Monday, August 16, 2010

Dolgeville in Alhambra, Cal.

The northwestern corner of Alhambra (generally east of Fremont Avenue and west of Marengo Avenue) has an interesting manufacturing past prior to its 1908 annexation into the city.  This area, including where big box businesses Costco and Target currently stand, was once an expansive vineyard operated by the San Gabriel Wine Company.  Manufacturing took over a portion of the former vineyard and became known as Dolgeville.

Poplar and Primrose is one of the intersections immediately north of the former manufacturing tracts of the Alfred Dolge Manufacturing Company.  (Click on images to zoom in)

 A home situated on a Dolgeville subdivision.

Palm tree-lined Primrose Avenue.

Alfred Dolge, a German-born industrialist, arrived in California sometime soon after departing New York in 1898.  By 1904 he developed a manufacturing town called Dolgeville, which became Southern California's first experiment in city planning for the working class.

Decades early in New York state, Dolge in 1875 developed a similar town for the manufacture of felt, piano materials and lumber products.  He also developed a system of labor insurance, old age and disability pensions, and endowments.  By 1881 the eastern town of Dolgeville was incorporated, and in 1898 Dolge went bankrupt.

After arriving out west, Dolge proposed to Henry E. Huntington for the creation of a felt manufacturing plant on a portion of the 500-acre Shorb San Marino Ranch, including the San Gabriel Winery, which Huntington bought in 1903.  By the following year, Huntington agreed to transfer winery buildings and a surrounding 20 acres to the Alfred Dolge Manufacturing Company.

Dolge sought to develop a model city whereby nearby homes could be built (through his own Dolge Land Company) and then be purchased by his employees.  His plan for the city included 8 parks!  Dolge's ideals were at odds with Huntington's, who owned most of the surrounding land in the western San Gabriel Valley. Town-building escalated in 1904, and Huntington was credited with the birth of the town called Dolgeville.

The Dolge Land Company's homebuyers, however, tended to be more affluent, non-employees, while actual workers commuted from other parts of town, including nearby Alhambra!  By 1908, Dolgeville was annexed into the city of Alhambra, but not without a fight from Alfred Dolge.  Alhambra, though, was able to offer a city hall, public library, fire department and public works.  In 1910, Dolge resigned from the company under pressure by Huntington.

The felt manufacturing center of Dolgeville was bordered by Poplar Avenue on the north, Cypress Avenue on the west, Palm Avenue on the east.  The southern boundary was Pepper Street, but currently it is where the parking lot that serves Costco.

Page ad for Dolgeville from a Pacific Electric Grill booklet
profiling southern California sights and businesses
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, GC-1299-2ov)
The above ad for the Alfred Dolge Manufacturing Company shows a section of the Piano Hammer Factory, a General View of the Plant, and a section of the Felt Shoe Factory.

Added 1/10/2018:

Caption reads:  "Hand cutting novelty patterns from felt used in the manufacturing of slippers.  West Alhambra, Calif."
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center, P-021-1)


  1. Nice blog post! Could you point me to more information about the felt making that went on between 1904 and 1910 in Dolgeville CA, if such information exists? Or at least to some documentation of the information you have presented here.

  2. Appreciate you reading my blog. As far as my resources, did you look at the "About L.A." page that I have? Up at the top of each page is a stand alone bar you can click - that is my selected bibliography - the resource for Dolgeville is listed under the Alhambra heading. As far as any other information, if you have access to full-text article databases, that is the way to go - otherwise go to a library and ask a Librarian for assistance. Let me know if you have any other questions! :)

  3. Those who are interested in Dolge's earlier accomplishments in New York state may want to take a look at my blog post, "The Downfall of Alfred Dolge."

    His beautiful mansion was destroyed by fire a couple months ago but his memory is still cherished in the original Dolgeville, which will again be celebrating his life during its annual Violet Festival on June 12-14, 2015.