Saturday, September 29, 2018

Covina, 1894

This is the oldest-known photograph of Covina. It was taken in winter, 1894, when the town was only 9 years old. The view is to the northeast from Fourth Avenue (foreground) and the alley between Center and Dexter Streets. In the middle distance, Badillo Street passes from left to right just past the young orange groves.

Courtesy California State Library. Click on image for enlargement.

The photo is also noteworthy for depicting the very first house ever built in Covina.

The Samuel Allison residence (1885), at 160 West Badillo Street.

The image can be dated precisely because the school that we know was built in 1894 (at left, below) can be seen here currently under construction.

Historically-important buildings from l. to r.: the Covina Public School (1894), the Methodist Church (1888) on College Street, and the Episcopal Church (1893) at Badillo and Third.

What the school looked like upon completion:

Monday, September 24, 2018

Earliest Views of Citrus Avenue

Some time ago, Covina historian Glenn Reed sent me this old photograph of Citrus Avenue, looking south from a vantage point near Italia Street.

Photo courtesy Glenn Reed. Click image for enlargement.

Although the photo bears no date, it can be said with certainty that it was taken in 1898. It can't be any later, because the First National Bank of Covina was built on the northwest corner of Citrus and College (where the flag pole stands) in 1899, but it can't be earlier because I can just barely see the T. E. Finch Block a few doors down, and that was erected in 1898.

Then, only a few days ago, reader Brian Solar sent me this illustrated newspaper article from 1897 that features an even earlier view of Citrus Avenue. Although a simple drawing in its details, I have confidence in its historical accuracy. Look at the eucalyptus tree at right. It's a close mirror image of the same tree in the 1898 photo above.

From the article "Azusa, Covina, Glendora" in the the Sunday, December 5, 1897 edition of the Los Angeles Herald. Source:, courtesy Brian Solar. Click image for enlargement.

Interesting to note that the flag pole is not depicted in the 1897 illustration, so that must have gone up the following year, too. At left is the then-brand-new Chapman-Workman Building (1897), still standing today at the northwest corner of Citrus and Badillo. Across the street, however, the lot appears vacant. The Reed Block (and what later generations would know as the Covina Theater) would be built on that site in 1900.


The complete newspaper page:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Naming of Covina guest author Glenn Reed

Recently Karl Blackmun, one of our new members gave us a copy of his great grandmother's memoirs of her life in Covina in the early days. Her name was Clara Margaret Eckles (1874-1966). She married Carl Warner, best known in Covina as the younger brother of Elwin Perle Warner, long time prominent Covina grocer. Her memoirs paint a picture of life in this area before 1900 and relates some of her contacts with such early residents as Antonio Badilla, Lucky Baldwin, and Joseph Phillips.

Of particular interest is her account of how Covina received its name. Most of us have heard that the name came from the location, as a cove between the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Jose Hills at least partly filled with vines. After all, Baldwin Park was for many years called Vineland until the residents changed the name in order to curry the favor of Lucky Baldwin.

Here is the story in the words of Clara Eckles:

The Dunkard Brethren were colonizing Covina, only that wasn't its name yet. One day Phillips called father over to do some surveying and to give some advice. It seemed the colony of Brethren wanted to name their section, "Los Covinas." They thought it was Spanish for "The Little Cove." "Los" was the only Spanish part of it, and Mr. Phillips didn't want to hurt their feelings by pointing out their mistake. Besides, there wasn't any cove present! So a compromise name was suggested, that of "Covina," the leaders were consulted, and the town named before it had time to catch its breath.

I think that is a better story for the naming of Covina than any that I have heard, and besides, it is an account from someone alive at the time; I am accepting it. More of Clara's memoirs later.

This article was originally published in the June, 2018 issue of "The Covina Citrus Peel," the official newsletter of the Covina Valley Historical Society, and is reproduced here with the permission of the author, Covina historian Glenn Reed.

German Baptist Brethren church on Third at Puente, circa 1920.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Ruddock Mansion

In 1888, Chicago lumber tycoon Thomas Sanderson Ruddock1 purchased 120 acres2 of land from John Edward Hollenbeck, just east of Phillips's tract. There, Ruddock built his new winter home: "Mountain View."3,4

In pioneer times, the extravagant 3-storey Queen Anne-style mansion2 was the showpiece of the entire Azusa Valley (as the Eastern San Gabriel Valley was called back then).4 According to Covina historian Barbara Ann Hall, Mountain View...

...had 11 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and 7 fireplaces of Belgian tile and rosewood. A stained-glass window looked down upon the staircase. There were stained-glass chandeliers in the ballroom. Surrounding the mansion were stables, a carriage house, a bunkhouse, servants' quarters, and a caretaker's cottage. The 800-foot drive was lined with palm trees and roses.2

Thomas Ruddock died in 1890 at the age of 71, and left Mountain View to his wife, Maria Nancy Newell Ruddock (b.1827).1 When she passed away in 1905, son Charles Homer Ruddock (1848-1929) inherited the property.

Ironically, for all its local fame in bygone days, few photographic images of Mountain View were known to have survived. Recently, however, I made the acquaintance of Mary Elarton Kidd – whose great aunt was the last resident of Mountain View – and she has shared with me many photos of the ranch which have never before been seen by the public.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the most detailed picture in existence of Covina's lost Victorian treasure. It shows Mountain View not long after Mary Chrastka acquired the ranch in the early 1930s.5

The Ruddock Mansion, 1886-1950. Photo courtesy Mary Kidd. Click image to enlarge.

The entrance to Mountain View, formerly located at 522 North Grand Avenue5 at the eastern end of San Bernardino Road. The mansion itself was located immediately east of the intersection of today's East Wingate Street and South Westridge Avenue.

Photo courtesy Mary Kidd.

Planted over 130 years ago, the Washingtonia filifera fan palms that still stand today along East Wingate Street are among the oldest trees in Covina (together with the palms that line Hollenbeck Street). Here they are in the 1940s, when they were already six decades old.

Photo courtesy Mary Kidd.

A Ruddock Company citrus crate label. At its peak – just before the turn of the last century – approximately 9,000 orange and 3,000 lemon trees1 grew on the estate.

Image courtesy Calisphere.

Continuing on:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Covina Banknotes

Most people today don't know this, but from 1863-1935, local National Banks could issue their own banknotes, which were legal tender anywhere in the United States.

Here are some examples of U.S. currency produced by the two National Banks in Covina in the early years of the 20th century. (The first two are the old, large "horse blanket" banknotes; the third is the same size as our bills are today.)

$5 note, Series of 1882, Charter date 1901. Portrait depicts the late President James Garfield. Click image to enlarge.

$10 note, Series of 1902, Charter date 1921. Portrait depicts the late President William McKinley. Click image to enlarge.

$20 note, Covina National Bank, Series of 1929. Image courtesy seller jscabani1988 on eBay.

Below are some historical photos of Covina's two chartered National Banks.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Old Covina High, 1961

Recently added this Kodachrome transparency to my Covina ephemera collection. It's likely one of the last photos ever taken of the old Covina Union High School building on Citrus at Puente before it was set afire and subsequently demolished.

click image for enlargement

If you look closely, you can see several windows have been broken, and even though the place was abandoned at this time, the grass looks like it's still being mowed regularly.

Note the date impressed on the slide: AUG 61.

Seeing the burned-out high school after the arson fire was one of my earliest memories of downtown Covina. I previously thought that was in 1960, but the date on the slide clearly shows the building was still standing a year later than that.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Strapping Youth

Unknown Covina Union High School Colt varsity baseball player from the 1930s. Photo attributed to Burton O. Burt, who was active in California and the Southwest in the early 20th century.

Image courtesy of seller tobeacat66 on eBay.

Some people I showed this to thought it might be a picture of a young "Doc" Sooter – the semi-legendary CHS sports coach – but one of them asked his surviving brother about it and it turns out Doc was still living with his family in Missouri at the time this photo was taken. So the young man's identity remains a mystery.

Anyway, regardless of who it is, this is a great image of a pre-War Covinan! His face really lights up the room, doesn't it?

Note: this 5x7 negative is currently available on eBay. Either click on the picture or this link, and it will take you to the ad page.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Wally Moon's Baseball Camp

In the early Sixties, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Wally Moon started a baseball summer camp at the Baptist Seminary in the Covina Hills, only about a mile from our house. Since we were a big "baseball family," it was natural that I attend.

That mitt's bigger than my whole chest!

Recently, I had some old home movies converted into DVDs, and was delighted to discover footage of me playing my first game at Wally Moon's in the summer of '62, when I was 7 going on 8. I have a ton of fond memories about the camp, but it was great to actually see the place again. It reminded me of just how much fun I really had there.

Anyway, my play here is pretty terrible, but don't watch me, watch the surroundings! If you attended Wally Moon's Summer Baseball Camp back then, I'm sure this will bring back great memories for you, too. :-)

Also in those home movies was a clip of me pitching little league at Barranca Park in 1964. Not at the main ballfield, though; it was on the minors' diamond on the grounds of Barranca School. I was a lot better pitcher than I was a batter, but that's not saying much. I did have a pretty good wind-up and delivery, though...

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Adams Ranch guest author Glenn Reed

James H. Adams was the owner of a ranch in Covina that he named El Dorado. Most of it was located between San Bernardino Road to the north, Badillo Street to the south, Fourth Street on the east, and Hollenbeck on the west. The land had been planted to oranges in 1886 by the previous owner Joseph S. Phillips. Mr. Phillips had previously raised raisin grapes but felt that grapes did not bring a large enough profit. The grove was protected on the east and north by a tall hedge of eucalyptus and cypress trees, outside of which were planted alternately pepper trees and palms. The ranch is described in the 1896 and 1898 holiday supplements of the Covina Argus newspaper which is clearly intended as a promotional pamphlet for the town and its real estate. The editor, Louie Matthews, suggests that the locals send copies to their friends and relatives in the east to encourage them to move to California. It is interesting that while the supplement describes the beauty and elegance of many of the Covina ranch homes, such as Antone Kerckhoff's "Francisquita" and C.H. Ruddock's "Mountain View," when it describes the Adams ranch it says, "All the buildings on this property are neat and modern structures, conspicuous among them being the barn and coach-house, one of the handsomest and best-appointed structures of its kind in the county of Los Angeles." High praise for a barn. The outstanding feature of the Adams barn is a cupola on posts above the center of the roof that resembles one of the domes of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. The barn also had windows, a rarity in barns. The Covina Argus describes the ranch as "One of the finest ranches of this justly-celebrated citrus-fruit-growing locality, both for beauty of situation, fertility of soil and high state of cultivation in which it is maintained, and the number of ornamental trees surrounding it, is the forty-five-acre ranch of Mr. J.H. Adams."

Two of the Adams stone pillars on Badillo Street in the 19-aughts. The east curb of Fifth Street can be seen in the foreground.
Photo courtesy Covina Public Library.

Today, perhaps the only remaining physical feature of the Adams Ranch is the pair of stone pillars on the east side of Hollenbeck about 125 feet south of San Bernardino Road. These were built at the entrance to the ranch house and barn by Jack Nelson, the caretaker. Originally there were at least eight other identical pillars on the perimeter of the ranch. There were single pillars at the diagonally opposite corners, one at Hollenbeck and Badillo and one at San Bernardino and Fourth Street. There was a pair on the south side of Badillo about 60 feet apart in front of the former Pitzer residence. There were two pair on the east side of Fourth Street, one pair flanking Orange Street, and the other pair on each side of Cottage Street. They were about 45 feet apart. The single pillar at San Bernardino and Fourth was also on the east side of Fourth. Apparently Mr. Adams felt that the land comprising Fourth Street belonged to him. Even with that land, his pillars enclosed slightly less than 40 acres. The Argus said that this ranch included 40 acres of oranges planted in 1886 and five acres of lemons. That five acres was most likely south of Badillo.

Postcard from the 1930s showing the same two Adams stone pillars on Badillo Street (far left). Several of these houses still stand today.

In 1921, the easterly ten acres of the ranch was sold to the City of Covina for $2,000 an acre, and became the City Park. At that time the Covina Union High School had a single classroom building located on the west side of South Citrus Avenue between Dexter and Puente and felt the need for more room. The trustees were ready to buy the remaining 30 acres of the Adams Ranch between Badillo and San Bernardino at the same price but found that the seller wanted $2,500 per acre for the remainder. The school district appointed a committee to study the matter and they decided instead of buying the land, to build an additional building on the existing campus next to Puente Avenue. It was called the Science Building.

The westerly 30 acres was sold to be subdivided in 1924. I am pleased that my parents Tom and Edith Reed were among the early purchasers of a lot in the subdivision in 1924. They chose a lot just east of the location of the old Adams barn. I still live there. Mr. Raymond Finch bought the lot next door that must have been at least partially under the barn.

Two lots of the Adams Park subdivision were not purchased for residential purposes but instead were developed as a miniature golf course. These were the two lots on San Bernardino Road next to Valencia Street directly across the street from the city park. Unfortunately the Great Depression occurred and made such entertainment as miniature golf unprofitable. The golf course was abandoned and became overgrown with shrubs, trees, and weeds. That made it an almost perfect playground for all the kids in the area. It was a wonderful place to play "Hide and Seek" or "Indians."

As El Dorado, the Adams Ranch was as the Argus stated, "a model place, one which is the pride of its owner and the neighborhood, and the admiration of visitors." Now the City Park and Adams Park are the pride of their owners and of the neighborhood.

     Covina Argus Holiday Supplements 1896 and 1898
     Covina Argus February 1921
     "Covina" by Pflueger
     "Images of America–Covina" by Barbara Ann Hall Ph.D.
     1932 Spence Air Photo
     Conversations with my father, Thomas B. Reed
     Conversation with Jack Milliken
     Conversation with my nephew, Dr. Thomas Armbruster
     Powell Camera and Marty Getz

This article was originally published in the April, 2017 issue of "The Covina Citrus Peel," the official newsletter of the Covina Valley Historical Society, and is reproduced here with the permission of the author, Covina historian Glenn Reed.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Finch Clock

The big clock in downtown Covina is 100 years old this month!

Here's its story from Donald Pfleuger's 1964 history of Covina.

To the delight of all, the Finch Brothers Jewelry Store installed an enormous street clock in April, 1916. Weighing fifteen hundred pounds and bearing a double dial which could be read two blocks away in either direction, the enormous clock, lighted at night, became a city landmark for generations to come. It supposedly kept time without varying more than fifteen seconds in a month. Before the age of radio, people coming into town always set their watches by this famous timepiece.

Although a source of civic pride for decades, the clock was in pretty bad shape by the '70s. For several years, it didn't run at all. I don't remember exactly when it was "restored," but I seem to recall it was in the early '80s while I was still living in Covina. Anyway, I was glad that they got it running again, but was disappointed that they replaced the original face and hands with ones that weren't authentic to its period. Looking at the clock today, it might come as a surprise to some that it is as old as it really is.

The Finch clock in 2009.

Photo © J Scott Shannon

Does anyone have a photo of it back in the earlier 20th century? It would be especially cool to see a picture of the clock lighted up like Pflueger said it used to be!