Thursday, August 20, 2015

Covina history timeline

Although I've been interested in Covina history for decades now, I still get confused sometimes about what happened when. So, I finally decided to make a list of as many significant events as I could think of, and put them all in chronological order. I must say, I wish I'd done this a long time ago! It makes things much easier to understand and remember.

Most of the dates cited below were gleaned from Donald H. Pflueger's "Covina: Sunflowers, Citrus, Subdivisions," Castle Press, Pasadena, 1964; Dr. Barbara Ann Hall's "Images of America: Covina," Arcadia Publishing, 2007; and online communications with Covina historians Glenn Reed and Tom Armbruster. Please bear in mind: this timeline is still a work-in-progress. Corrections, additions, and their supporting documentation are welcomed!

September 8, 1771 – European settlement of what will become Los Angeles County commences with the founding of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in the province of Las Californias in New Spain. First built on the bank of the Rio Hondo near today's Whittier Narrows, the mission moves to its present location in 1776 after a flood.

1804 – Las Californias is divided into two new provinces: Alta California and Baja California.

1824 – After Mexico gains its independence from Spain, Alta California becomes a territory in the First Mexican Republic.

November 25, 1826Jedediah Smith is the first U.S. citizen to venture into the valley of the San Gabriel. His party camps at Mud Springs, in today's San Dimas north of Puddingstone reservoir.

November, 1836 – During a period of instability following the dissolution of the First Mexican Republic and the ensuing Texas Revolution, Californio Juan Bautista Alvarado leads an uprising and seizes the governorship of Alta California.

March, 1842 – Governor Alvarado grants Rancho La Puente to American-born Mexican citizen John A. Rowland.

July, 1845 – Governor Pío Pico grants co-ownership of Rancho La Puente to Rowland's fellow settler and business partner, British Crown citizen William Workman.

July 7, 1846Mexico declares war on the United States of America, vowing to defend against enemy encroachments on its sovereign territory. Rancho owners Rowland and Workman (now also a Mexican citizen) both participate in local military engagements in opposition to U.S. interests in southern Alta California.

February 2, 1848 – The Mexican-American War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which cedes Alta California to the United States. The treaty also nominally entitles rancho owners to keep all of their granted lands.

September 9, 1850 – California becomes the 31st State in the Union.

1854 – The first orange trees are planted in Rancho La Puente.

1865 – The first general store in the Covina area is built at "Four Corners," where the San Bernardino stagecoach road intersected the Azusa Cañon road, just east of today's Orange Avenue. Orange trees are also planted there.

1868 – Rowland and Workman agree to partition Rancho La Puente; Rowland becomes the sole owner of the land which would later become Covina.

October 13, 1873 – Don Juan Rowland dies.

1876 – The Southern Pacific Railroad reaches Los Angeles. Its right-of-way does pass through Rancho La Puente, but to the south of the San Jose Hills, bypassing the Azusa Valley.

September 2, 1876 – Costa Ricans José Julián Badilla and Pedro Maria Badilla purchase 5,563 acres of Rancho La Puente from widow Charlotte Rowland for $45,000, where they intend to start a coffee plantation. The Badilla brothers subsequently build two frame houses on the San Bernardino stagecoach road at the southwest corner of its intersection with today's Hollenbeck Avenue.

Fall, 1876 – Lower Azusa School – the first schoolhouse in what will become the Covina area – opens for classes at the southwest corner of Cypress Avenue and Azusa Street (now Lark Ellen Avenue).

1877 – Eugene C. Griswold builds a general store and meeting hall at the intersection of today's Citrus Avenue and Cypress Avenue, which also becomes the area's first post office. Griswold's pioneer settlement is named "Citrus."

1879 – The Badilla coffee plantation fails. John E. Hollenbeck buys the Badilla lands for $16,692.

1882 – Joseph Swift Phillips buys a portion of the former Badilla lands south of the San Bernardino road from J. E. Hollenbeck for $30,000. Phillips and his family take up residence in the Julián Badilla house.

1883Frederick Eaton begins surveying the 2,000-acre Phillips Tract. Eaton subsequently names the townsite within the subdivision "Covina." Eaton names one of the tracts' main streets "Badillo," misspelling the land's previous owners' surname.

December, 1883 – Covina's first schoolhouse – the Phillips School – opens at the southeast corner of San Bernardino Road and Citrus Avenue.

Early 1884 – Joseph Moxley buys the first parcel of land in the Phillips Tract – 20 acres at the southwest corner of San Bernardino Road and Barranca Street – and builds the tract's first residence.

December 12, 1884 – Newspapermen J. R. Conlee and H. N. Short arrive in Covina to start The Covina Independent, and soon after erect the new townsite's first structure – their print shop – at the southwest corner of Citrus and Badillo.

January, 1885 – The Phillips Tract officially opens, The Covina Independent publishes its first edition, and Covina's first general store is built by F. E. Grover at the northeast corner of Citrus and Badillo. A blacksmith shop, butcher shop, and grocery soon follow.

1885 – Samuel Allison builds the first residence in the Covina townsite at 160 West Badillo. Newspaper editor Conlee's house goes up soon after at 202 West College Street.

1886 – J. S. Phillips plants 12 acres of orange trees on his property at San Bernardino Road and Hollenbeck Street.

Fall, 1886 – J. R. Hodges builds Covina's first permanent structure out of concrete on the south side of Badillo Street east of the Pioneer Blacksmith Shop.

1887 – Covina's first telephone is installed in Hodges' "Concrete Block."

1890s – Citrus cultivation steadily grows to become the dominant form of agriculture in the Covina area.

1891 – The Citrus Union High School District is formed to jointly serve the communities of Azusa, Covina and Glendora. Citrus Union's first classes are held that September in an abandoned hotel in the defunct settlement of "Gladstone" north of Covina.

August, 1893 – Area orange growers form the Azusa-Covina-Glendora Citrus Association. Several small packing houses are opened along the Santa Fe rail line through Azusa and Glendora. Lemon growers form a similar association in 1895.

1894, 1897 – Successive new Covina Grammar School buildings are constructed at Citrus Avenue and San Bernardino Road.

September 9, 1895 – The new spur line of the Southern Pacific Railroad through Covina begins service, and two weeks later, the Covina Citrus Association is formed.

October 10, 1895 – The town's first bank opens: a Covina branch of the Azusa Valley Bank.

December, 1895 – The Houser Bros. packing house – Covina's first large-scale citrus processing operation – is erected alongside the new Southern Pacific rail line.

1896 – With its own citrus industry, rail transportation links and financial institutions now established, Covina's future is assured, and its first boom begins.

1897 – The Chapman-Workman Building goes up at the northwest corner of Citrus and Badillo.

1899, 1901 – The First National Bank building is constructed in stages at the northwest corner of Citrus and College.

Fall, 1899 – Covina starts its own high school, holding classes in the Grammar School building. Lillian Harris is the first graduate of Covina High in Spring, 1900.

1900 – The Reed Block is erected at the northeast corner of Citrus and Badillo.

August 11, 1900 – Covina's first hotel – The Vendome – opens at the northwest corner of Citrus and Cottage Drive.

August 6, 1901 – Covina becomes an incorporated city.

1902 – Fifty street lights are installed around town.

December, 1902 – Construction of the first Covina High School building is completed. It is located on the north side of School Street near Second Street on the same plot of land as the Grammar School.

November 4, 1903 – The C. W. Tucker photographic studio opens for business.

November 5, 1903 – The first spike is driven for the Pacific Electric Railroad trolley line along Badillo Street. (Full interurban service in the P.E. network would not begin until June 5, 1907, however.)

October 28, 1905 – Joseph Phillips dies.

1906 – A Carnegie Library is built at the southeast corner of Second Street and Italia Street.

1909 – Warner & Whitsel open their new two-storey brick grocery store on Citrus Avenue. The building is known to later generations of Covinans as Custer's.

March 30, 1909 – Dedication of the new Covina Union High School building at the northwest corner of Citrus and Puente.

August, 1910 – The Isis Movie Theater opens in the Reed Block. It would later be known as the Star Theater, and eventually the Covina Theatre.

1915 – The San Gabriel Grand Lodge of the Masonic Order obtains 55 acres on East Badillo Street in Charter Oak to build its new home for indigent children. The Masonic Home is dedicated in 1917.

April, 1916 – The street clock in front of the Finch Brothers Jewelry Store on Citrus Avenue is installed.

1919 – The fourth and last Covina Grammar School is constructed at Citrus and San Bernardino. The old high school building is moved to the south side of School Street, and is dedicated as the Covina Masonic Lodge in 1920.

Summer, 1922 – The city's first hospital opens at the northwest corner of Badillo and Second. Two years later, Covina Hospital moves to a permanent location at 275 West College Street. Around 1950, it is renamed Inter-Community Hospital.

February 23, 1923 – The residents of West Covina vote in favor of incorporation.

1924 – The Magan Clinic opens at 155 West College Street, a block away from Covina Hospital.

January 30, 1930 – Dedication of the new City Hall on East College Street.

1935 – Four-lane Garvey Boulevard (U.S. Highway 99) is completed through the eastern San Gabriel Valley and over Kellogg Hill to Pomona.

1945-1955 – The demand for new suburban housing after World War II results in a shifting of the local economy from agriculture to residential real estate and construction, ushering in Covina's second boom.

March 28, 1947 – Citing competition from private automobiles, Pacific Electric ends its trolley service to Covina.

May, 1949 – The new United States Post Office is opened at the southwest corner of College and Second.

1952 – The first stores of West Covina Center are opened on Garvey Boulevard just west of Glendora Avenue.

1953 – The Covina Grammar School on Citrus is closed, and the building subsequently sold to Aerojet-General Corp.

1954-55 – Construction of Shoppers Lane at the southeast corner of Citrus and Rowland, and the original West Covina Plaza on Garvey Boulevard west of Vincent.

1955 – The historic Badilla/Phillips house at San Bernardino Road and Hollenbeck is burned down in a fire department training exercise.

1956 – Covina High School moves to a new campus on Hollenbeck, and West Covina High School moves into the old Covina Union High School buildings until its own new campus is completed in 1957.

1956-57 – The San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10) is extended through the West Covina area.

October 24-26, 1957 – The Eastland Shopping Center opens, becoming the sixth modern mall in the Southland and the first to be located adjacent to a freeway.

1959 – Classes begin at the new Northview High School at Azusa Avenue and Cypress.

1960 – The abandoned Covina Union High School's main building on Citrus is gutted in an arson fire, and is subsequently razed.

October 14, 1960 – 30,000 people gather to hear Vice President Richard Nixon deliver a campaign speech at Eastland.

1963 – The present Covina Public Library is constructed on the site of the old Carnegie Library on Second Street.

1964 – Classes begin at the new South Hills High School at Barranca and Cameron in West Covina.

1969 – The former Covina Grammar School/Aerojet building is demolished to clear the site for a proposed new Civic Center, which is never built.

1982 – Covina celebrates the centennial of its founding.

2001 – Covina celebrates its centennial as an incorporated city.

2004 – The historic Reed Block/Covina Theatre building is demolished to construct the Covina Center for the Performing Arts.

 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Oldest House in Covina

In an earlier post, I told of my search for the oldest building in Covina. That turned out to be 111 N. Citrus. Constructed in 1885, it was one of the very first structures erected in pioneer-era Covina. Now, I'm fairly certain I've found the oldest house, too. It was built in 1887*.

Which house is it? I'm not going to tell! I'm going to let you find it yourself. :-) Click on the image below to go to the built:LA interactive property map.


Click on image to view map.
(You may have to use the Google Chrome web browser. The map does not appear to work properly in Firefox, alas.)

It can be a little difficult to locate things at first, because the streets are not labeled, but if you mouseover a particular property, it will show its address in a box in the upper left corner, and (in most cases) the year it was built.

On with the hunt! To see only those buildings that were constructed before 1910, first click on each of the colors in the timeline to black out everything, then click on the light blue rectangle at far left that says "-1909." That will highlight the oldest structures in light blue. Then mouseover each of those blue spots to find the year it was built. (It won't take long; there aren't very many of them.)

It's also interesting to click on the stopwatch to see all the buildings appear over time. The Covina we all know today suddenly explodes into existence in the 1950s!

After you find the oldest house in Covina, go explore the rest of the map! It's really quite fascinating. :-)

Unfortunately, the house that I previously speculated might be the oldest does not appear to exist anymore: the 1877 home of Thomas Griswold. It was said to still stand today on Covina Boulevard, but I checked along the full length of that street and could not find any structure that was built prior to 1893.

*There are actually two homes from 1887 within the Covina city limits, but only one of them still looks like a 19th century house. Unfortunately, the remodeled one just happens to be the oldest existing house located within the original Phillips Tract. Given that historical distinction, it's a real shame that it no longer looks anything like it must have when it was built.

 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Featherstone Quarry

We neighborhood kids used to call it the "Chalk Mine." To us, the abandoned quarry looked like something out of the Old West. We thought for sure it had been there since cowboy days; maybe even a hundred years! There were a bunch of other tall tales about the place, but it would be another half century before I finally uncovered its factual history. Much was surprising to me. For one thing, the rocks mined there weren't "chalk" at all...

"There was a large deposit of [diatomaceous] earth on Covina Hills Road that the Featherstone Company successfully mined and processed through the 1920s and early 1930s. The operation closed during the Depression. The property was part of the 2,100 acre Hill Ranch that Frank Marion Chapman and E. G. Shouse purchased from the Hollenbeck family of East Los Angeles."                    --Barbara Ann Hall, Ph.D.1

So, far from being there a hundred years, it turned out the quarry wasn't even as old as my parents. The diatomite itself, however, was actually formed about 7 million years ago, in the upper Miocene epoch.2



Featherstone Quarry (upper right), Covina Hills, 1926. I-10 now passes from l. to r. through the low white hill at center.
'Dick' Whittington Studio, photographer. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. Link to full-res image.

The photo above is the only one I know of that shows the quarry when it was still in operation. The diatomaceous earth mined there was used primarily in the manufacturing of tile, pipes and conduits.2

Exactly when quarrying began at Featherstone is not known. Looking at old maps, it can be seen that roads associated with the mine were present in the 1910s, which would be earlier than other accounts. Exactly when quarrying stopped is also uncertain. A geology field report based upon data compiled in 1932 stated that operation of the mine "ceased several years ago,"2 so it may be that Featherstone Quarry did not survive into the 1930s, after all.



The abandoned quarry (right), 1948. Fair use courtesy HistoricAerials.com.



The "Chalk Mine" as seen from our house on Rancho El Encino, June, 1962.3
What we called the "Quartz Mine" can also be seen to the left of center. Inside that cleft was a thick outcropping of crystalline gypsum.


In 1965, all of the ancient hills north of our neighborhood were bulldozed to create the Covina Heights housing development. Almost a mile square, the massive earthmoving project took a year to complete. Our chalk mine and the whole wild rangeland surrounding it were no more...



View of the former quarry site from Rancho El Encino, December, 1968.



The mine may be gone, but 50 years later, many surface deposits of the white diatomaceous earth are still plainly visible.



Treasure! My own specimen of Featherstone diatomite, collected in 2010 in situ from an intact geologic stratum.

 

Footnotes:

1Hall, B.A. (2007) Covina (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing, San Francisco, California. 127pp.
2Harshman, E.N. (1933) Geology of the San Jose Hills, Los Angeles County, California. M.S. Thesis. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. 91pp.
3PS: If any of my old neighbors from the Ranchos has a better picture of the chalk mine than this one, please let me know!

 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Casa Mirasol

Local history has changed a little! Likely unbeknown to almost everyone, it turns out one of the buildings of the old Baptist Seminary in the Covina Hills still stands today.

Now a private home, this lone survivor was originally the residence of the Headmaster of the California Preparatory School for Boys.

As this student-made drawing from 1936 indicates, the house in its Cal Prep days was known as "Casa Mirasol." According to Assessor's Office records, it was built in 1929.

In 1942, Dr. Gottfried de Purucker moved his branch of the Theosophical Society to the Covina Hills campus, and Casa Mirasol became his home. After the California Baptist Theological Seminary acquired the property in 1951, it was used as the Dean's residence.

Casa Mirasol in 1942

The old school campus was important in Covina's history, and part of my own history, as well. One can only speculate why this building alone was spared demolition, but I'm happy to know it's still with us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015