Armenians in Pasadena, CA
Early Days: Pasadena was incorporated as a municipality of Southern California in 1886 and officially became a city in 1901. The earliest reference to an Armenian in the city dates to a newspaper article from November 27, 1895 when a Dr. A.J. Milchonians was a guest speaker at the First Congregational Church (Carson 57). However, there is no evidence that the doctor actually lived in Pasadena. It was not until the early 1900s when the first Armenian families, the Pashgians and Khazoyans, arrived in Pasadena for settlement. Brothers John and Moses Pashgian, and Haigag H. Khazoyan were all in the rug business, and the 1903-1904 city directory contains a listing for "Pashgian Brothers, rugs and draperies", which was the first Armenian owned business of the city. Khazoyan originally had his business in Los Angeles and later opened a second location in Pasadena (Kooshian 3). The Armenian population of Pasadena was only a handful in the early 1900s. One of the possible factors in the move of further Armenians into the city may have been the settlement of Reverend John B. Haygouni, retired pastor of the Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno, who settled in the city in 1913 after his retirement. Reverend Haygouni was described as being "one of the most widely-known men of his nationality in America" (Anderson 59).
By the mid-1920s Pasadena's Armenian population was beginning to flourish: the Varoujan Club, organized in 1924, was a group of young 20 somethings who organized social and cultural events for Armenians, the AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union) opened its Pasadena chapter in the 1920s, and the Los Angeles-Pasadena branch of the Compatriotic Reconstruction Union of Hadjin, a group of Armenians from the Hadjin province of Turkey, to name just a few. According to the Harout Armenian Directory of 1933, there were 120 Armenian families in Pasadena by this time (Kooshian 28). Of these, nearly all were immigrants from Turkey, with the exception of a few Russian Armenians. This small population included a number of prominent individuals including doctors, lawyers, and reverends. One of the prevailing settlement areas for these immigrants in the city was centered around the corner of Allen Ave. and Washington St. due its close proximity to the Brese Church of the Nazarene used by many Protestant Armenians.
The Great Depression and WWII greatly displaced the Armenian community with many families and individuals moving out of the city. However starting in the early 1980s and continuing into the late 1990s the community began to see its numbers on the rise once again. This was mainly due to Armenians leaving war-torn countries such as Beirut, Iran, as well as Armenia after the breakup of the Soviet Union. A 1989 study commissioned by the Pasadena Board of Directors placed the Armenian population at 6,850 (Kooshian 37). Although this number doesn't account for the city of Altadena (just north of Pasadena) and the area east of Allen, which contains a good number of Armenians. Thus, the number can be estimated to be closer to 10,000.
Today: Although nearly all of the original Armenian owned businesses started in the booming years of the city's expansion are now gone, the location of the Armenian community in Pasadena still remains near the corner of Allen Ave. and Washington Blvd. Numerous Armenian churches, businesses, and organizations are all within a few blocks (mostly westward) from this intersection. Many Armenian organizations, media, and groups still operate out of Pasadena.
In 2012 the community organized the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee (PASAGMC) to build a memorial in the city dedicated to the Armenian Genocide. The goal of the committee is to have the memorial completed before the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which would fall on April 24th, 2015.
Kooshian, B. George Jr, "The Armenian Immigrant Community of Pasadena, California: One Hundred Years" Los Angeles University of California, Los Angeles, 2002.