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 1885 – the same year that Joseph Swift Phillips founded the town of Covina – Chicago lumber tycoon Thomas Sanderson Ruddock1 purchased 120 acres2 of land from John Edward Hollenbeck, just east of Phillips's tract. There, the following year, 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!


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 information presented here was 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; the West Covina Historical Milestones webpage; and online communications with fellow Covina-area historians Glenn Reed, Tom Armbruster and Jim Harris. 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 after a flood in 1776.

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

1821Mexico gains its independence from Spain.

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, located in today's San Dimas, just south of the intersection of Bonita and Walnut Avenues.

March, 1842Alta California Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado grants Rancho La Puente to American-born Mexican citizen John A. Rowland. The grant holdings comprise 76 square miles of prime range land east of the San Gabriel River and south of the San Bernardino stagecoach road.

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

April 24, 1846 – The beginning of the Mexican-American War. Rancho owners Rowland and Workman (now also a Mexican citizen) both participate in military actions in southwestern Alta California.

February 2, 1848 – The war ends with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which cedes Alta California to the United States. Under its terms, Rowland and Workman retain ownership of Rancho La Puente, and Rowland regains his U.S. citizenship.

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

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

1858 – The U.S. Government declares most of British Crown subject Henry Dalton's Rancho Azusa to be public land. During the following two decades, hundreds of American squatters/homesteaders will move into the area which today comprises the cities of Baldwin Park, Glendora, Irwindale, and the northern half of Covina.

1863-1864 – A severe drought decimates the region's cattle industry, and the ranchos of Los Angeles County turn increasingly to agriculture and land sales to survive.

1865 – The first general store and post office in the Azusa Valley is built at "Four Corners" ("Las Cuatro Esquinas"), on the north side of the San Bernardino stagecoach road where it intersected the Azusa Cañon road, just west 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 will later become Covina.

c.1870 – A community center, Grange Hall, is erected on the south side of the San Bernardino stage road just west of today's Vincent Avenue. The gathering place is also used for church services and a school.

October 13, 1873 – "Don Juan" Rowland dies.

May 17, 1876 – "Don Julian" Workman kills himself following the failure of the Temple & Workman Bank and the subsequent forfeiture of his portion of Rancho La Puente to E. J. "Lucky" Baldwin.

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 dedicated 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 northeast corner of today's Citrus Avenue and Cypress Avenue, which also becomes the Covina area's first post office. Griswold's pioneer settlement is named "Citrus." The store closes in 1879, but Griswold's Hall remains the local post office until 1886.

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

1880s – The cultivation of wheat, barley, and grapes dominates agriculture in Rancho La Puente.

1882 – Joseph Swift Phillips (b.1840) buys a 2,000-acre 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.

1883 – Future Los Angeles mayor Frederick Eaton begins surveying the 2,000-acre Phillips Tract, and names the tract's townsite "Covina." Eaton also names one of the 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.

December 24, 1884 – The Covina Social Club opens a community center on East Badillo Street, appropriately named Covina Hall. It also serves as the town's first church.

January, 1885 – The Phillips Tract officially opens for land sales, 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 Street. Newspaper editor Conlee's house goes up soon after at 202 West College Street.

1886Thomas Sanderson Ruddock builds the Azusa Valley's first mansion – Mountain View – on former Badilla/Hollenbeck lands to the immediate east of the Phillips Tract. On the 120-acre estate are planted 9,000 orange and 3,000 lemon trees.

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."

c.1888 – Dr. A. B. Hostetler becomes Covina's first resident physician.

Early 1890s – Large orchards of deciduous and citrus fruit trees begin replacing the grain fields and grape orchards of the Eighties.

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 – Two new Grammar Schools are constructed in Covina: one on Citrus at San Bernardino Road, and the Lark Ellen School, which replaces the old Lower Azusa School on Cypress Avenue. Charter Oak also opens its own schoolhouse at the southwest corner of Bonnie Cove and Cienega Avenues.

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

1895 – The Pomona Road (today's Covina Hills Road) is completed over the eastern San Jose Hills, and Azusa Avenue becomes the first paved street in the Phillips Tract.

September 9, 1895 – Service begins on the new spur line of the Southern Pacific Railroad through Covina.

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

October 14, 1895 – The Covina Citrus Association is incorporated.

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 – The Covina City School District is formed.

1896-c.1946 – With its own citrus industry, rail transportation links, schools and financial institutions now established, Covina's future is assured, and its first boom begins. The "Era of Citrus" will span the next half-century.

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

Spring, 1897 – The Covina Reading Room and Library Association is formed. The first donation comprises 50 books.

April, 1898 – Local investors headed by C. H. Ruddock buy the Covina branch of the Azusa Valley Bank and re-name it the Covina Valley Bank. In 1901, it becomes the First National Bank of Covina.

September 21, 1898 – Seventeen ladies gather in the home of Mrs. J. J. Morgan and organize the Monday Afternoon Club, which in 1925 incorporates as the Covina Woman's Club.

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

1899 – Covina opens its own high school on the second floor of the newly-expanded 1894 Grammar School. 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.

January 21, 1901 – The 20th century officially dawns in Covina with the arrival of electricity and electric lights.

August 6, 1901 – Covina becomes an incorporated city.

September, 1902 – The Covina Home Telephone Company is formed. By mid-1903, almost a hundred homes and businesses are connected to the network, and in October, 1903, long distance service to Los Angeles becomes available.

1902-1903 – Fifty electric street lights are installed in town. Forty-one more are added in 1908.

January 5, 1903 – Classes begin in the new Covina High School building, located behind the Grammar School and facing San Bernardino Road.

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.)

1904-05 – Flood-prone Walnut Creek is channelized from Azusa Avenue west to the San Gabriel River, and Lucky Baldwin's 4th Subdivision in Rancho La Puente lays out the grid of streets of what will later become West Covina.

October 28, 1905 – Covina founder Joseph Phillips dies.

December 4, 1905 – Dedication of the new Carnegie Library 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 1, 1909 – The rancho period ends upon the death of Lucky Baldwin.

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

August 7, 1909Covina Argus editor J. L. Matthews encourages adoption of the name "West Covina" for the farming community to the south and west of the city. (Other names used for the area had been "Pumpkin Center" and "Walnut Center.")

September, 1910 – West Covina opens its own schoolhouse near today's Sunset and Cameron Avenues. Eleven students are enrolled at Irwindale School in its first year.

1915 – The new San Jose Hills Road (today's South Grand Avenue) gives Covinans a much more direct route to the Walnut Valley and on to Orange County.

1915-1917 – 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. In 1925, it is upgraded to run on electricity.

1919 – The fourth and last Covina Grammar School is constructed at Citrus and San Bernardino. The old high school building is moved to the southwest corner of Second and School Streets, and is dedicated as the Covina Masonic Lodge that same year.

May, 1921 – Ten acres of the Adams Tract west of Fourth Street are acquired for the development of Covina Park. The plunge opens two years later.

December 19, 1921 – Opening night of the Covina Theater. "Bits of Life," starring Wesley Barry, Rockliffe Fellowes, and Lon Chaney, Sr., is the first film shown in the new motion picture venue.

March, 1922 – Mrs. F. E. Wolfrath wins a Chamber of Commerce prize for her suggestion for a new city motto: "One Mile Square and All There." (However, the slogan actually used by the C-of-C was "A Mile Square...")

Summer, 1922 – Graduate nurses Melisse Wittler and Lavinia Graham open the city's first hospital in the former Charles E. Bemis home at the northwest corner of Badillo and Second. Soon after, sister Mary Wittler joins the partnership.

February 23, 1923 – The residents of West Covina vote in favor of incorporation. Two days later, it is officially declared a city by the County Board of Supervisors.

1924 – Covina Hospital moves to a new facility at 275 West College Street. That same year, The Magan Clinic (founded in 1919) opens at 155 West College Street.

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.

May, 1939 – The new United States Post Office is opened at the southwest corner of College and Second.

1945-1946 – The "quick decline" virus spreads through the orange groves, killing thousands of trees. The devastating blight heralds the beginning of the end of Covina's Era of Citrus.

1945-1955 – High 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.

1946 – The Wittler sisters agree to sell Covina Hospital to a group of 200 local citizens. The sale and expansion are completed in 1948, and the institution is renamed Covina Inter-Community Hospital.

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

August 1, 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 in 1955, the building is sold to Aetron: a division of Aerojet-General Corporation.

1954-55 – Construction of Shoppers Lane at the southeast corner of Citrus and Rowland.

1955-56 – Construction of the original West Covina Plaza shopping center on Garvey Boulevard west of Vincent.

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 opens for classes in 1957. Edgewood High School is the last to occupy the grounds during the 1958-1959 school year.

1956-57 – The San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10) is extended through the West Covina area, and is completed on April 26, 1957.

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

1959 – Classes begin at the new Northview High School at Azusa Avenue and Cypress, and at Charter Oak High School on East Covina Boulevard.

c.1960 – Suburban homes now vastly outnumber orange groves. Covina's Era of Citrus has ended.

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

1961 – The abandoned Covina Union High School's main building on Citrus is gutted in an arson fire, and is subsequently razed.

1962 – The historic Badilla/Phillips house at San Bernardino Road and Hollenbeck is burned down in a fire department training exercise.

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.

October 1, 1967 – The Magan Clinic opens its new main office on Rowland just east of Hollenbeck.

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

1986 – Covina celebrates the centennial of its founding.

May, 1992 – George H. W. Bush is the first sitting President of the United States to visit Covina. He addresses a campaign rally in Covina Park.

2001 – Covina celebrates its centennial as an incorporated city.

2005 – The historic Reed Block/Covina Theater 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 North Citrus. Constructed in 1885, it was one of the very first structures erected in pioneer-era Covina.

So, what is the oldest residential structure in the Covina area? It's the historic Thomas Griswold House at 18430 East Covina Boulevard. It was originally located in brother Eugene Griswold's pioneer community of Citrus, at the southwest corner of Citrus Avenue and Cypress Street. According to Thos. Griswold's great-grandson, Jack Milliken, the deed for that property was recorded in September, 1885, so the house would likely have been built soon after. Mr. Milliken believes it was moved to its present location sometime in the 1940s.


Source: Images of America: Covina, by Barbara Ann Hall, Ph.D., Covina Valley Historical Society, Arcadia Publishing, 2007.


Photo by Jack Milliken, used with permission.

There are two homes from 1887 within the Covina city limits, but only the one at 16731 Cypress Street still looks like a 19th century house. Unfortunately, the remodeled one at 311 Italia Street 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.

If you're curious to find out when a particular structure was constructed, that information can be found on the built:LA interactive property map. 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.