Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

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Los Angeles County Arboretum, view of fountain
Near the Australian collection
Pond view
Atop the knoll

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 127 acres (51.4 ha), is an arboretum, botanical garden, and historical site nestled into hills near the San Gabriel Mountains, at 301 North Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, California, USA. It is open daily during business hours, for a fee.[1]

The Arboretum is located across the street from the Santa Anita Park, the horse racetrack, and the shopping mall Santa Anita Fashion Park, now known as Westfield Santa Anita.


Important in prehistory as a year round source of water fed by the Raymond Fault, the body of water known as Baldwin Lake attracted both waterfowl and other animals as well as arriving Native Americans. No documentation of the original appearance has survived. However, it is safe to assume it would have been a natural wetland with tules and other vegetation as well as standing pools of water. Permanent Native American habitation in the area is believed to have been sited on nearby Tallac Knoll, but with the exception of excavations at the site of the Hugo Reid Adobe, no archaeological work has been conducted on the present day Arboretum site. Close proximity to the nearby San Gabriel Mission may have led to the siting of a small seasonal dwelling at the site for shepherds or hunters. After a period of dispute, the grant to the land was awarded to Hugo Reid (1809-1852) and his Tongva wife, Victoria Bartolomea Comicrabit. Reid was an educated Scotsman known for a series of letters describing Tongva culture as well as his role in the 1849 California Constitutional Convention. Afflicted with tuberculosis, he died at the age of 43. A series of short term owners of the property, Rancho Santa Anita, followed.

A series of subsequent owners followed; in sequence they were Henry Dalton, Joseph A. Rowe, Albert Dibblee in partnership with William Corbett and a Mr. Barker, Leonard Rose and William Wolfskill, Alfred Chapman with Harris Newmark until finally the property was sold to Elias Jackson Baldwin. With each transition beginning with the sale to Rose and Wolfskill, a portion of the ranch was sold off. Every owner in some ways typifies the history of southern California during the period. Agricultural innovation is a feature which persisted taking advantage of the climate and the new crops that it made possible as well as a growing body of consumers and new markets opened by transportation innovations.

The site's modern history began in 1875 when Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin purchased Rancho Santa Anita and constructed its buildings and grounds. Baldwin's influence was a strong presence on the site. A certain flamboyance was evident in the creation of a showcase at Santa Anita. Baldwin in some ways anticipated the development of Las Vegas creating Arcadia as a kind of prototype destination resort. The Oakwood Hotel, the Santa Anita racetrack and the creation of Arcadia as an independent city made it possible for Baldwin to become its first Mayor. The first liquor license was issued to his oldest daughter Clara Baldwin. This becomes more significant when one understands that Pasadena, which borders Arcadia, was dry from its founding in 1886. A major motivation for incorporation being the banning of liquor in the city. Although many towns in southern California were dry, commercial viticulture flourished around the San Gabriel Mission since mission days. Baldwin started an award winning winery to supply the thirsty tourists, sold land to settlers as well as running a private water company and brick works. A partnership with Henry Huntington and the Santa Fe Railroad insured that passengers could arrive by rail from Los Angeles and other locations as well as bringing freight, such as building supplies and taking away ranch produce for sale.

The arboretum itself began in 1947 with California and Los Angeles jointly purchasing 111 acres (44.9 ha) to create an arboretum around the Baldwin site. By 1949, the first greenhouse had been constructed and the site's plants inventoried. In 1951, the first 1,000 trees were planted, and in 1956 the arboretum was opened to the public. Ongoing construction of gardens and greenhouses took place during the 1950s and 1960s, and in 1975-1976 the Tropical Greenhouse was opened and the Prehistoric and Jungle Garden completed. Construction and renovation of both greenhouses and gardens has continued to this day.

The gardens[edit]

The arboretum's plants are grouped by geography with gardens for South American, Mediterranean, South African, Australian and Asiatic-North American plants. Other displays include the Aquatic Garden, Meadowbrook, Demonstration Home Gardens, Garden for All Seasons, Prehistoric and Jungle Garden, Native Oaks, Herb Garden, and the Palm and Bamboo collection. In addition, the arboretum is home to a flock of some 200 peafowl, which are descendants of original birds imported by Baldwin from India in about 1880 (the peafowl is a symbol of the city of Arcadia). Peafowl can also be found throughout neighborhoods surrounding the arboretum. The gardens also serve as the home for summer concerts featuring the Pasadena POPS,[2] under the direction of Principal POPS Conductor Marvin Hamlisch.

Santa Anita Depot[edit]

In 1970, the Santa Fe Railway depot was moved to the Arboretum during the construction of the 210 Foothill Freeway.[3][4] It was built in 1890 to serve Lucky Baldwin, and the people of Rancho Santa Anita. Today, the depot is furnished with railroad memorabilia and is open to visitors. Number of films have been made at the station, including the remake of Christmas in Connecticut, which starred Dyan Cannon, Arnold Schwarzenegger (also directed), and Kris Kristofferson.

Haunted History[edit]

The arboretum is widely reported to be haunted, particularly the Queen Anne Cottage. Some have claimed to see the ghost of Lucky Baldwin or one of his wives. Visitors have claimed hearing moaning coming from the house, where Lucky Baldwin's wife also died of cancer, odd cooking smells, and seeing various strange anomalies walk the gardens at night.[5][6]


Dozens of movies and televisions programs have had scenes filmed at the arboretum beginning in 1936, including portions of two Jurassic Park movies and Objective, Burma!.[7]

Some of the Tarzan adventure movies were partially shot here. It was also the scenes for Paradise Island in The New Original Wonder Woman.

The Queen Anne Cottage used in the opening credits of the TV show Fantasy Island is located here. The cottage was also seen in an episode of Murder, She Wrote[8] and Roots: The Next Generations.[citation needed]

In 2013, Katy Perry filmed her music video for "Roar" at the arboretum.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ About the Arboretum
  2. ^ Ng, David (April 27, 2011). "California Philharmonic loses summer home at Arboretum to Pasadena Pops". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Early California History" (PDF). Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  4. ^ "Caminos – Newsletter of the Arcadia Historical Society" (PDF). Arcadia Historical society. July 2007. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  5. ^ National Directory of Ghostly Abodes
  6. ^ Weird California
  7. ^ Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°08′30″N 118°03′14″W / 34.141575°N 118.053846°W / 34.141575; -118.053846