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Busch Gardens…Pasadena

With Anheuser-Busch, the last major “American” beer company possibly to be bought by a European company, the Los Angeles Times ran a piece on the history of the company in southern California.  I had already known that there had been a Busch Gardens in Pasadena at one time – unfortunately, I missed an exhibit on it a few years ago.  (I lived all of my childhood and some of my post-college adulthood in South Pasadena, which is, surprisingly, adjacent to Pasadena.)

More commonly known is that the company has a facility in Van Nuys that used to have a Busch Gardens, complete with a log flume and monorail.

Busch was smitten with the California resort town of Pasadena, and in 1904 he bought a mansion on Orange Grove Avenue that he called Ivy Wall, where he came to escape the biting winters of St. Louis.

The palatial home draped in ivy overlooked a ravine choked with scrub brush and oak, Pasadena researcher Gary Cowles said. “The knoll on the other side was a complete eyesore.”

Landscapers were hired to create a garden and Busch bought more land to make it bigger. He opened Busch Gardens to the public in 1906, and at their peak they covered 36 acres.

Exquisitely planned and maintained, the rolling gardens had miles of pathways, thousands of plants and shrubs, ponds, rare birds and fanciful sculptures imported from Germany, including images of Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel.

Busch died in 1913, but the gardens remained a major tourist attraction. Thousands of visitors came by car or stepped off at a special stop on the Pacific Electric Railway. Admission was free at first, Cowles said, but during World War I the Busch family started charging admission fees that were used to help wounded veterans.

For many years, the gardens were one of the region’s greatest attractions and the site of numerous cultural events, including concerts, speeches, boxing matches, carnivals and an annual Easter egg hunt for orphans.

“They were very philanthropic,” Cowles said of the Busches. “They did nothing but good here.”

The gardens were also a convenient backdrop for Hollywood, and as many as 250 movies may have been at least partially filmed there, Cowles said, including “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in 1931 and “Citizen Kane” in 1941.

The article is definitely worth the read, and check out the photo gallery here.  But I do wonder, why, in an article that is supposedly about the company’s ties to southern California(and not just Los Angeles county), there is no mention whatsoever of Sea World San Diego?

It will be interesting to see what happens to Busch’s the theme park business should the acquisition go through.  There was a time, when Walt Disney was planning what later became Walt Disney World, that he considered St. Louis, home of Anheuser-Busch, and as the story goes, Walt was put-off by derision from a Busch over not wanting alcohol generally available in his theme parks.