Who was Thaddeus S. C. Lowe?

mountlowe-postcard-bridge

Professor Thaddeus LoweSouthern California certainly owes a debt of gratitude to Thaddeus S. C. Lowe for his wonderful foresight and development of our area.

Before he became a California resident, this New Hampshire native served as a civilian in the Civil War as the Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps for Abraham Lincoln. Upon leaving military service Lowe produced artificial ice, which allowed meat and produce companies to freeze their products and make them available to more consumers who lived further away.

Gas heating and lighting were next on the agenda and he excelled in those fields as well, earning the Franklin Institute’s highest honor, the Cresson Gold Medal. By the end of the 1880’s, more than 70 percent of all the homes in the United States were either heated or illuminated by Lowe gas. All of this was done with no more than a fourth grade education.

By 1888 Mr. and Mrs. Lowe and three of their ten children moved to Southern California where retirement kept him busier than ever. He built a huge home on South Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena, founded the Lowe Gas Works, Citizen’s Bank, Citizen’s Ice Company, and the California Construction Company, bought and refurbished the Pasadena Grand Opera House, and built the Mount Lowe Incline Railway and Observatory.

Thaddeus Lowe wanted to be remembered for being a giving man who was always ahead of his time, and, indeed, he was. He lost his home and most of his businesses as well as control of the Mount Lowe Railway by the late 1890’s, but was ever the dreamer of starting a new company or venture up until the time of his death, January 16th, 1913.

While Lowe longed to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, he couldn’t because he had served the Union Army as a civilian. This was one of his greatest disappointments, but is perhaps one of our greatest blessings; to have the man that changed our local mountains forever be buried in the shadow of them for all of us to honor at Mountain View in Altadena.

While Lowe longed to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, he couldn’t because he had served the Union Army as a civilian. This was one of his greatest disappointments, but is perhaps one of our greatest blessings; to have the man that changed our local mountains forever be buried in the shadow of them for all of us to honor at Mountain View in Altadena.

By 1902 Henry Huntington and the Pacific Electric took over the Mount Lowe Incline Railway. Fares were lowered, through service into Rubio Canyon became more frequent and track was standardized, but not even Huntington could make Mount Lowe profitable.

Echo Mountain House had burned to the ground in 1900 and had been underinsured, so it would never be rebuilt. In 1905, the smaller hotel on Echo Mountain, the Chalet, burned down along with the winding station (which later became the power house) and several other smaller buildings. It was almost at though Mother Nature was trying to reclaim her lovely mountains.

While the Pacific Electric continued to try to make the Mount Lowe route more profitable, it became more and more apparent that it was financially the worst route of all. Thaddeus Lowe frequented the line after Huntington had taken over and tried to give advice, secretly hoping to one day regain control of his beloved mountain railway, to no avail. Even after both Lowe and Huntington had passed away, the Mount Lowe route was a consistent financial loser up until the time Mount Lowe Tavern burned in 1936.

Comments are closed.