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Day 171: Oldest Standing Building in Old Pasadena

Day 171 of 365 Things To Do In Pasadena brings us to Union Savings Bank which is known as the oldest standing building in Old Pasadena.  It is fitting that we bring this building to your attention on this Halloween Eve because as some of you know it has a strange and scary history.

This structure was built in the 1880s, but the story goes that the land the building is on has been home to an old and abandoned Spanish Mission. Rumors abound that the site housed underground catacombs where the mission prisoners were held.  Some of these prisoners mysteriously disappeared or were driven insane and crazed by the evil spirits that inhabited this site.


Union Savings Bank

Here’s the rest of the history as told by the Old Town Haunt site:

Eventually, the mission was leveled, and this building was constructed. It became the 1st National Bank of Pasadena in the late 1890s, but they only stayed until 1904, where they moved a block away to Fair Oaks and Colorado. It was a costly move, but the bank president claimed “This move was necessary to continue a successful business and to properly serve the citizens of Pasadena”. But most residents knew the bank was trying get away from the stigma of mystery of the “Ghosts of the Bank Robbers”. Story has it, in 1901, 3 bank robbers successfully entered the bank, blew open 2 of the bank’s basement vault safes, but failed to get away. The building was surrounded by local sheriffs, and then … they just disappeared. Legend has it that their dynamite explosions, not only open the vaults, but they opened the sealed off catacombs, which apparently, they tried to flee thru … never to be heard of again … even though every gold piece stolen was recovered! Soon after, the bank experienced strange things. Strange sounds, empty screams, and finally the disappearance of 2 bank employees and a bank customer that started rumors flying about the “Ghosts of the Bank Robbers” getting revenge on the living. This of course was later dismissed as a local myth.

June 13, 1919- Union Savings Bank is unable to keep customers coming into the bank and closes.

January, 1923 First Trust and Savings Bank of Pasadena opens in the infamous building.

February 1929 Pasadena is growing and Colorado Blvd. must endure a massive street widening project. All buidings are to lose approximately 15 feet and the new fronts of the buildings must be redecorated. During the excavation the basement and catacombs must be opened to allow construction workers access. Panic ensues when the remains of 12 Pasadena citizens are found in the catacombs. The bank immediately ceases operation and an investigation finds that the bodies of the deceased were hideously torn apart..

June, 1937- the First National Bank opens on the site. Customers and employees continuously report of a foul odor coming from the basement. The catacombs are not opened, however and the bank operates successfully until 1943.

Then, in 1946, after the end of World War 2, when Pasadena started to expand, a new sewer system was needed to handle the growing population. But right at the intersection of Raymond and Colorado, the sewer workers broke into what was later determined to be the old Spanish catacombs, yes, the discovery of human remains of what appeared to be the missing bank robbers. The only thing not explained is that the body parts where found “scattered about, and found spread out over several different areas of the underground”. Then, after several mishaps, collapsing caverns, and even disappearing sewer workers, the city abandoned the sewer plans. They moved to another location, amongst whispers of ancient curses, and the catacombs were again sealed up.

May, 1955 -The United California Bank opens in the building and once again uses the vaults first used in 1898.

Since then, various reports of hideous screams, and odors of decay were found reported since then, especially in the 60’s. Then, investigations lead to finding an enormous amounts of dead animals; cats, dogs, rats, etc., found in various states of decay. No other information is found, but the basement was sealed shut, no trespassing signs posted, and only rumors remained. The upstairs office and street level spaces are rented out … for a discount!!

August, 2005 An old grate is discovered under a trash can on the sidewalk at 85 E. Colorado at the corner of 20 N. Raymond in front of a Subway restaurant. The grate is over the basement and catacomb area of this troubled bank building. Now that the trash can is removed, a hideous odor is coming from this grate. Stop by and have a smell. Sometimes reports of sounds and distant cries can be heard. Currently, police are trying to get a warrant to gain access to the underground section of the building for an investigation. In Pasadena warrants can take up to 90 days by the time the court grants the request.

August 5, 2005 The basement and catacombs have been purchased by an unknown Kansas resident by the name of Ned Lamper. The new owner has strangely denied access for the police. The Star News reports that his plans are to allow the general public to explore the underground vaults and catacombs, with the high, fast rising real estate prices, with commercial space at a premium, a business tries to rent the basement space for office space, but upon opening of the basement, new areas were discovered, including no fewer than 36 bodily remains were found in various parts of the basement, and catacombs.

Get your tickets for the Old Town Haunt.  It’s not too late to experience this for yourself!  It is running through November 3, 2010.

Photo courtesy of Pasadena.com

Visit 365 Things To Do In Pasadena®  for more fun activities in Pasadena California and surrounding neighborhoods.

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