Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, April 1, 2010


Page 15



Herbert C. Brown Marries Into Lowe Family




Fledgling attorney Herbert Cutler Brown on Feb. 14, 1895, acquired a bride—and with that, social standing. Zoe Elsie Lowe was a daughter of Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, proprietor of the Mount Lowe Railway, known as the “Railway in the Clouds.”

Lowe—a balloonist who, at President Abraham Lincoln’s request, commanded the U.S. Army Aeronautic Corps, spying from the air on Confederate troops—came to Southern California in 1887 to retire. He wound up constructing an electric trolley that chugged its way up to the summit of Oak Mountain (later renamed after Lowe), overlooking Altadena.

By the time Brown wed Miss Lowe, her father’s railway was transporting passengers into the hills, then via a 2,800 foot-long funicular to Echo Mountain, where there was located a 40-room chalet, as well as his majestic Echo Mountain House, with 70 guest rooms—a luxury get-away spot for the “rich and famous.”

Brown et uxor honeymooned up north. The Feb. 17, 1895, issue of the San Francisco Call relates: “Herbert C. Brown of Pasadena is at the Palace Hotel with his bride.”

However, they were soon spending weekends at Echo Mountain. The Monday, March 11 edition of the Los Angeles Times lists them among the guests the previous Saturday and Sunday. Also staying there was the newspaper’s publisher, Harrison Gray Otis.

Brown was welcomed into the family warmly. The patriarch of the Lowe clan clearly wanted him to succeed and vested confidence in him. The Oct. 31 issue of the Sacramento Daily Record-Union reports the filing of articles of incorporation in the Secretary of State’s Office the previous day for Mount Lowe Railway Company, with capital stock of $1 million. Lowe’s three sons and Brown are listed as directors.

Lowe also had seven daughters, including Zoe; none was entrusted with business duties. However, also incorporated Oct. 30 was the Pasadena and Altadena Railway Company, having capital stock worth $100,000. Relevant to the tale now being told is that Brown was the sole non-Lowe among five directors. Demonstrating that Lowe was not a total sexist is that one son, Sobieski, was not a director, but L.A. Lowe was. That’s believed to have been Thaddeus S. C. Lowe’s wife, Leontine Augustine Lowe.

A March 21, 1896, ad in the Los Angeles Times bears an engraving of Lowe’s impressive Pasadena Grand Opera House. It announces that Lowe “offers either the whole or a half interest to a competent manager.” The ad points out that “[a]ll electric cars from Los Angeles pass two sides of this block, and all cars to and from Mount Lowe also depart from and arrive at this point, making it the best possible location for hotel and amusement purposes.”

It explains that Lowe had “no time to look after the property, on account of other business.”

Anyone interested could contact Lowe or “Herbert C. Brown, Attorney, Bryson Block, Los Angeles.”

This was about three months before Brown teamed up with David P. Hatch and John Miller to form a law firm in the new Wilcox Building.

A Times article on Aug. 23, 1896, reports the filing of articles of incorporation for the Pasadena Operahouse Company, with Brown as one of five trustees (and L.A. Lowe being another).

Also in 1896, Lowe opened Ye Alpine Tavern, constructed of pine.

However, Lowe overextended himself, and wound up losing the railway and the rest of his Mount Lowe empire in 1899, except for an observatory on Echo Mountain (razed by winds in 1928). Thus ended Brown’s tenure as a chief lieutenant to a moneyed entrepreneur.

The Echo Mountain House was destroyed in a fire on Feb. 5, 1900. The railway line ceased operating in 1938.

Brown’s marriage was to end in divorce.


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