The Star Of Palawoo

Known as the Star of Palawoo , the star was originally built by F. B. Nightingale in the late 20’s. Nightingale was manager of the Lighting Department of the General Electric Supply Corporation of Los Angeles at the time and has been referred to as “the Father of Outdoor Lighting”. His Star was said to be the first gift to the world of that technology.

Nightingale erected the Star on a crest above his distinctive home located in the foothills above Altadena. His estate was called “Palawoo”, an Indian word for “Birds Nest”. The original Star was made from wood. It was 35 feet high and had 50 Forty-Watt light bulbs. The Star made it’s debut during the Christmas Season of 1928. The photos below show Nightingale working on the wooden star.

One of the interesting notes about the Star is that in the early days before Altadena's imported forestation had grown to what it is today, one could see the Star from Christmas Tree Lane as it had a perfect alignment with Santa Rosa Ave. The Star was featured in a Pasadena Star News article published December 20, 1929. This is a quote from the article:
“Just below the lighted star will be the famous “Mile of Christmas Trees” on Santa Rosa Avenue, which attracts thousands of autoists each year from all parts of Southern California. The star, alone on the crest of the Sierra above, will be the only light in the dark, silent mountain area. This Christmas will be the second holiday season the star will have been lighted”.

The Star continued to shine around the Christmas Season for many years. It was featured in other publications, including an article in the “Electrical Dealer” magazine in November of 1930. Then on October 25 1935, a fast moving brush fire swept across the foothills above Altadena. It destroyed a trestle on the Incline Railway along with other parts of Echo Mountain . It also destroyed Nightingale’s wooden Star of Palawoo. Nightingale would not be deterred however, and rebuilt the Star. This time he made it with metal. The Star continued to shine around Christmas for quite some time but it’s unclear exactly how long.

The Nightingale Estate was purchased by Dr. Elkins in 1989. He was unaware of the Star and had lived there a while before noticing the old broken wire running up the hill behind his house. Using binoculars, Dr. Elkins could see a pole up on the hill, hiked up to investigate and found the Star lying on the ground. He erected the Star again and rewired it using conventional outdoor Christmas lights. The Star of Palawoo would shine again.

Recently, in January of 2006, the Star was knocked down again by high winds gusting more than 40 miles per hour. Dr. Elkins had a tough time but was able to get the Star back up again. He hopes to find an Electrician willing to help him rebuild the Star using brighter bulbs much like those used by F. B. Nightingale on the original Star of Palawoo

Update December 2012

I received some photos earlier this year from Tammy (Nightingale) Specht, Grandaughter of F. B. Nightingale. The photos below show several different views of Nightingale and the star including a photo of the Star at night with Nightingale's home below.

These photos of the Star are more recent and show it after it had been rebuilt with metal following the fires of the 1930's

Published articles about the Star Of Palawoo

From the Star News December 20, 1929

From the Electrical Dealer magazine November 1930

Star Reconstruction 2019

A small group of dedicated volunteers has finished rebuilding the Star Of Palawoo.

Volunteers scaled the steep hillside and removed the old Star from the mounting pole. Jeremiah Small climbs the support pole and releases the Star from the support pole. Dave Andrews, Lee Johnson and Joe Kaliel provide support from below.
Dave Andrews, Lee Johnson, Joe Kaliel and Jeremiah Small remove old lights and wiring.
Dave Anderson and Joe Kaliel lay out the new metal on level ground. They measue, cut and drill the new metal and assemble the Star. Once assembled and checked they disassemble and wait for the big day.
On the big day of reconstruction, Scouts from Altadena Scout Troop 1 assist by carrying the material up to the top of the hill.
The new metal pieces weigh 25-50 pounds each. The Scouts teamwork and dedication helped them accomplish the task.
The old Star was cut into pieces. Some of the pieces would be used for anchors to support the new Star. Dave Andrews, Jonathon Andrews, Jeremiah Small and Scout Leader Craig Snodgrass work to clear the old Star away.
Once the old Star was cleared away, the new aluminum was laid out and assembled. Here Dave Andrews, Jonathan Andrews, Joe Kaliel, Ed Loney and Jeremiah Small bolt the final pieces of the new Star into place.
Once assembled, the new lights were attached. We used 40-Watt Equivalent LED Bulbs to replicate the lights used on the original Star by F. B. Nightingale. The Star is also anchored to the front and rear to minimize stress during high winds. Jonathon Andrews admires our work.
We couldn’t have done this without the support of Altadena Scout Troop 1. Pictured here (L-R) are Sr. Patrol Leader Cobhan Kale and Scouts Devin Paton, Andrew Boatman, Hollis Blanton, Bradley Boatman and Scout Master Craig Snodgrass.
The new Star is finally finished and the crew gets ready to descend the mountain. From L-R Ed Loney, Bill Westphal, Jonathon Andrews, Jeremiah Small, Dave Andrews, Joe Kaliel.

After the Star was up, it was lit for two nights for testing and observation purposes. The Star was very bright and could be seen over a wide area and as far away as South Pasadena.

I'd like to thank all of the dedicated people who donaterd their time or money towards rebuilding the Star Of Palawoo:
Dave Andrews, Jonathon Andrews, Susan Dimotakis, Lee Johnson, Joe Kaliel, Ed Loney, Jeremiah Small, Chuck Weiss, Bill Westphal.
Altadena Scout Troop 1 Scout Leader Craig Snodgrass, Sr. Patrol Leader Cobhan Kale and Scouts Hollis Blanton, Andrew Boatman, Bradley Boatman and Devin Paton.
And of course Dr. Phil Elkins.

Special thanks to Dr. Elkins for information and photos of the Star
and to Mike Manning (Mr. Altadena) for additional information on the Star.

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