PROFESSOR THADDEUS LOWE
August 14, 2005 - Whittier Daily News - Students Excavate Former Tourist Haven
Students excavate former tourist haven
Whittier Daily News, The (CA)
August 14, 2005
Author: Kimm Groshong , Staff Writer
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST
The sun was already beating down on Stacey Camp's band of
workers as they went about the tedious work of archaeological sleuthing early
one recent morning.
They sifted through dirt and rock, hoping to find shards of plates and glasses, small trinkets and other artifacts from the building that once occupied the plot. They carefully logged each precious bit, measuring each location and logging each find.
Much has been said of Professor Thaddeus Lowe's grand "Railway to the Clouds' and the tens of thousands of visitors during the Great Hiking Era, between 1893 and 1936, who rode it to the popular hotels and attractions perched cliffside or mountaintop in the San Gabriel Mountains.
But little is said or even known about the workers who made the tourist wonderland work for four decades at the turn of the 20th century.
Who were the people who kept the tourist attraction running all those years who maintained the railway, worked in the power plant and kept the grounds? What was their relationship with tourism?
These are the largely lost historical details that Camp, a third-year Stanford University graduate student, hopes to retrieve with her excavation and analysis.
She and her crew of volunteer students are conducting an archaeological dig with the Forest Service's permission at a site on Echo Mountain where Pacific Electric's repair crews are thought to have lived in the early 1900s.
"No one's asked many questions about the workers,' Camp said. For example, she said. "Why (were) they working in these mountains of all places?'
Camp says she has always been interested in cultural exchange and wants to learn more about how tourists may have influenced laborers' lifestyles and vice versa. "What happens when these two cultures come in contact?' she asked.
Having grown up in Orange County, graduated from Occidental College and worked for the Girl Scouts in Arcadia for two years, Camp said she has always been fascinated by California history, particularly the role of tourism.
Now as a doctoral candidate, she has funding and loaned equipment from Stanford's Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology and the Archaeology Center to try to fill in some of the blanks in that history.
Camp chose her excavation site with the help of two dedicated Mount Lowe historians, Brian Marcroft and John Harrigan, from the Scenic Mount Lowe Historical Committee, as well as the Altadena Historical Society and the Huntington Library. "Few people have studied the social history up here,' she said.
Marcroft directed Camp to a 1918 Pacific Electric publication describing a house like the one that may have stood atop the excavation site in the Angeles National Forest. The article details the function of "section houses' to provide a permanent structure complete with gardens, chickens and bath houses, to keep migrating laborers from moving on to new jobs.
Further down a nearby trail is a site where tent cabins are thought to have sheltered additional laborers. Based on the separate living quarters, Camp said, "I'm thinking that the work force may have been segregated by ethnicity.'
But understanding such details requires excavation, thorough analysis of artifacts and archival research.
It's a slow process and a hands- on learning experience for many of the students on Camp's team. Some are on their first archaeological dig, learning how to use the mapping equipment, to properly measure everything and to analyze soils. One member has just graduated with a fine arts degree and is serving as the team map sketcher and artist.
One of Camp's crew members, Stacy Kozakavich, a fifth-year doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley, explained a common attraction to archaeology. "I've always felt it was a personal and tactile way to investigate the past. You feel like you can get closer to people than in any other way,' she said.
So far, the team has found pieces of ceramic tableware and jugs, a handful of nails and some spent lead rifle cartridges at the Echo Mountain site. The painted patterns, detailing and branding on such artifacts will help Camp trace and date them. In the end, she hopes to piece together a clearer picture of the lifestyle of the laborers who made that plot home.
And that's something Marcroft said will be interesting to Mount Lowe history buffs. Since 1991, the Scenic Mount Lowe Historical Committee has worked with the Forest Service to erect interpretive signs and displays where the railway, hotels and other attractions once stood and to otherwise preserve and commemorate the tourist attraction's history.
"Our interest is learning any history or anything pertinent that went on there over the years,' he said. "We're hoping Stacey can find things that are beyond our capabilities.'
After her three-week excavation this summer, Camp said she will analyze the artifacts and return to the site periodically over the coming years.
As she and her crew began sifting through the second five-centimeter layer of dirt in one corner of the site, she said in a hopeful tone, "maybe we'll find buttons or something cool today.' But of course, as an archaeologist, never knowing exactly what to expect, she added "we'll see.'
BEFORE THE WAR
CIVIL WAR YEARS
INVENTIONS AND INDUSTRY
NORRISTOWN PENNSYLVANIA YEARS
PASADENA CALIFORNIA YEARS
MOUNT LOWE RAILWAY
AFTER THE RAILWAY
BOOKS ABOUT LOWE
EVENTS AND REUNIONS
ARTIFACTS AND HISTORY
ACCLAMATIONS AND AWARDS
LINKS TO OTHER THADDEUS LOWE WEBSITES