Inside Seven
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District 7 Director Mike Miles addresses guests and media at the Arroyo Seco museum display opening reception.

Arroyo Seco Parkway Exhibit Opens District 7 Museum Series
by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 03/2011

Seventy years ago last December, California's oldest freeway opened. Now its history is on display in the District 7 Museum.

A beautiful scenic roadway or a commuter thoroughfare? For years, the various interests involved in Los Angeles' development in the 1920s and 30s debated the fate of a corridor linking Los Angeles and Pasadena.

By December 30, 1940, when what would become the Arroyo Seco Parkway, aka State Route 110 or the Pasadena Freeway, was officially dedicated, it was a hybrid of both.

It was something previously unseen in the western United States – a lushly landscaped pleasure ride that was capable of handling speeds up to 45 miles per hour.

The Arroyo Seco Parkway was California’s first freeway, laying the groundwork for Los Angeles to become the freeway capitol of the world.

The milestone of its 70 anniversary made the first freeway the perfect subject for the first exhibit in Caltrans District 7’s new museum series. Featuring historic photos, video footage and other memorabilia, the exhibit takes visitors back to the road’s beginning.

The exhibit was officially launched on February 23 with a reception that included speakers District 7 Director Mike Miles, former Caltrans Chief Deputy and District 7 Director Heinz Heckeroth and Southern California Automobile Club Historian Matthew Roth.  The Auto Club supplied a large banner for the exhibit and contributed its expertise to the display content. It also provided event refreshments.

One of the attendees was 1940 Rose Queen Sally Stanton Rubsamen, who helped dedicate the Arroyo Seco Parkway.  Along with various Caltrans employees, guests included representatives from LADOT, former District 7 Director Robert Sassamen, and several retired Auto Club executives.

“Arroyo Seco Parkway – Dawn of the Freeway Age,” which will run at least through the end of March, was designed and developed by the District 7 Museum Management Committee. Members include Lindy K. Lee and Alberto Angelini (co-chairs), Dale Benson, Steve Devorkin, Norma Dorsey, Doug Hoover, Shafiqul Islam, Stephanie Jones, Dawn Kukla, Wayne Liu, Duncan McIntosh (ex-officio), Ralph Ricketson, Carmen Roberts and Lewis Yee.

“We are planning to have new exhibits as often as possible, at least four a year. Just as this building is an anchor in the architectural landscape of downtown Los Angeles, Caltrans wants the museum to become an artistic and cultural resource for the local community as well as for our employees,” Miles said.

"Then And Now"
Exhibit Opening
The Three Tenors, oops, make that the Three District Directors at the museum opening. (L to R) former District 7 Director Bob Sassamen and former Caltrans Chief Deputy and District 7 Director Heinz Heckeroth flank current District 7 Director Mike Miles. Once a Rose Queen...The still-beautiful Sally Stanton Rubsamen poses in front of the picture of the 1940 dedication ceremony. Employees and guests gather to view the display. Automobile Club of Southern California Historian Matthew Roth speaks to media after his presentation.