount Lowe Drive

This street marks the old platform of the Mount Lowe Railway, a tourist resort funicular that operated – amidst many trials and tribulations – from 1893 until 1937. The mountain itself is named after Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe (1832-1913), an inventor who was already quite rich and famous when he moved to Pasadena in 1890. The New Hampshire native’s interests in gases and aeronautics took him from performing magic shows to leading hot air balloon excursions, and as “Professor T.S.C. Lowe” he rose to national prominence in 1859 for his plans to cross the Atlantic in a balloon. The crossing never happened, but his notoriety led to a stint with the U.S. Army, overseeing balloon reconnaissance during the Civil War. Lowe then settled in Norristown, PA and made his real fortune with patents for artificial ice and cold storage. He and his wife Leontine (née Gachon, 1835-1912), a Parisian beauty with whom he had ten children, came to L.A. in 1887 and built a huge mansion on Orange Grove Blvd. in 1891. Earlier that year, engineer David J. Macpherson (see Atchison Street) convinced Lowe to finance a railway initially meant to reach the top of Mount Wilson. Another peak, either unnamed or called Oak Mountain (reports vary), was instead chosen and christened Mount Lowe. This street was laid out in 1923 while the railway was still in active use.