Monday, September 27, 2010

Paradise in Rosemead, Cal.

Tree and foliage-laden Paradise Trailer Park at 8069 Garvey Avenue has stood the years as its surroundings have absorbed the march of mini malls, Chinese markets, Chinese restaurants, and store signs that spell out CVS, Starbucks, and Phó.  Garvey Avenue was a major east-west corridor before the placement of the San Bernardino Freeway.

The sign is frozen in time.
The earliest structure at the address was built in 1922, and improvements continued in the 1930s and 1940s.
An additional property further back and ending at Whitmore Street was constructed in 1956.

The river rock wall runs along the front on Garvey Avenue.
The L.A. Times reported that in 1989 there were 740 such parks in the county of Los Angeles.  The state's Housing and Community Development statistics show that the number of parks has fallen to 644 in July, 2008.  In Rosemead there have been other recent activities by developers that have threatened or have displaced mobile home residents.

Adjacent to the east of Paradise, a tract of land at 3053 San Gabriel Boulevard, where another mobile home park had been, was demolished without permit in 2007.


To the west at 8001 Garvey sits 18 vacant acres formerly the site of Los Angeles Dealer Auto Auction.  It closed at the end of March in 2009 after over 60 years in business.  In August, 2010 when this photo was taken, no new development has taken place.

Beyond the fence is the expansive field of the former L.A. Dealer Auto Auction.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fred C. Nelles School, Whittier, Cal.

The Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility was the first school in the California Youth Authority system, and it ceased operation in 2004.  When it opened in 1891 as the Whittier State School, it expressly served juvenile offenders with boys and girls living on site.  A separate girls' school was built in Ventura in 1916.  Canadian Fred C. Nelles was an early superintendent of the school.  During his tenure from 1912 to 1927, he sought to provide humane methods in dealing with the young residents.  In the school's Department of Research, Nelles and his colleagues applied "scientific" methods to analyze and treat the youths in attempting to understand traits and behavior for delinquency.  Their ongoing work was published in their own journal called the Journal of Delinquency starting in 1916.

Now six years since it closed, the state had started and stopped the sale of the 91-acres to potential home developers.  The City of Whittier failed to win a bid for the land.  Some of the buildings on the property are designated historic landmarks.



The letters F-A-C-I-L-I-T-Y has been swiped from the sign.


The Administration building, constructed between 1928-1929.







The Superintendent's residence, built 1919-1920.

A forlorn landscape.




Monday, September 20, 2010

Bowling and Roller Skating in San Gabriel, Cal.

The New San Gabriel Lanes closed up around the summer of 2008. The building pictured is still for sale.

No date found on when the bowling alley was built,
but "San Gabriel Bowling Lanes" was listed in the L.A. Times in September, 1961.
Up one block and across the street at 136 So. San Gabriel Boulevard is a building once home to Shamrock Roller Rink.


The current business is an Airsoft store and warehouse covering 30,000 square feet.  Merchandise, guns and plastic bb's are sold here to support the recreational sport similar to war games using paintball.

Shamrock Roller Rink started up here in 1949.  "Shamrock" was an often-used name:  there were other Shamrock rinks, and there was a Shamrock roller hockey team out of Pasadena.  Music went along with the sport:  roller skating discs were cut at Hollywood's Capitol Records with music set for a tango, march or waltz beat as well as the hokey pokey.  In the 1960s, live bands performed there.  In 1968 the early 1970s, the rink's name was changed to Fiesta Roller Rink.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Historic Dawson's Book Shop Closes


It was a continuous run of 105 years for Dawson's Book Shop.  Specializing in California history, Western Americana and photography, its earlier locations were downtown at 518 So. Hill Street, then to 627 So. Grand Avenue, then three blocks west to 550 South Figueroa, before arriving at the present address at 535 No. Larchmont.  The building will have company among buildings with 'for sale' and 'for lease' signs.


The closing of the brick and mortar store came August 21, 2010, almost 42 years to the day of the Larchmont store's grand opening.  The August 26th issue of the Los Angeles Weekly covered this story titled "Turning a Page," by David Cotner which can be accessed by going to the newspaper's online archive.  Store owner Michael Dawson cited the impact of the Internet in changing the business of new and out-of-print books.  He anticipates to maintain an online presence from this point on.


Dawson's building will be leased out.





Powell's Books, Portland, Oregon

In Portland there is a 40-year old thriving bookseller.

Powell's City of Books is one of six locations in Portland and encompasses a full city block.
(Courtesy of K.V. Brown)
Powell's is a family-run business that started in 1970 back in Chicago.
Read their accolades at Powell's.com.  (Courtesy of K.V. Brown)
Powell's had the business sense to establish an online presence back in 1994, a year when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, and web browsers had not been developed yet.  (Courtesy of K.V. Brown)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Durfee Ranch at the El Monte Township, and Other Farming Pioneers

The Durfee Ranch, a 125-acre farm, once existed near here.  The pictured street sign is at the intersection of Durfee and Peck Road, located in South El Monte.  Durfee Avenue continues at this point northward through the city of El Monte, becoming disconnected but resumes until it reaches its termination at the border of Arcadia.  From the same intersection at Peck, Durfee Avenue is also a country road stretching west into the unincorporated L.A. County section, this time halting at Rosemead Boulevard.  Another segment of Durfee begins at the Pico Rivera border, reaching southward until Whittier Boulevard.
Headed West from Illinois

James Devine Durfee, nearly 14 years of age, accompanied his older brother George W. (age 31) to California in September, 1854.  The family name Durfee is derived from the French d'Urfé.  Durfee descendants hailed from Rhode Island, and both their parents were deceased by 1847.  The brothers departed from Carroll County, Illinois with oxen hitched to a wagon.  When the team gave out, they both walked 250 miles to reach San Bernardino one year after they started from Illinois.  George was already married (to Laura Cleminson); they had three children and one baby on the way before they left heading west.  While in route, a daughter was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, so perhaps the wife and children stayed behind.  Eventually everyone resided in San Bernardino for a handful of years.  Two more of George's children were born there.  Also, in 1858 James married Laura Cleminson's sister, Diantha.  Both brothers moved to the El Monte area, with records indicating that James set up a farm in November, 1859. In later years, George re-settled in Los Angeles, while James stayed for the remainder of his life.

Place Names Reflect Farming Pioneers

James Durfee grew prominent, outspoken and active in local affairs.  One of his sons, James Roswell Durfee (born 1874) also started a family and farmed nearby.  It may be that other Durfee relatives eventually settled here too, attributing to the numerous segments of Durfee Avenue.

Many other place names in existence today provide a reminder of the farming pioneers of the contiguous regions of the El Monte Township, Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo, Rancho Paso de Bartolo and Los Nietos:  Cleminson, Cogswell, Peck, Strong, Guirado, Coffman, Orr, Tweedy, and Passons to name a few.  Cleminson Street, not far from the El Monte civic center, is likely named for pioneer John Cleminson of Illinois (and father of the daughters who married the Durfee brothers.)  Cogswell stems from Canadian-born Prescott Cogswell, a relatively late immigrant (1880s) and a walnut grower.  New Englander George H. Peck, Sr., born in Vermont, was an early farming settler in El Monte.  Peck Road, which runs through El Monte and northward into Monrovia, is part of his legacy.  Charles A. Coffman was another dairyman and walnut rancher in Ranchito (later to become Pico Rivera).  W.W. Orr was a farmer in Norwalk.  Tweedy Lane, in Pico Rivera, was where several Tweedy family members established farms in the vicinity, including that of Arkansas-born George Washington Tweedy.  Passons Boulevard cuts through the southern half of Pico Rivera, and reflects on Tennessee-born pioneers of the Los Nietos Township: O.P. Passons and a couple of generations of Thomas Passons.  (Another southern farmer of the time was North Carolinan Thomas L. Gooch although there exists no street marker for this pioneer.)

English Walnut Ranching

James Durfee, along with the above-mentioned ranchers, and many others in the region all capitalized on the walnut crop.  Harriet Strong was known as the walnut queen.  Walnut plantings were in some areas the only suitable choice.  The region's growers, associated under the Los Nietos and Ranchito Walnut Growers Association, contributed to the 6,000 pounds for a Walnut Tower and general exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.  Theirs was a specialty, the English Walnut.

Durfee Ranch - South of El Monte

References to the location of the ranch attributes it to at least three place names: El Monte, Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo, and the Old Mission district.

James Durfee's farm was actually situated south of El Monte, in the Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo.  The  rancho's history included its ownership by E.J. "Lucky" Baldwin (who concurrently owned Rancho Santa Anita), which he acquired it as payment for debt.  Durfee went to court to defend two tracts of land against Baldwin in litigation that was ongoing by 1892.  The case went before the state Supreme Court and a decision was found in Durfee's favor in 1897.

Durfee was active in local affairs.  In 1886, he was appointed as a delegate to a county convention.  He represented the "Old Mission" district of the countryside.  Durfee's ranch was close in proximity to the Misión Vieja, which in 1886 the mission had already been moved over 100 years earlier to its present location in San Gabriel.  Nevertheless the "old mission" designation stayed in the geography.  In 1892, the "Old Mission" was a polling place, with James Durfee serving on the election board at this poll place.  A final example of Durfee's allegience is from a May 6, 1898 letter to the L.A. Times from Old Mission, Cal.:  Durfee and three other co-signers defended their community against an article published in the San Francisco Examiner insinuating that the "Spanish-Mexican citizens of this community...is a Spanish stronghold."  Durfee clarified that the community stood "strong in our adherence to our country and strong in our sympathies for our homes and loved ones...Our citizenship is, without a single exception, true and loyal to this government, and we are ready, if needed, to fight to the death to uphold and protect its every interest."

A date of death has not been determined for Durfee in the interest of this posting, but on record he was cited as still living in El Monte in 1904.  [A reader has stated that he died October, 1920.]

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Compton's Richland Farms

A portion of the city of Compton called Richland Farms has been a recent focus of KCET's Departure educational series.  Students who were engaged to learn about the area discovered that there are agricultural tracts where residents exercise independence and self-sustaining livelihood through raising cattle, farm animals and growing food.  I had never heard of this neighborhood until one of the researchers for the series contacted me seeking information.  Here is what I now know:

Compton was formed in 1867, which made it only the second "white settlement" in Southern California, with El Monte coming in first in 1851. Comptonville was named for Griffith Dickenson Compton, who led a party of covered wagons arriving from the depleted Northern California gold fields.


Richland Farms was the name of a subdivision with tracts selling around 1911 and 1912.  During this decade, there was an abundance of subdivisions throughout Southern California with names like Mabery Heights and Athens-on-the-Hill.  A selling point of Richland Farms was a large lot to enable farming; another advantage promoted was the area's proximity to downtown L.A. in the north and the San Pedro Harbor in the south.

One of the principal promoters of Richland Farms was Jonathan S. Dodge.  He was born near Portsmouth, Ohio on April 9, 1867 (oddly the same year when Griffith Compton rolled into town.)  He served terms in public office: on the Board of Supervisors and also as a state bank superintendent.  He was also Mayor of South Pasadena (1909, 1916-1917).  He also established the California Building Loan Association, Los Angeles, in 1923, and served as president.  The company was sold to the Los Angeles Investment Company in 1928.

One of the challenges in providing a habitable subdivision was providing utilities, and eventually some who bought into Richland Farms became dissatisfied with the water service.  A group of residents filed a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission, but ultimately its Railroad Commission dismissed their complaint, favoring Jonathan Dodge, in December, 1918.

A new Richland Farms Water Co. was formed May 16, 1919, with many of the disgruntled residents named as directors of the new water company.

Dodge also had a connection with the then-famous tourist destination, Cawston's Ostrich Farm.  A number of other ostrich farms existed, such as one in Norwalk and another in Lincoln Heights.  The feathers of the ostrich were profitable in its fashionable use on ladies' hats and other decorations.  Cawston's was established by Englishman Edward H. Cawston in 1886, and its first location was in L.A. where presently the William Mulholland Fountain stands at Los Feliz Avenue and Riverside Drive.  Later, it was moved to South Pasadena.   Dodge had controlling stock interest in Cawston’s by 1911, and he was its manager, after his bank syndicate bought the farm from Edward Cawston.  The decline in popularity of feathers led to the closure of Cawston’s in 1935, the same year that Dodge died.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kim Sing Theater

My inaugural post to this blog pertained to the views of City Hall, and the Kim Sing Theater was mentioned.  It is one of those buildings that escaped demolition owing to a historic building preservation code in place.  Down the street though, at Figueroa and Sunset, more than one structure fell victim to the mammoth footprint of the residential structures of the Orsini development in recent years.


I have personal memories of the theater, and I was curious to learn what others remember.  Please click on the Kim Sing Theater and L.A.'s Chinatown Page above to see a compilation of the stories.


These photos were taken in 2002, at which time the interiors were already being worked on.
(Click on the image to zoom in)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Guirado Park, Whittier, Cal.

At Orange Drive and Pioneer Boulevard is a very clean park.  It is across the street from homes backed up against the 605 San Gabriel River Freeway, but the sound wall does a good job in keeping the traffic noise away.

(Click on image to zoom in)

What is the significance of the park name?.  At least one Guirado family played prominently in early Southern California:  Rafael Guirado was a Spaniard who came to Los Angeles by way of Mexico in 1833.  He may have been a merchant in the city of Los Angeles around the year 1838.  He married Vicenta Urquides, a native of Los Angeles.  They had a handful of children, including Maria Jesus, Juan Francisco, and Bernardino.

Maria Jesus Guirado married an Irishman named John Gately Downey in 1852, not long after he settled locally.  He was a successful businessman and landowner; he became Governor during the Civil War years; and he is the namesake for the city of Downey.  Sadly, he lost his wife Maria to a tragic train accident at Tehachapi in 1883.

Juan Francisco Guirado, a younger brother, was a California native.  He had a strong military relationship with his brother-in-law, Governor Downey.  Among his tours of duty included the rank of 1st Lieutenant Company B 1st Cavalry California Volunteers, 1861.  In another tour he served as 1st Lieutenant Company L 11th Cavalry Missouri Volunteers, 1865.

Bernardino Guirado, the youngest, was born near the Los Angeles Plaza in May, 1845.  He was educated at Santa Ynez College at Santa Barbara.  He settled in Los Nietos in 1864, completing nearly four decades there until his death in 1903.  He was the merchant for the Pioneer Store at today's Los Nietos Road and Norwalk Boulevard.  He was also credited with early walnut ranching in the area, founding the Los Nietos Water Company, and serving as a trustee of the Los Nietos school district.  In the bits of information found about his life, he was considered a kind, respected man who valued education.  He lost his first wife, Eduarda Poyorena, after she gave birth to their son; he remarried Luz Sanchez and completed their family with the birth of a daughter, Margarita.  He was described as a self-made man; he had oil interests in Santa Fe Springs and Rancho LaBrea that later sustained his family following his death.  

Another Bernardino Guirado?

The Guirado family history does not answer the question about Guirado Park's name.  The park's proximity by a few block north of Pio Pico's former home is a clue.  When California transitioned to the new American government following Mexico's defeat in the war with the U.S. in 1848, landownership had to be proven.  Pio Pico, Juan Perez, Joaquina Sepulveda and Bernardino Guirado filed claims for Rancho Paso de Bartolo in 1852.  While Pico and Perez were confirmed with the bulk of the land, Sepulveda and Guirado also received their share. Guirado received 875 acres.  Perhaps the park sits on some of those acres.  However, this Guirado is not the same Bernardino, and this can be explained by the dates:  in 1852, the Bernardino Guirado first mentioned above would have been only 7 years old.  The land petitioner was probably another individual, perhaps an uncle with the same name, residing in Los Nietos.

Park Named After a County Supervisor?

The other mystery is that the Los Angeles County's website describes Bernardino Guirado to have been a County Supervisor from 1859 to 1860.  If the County's facts are correct, the time frame would attribute this person to be the much older land petitioner.  (However, merchant Bernardino was also described to have "at the age of 16 years began clerking for his brother-in-law, Gov. Downey, at Los Nietos, in this county.")

(Update:  Virginia Mahoney's book, Whittier Revisited, explains that the main road through here before the 605 San Gabriel River Freeway took it out, was Guirado Road.  The park was dedicated on March 18, 1980 after the freeway was completed.  The guest of honor on that day was Judge Edward Guirado, retired from the Municipal Court in Whittier and Superior Court of Norwalk.  He was there to represent the Bernardino Guirado family.  E.Uyeda, 8/28/2011)

History of the Californios

The Guirado name is indicative of some of the regional history and the struggles of the Californio period:  the Los Nietos corner of today's Santa Fe Springs was just a fraction of the expansive 1784 Spanish land grant to soldier Manuel Nieto.  The rancho was later divided into smaller ranchos, including Santa Gertrudes (acquired by John Downey).  One or more Guirado's were likely in the middle of the competition for water, too, thus the Los Nietos Water Company was one remedy.  Water rights were also impacted in the mid 1860s, when the Rio San Gabriel changed course, shifting itself a few miles east.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever

In South El Monte is a strawberry field where Durfee Avenue meets Rosemead Boulevard.

The field is about 14 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
(Click on images to zoom in)
It is a vestige of the once agriculturally-dominant landscape.
This area is a microcosm of the early 20th century industries:  agriculture and oil.
A stone's throw away is the Montebello Hills, where oil pumps are still producing.
A short drive eastward on Durfee Road leads to Whittier, which has two sites of tremendous distinction in providing for a populous 21st century Southern California:  at the northwestern face of the Puente Hills operates the largest landfill in the country, called the Puente Hills Landfill.  On another face of the Hills is the largest cemetery in the world, Rose Hills Memorial Park.  The park began in 1914 as the 18-acre Whittier Heights Memorial Park. 
I can see Rose Hills from my house.