Community History

PERIODS IN LOCAL HISTORY

  

Kizh - Gabrielino -Tongva

For thousands of years, the earliest inhabitants of the area, were the Kizh people (Shoshonean Tribe) were also referred to by the Spanish and missionaries as “Gabrielinos” (or Gabrieleños), also known as the Band of Mission Indians, and Tongva, “People of the earth”.  The word Kizh is interpreted as meaning the “indigenous people of the tule houses” (source: Kizh Nation website www.gabrieleñoindians.org).  There were numerous villages that existed locally along the banks of the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers.  One of villages located within present day Whittier Unincorporated was Sejat, (or referred to as Sejatngna and Sehat), which means “village of the wild bees”.  There were other nearby villages, including Shevaanga, a Kizh village near the original San Gabriel Mission, which was founded in 1771 in Whittier Narrows, and Nacaugna, which has been described as a village site located downstream from Sejat.  In 1852, twenty-eight Indian villages still existed within Los Angeles County.  The Kizh were used as laborers to the missionaries and their population dramatically decreased after being exposed to disease.  Read more about the first local inhabitants, the original San Gabriel Mission (Misión Vieja), the San Gabriel River and the families that settled in the Whittier Narrows area at http://misionvieja.blogspot.com/.  

 

Alta California during the Spanish/Mission Era (1769-1821)

During the Spanish/Mission era, Spain ruled California and the church owned most of the property that was divided under the name of the missions.  Upon the founding of the San Gabriel Mission in 1771, Don Manuel Perez Nieto was living in the Los Nietos Valley.  He was awarded the use of 300,000 acres in 1784 by the governor of Alta California for his service as a soldier to Spain.  He lived in an adobe near the San Gabriel River where he retired in 1795 and grew crops and raised cattle until his death in 1803.  In 1796 a portion of Rancho Los Nietos was awarded to the mission, which left Nieto with 167,000 acres.  According to Historic Spots of California (source: Overview of Los Nietos and families, Page 154) his land included “all that lay between the Santa Ana and San Gabriel Rivers, from the mountains to the sea.” In 1821, Mexico won the War of Independence from Spain and became Alta California’s new ruler.  New codes for land grants were established but Rancho Los Nietos remained intact until 1834 when the new Mexican Governor, Jose Figueroa ordered it to be divided. 

Alta California under Mexican Rule (1821-1848)

The era of the “Californios” began as new landowners became wealthy through the cattle business and owned wide areas of land that previously belonged to the missions.  After Manuel Nietos death, the Mexican government allowed the Nietos land grant to remain in the family.  But in 1834 Mexican Governor Jose Figueroa ordered the split of Rancho Los Nietos (167,000 acres) into five smaller ranchos including Rancho Santa Gertrudes that encompassed most of present day Whittier Unincorporated.  Nietos’ son, Antonio Maria Nieto, who had inherited this land, had died by this time, and his widow Josefa Cota Nieto was now the owner of Rancho Santa Gertrudes.  Josefa Cota then sold the property to Lemuel Carpenter.  Carpenter, who was from Kentucky, was married to Maria de los Angeles Dominquez, who was Josefa Cota’s niece.  He operated a soap factory near the banks of the San Gabriel River which allowed him an income to purchase Rancho Santa Gertrudes.  Read more about Lemuel Carpenter under Notable Landowners. 

  

The following are descriptions of local landowners during this period. 

 

Juan Crispín Perez-Rancho Paso de Bartolo Viejo

Juan Crispín Perez’s land was part of the original 300,000-acre Rancho Los Nietos land grant.  In 1835, Rancho Paso de Bartolo Viejo was granted to Juan Crispin Perez, who served as a manager at the mission, by the governor.  In 1843, Bernardo Guirado, a worker at the mission, acquired 876 acres of Paso de Bartolo from Perez.  Later, Joaquina Ana Sepulveda, widow of Juan de Jesus Poyorena, acquired 208 acres.  In 1847, Juan Crispin Perez died leaving the rancho to his family.  After the Mexican-American War, former Governor Pío Pico began purchasing pieces of the estate from the heirs of Perez, and by 1852, Pico acquired 8,991 acres of Rancho Paso de Bartolo

Pio de Jesus Pico-Second Owner of Rancho Paso de Bartolo Viejo

Pio de Jesus Pico (1801-1894) was born at the San Gabriel Mission.  Although he was born to a poor family, he later worked up the ranks in the army, and was the last governor of Mexican Alta California before the state was ruled by the United States.  Pico served as governor of Alta California in 1832 and again from 1845 to 1846.  After the Mexican-American War he chose to reside at “El Ranchito” his adobe home located on Rancho Paso de Bartolo Viejo (present day Whittier).  Visit El Ranchito and read more about Pio de Jesus Pico at the Pio Pico State Historic Park website at http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=621

 

The United States Takes Possession of California (1848)

Following the Mexican-American War, the United States governed Alta California and agreed to the laws of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that honored the Mexican land grants.  Lemuel Carpenter, who was deeply in debt to John G. Downey, committed suicide in 1859 and his rancho was sold at a sheriff's auction to John G. Downey and James P. McFarland.  A claim for part of Rancho Santa Gertrudes was filed by Thomas Sanchez Colima with the Public Land Commission and 3,696 acres were granted him in 1877.  A claim was also filed with the Public Land Commission in 1867 for portions of Rancho Paso de Bartolo which would go to Bernardo Guirado (876 acres), in 1881, Joaquina Sepulveda (208 acres) and in 1881; 8,991 acres are under ownership of Pio de Jesus Pico. 

 

AGRICULTURE

Oranges were brought by the missionaries to California in the 1760’s and it believed that the first orchard was planted during the early 1800’s at the Mission San Gabriel.  The Whittier Unincorporated area began its rise as some of the largest citrus, walnut, avocado and agricultural operations in the state.  Walnuts were a major crop produced in the    “Los Nietos Valley”, particularly in the general area of Los Nietos and Whittier, with some of the oldest Walnut growers associations in California.  In an 1891 news article from the Los Angeles Times, the status of crops in the area, particularly walnuts from Los Nietos, were described as “celebrated and bring a higher price in the market than others”. 

 

From the early part of the century through the 1940’s, the citrus industry was in full swing in Southern California.  Citrus crops, walnuts and avocados accounted for nearly one-third of the county’s agricultural income.  The Whittier Unincorporated area ranchers were leading producers, growing a variety of citrus, walnuts, avocados, grain, and more.  Many local street names were derived from local pioneer farmers such as Dunlap, Strong, Miller, Perkins, Holbrook, Burke, Sorensen, Leffingwell, Meyer, and more.  Local walnut associations during this time were the Whittier Walnut Growers and the Los Nietos, and the Ranchito Walnut Growers Association. 

 

According to the Department of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures, pest and plant eradication projects included spraying for noxious weeds like the Puncture Vine, which was a road hazard that flattened tires, the Canada Thistle, which infested agricultural land, and the Argentine Ant, which were pests in orchards.  During the height of the agricultural boom, the County led the nation in the production of agriculture, and Agricultural Commissioner Harold “Buddy” Ryan had a long run serving as the Commissioner for over 44 years (1918-1962).

 

During the 1950’s, areas in Los Angeles County were divided by districts for agriculture inspections.  The County’s District 10 included Whittier, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, and Montebello, with the Rio Hondo as the western border.  “Orchard Cards” were filled out and helped track growers, their property location, crop, variety, year planted, and number of trees and acres.  Inspectors would issue citations to owners of diseased, neglected, or abandoned crops, and if dead crops were not removed, the County would remove them.  By the 1960’s many orchards were on the decline.  You can see a copy of an Orchard Card that was issued to the Parnell School for Girls that once existed on where Parnell Park is currently located, and other vintage department photos on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive.

 

A sampling of a few prominent growers whose land was located within, or in a portion of, the Whittier Unincorporated area, are listed below: 

 

Harriet Russell Strong: (1844-1926) 

In 1883, after becoming a widow and in debt, Harriet Strong took over the family farm and business that produced walnuts and citrus.  Her home which was located on a 220 acre farmland purchased from Pio Pico, was named Rancho del Fuerte (Ranch of Strength), located north of present day Whittier Boulevard and west of Norwalk Boulevard.  One of her specialty crops was pampas grass of which the plume was all the rage for women’s hats and other decor.  She fought for women’s rights, established several patents for irrigation control devises.  Harriet Strong was a friend and neighbor to Pio Pico, and in 1907, started the movement to save Pio Pico’s home “El Ranchito” after he had passed away, and his historic home was facing demolition.  The structure and surrounding grounds exist today because of Harriet Strong’s efforts.  Learn more about her life and on the following website and watch a brief video on the life of Harriet Russell Strong.    

https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2010/08/harriet-strong-in-whittier-cal.html

http://whittiermuseum.org/research/harriet-russell-strong/

 

Christian Sorensen (1840-1929)

Sorensen was a prominent orange rancher who owned 80 acres of land south of Whittier Boulevard that he and his brother Daniel, purchased from Pio Pico in 1868.  According to Sorensen’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times (September 13, 1929) he was born in Denmark and arrived in the United States by way of Cape Horn.  Sorensen’s first ranch house was still standing in 1950, with his second home (7033 Sorensen Avenue) was built in front of it near the State Reform School for boys (present day Nelles State School property).  According to his daughter’s account, the original house was moved from Anaheim by an ox team and belonged to Sorensen’s brother, Daniel Sorensen in 1868, before Christian Sorensen married and moved in.  Sorensen was a founder of the Whittier National Trust and Savings Bank which later became the Home Savings Bank.  He died at home at age 89 in 1929 and the Sorensen family donated a portion of their land for the development of a school, which later supported a park and library in Unincorporated West Whittier. Click here to see a property sub-division record of survey that was filed with the County of Los Angeles in 1896.  http://dpw.lacounty.gov/sur/nas/landrecords/survey/RS004/RS004-025.pdf .

Ellen Adeline King

Ellen King was born in 1854 and traveled to California in a covered wagon from Texas along the Santa Fe Trail in 1869.  In 1870 she married John King and in 1873 moved to the West Whittier/Los Nietos area.  King’s Lane (now Washington Boulevard) was a street named after her husband who was active in local civic affairs.  By 1900 John King had passed away, and Ellen King was a widow living on Sorensen Lane with her eleven children on “Rancho del Rey” (ranch of the king).  She was in possession of the Walnut grove operations that was located in the West Whittier-Los Nietos area and was often the top producer of walnuts.  In 1912, she had the largest load of walnuts ever received by the Whittier Walnut Association in the amount of six tons of ninety-three sacks and delivered by six mules.  According to a Los Angeles Times obituary written on April 18, 1939, she celebrated her 84th birthday with family and friends in Montebello and passed away soon thereafter.

           

Citrus Industry Giants: Leffingwell Rancho and Murphy Ranch

C.W. Leffingwell and Simon Murphy were both some of Southern California’s largest producers of citrus.  Beginning in the late 1800’s, these two local pioneers were some of the most industrious and successful growers. 

 

 C. W. Leffingwell

The Leffingwell Rancho was one of the largest lemon producers in the area.  Leffingwell had his own packing house and a laboratory, which conducted experiments and produced insecticides.  Here he established    modern technology to determine when the soil was dry for irrigation, as opposed to standard watering according to the calendar. 

 

Simon J. Murphy

Simon J. Murphy purchased land that was part of Rancho Colima in East Whittier.  He formed the East Whittier Land and Water Company and in 1891 and transported water from property he owned near the San Gabriel River to his ranch by building a wood plume and concrete canal to carry the water across Whittier to his orchards.  During the oil boom, Murphy developed oil wells which brought him great fortune.  He built Murphy Memorial Hospital, that was once located on Bailey Street in the City of Whittier, in honor of his parents.  His home still stands in the City of Whittier on College Avenue.

 

              Read more about both of these prolific growers at the following sites:

              https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2011/05/southern-california-days-of-lemons.html

              https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2010/07/murphys-ranch-whittier-cal.html

 

             Watch a YouTube segment on Simon Murphy produced by the City of Whittier Public Library at

             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5l7x9jS4Fg

 

            The Whittier Public Library Website and digital Archive also has numerous agriculture related photos at

            http://digi.cityofwhittier.org

           

Local Family Produce Businesses:

 

Frank Marquez and Sons Growers, Los Nietos:  Francisco and Frances Marquez lived on Dunlap Crossing Road in West Whittier and operated a produce farm during the early 1940’s.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned  residents who lived on Dunlap Crossing Road about the dangers of living close to the San Gabriel River due to flooding.  This was prior to the construction of the Whittier Narrows Dam.  The family relocated to Los Nietos (present day Santa Fe Springs) and purchased property on Dice Road where they grew crops from the mid 1940’s until 2008.  Local residents recall purchasing produce from the family’s vegetable stand on Los Nietos Road.  The family home, referred to as “the Ranch” on Dice Road, was recently sold.  You can view Marquez family photos on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archives.  You can also read more history about the Marquez family’s business in the City of Santa Fe Springs Newsletter, June/July 2008 http://www.santafesprings.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=3157

 

Produce Patch Produce Stand (G. G. Produce), Los Nietos:  The history of the family run business began 63 years ago in the Flood Ranch area of what is now Santa Fe Springs.  Raul and Dolores (Lola) Gallegos operated a small store at 9106 Danby Avenue for 25 years, which later closed due to redevelopment.  The produce they sold was from the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market and the business was initially named G.G. Produce.  In 1976, the husband and wife team, and their son George Gallegos, constructed a covered patio on the northeast corner of Norwalk Boulevard and Rivera Road and sold avocados that were picked from their Walnut Street home in Los Nietos.  They soon expanded their inventory and had a telephone line connected to the patio.  Weather conditions dictated business hours, and their daughter Christine Amira recalls they would finish displaying all their merchandise only to have to take everything down due to rain.  In 1982 a new commercial building was constructed and the business name changed to the Produce Patch, which is still family owned and operated.   You can view some of the Gallegos’ family photos on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive.      

 

WATER

The San Gabriel River

The San Gabriel River was originally referred to as the Rio de San Miguel (River of Saint Michael).  The name was changed to the San Gabriel River after the original San Gabriel Mission which was founded on its banks.  The River has a history of serious flooding and during the 1800’s branched off to create the Rio Hondo River.  Downpours during 1867-68 destroyed the original home of landowner Manuel Nieto, which the current landowner Lemuel Carpenter lived in, and numerous homes and barns were washed away.  This event, and a later 1881 rainfall, also washed away portions of Pio Pico’s home.  Legal disputes over land and water during this period were common.  In 1878, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Water Commissioners and a “Water Overseer” for the Los Nietos Township’s Irrigation District.  Together they governed the water rights under the statues of the Los Nietos Water Law passed by the State Legislature (source: Statutes of California, 1877-78, page 374, State Office of California.)

 

In 1912, C.W. Leffingwell financed the building of a canal to deliver water to his Leffingwell Rancho citrus operations in East Whittier.  Numerous water companies and district were formed to provide water for farming needs, and to control the supply and demand as the agricultural industry grew during this period.  Farmers dug wells on their property and water from the San Gabriel River supported ongoing access to water.  The San Gabriel River, and its connecting creeks, would continue to periodically overflow their banks.  By 1937, several dams were in place in the foothills just in time for a heavy series of rain in February 1938.  After World War II, the demand to serve the residential needs of new customers dramatically increased.  The dedication of the Santa Fe Dam in 1946 and the Whittier Narrows Dam in 1957 created the concrete protection that Whittier Unincorporated, and surrounding areas downstream, needed.  Despite these tragic events, the rivers also served as a lifeline to pioneers and the growing agricultural industry that it supported.  Throughout history, locals traveled to the river to swim, picnic and enjoy its beauty.  See more information on the attached article: http://www.kcet.org/socal/departures/san-gabriel-river/the-other-river-that-defined-la-the-san-gabriel-river-in-the-20th-century.html 

 

A natural spring existed near Workman Mill Road on land owned by local businessman A.H. Gregg family.  He opened a spa at the site called Cal-Baden Mineral Springs Spa and resort.  Several water and irrigation companies existed throughout the late 1800’s through the 1940’s including the Los Nietos Water Company, the Los Nietos Irrigation Companies, the Pickering Land and Water Company, the Paso de Bartolo Water Company, the Santa Gertrudes Irrigation Company, the Colima Tract Water Company, the Banta Ditch Company, and many more.  Here are brief histories of a few local water companies that still serve the area and information on the natural spring.

 

Orchard Dale Water Company History

Orchard Dale was a neighborhood described in 1910 as generally around Valley View Avenue near Telegraph Road that was part of the “Whittier-La Habra District”.  (See Orchard Dale under Community names.)  First named the Hillside Distribution Company, the water company was renamed Orchard Dale Service Company in 1947.  After local wells stopped producing water due to over pumping, there was an effort to create a way to pipe water to consumers and farms.  Groundwater from deep wells was pumped through large pipelines (some made of redwood) to a tank at the intersection of Telegraph Road and Mills Avenue.  Water was then distributed to customers.  A large tank still stands and stores water today at this location.  After WWII, housing developments sprung up in the area and the demand for water grew.  Local residents organized a committee to determine how to meet this demand.  As a result, an election was held to create a district and in 1954 the Orchard Dale Water District was created.  (Source: http://www.odwd.org/About-Us/Our-History.aspx.)  See vintage photos donated by Orchard Dale Water Company at the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive.

 

Suburban Water Company

The company began as part of South West Water Company's roots dating back to 1925.  Landowner Able Garnier drilled a well on his 300-acre ranch in what is now the City of La Puente, seeking water for his vegetables and walnut trees.  He struck a source of groundwater, more than what he required.  Ranchers noticed that Garnier’s well continued to produce water, while theirs were drying up.  They appealed to him to share his water.  When Able Garnier died in 1933, his son Camille took over the ranch and the water well and formed the San Jose Hills Water Company to begin selling water to neighboring farmers and ranchers.  After WWII, more people settled in the San Gabriel Valley, including the Whittier Unincorporated area, and the company joined forces with other nearby water companies to serve more customers.  In 1953, the assets of the water companies were consolidated to form Suburban Water Systems. In 1954, the company was incorporated as South West Water Company, with Suburban remaining one of its subsidiaries.  After Camille's death in 1968, management of the company passed on to his son, Anton C. (Tony) Garnier, who led the company until his retirement in 2006. See vintage photos donated by Suburban Water Company on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive. (Source: courtesy of Suburban Water Company)

 

Cal-Baden Mineral Springs and Spa and Resort

In the 1930s  A. H. “Gus” Gregg established the Cal-Baden Mineral Springs Resort in Sycamore Canyon, a sulphur spring long known to local residents.  “The entrance to the canyon was landscaped with lush vegetation, and a swimming pool, baths, sunroom, patio, and riding stable were added to accommodate the resort guests.”  Water collected at the springs was carbonated and bottled for sale to the public.  Gregg was also the founder of the Sycamore Canyon Gravel Company and Rose Hills Memorial Park (then named Whittier Heights Memorial Park), and numerous other businesses.  He owned land and the hillsides along both sides of Workman Mill Road that included the cemetery and the gravel company.  A Los Angeles Times advertisement from 1938 included price information for the “Famous” Cal Baden Mineral Springs.  For $1.50 you could have a hot mineral bath or a Swedish massage.  (Source: Seaver Center for Western History Research, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.)  The mineral springs is still mentioned in a 1959 ad for the Cal-Baden Mineral Springs “Galleries” located at 5030 Workman Mill Road, and a 1962 Los Angeles Times Obituary, lists Mrs. Isabel Gregg as the owner-operator of Cal-Baden Mineral Springs.  The resort burned in 1963, however, remnants of the baths can still be found, and the natural spring exists today.  Read more information about A. H. Gregg under Notable Landowners.  (Source: Puente Hills Habitat Authority Resource Management Plan Study http://www.habitatauthority.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Final-RMP-July-2007.pdf)

 

Lake Marie-South Whittier

Did you know that a lagoon existed in Unincorporated Whittier?  The lagoon was located south of Calmada Avenue, north of Close Street, between Carmenita Road and Gunn Avenue.  Described as low land which was often a “swampy marsh during the winter months”, this area was owned by Joe Gilliland.  He deepened the lagoon and used the soil to fill in adjacent lands for crops.  He named the lagoon after his wife Marie.   During the 1950’s, the new owner, Harry Britain, filled in the lagoon, and subdivided the land, and named the tract    Lake Marie.   Today, a street and school are named after it.  The body of water was referred to as Painter Lagoon on Regional Planning maps in 1949.  You can see a planning map from 1951 with Lake Marie in the center below.                  

             

Communities and Neighborhoods

During the 1800’s, the Whittier Unincorporated area was considered part of the “Los Nietos Valley” which was a term used to refer to a broad area south of the Whittier Hills that also included the present day cities of Downey and Pico Rivera and beyond.  The Board of Supervisors developed “township” areas which were also referenced by the Census Bureau.  Six townships were established by the Board in 1851.  The Los Nietos Township was created on November 4, 1857 from the El Monte Township, and included all or portions of the following ranchos and their owners: Rancho Paso De Bartolo (landowners: Pio Pico and Bernardino Guirado), Rancho Santa Gertrudes (landowners: Tomas Sanchez Colima and James P. McFarland/John G. Downey), Rancho Los Coyotes (landowner: Andres Pico), and Rancho Los Cerritos (landowner: John Temple).  (Source: History of Los Angeles County, page 146, Berkeley:  Howell-North, 1959)  You can view vintage maps and plats from this era on the Huntington Library Digital Archives at http://hdl.huntington.org/.

 

By the 1920’s, the Whittier Unincorporated area was considered part of the Whittier Township.  Small community and neighborhood names describing portions of the area have been historically referenced in newspaper articles, maps, real estate tracts and newspaper articles that reference Old Los Nietos, Los Nietos Settlement, Bartolo, Guirado, Orchard Dale, East Whittier, and Jimtown, to name a few.  There was a time when visitors to the area would receive directions based on roads named after families since formal street names and addresses had not been established except for large thoroughfares.  

 

House numbering in Los Angeles County began between 1920-1927 when the Board of Supervisors passed a House Numbering Ordinance and instructed the County Engineer to establish addresses.  This included portions of Unincorporated areas.  Confusion occurred when the home addresses the utility companies used for billing, did not match the County’s address listing.  In 1933, the Board expanded the project to include all unincorporated areas.  (Source: County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Unified Numbering System, 2013 House Numbering and Street Naming Manual).  During the housing boom after World War II (WWII), new streets were developed, and neighborhoods received new names based on the names of housing tracts and developments.  At a local planning conference held in 1953, the keynote speaker was quoted as saying “Whittier is not a district that has grown-it is a district that has exploded.”  (“Conference Maps Plans for Future” Los Angeles Times, page A16, March 1, 1953.)  During the 1960’s, the County established guidelines so that all addresses were consistent county-wide with those of adjoining cities.  This caused address changes for all properties located in the Unincorporated areas. 

 

View vintage County Planning Commission maps on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive at http://history.colapublib.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15952coll13.   

 

Below is a sampling of some community and neighborhood names.  (Also see: Housing Tracts and Real Estate Development 1940’s-1960’s)

 

Bartolo: A former settlement located around present day Strong Avenue, Beverly Boulevard, and Whittier Boulevard.  The name is derived from Rancho Paso de Bartolo.  Bartolo Junction was named by the Union Pacific Railroad for a section of their line near the (605) San Gabriel River Freeway and Beverly Boulevard. 

Citrus Grove Heights: Described as a tract west of the City of Whittier, north of Whittier Boulevard, east of the (605) Freeway surrounding Orange Grove Avenue.  The Citrus Heights Land Company and the
Citrus Heights Water Company were both incorporated in 1912 by local landowners including A. H. Gregg and Frank Pellissier.  Citrus orchards once dotted this section and in the 1920’s several oil companies leased land to construct oil wells.  The area was later subdivided for homes and the tract is still referred to as Orange Grove Heights.

Colima:  The Colima Tract was originally part of Rancho Santa Gertrudes and named after its owner
Tomas Sanchez Colima.  Colima had been living in the area since 1841 and received a “patent” for the property from the United States government.  It was officially considered the Colima Tract of Rancho Santa Gertrudes and members of the Colima family made this area their home.  (Source: Historic Spots in California, Third Edition, 1966, page 153.)

 

Evergreen: The name of this former settlement is now located in the City of Whittier.  Some maps still reference the name Evergreen which is located in the “Five Points” area where the Whittier Presbyterian Hospital is located.  Evergreen Schoolhouse was built in this area in 1885 at the corner of Painter Avenue and the County Road (present day Whittier Boulevard).  Evergreen School still exists, but at a different location.  A line of the Southern Pacific ran to Evergreen where produce could be shipped at a loading station after processing at the Evergreen Packing Company.

 

East Whittier/East La Mirada: Present day East Whittier/East La Mirada was part of a much larger community prior to the annexation of portions to the City of Whittier.  Social organizations, a women’s club, a school district, school, and chamber of commerce carried this name.  During the late 1880’s through the late 1940’s, the majority of this area supported agricultural uses.  Simon Murphy purchased land north of Whittier Boulevard and the County Road (now Whittier Boulevard) in the late 1880s and founded a thriving citrus ranch, the East Whittier Land and Water Company, and later a prosperous oil company.  During the same era, C. W. Leffingwell purchased land south of Whittier Boulevard around Santa Gertrudes Avenue.  Leffingwell’s Rancho produced lemons and walnuts and he built his own packing house within the
Orchard Dale Tract.  A newspaper called the East Whittier Review, was in print from 1953 to 1987.  Read more about these East Whittier citrus growers under “Agriculture”. 

 

Guirado: The area north of Whittier Boulevard, and east of Norwalk Boulevard was often mapped as Guirado.  The community was named after the Guirado family patriarch, Bernardino Guirado, who served as a County Supervisor during the 1850’s.  A school named Guirado School was once located at present day Guirado Park.  Pioneer Boulevard, which runs north and south through this community, was once named Guirado Avenue.  Bernardino Guirado built a home in 1840’s in Los Nietos to be near his store nearby on Norwalk Boulevard.  His nephew, Reginaldo Poyorena, moved the home to its present location on Pasadena Street in the City of Whittier.  Read more about the Guirado family at Elisabeth Uyeda’s blog site at https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2010/09/guirado-park-whittier-cal.html

 

Jimtown (Also referred to as Jim Town, Guirado, and Guadalupe Hidalgo) Originally known as “Jim’s Town”, the neighborhood is named after Jim Harvey, who was a saloonkeeper who had purchased 22 acres of land in the area during the late 1800’s.  Pio Pico had previously owned this land where he built a chapel and a mill.  Jimtown has been described as one of the longest inhabited neighborhoods in Los Angeles County.  Located adjacent to Pio Pico’s farmland, it was part of “Picoville” and served as living quarters for Pico’s laborers.  The neighborhood boundaries were the San Gabriel River, Whittier Boulevard, to a small cliff on the east and Beverly Boulevard to the north.  During the 1920’s, a health center and baby clinic were set up in a bungalow on Guirado Road (now Pioneer Boulevard). 

 

During the 1940’s, Walter Bohannon was a milkman for the Pellissier Dairy and his delivery route included Jimtown.  In an interview he recalled Gonzales’ Grocery Store on Pioneer Boulevard.  The owner and his wife would make sure that every child in Jimtown got a sack of candy and an orange for Christmas.  (Source: Personal Stories From the Pio Pico Neighborhood, A Project of the Exploratory College, Rio Hondo College, courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County).  Some residents would be displaced, first in the 1940’s by the construction of the railroad, and then in the 1950’s with the building of the (605) San Gabriel River Freeway, when homes were in the path of the new freeway.  An attempt at annexation to the City of Whittier occurred in 1951 which was defeated by one vote.  The community experienced frequent street flooding due to poor drainage after the freeway was built, and the County implemented drainage controls in the 1970’s.  For years, local youth would play in a vacant lot which was later purchased by the County and eventually developed into Amigo Park in 1991.  (Sources: “A Hard-Bitten Place Named After Jim”, Los Angeles Times, August 30, 1998), and (History of Whittier, “JIMTOWN”, Benjamin F. Arnold, Artilissa Dorland Clark, 1933, courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County.)  You can view community photos of Jimtown on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive at http://history.colapublib.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15952coll13

 

Los Nietos:  The name Los Nietos once described a broad geographic area from the time of Manuel Nieto’s ownership of the land in the late 1700’s, through the era of Rancho Santa Gertrudes during the 1800’s.  The Los Nietos area was also referred to as “Old Los Nietos”, as part of the “Los Nietos Valley”, “Los Nietos Village”, and later, the ”Los Nietos Township”.  

 

According to the History of Los Angeles County, California (Thompson and West), Old Los Nietos had a population of 200 inhabitants in 1836.  The jurisdiction of the Los Nietos “Township” was created in the 1850’s from the El Monte Township, and the boundaries were from south of Whittier Narrows to La Habra, and western Orange County on the east to eastern Long Beach on the south, and westward to  present day Downey, Norwalk, and Bellflower, approximately where the 710 Freeway is located.  Paul R. Spitzzeri, of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, wrote a description of townships as “a specific area that was created to provide for postal and justice services (Justice of the Peace and a Constable) for court actions and patrols”.  (Source: Paul R. Spitzzeri, Branding Iron, Fall 2007, Number 249)

 

John Downey, who served as Governor of California, and his partner James McFarland, formed the Santa Gertrudes Land Company in the 1860’s and began subdividing land that included Los Nietos.  Spitzzeri reported that the Los Nietos Township had a population of approximately “24 Americans or Europeans in 1860 and 1,140 just ten years later-a significant reflection of the demographic changes that went on in greater Los Angeles during the 1860s”.  In 1867, a post office, two stores, a schoolhouse and a saloon were established.  By 1870, there were approximately 500 families residing in Los Nietos.  This chart reflects some of the demographic changes that occurred in the Los Nietos Township between 1860 and 1870 as reported by the U.S. Census:

                                                                    1860           1870

Spanish-surnamed Population            494             395

American/European Population         24               1140

 

In 1914, Los Nietos was described in the Los Angeles Times as “strategically located as a manufacturing center” with railways, water, and “electric current”.  The Whittier Walnut Association plant was located here, and tanks and shipping facilities serving local oil companies.  Los Nietos was surrounded by walnut groves and known for the production of high quality Walnuts.  Eighty year resident Dolores Gallegos recalls living in a one-story farmhouse on a raised brick foundation, located on Los Nietos Road, surrounded by orange groves and open fields.  Japanese farmers harvested crops on land located on the southwest corner of Los Nietos Road and Norwalk Boulevard, and on the northwest corner stood Joe’s Market.  The corner was also referred to as “Joe’s corner”.   You could catch the Pacific Electric Red Car to downtown Los Angeles from a train stop bench along Los Nietos Road at Decosta Avenue.  View a photo of the Los Nietos Station under “Railroads”.  View vintage family photos, and Norwalk Boulevard businesses such as the Comet Nightclub and Full O Pep Feed and Hardware Store, on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive at http://history.colapublib.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15952coll13.       

The Eduardo Pollorena adobe was once located at South Norwalk Boulevard, south of present day    Slauson Boulevard.  It was originally believed to have been built in the late 1700’s by Jose Manuel Nieto.  Several wings were added in 1847, and it was later owned by Lemuel Carpenter as part of his purchase of Rancho Santa Gertrudes from Nietos’ widowed  daughter-in-law in 1843.  The adobe, and surrounding property, was then purchased by John G. Downey at auction after Carpenter lost the rancho and committed suicide.  Downey and his partner James McFarland became co-owners of Rancho Santa Gertrudes.  In 1894, Colonel Peter T. Swain, a graduate of the United State Military Academy at West Point, and a civil war veteran, purchased the property.   

 

After Colonel Swain died in 1904, Swain’s widow continued to live in the adobe until her death.  The Colonel’s son, Major William M. Swaine, also a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, lived in the adobe with his mother.  He served in the Spanish American War in Cuba and died at the family home in Los Nietos in 1909.  His sister, (Colonel Peter T. Swain’s daughter), Catherine Swaine, married Sherman Wallace Wiggins in 1915 and the couple made the adobe their home. Catherine Swain Wiggins lived in the adobe from 1915 until her death in 1953. Descendent Wallace Wiggins was a trustee of the Los Nietos School District and Whittier Union High School District.  The Swain-Wiggins family continuously owned the adobe and surrounding land from the late 1800’s through the 1950’s.  The adobe once stood within a walnut grove at the present site of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church parking lot.  According to a press account, in 1956 the adobe and surrounding 4 acres of land was owned by businessman William Leveloff, who proposed to tear down the adobe and develop the land commercially.  He was faced with complaints from those who wanted to preserve it but eventually the building was demolished.

Orchard Dale:  Considered a part of the Whittier-La Habra Tract, the name Orchard Dale implied that the land was a haven for agriculture.  A 1910, news description advertised the  sub-division consisting of 600 acres of lots that were two to fourteen acres each, with streets already graded for “oiling”, which was a method to control dust on unpaved roads.  It was described as containing a water system, and was dotted with small orchard homes with orange, lemon, and walnut groves.  See a 1911 map of Orchard Dale below.

 

Ramirez Township:  Lemuel Carpenter purchased Rancho Santa Gertrudes from the heirs of the Nieto family.  During this time, the land was governed by Mexico and Rancho Santa Gertrudes had been
sub-divided from Rancho Los Nietos.  Carpenter deeded a portion of his land to Jose Maria Ramirez on              July 14, 1855.  Ramirez was a prosperous farmer of walnuts and grain.  He owned cattle and was well respected for his farming intuition during droughts.  Read about the Ramirez Township at Elisabeth Uyeda’s blog site at https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2012/09/town-of-ramirez-near-whittier-cal.html .

 

South Whittier/Sunshine Acres/Sunshine Farms:  Local landowners included Amelia Mayberry and Marius Meyer.   They owned large tracts of land that were used for farming, oil drilling, and later subdivided for tract homes.  Most of the South Whittier area, south of Telegraph Road, was once owned by Marius Meyer for raising sheep.  In the 1930’s, James Mayberry owned the Sunshine Farms Market on Telegraph Road.  There was a social club called the Sunshine Women’s Club.  Generations of these two families continued to live in the area including Marius Meyer’s grandson, Arthur Meyer, who owned a gas station on the corner of Carmenita Road and Meyer Road in the 1950’s, and great grandson Arthur Meyer Jr. lived on Parise Drive. 

 

Amelia Mayberry’s son James, married Marius Meyers’ daughter Inez, in 1910.  Their son Michael Mayberry, was a teacher at East Whittier School in 1939.  The Loftus Land Company purchased and sub-divided much of the land around Meyer Road and Carmenita Road, constructing tract homes and an office near the intersection.  Read more about this area under “Notable Landowners” (Amelia Mayberry and Darius Meyer) and under “Housing Tracts”.

 

Valla (present day Santa Fe Springs):  Written on maps is the name of Valla located south of Slauson Avenue, west of Santa Fe Springs Road, east of Sorensen Road.  It is associated with the rail lines that intersect in the area.  The Frederik Valla family is listed as property owners of this segment in the U.S. Census and the name Valla appears on an 1888 County map. 

Annexation History 

Annexations were processed at the request of residents of the Unincorporated Whittier area who wanted to become part of a city, or when a city wanted to attach portions of Unincorporated Whittier under their jurisdiction.  The City of Whittier incorporated in 1898, and processed their first annexation in 1907.  In 1912, the City of Whittier attempted to annex the community of Los Nietos because of its proximity to several rail lines, but that effort never proceeded.  From 1943 to 1953, the Los Angeles Times reported that over 95 territory annexations expanded the City of Whittier from 3.83 square miles and a population of 18,000 to 5.27 square miles and a population of 32,000.  (Source: Los Angeles Times Historical Archives, December 27, 1953).  Some neighborhoods voted to remain unincorporated such as portions of Whittier Downs during the 1950’s.  In 1951, the Jimtown community voted down annexation to the City of Whittier by one vote.  Other neighborhoods considered becoming their own city such as the proposed cities of East Whittier and Lowell.

 

The 1957 Mangore Study of East and South Whittier was initiated by the City of Whittier and the East Whittier Junior Chamber of Commerce.  The goal was to examine governing possibilities for portions of the Whittier Unincorporated area, and to poll the communities on their preferences.  This was the era of “Incorporation daze” when annexations and incorporations were spreading like an “epidemic”.  In 1957, the Cities of Santa Fe Springs, La Mirada, Pico Rivera, and Downey, were all newly incorporated cities, or in the process of incorporation.  The study presented fiscal and municipal service issues in the event residents wanted to annex to Whittier or Santa Fe Springs, or incorporate into a separate city.  Some areas proposed to incorporate as separate cities such as East Whittier and Lowell.  The areas studied were within the South Whittier School District, East Whittier School District and the Lowell School District, which affected a population of 63,000 and included Friendly Hills, “North Hills” described as the “uplands”, “East Hills” east of Friendly Hills, Lowell, East Whittier “Core”, the West Side and the South Side of Whittier (South Whittier).  The consolidation of the East and South Whittier School Districts was also studied.  The study concluded that if an annexation were to occur to the City of Whittier, the cost to individual homeowners would increase from between $1.00 and $2.00 per month.     

 

In 1957, there was only one park, which was under construction (Mayberry Park), and located in South Whittier.  Recreation within the study area was provided by the County Parks and Recreation Department through a partnership with the East Whittier and South Whittier Elementary School Districts.  The County provided “play leaders” and the school districts provided materials and supplies.  There were over 12 trash haulers serving the area, and the Los Angeles County Air Pollution Control District was considering a ban on the use of backyard incinerators to burn trash which was a common practice during this time.  Water services were considered adequate, major portions of the study area still did not have street lighting, and school crossing guards were funded by and provided by the California Highway Patrol.  East Whittier was served by several libraries, the Carmenita, Farrel and Friendly Hills Branches.  A rough land use study of the area indicated that there was still 2,600 acres of vacant and agricultural land. 

 

The following were some of the local community associations that existed during this era, that were consulted as representatives of the Whittier Unincorporated area as mentioned in the study:   

 

Ben Hur Association, East Whittier Coordinating Council, East Whittier Junior Chamber of Commerce Auxiliary/East Whittier Chamber of Commerce, East Whittier Kiwanis Club, East Whittier Lions Club,
East Whittier Teachers Association, Friendly Hills Property Owners Association, Hugheston Meadows Property Owner’s Association, Lake Marie Association, Mills Park Association, South Whittier Chamber of Commerce, South Whittier Coordinating Council, Sungold Property Owner’s Association,
Whittier Community Coordinating Council, and the Whitwood Center Residents Association.

The study recommended that all the areas could potentially be annexed to the City of Whittier, and that they should occur in a “piecemeal” manner, and any efforts to incorporate into a separate city should be delayed until further study.  In general, the sentiment of the residents was to “remain as is”.  (Source: Mangore Study of East and South Whittier 1957, courtesy of the Los Angeles County Public Library.)  Today, the population of the City of Whittier is over 85,000 residents and the population of the Whittier Unincorporated area is approximately 97,000.

City Annexation Maps: You can track Whittier annexations by neighborhood areas and year at ftp://dpwftp.co.la.ca.us/pub/mpm/SDU-GIS/City%20Annexations/Whittier.pdf or log onto the DPW annexation site to track other neighboring cities at http://dpw.lacounty.gov/mpm/cityannexations/.   The following list includes surrounding cities, dates of incorporation, and history website addresses: 

Downey (1956) http://www.downeyca.org/about/history/default.asp

La Mirada (1960)  http://www.cityoflamirada.org/about-us/history

Pico Rivera (1958) http://www.pico-rivera.org/residents/do/hm.asp

Santa Fe Springs (1957) http://santafesprings.org/library/local_history/

Whittier (1898)   http://www.cityofwhittier.org/depts/lhr/resources/default.asp

 

Streets, Roads and the (605) San Gabriel River Freeway

During the building boom after WWII, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission was responsible for approving street names.  In 1953, street naming was in full swing through the Street-Naming Section.  There are historic roads that run through the Whittier Unincorporated area.

 

Anaheim-Telegraph Road (presently Telegraph Road) was named such as it was the maintenance road for workers employed by the telegraph company on the Los Angeles to Anaheim telegraph line.

 

Whittier Boulevard was previously known as the “County Road” and referred to as the old road to Santa Ana, as part of the historic El Camino Real (The Kings Highway) that originally connected California’s 21 missions.  It was named by the State of California as part of State Highway 101 and later changed to State Route 72.  The El Camino Real was commemorated by the state-wide installation of cast iron shepherds staffs and bells after a woman’s club proposed marking the historic route to boost tourism.  The Automobile Club of Southern California maintained the bells, and was also responsible for highway signage until 1956, when the State Division of Highways took over.   A bell was placed at Pio Pico’s home on Whittier Boulevard in 1907 and is still standing today.  In 1906, the County inspected the road from Pico Station to beyond Leffingwell Ranch (East Whittier) and reported the road was in bad condition and needed to be plowed, graded and graveled.  View a map and read more about El Camino Real at https://www.kcet.org/shows/lost-la/many-roads-to-the-historical-southland

 

Workman Mill Road was named after William Workman who owned half of Rancho La Puente, and built a grist mill (for grinding grain into flour) near the San Gabriel River.  Although the mill no longer exists, the road retains its reference to the mill.  This road was also referred as Puente Mills Road on maps.  It connects to present day Norwalk Boulevard which was previously known as the North Walk, then later Norwalk and Puente Mills Road, Norwalk-Puente Mills Road, and Norwalk Mills Road.  Today, the roads are named separately and named Workman Mill Road and Norwalk Boulevard.

 

San Gabriel River Freeway (605) (Interstate 605)

The name of the freeway was initially proposed in 1957 to be Interstate (I) 13, due to its midway location between the I-5 and I-15.  After this number was rejected, and a second proposed number, I-102, the designation of I-605 was accepted in 1958.  Several streets and portions of neighborhoods were demolished to make way for the path of the new freeway.  Construction began on the I 605 in 1963 and the first section was opened in 1964 from that ran from the I 405 north to the Pomona Freeway I60.  The last section to open was the extension to the I 210 in 1971.  (Source: Banks of the San Gabriel, Barry Cohon, 1964, Caltrans Transportation Library and History Center.)  See a photo of the Poteet family as they pose with their bicycles on the newly constructed I 605 San Gabriel River Freeway prior to its opening, on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive.

 

Commercial and Residential Development  

Although the largest concentration of businesses existed in Uptown Whittier, many large industrial and local small businesses existed in scattered, or small concentrated areas, within the Whittier Unincorporated area.  Depending on the era, businesses could be found throughout small commercial areas to the County line.  Norwalk Boulevard in Los Nietos, historically served as a small business commercial corridor with larger industrial businesses surrounding the residential areas.  At the corner of Carmenita Road and Telegraph Road was a business hub where a country store once stood.  At one time there was an East Whittier Chamber of Commerce and a South Whittier Chamber of Commerce.  Tanks and shipping facilities for several large oil producing companies were located in Los Nietos which was described as “strategically located as a manufacturing center, having the necessary transportation facilities, and a large available supply of oil for fuel, and easily available water and electric current.” (Source: Annual Midwinter Report, Los Angeles Daily Times, January 1, 1914.)

Oil Industry

Although the oil industry was concentrated in nearby Santa Fe Springs and in the hills above the City of Whittier, the Township of Los Nietos also supported oil production.  During the early 1900’s, oil was piped from the production wells in the City of Whittier to Los Nietos and shipped by rail to refineries.  Although Simon J. Murphy was known for his lemon grove operations, his largest profits were obtained through the discovery of oil on his property in East Whittier.  Between 1910 and 1930, locals such as the Mayberry and Myers Families of Sunshine Acres
(South Whittier) allowed for oil exploration and wells to be drilled on their property.  In 1911, tracts of land were subdivided to support the building of a Standard Oil Refinery and housing for refinery workers that would raise the population in Los Nietos from 4,500 to 5,000.  Residents recall that some homes were moved to Los Nietos from other areas to support the demand for workers at nearby refineries in Santa Fe Springs.  (Source: Los Angeles Herald, Number 108, January 17, 1911, courtesy of the California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, http://cdnc.ucr.edu)   

 

A sampling of local businesses are listed below:

 

King Cole Market: (1952-1988) With its large half dome roofline, the market was designed by renowned architect A. Quincy Jones and located as part of the Whittier Downs Shopping Center on Washington Boulevard.  The shopping center property was later annexed into the City of Santa Fe Springs in 1957 and is now named the Santa Fe Springs Marketplace.  The building has since been demolished.   (Source: blog site http://mall-hall-of-fame.blogspot.com/)

 

 

Pacific Clay Products: (1915-1980) A major employer of residents of the Los Nietos area was Pacific Clay Products, located at 9500 South Norwalk in Los Nietos (present day Santa Fe Springs).  Founded in 1892, the company was first a pottery company and after closing their plant in 1915, the company moved to
Los Nietos from Lincoln Heights, and grew to be the largest sewer pipe production facility in the world.  In 1926, Fire Station 17 was built on the grounds of the factory.  The Los Nietos plant was closed in 1980 and the Pipe Division moved to Corona.  (Source: Wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Clay).  You can view aerial photos of the Pacific Clay plant from the 1920’s through the 1940’s at the Calisphere, University of California website at https://calisphere.org

 

Shepherd Machinery Company: 

Located in the most northern portion of the Whittier Unincorporated area Shepherd Machinery Company, (now Quinn Dealership of Caterpillar Equipment and Construction Machinery), was one of largest tractor equipment companies in the area, ) located at 3500 Shepherd Street, off of the (605) San Gabriel River Freeway.  Originally built by Willard Earl Shepherd and later taken over by his son Willard Wendell “Bill” Shepherd, the family maintained a small airstrip on the property.  It is reported that the family would fly to and from their weekend family home in Santa Barbara County and other travels from this air strip.  Read about the history of this site at Elizabeth Uyeda’s blog site at Los Angeles Revisited https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2010/11/industrial-might-city-of-industry-cal.html.

Wread Products: (1927) Located on Workman Mill Road at Sycamore Canyon employed eighty people to manufacture door locks.  The company president was A. H. Gregg.  (Source: Los Angeles Times, January 30, 1927.)

 

Rose Hills Memorial Park: (originally named Whittier Heights Cemetery)  Founded by A. H. Gregg, the cemetery was founded as Whittier Heights Cemetery.  In 1929, Gregg sold his interests to his son, John Gregg, and his business partners.  The cemetery had expanded to 126 acres and now served a large part of Southern California.  A new name was needed and sixteen year old Vivian Rose Sabina won a contest and fifty dollars by suggesting the name Rose Hills.  As a small girl, she had played on the hills, partially covered by wild roses, near the cemetery and thus the name, Rose Hills. (source: Founders and Friends by Phyllis M. Pearce, Claire G. Radford, and Mary Ann Rummel; a cooperative project of Rio Hondo College and the Whittier Historical Society, 1977)  Read more about local cemeteries at the Whittier Museum website at http://whittiermuseum.org/research/cemeteries/.

Local Cemeteries:  Numerous pioneer cemeteries exist in neighboring Santa Fe Springs;
Little Lake Cemetery (established in 1868), Olive Grove Cemetery (established in 1893) and
Paradise Memorial Park Cemetery.  There are also local cemeteries in the City of Whittier.  Read more about cemeteries within the City of Whittier at http://whittiermuseum.org/research/cemeteries/.

 

Shopping Centers

During the Southern California housing boom after WWII, shopping malls were developed in response to the needs of a larger population.  Below is a listing of local shopping malls that were developed in the early 1950’s.   For more information and to view photos, log on to the Mall Hall of Fame blog at http://mall-hall-of-fame.blogspot.com/.

 

Whittier Quad (1951)

Located at Whittier Boulevard at Painter Avenue this 27 acre shopping center is considered one of the southland’s oldest shopping complexes. 

Whittier Downs Center (1955)

Located on Washington Boulevard at Norwalk Boulevard on 13.7 acres of land, included a Hinshaw’s and Market Basket.  Later, a King Cole Market was added and was designed by well-known architect A. Quincy Jones.  

Whittwood Center Mall (1956)

Located on Whittier Boulevard at Santa Gertrudes, at the time of construction this area was still part of the Whittier Unincorporated community of East Whittier.  By 1958, 44 stores were operating on the 61 acre shopping center.  In 1961 the City of Whittier annexed this area.  

 

Housing Tracts and Real Estate Development 1940’s-1960’s

The Housing Boom after the end of WWII in 1946 included quickly built neighborhoods to meet the needs of veterans and their families.  The first subdivision in the Whittier Unincorporated area was 20 acres and included
110 homes.  In 1953, the Los Angeles Times reported that 42,000 homes were constructed in the Whittier area within a four year span.  The City of Whittier had a population of 25,000 people and the Whittier Unincorporated area plus areas between Rosemead Boulevard, the Puente Hills, Imperial Highway and Hacienda Boulevard had a population of 140,000.  During this time, eighty new schools were built, one high school with three more were planned.  (Los Angeles Times, March 1953, courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County).  Some of the local tract homes were designed by renowned and well-respected architects such as Edward Hale Fickett (Lake Marie Ranchos) and A. Quincy Jones (Hugheston Meadows).  

 

William Krisel-Architect

Krisel Designed Tract Homes (Palmer & Krisel-partner Dan Palmer) that were built in West Whittier/Los Nietos (1951), South Whittier and in East Whittier (City of Whittier).  Examples of Krisel designed homes can be viewed in and around the Abbotsford Road area of West Whittier.  A blogger keeps track of Krisel designed homes as they are listed for sale, and points out original features.   http://www.kriselconnection.com/p/about-me.html. For more information on the life and work of William Krisel, you can visit http://modernistarchitecture.blogspot.com/2013/06/william-krisel.html.

 

Housing Tracts (1946-1960)

The following are samples of housing developments that were constructed during the late 1940’s through the 1950’s in the Whittier Unincorporated area.  Tracts names such as Lambert Lane, Gunn Park, and Whittier Estates, encouraged veterans and buyers to take advantage of homes with garbage disposals, concrete foundations, venetian blinds, glass shower enclosures, and orange trees.  Below is a listing of some of the tract homes advertised for sale in the Whittier Unincorporated area.

 

Biltmore Homes (1951) South Whittier 

Advertised as “No Down” for veterans, these model homes were 3 bedroom homes with 1,100 square feet.  They were described as “Located high on a hill, overlooking the entire Whittier Valley”.   These homes are located on Valley View Avenue, ½ mile north of Anaheim-Telegraph Road.

 

Hugheston Meadows (1953) South Whittier

Developed by the Pardee-Phillips Construction Company, 136 homes labeled “Forever Houses” were designed by A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons.  Their designs won national awards for contemporary design and construction.  The homes were constructed in circular patterned streets laid out adjacent to what is now the Candlewood Country Club.  Access was through the country club property.  The homes were priced from $12,000-$14,000 dollars.    

Lake Marie Ranchos (1951) South Whittier

Advertised as “Country-style homes” located in “Clean Country Air”, the housing tract consisted of 519 two and three bedroom homes.  They were constructed in and around the intersection of Painter Avenue and Mulberry Drive.  The Hobart-Williams Company developed the Edward H. Fickett designed homes and offered 19 designs that featured “picture windows almost the length of the living room”, and clotheslines and incinerators for burning trash. (Source: Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1951, newspapers.com)

Whittier Downs (1955) West Whittier

Development was constructed in various phases and Whittier Downs units were described as located on Norwalk Boulevard between Whittier and Washington Boulevards. The final phase of these three and four bedroom and two bath homes were sold in 1955.  The homes are located on Millergrove Road, south of Washington Boulevard, and West of Norwalk Boulevard, and were priced from $12,150 dollars.  They offered a $60 dollar per month mortgage. 

Whittier Downs Park (1949) West Whittier

Two and three bedroom homes in 1949 were advertised for $7,500 dollars.  According to a July 10, 1949 article in the Los Angeles Times, the Whittier Downs Park tract was described as located along Broadway Avenue between Whittier and Washington Boulevards.

 

Whittier Plaza (1951) West Whittier

This development included 130-three bedroom homes built by the Hirsh-Edmunds Building Company along Sorenson Avenue between Washington and Whittier Boulevards in West Whittier.  The new homes were offered to veterans for a low down payment and monthly mortgages of $52 dollars plus taxes and insurance.  Non-veterans could purchase one of these homes with a down payment of $2,540 dollars and a monthly mortgage of $61 dollars.

Rivera Grove (1951) West Whittier-Los Nietos

Tract home development is located in and around Millergrove Avenue and Rivera Road, south of Washington Boulevard.  Advertised in the Los Angeles Times on September 2, 1951, as three bedroom homes with “grown orange trees on many lots”.  The homes were available to veterans for a total purchase of $10,825 dollars with low down payments and a monthly mortgage of $47.36 dollars per month plus insurance and taxes.

 

Sunshine Farms (1926) South Whittier and Sunshine Homes (1948) South Whittier

During the 1920’s, the Loftus Land Company advertised land for $1,700 dollars per acre, with $100 dollars down and a $20 dollar per month mortgage for property within “Sunshine Farms”.   The “finest rabbit and chicken land you can buy” with “cool sea breezes daily”.  In 1928, Edward M. Loftus further subdivided areas of South Whittier and constructed small inexpensive homes he called Sunshine Acres.  During the 1930’s, his company constructed homes further south around Meyer Road and Leffingwell Boulevard where he had a real estate office.  Loftus sold land to the South Whittier School District to build Loma Vista School.  A model home was on display at 2012 Carmenita Road to advertise a housing tract located south of Telegraph Road and east of Carmenita Road. 

 

Spyglass:  (1960) Adjacent to Rose Hills Memorial Park, the housing tract was named after the panoramic views from the top of Spyglass Hill Road in the Whittier Hills.  During the 1960’s, a developer built 40 modern homes which has expanded to over 500 today.  According to the Spyglass Home Owners Association website, a steel magnate owned 63 acres near Overcrest Drive and sold the steel to make the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building.   

 

Sunshine Manor (1950) South Whittier

Constructed by Loftus Land Company with “co-operation” with the Young-Loftus Construction Company in 1950, phases of tract homes were constructed near Loma Vista Elementary School north of Meyer Road, east of Carmenita Road, and south of Florence Avenue.  Construction company owners had a construction office located at 11725 Carmenita Road in South Whittier.  A model home was listed for view at 11440 Mina Street.  Veterans could purchase one of these homes with $125.00 down and a payment of $43.80 per month. It was promoted as a location with good drainage and mountain views.

Railroads

The Whittier Unincorporated area was crisscrossed by several rail lines, some of which were laid in the latter part of the 19th Century.  The Whittier area was served by branches of the Southern Pacific (SP), Santa Fe, Pacific Electric (P&E) and later the Union Pacific (UP).  Several lines still operate today in the southern end of Los Nietos in Santa Fe Springs.  The SP arrived in Whittier in 1887, followed by the P&E in 1903-04 and the UP around 1917.  Several lines served the packing houses in Rivera (present day Pico Rivera), Los Nietos and Whittier.  Passenger service on the P&E was discontinued in 1938 and in 1942 the SP began using the PE tracks.  A Santa Fe Depot once existed on Los Nietos Road near Norwalk Boulevard (see photo below).  It was demolished in 1961.

The Pacific Electric (P&E) Red Car (Whittier Branch Line and Yorba Linda Line)

During the years 1903-1934, the Red Car was a popular mode for local residents to travel to and from
Los Angeles and beyond.  The Whittier Line Red Car left downtown Los Angeles at Sixth and Main Streets and ran every day, every hour from 5:20 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.  The P&E had several streetcar stops in Whittier including a stop in Los Nietos where a bench served as a passenger “streetcar” train stop.  Lola Gallegos of
Los Nietos recalls catching the streetcar at a bench near Rivera Road and Decosta Avenue that served as a train stop, which would continue on to or from downtown Los Angeles.  The article “Overview of Railways” by the Whittier Museum reports that the P & E ran between Lynalan Avenue and Gretna Avenue in West Whittier.  On the following website , you can follow where the former P&E Line ran through portions of Unincorporated West Whittier, where homes and businesses are now located.  You can read more about the railroad industry and local railways at the Whittier Historical Museum website at http://whittiermuseum.org/research/railroads/.

 

Country Clubs and Resorts

After WWII, adults and families searched for ways to socialize.  Several country clubs were built post WWII in the Whittier Unincorporated area:

California Country Club

The land that the California Country Club and Golf Course is located on was once part of the Pellissier Dairy Farm and a rutabaga farm.  The El Dorado Nightclub was first opened in the early 1950’s and located where the present clubhouse stands.  After its closure, owner Bill Bryant developed the California Country Clubhouse and Golf Course which was open between 1956 and 1957.  It was constructed as a 120 acre, 18-hole golf course designed by William F. Bell Jr.  You can view a photo of Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife Pat, golfing on the course at the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive.  (Source: Bill Ware, California Country Club).      

 

Candlewood Country Club

In 1928, John Riley and Frank Martin built the 9-hole “Green Hills” golf course and clubhouse to promote sales of home sites for what was then known as the “Sunshine Acres".  Sunshine Acres was a public course.  Financial difficulties during the depression forced closure of the golf course.  In the late 1940’s, the Hughes Brothers purchased the 106 acres and building.  The golf course was closed and the Hughes Brothers renamed and operated the club as a restaurant and real estate facility named “Hughestown Meadows”.  

 

In the early 1950’s, Forest and Rosemary Smith, owners of many Clock Restaurants purchased the club.  In 1951, the club became the “Clock Country Club”.  In 1953, the first 9-holes officially opened and prominent golf pros and celebrities such as Liberace, the Mills Brothers and Tennessee Ernie Ford attended a gala. Congratulatory letters and telegrams were sent from President Dwight Eisenhower and then Vice President Richard Nixon.  In 1957 the club was offered to the members who purchased the club and it became Candlewood Country Club.  See images from the Country Club Scrap Book on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive.  Timeline and information excerpts courtesy of the Candlewood Country Club Website http://www.candlewoodcc.com/content/19/HistoryTimeline.aspx.

Nike Missile Sites

During the 1950’s, the United States was in the midst of a nuclear “Cold War” with Russia.  The United States Army developed a surface-to-air missile program named Nike, to protect and defend the United States against any enemy threats.  There existed numerous launch sites that guarded greater Los Angeles County.  By the early 1970’s, all of the sites were deactivated.  The Army leased land and obtained easements from Frank Pellissier (present day Rio Hondo College), Rose Hills Memorial Park, and the United States Army Corps (in Whittier Narrows) to develop the missile launcher and support facilities.  One of the sites is referred to as Nike Hill above the Rio Hondo College Police Academy which is marked by a plaque, and the other site was located within Whittier Narrows Regional Park.  Read more about the Nike Missile sites at Elisabeth Uyeda’s blog site at https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2011/04/cold-war-in-south-el-monte-and-whittier.html

Sanitariums

Sanitariums were once owned and run by chiropractic doctors or chiropractic schools to treat ailments including mental ailments across the United States.  As an alternative to a medical hospital or mental institution, some offered treatments for “nervous conditions”.   Two such facilities once existed in the Whittier Unincorporated area.

Grand View Sanitarium (Formerly located at 4512 S. Workman Mill Road)   

The Sanitarium provided chiropractic-related treatment and was “Devoted to the Care and Treatment of Nervous, Mental and Other Incompetent Persons”.   A business brochure stated that it offers tennis court, badminton, crochet, supervised calisthenics, theatre parties, and horseback riding, and stated that “Our treatment is primarily Chiropractic and natural methods.”   The hospital was still in operation in 1965, as reported by the San Bernardino County Sun, when a fire occurred in one of the buildings and terminated operations sometime during the 1970’s.  A 1930’s era photo and brochure cover can be seen in an article in a wellness newsletter titled the “Wellness Express “. http://chiropracticeasthampton.com/clients/9731/documents/Dec2015Hospitals11.pdf

Beeman’s Sanitarium (Formerly located at 14015 E. Telegraph Road, Whittier 90604)

Dr. C. Beeman opened a sanitarium in the 1930’s that was advertised as devoted to the treatment and relief of all nervous and mental conditions and old age.  His wife, Mrs. C. Beeman, was the Superintendent of Nurses.  The building no longer exists, and was located east of St. Gregory the Great Church near the intersection of Telegraph Road and Biella Way.  

Works Progress Administration (WPA) Projects “The New Deal” (1930’s)

During the Great Depression, the New Deal program was set up by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930’s to create jobs and boost the economy after the stock market crash of 1929.  The New Deal stabilized the banks, industry and agriculture, aided local bankrupt cities and states.  Some of the jobs created helped build and improve highways, bridges, hospitals, schools, libraries, government buildings, and parks across the United States.  Many of the projects included civic artwork that created income for artists.  Local WPA funded projects still exist in the
Whittier Unincorporated area.  These projects include construction upgrades to West Whittier Elementary School (1930’s) and Loma Vista Elementary School (1938), artwork at the State Reform School for Boys (1939) (later renamed Fred C. Nelles School for Boys) and East Whittier Elementary School (1937).  Read more about the New Deal and view photos of local projects at the following websites: 

https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/loma-vista-school-whittier-ca

https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/west-whittier-elementary-school-whittier-ca/

https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/whittier-state-schoolfred-c-nelles-school-for-boys-whittier-ca/

https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/east-whittier-middle-school-hippos-mosaic-whittier-ca/

(Source:  The Living New Deal, Department of Geography, University of California- Berkeley website)

Movies and Television Scenes Filmed in the Whittier Unincorporated Area

Scenes from the 1914 film “A Birth of a Nation” were shot within the Whittier Narrows Regional Park.  The Park was used as a backdrop of the Old South during the Civil War scenes and also as a jungle for the 1920’s series of Tarzan films.  An episode of “The FBI” starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr., was filmed at Barrett’s Gas Station, located at 8728 Norwalk Boulevard, in Los Nietos.  Residents reported that the gas station was closed for a weekend to accommodate filming.  The gas station building is still in existence and is now a tire store.  Rose Hills Memorial Park has been the site of several films including “Terminator 3”, “True Blood”, and “Star Trek”.  Bobby Buntrock portrayed Harold “Sport” Baxter on the hit television series “Hazel”.  The television series starred Shirley Booth and ran from 1961 to 1966.  Bobby lived with his parents in the Whittier area and attended Lake Marie Elementary School.  He tragically died in 1974 at the age of 21 after a car accident in South Dakota. 

Christian Sorensen

Sorensen was a local landowner, pioneer and citrus farmer from West Whittier. A school, street, library and park are named after him. (Courtesy of the Whittier Public Library Historical Photograph Collection)