It is said that Mount Washington was named for Colonel Henry Washington, who came to Southern California in 1855 to survey the state's base lines. He spent a great deal of time in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, and is credited with surveying the Los Angeles River.
Originally a part of the huge, sprawling Rancho San Rafael, the area was only sparcely settled owing to its initial lack of accessability. Panoramic views were not a consideration in those days, and often only the bases of the hillsides were dotted with residences. A school was built, however, in 1906, near the top of the hill, to accommodate students from a wide area of hillside territory. When the school first opened for instruction, the first through eighth grades were taught in the building of Mission style architecture. There were two teachers.
The turning point for Mt. Washington came in 1908, long after the land boom of the 1880's, with the construction of The Mt. Washington Inn. Built near the 1,000 foot summit of the hill to take advantage of the panoramic vista, it flourished during the early years, and catered to the more affluent members of society. One of the greatest tennis matches played at the time occurred on the 4th of July, 1910, on the cement courts of the hotel. May Sutton, former tennis champion of the United States and England, defeated, in a thrilling sea- saw battle, Hazel Hotchkiss, the current champion of the United States. More than 3,000 spectators filled the grandstands to over-flowing, and completely surrounded the playing field. (The Self Realization Fellowship purchased the Inn and grounds in 1925, for use as its international headquarters.)
The hotel was easily reached by a Incline Railway, franchised by the Los Angeles & Mt. Washington Railway Company, which operated two cars named Florence and Virginia.
Land developers hoped that people would ride the trolley from downtown and get off at Avenue 43 and Marmion Way, then ride the Los Angeles & Mt. Washington Incline Railway to the summit of Mount Washington, where they would experience the breathtaking view, resulting in the purchase of a lot.
The ploy worked; Mt. Washington became an exclusive and highly desirable hilltop residential site for those who wished to experience the abundant array of vegetation and wildlife and the unsurpassed view in all directions. From the summit one an see the ocean, Catalina Island, and the beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains.