The city of Sierra Madre, CA

About Sierra Madre

History

Sierra Madre, California, was originally inhabited by a Native American tribe called the Tongva. Their settlements were mostly along the coastline of Los Angeles County, northwest Orange County, and surrounding islands.

When the Spanish came to this area in 1771, they established the San Gabriel Mission. Indigenous inhabitants were converted and provided the Spanish labor. The land was hearty, and many orchards provided for the Spanish crown until 1833 when California fell into Mexico’s control and gave the San Gabriel Mission land to individuals. 

In 1850, California became a state in the Union.

Decades prior, when helping to build the San Gabriel Mission, the Tongva forged a pathway to more efficiently transport timber from up in the mountains down to the construction site. This pathway— largely within Sierra Madre city limits— would later come to be known as the Mt. Wilson Trail and its central mountain Mt. Wilson, both dubbed such after Benjamin ‘Don Benito’ Wilson, the first American to explore & survey the area. Exploiting the labor of impoverished Mexican and Chinese workers, Wilson even spearheaded efforts to expand & extend the Trail in 1864.

Besides Wilson, the most notable individual associated with what would become Sierra Madre would be Nathaniel Carter, who purchased the acreage piecemeal from several local ranchers and the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1881. By the end of the 1880s, a new railway station named Santa Anita had been established within the territory, along with early electric lights via the Edison Company. The town was officially incorporated in 1907.

Much of Sierra Madre’s local reputation became synonymous with the Mt. Wilson Trail and the San Gabriel Mountains it traversed. Several resorts and inns were founded by the turn of the 20th century to accommodate visitors who wished to hike the trail. A toll road was created around the same time to facilitate increased foot and horse traffic, and not long after, Pacific Electric established a 16-mile railcar route from Los Angeles to Sierra Madre, likewise to capitalize on hikers and general nature-centric visitors.

An additional natural attraction of renown, a vine of Wisteria blossoms christened the largest blooming plant in the world, similarly began to draw crowds in the decades that followed, spanking an annual Wisteria Festival by the 1930s, which still occurs yearly to this day.

Climate

Demographic

Age and Household Statistics in Sierra Madre

Male Population: 5,039

Female Population: 5,790

Sierra Madre Population: 10,829

Median Age: 47.5

Under 5 years old: approx. 4.5%

Under 18 years old: approx. 18.4%

Residents 65 or older: approx. 19.0%

Total Households: 4,679

Average People Per Household: 2

Marital Status Statistics

Never Married: 2,210

Married: 4,648

Separated: 98

Widowed: 538

Divorced: 1,644

Racial Statistics (percentages) in Sierra Madre

White: 71.3%

Black or African American: 4.2%

American Indian/Native American: 0.2%

Asian: 16.8%

Two or More Races: 5.7%

Hispanic or Latino: 14.5%

Income Statistics in Sierra Madre

Average Household Income: $158,259

Median Household Income: $106,719

People below Poverty Level: 667

Blue Collar Positions: 308

White Collar Positions: 5,394

Education Level in Sierra Madre

No High School: 47

Some High School: 1,051

Some College: 2,229

Associate Degree: 976

Bachelor’s Degree: 2,821

Graduate Degree: 2,501

Colleges

N/A

Points of Interest

Sierra Madre Playhouse

Located at  87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre, California 91024, the playhouse offers award-winning theatre only 20 miles from Los Angeles.

Independence Day Parade

Every year, three days of celebrations are held in Sierra Madre, including the town’s well-known Fourth of July parade. Depending on when the Monday following the holiday weekend falls, the parade’s date changes every year. It’s often referred to as a “Star Spangled Weekend” by locals.

Wistaria Festival 

This annual celebration is for the one acre of Chinese wisteria that was planted in the 1890s.

Mater Dolorosa Monastery

Located at 700 N Sunnyside Ave, Sierra Madre, CA 91024, this retreat is dedicated to the preaching of the Passion of Jesus Christ. All are welcome to explore their retreat opens in this sacred space at the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains,

Sierra Madre Family Movie Fridays 

Located at 222 West Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre, CA, in the bandshell in Memorial Park, families can enjoy movies on select Fridays beginning at dusk.

Mount Wilson Trail Race

Located at 49 S Baldwin Ave, Sierra Madre, CA 91024, The Mt. Wilson Trail Race, one of the earliest trail races in California, covers 8.6 miles from Kersting Court in Sierra Madre to Orchard Camp and back.

Notable People

Having spent most of its existence as a destination, one is hard-pressed to find many individuals— in any field— that was born in the Sierra Madre. That said, there is a smattering of renowned people who either temporarily or permanently came to reside within the community. These include:

  • Gutzon Borglum (sculptor)
  • Mark Stone (bassist)
  • Jill Emery (bassist)
  • Louise Gunning (singer/actress)
  • Loren James (stuntman)
  • Annemarie Davidson (artist)

 

Fun Facts

  • First run in 1908, The Mount Wilson Trail Race is California’s second oldest foot race.
  • The City of Sierra Madre is home to the world’s largest wistaria vine. 
  • The city of Sierra Madre is the first Los Angeles County city police department to have a female Police Chief.
  • The Sierra Madre Public Library is the fourth oldest city library in Los Angeles County and the tenth oldest in Southern California.
  • The city has an earthquake named for it. The 5.6 earthquake struck on June 28, 1991.
  • Since 1954 the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association organizes volunteers that decorate the tournament of roses floats.
  • Woody Hayes, coach of The Ohio State Buckeyes, sequestered his team at the Master Dolorosa Monastery before their Rose Bowl Victory in 1958. 
  • Sierra Madre means “Mother Mountain” or “Mountain Range.”
  • The city has been the location for a number of films and TV shows.
    • Oppenheimer (2023)
    • Legally Blonde (2001)
    • Lady Bird (2017)
    • True Lies (1994)
    • The Princess Diaries (2001)
    • Halloween (1978)
    • Wedding Singer (1998)

FAQs

How Populated is Sierra Madre?

Out of 1,571 cities in California, Sierra Madre has the 470th-highest population, with 11,253 inhabitants.

What is Sierra Madre, CA known for?

The three square miles of tranquil communities and open space that make up the City of Sierra Madre are situated in the middle of the region, halfway between Pasadena and Arcadia. At its center is Sierra Madre’s attractive downtown shopping district, a well-known landmark for both tourists and the city’s about 11,000 residents.

What county is Sierra Madre in California?

Sierra Madre is located in Los Angeles County.

Where does Sierra Madre get its water?

Drought circumstances made it difficult for the Sierra Madre to draw groundwater in 2013, so the City was compelled to use imported water to provide its citizens. The City currently uses a combination of imported and local groundwater for its water supply.

What animals are local to Sierra Madre?

When in Sierra Madre, California, you may see coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, and bears.