Saturday, May 25, 2024

Second Street Park

For the past eight decades, Covina's Second Street has been a rather bleak expanse of asphalt, but look how pretty it used to be! From 1923-1949, Second had a 16-foot-wide median strip1,2 running from San Bernardino Road south to Badillo that was graced by 48 Queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana). They called it "Second Street Park."3

Looking north on Second Street from College Street, c.1940. Photo courtesy Covina Valley Historical Society c/o Powell Camera Shop.

So why was this visually-appealing landscaping done away with? You guessed it: parking.2 Initially, the palms were replanted along the sidewalks and elsewhere,3 but eventually all but one of them were removed. This single, solitary palm at the northeast corner of the Badillo alley is now all that remains of old Second Street Park.

Source: Google Street View.

Kind of sad, isn't it? Wouldn't it be nice if Covina were to re-beautify Second in the 21st century? I can hardly think of another major street in town that is more in need of aesthetic improvement.


1 Covina Argus, July 28, 1922, p.1.
2 Covina Argus-Citizen, April 4, 1947, p.8.
3 Covina Argus-Citizen, June 18, 1948, p.1.


Saturday, May 4, 2024

Covina's Old Neighbors

If you lived in Covina around the turn of the last century, this is the map and the place names you'd be familiar with. Localities tagged with an *asterisk are on the original topo sheet below. Those added in red didn't make the cut at the time, but are now considered historically relevant. (The principal cities of today, of course, should not require description.)

Covina and environs in the first decade of the 20th century. Source: USGS. Click on image for an enlargement.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Baseball Champs of '09

In 1909, Covina made big sports headlines. That year, the town boasted a semi-pro baseball team that went undefeated its entire first season. A remarkable feat in itself, but what followed was arguably the most momentous sporting event to ever take place in Covina, when the major league Chicago White Sox came here to play the amateur champs. Yet surprisingly, none of this made it into the history books, and was long ago forgotten... until now.

Our story begins with George E. Covert, a bona fide real estate wunderkind. He closed his first sale when he was only 17, and in 1908, at the age of 23, he sold almost $100,000 worth of orange and walnut groves in a single month.1 So what does a young hot shot do with that kind of money? Well, George just happened to be a sports fan, so he organized a ball club to represent and promote his adopted town of Covina.2

His first team – which he called the White Squadron – was formed in December, 1908,3,4 and was manned mostly with homegrown raw talent.5 Home games were played at the ball grounds located on leased land4,5 at the foot of Citrus Avenue,6 which at that time was where the I-10 freeway is today.7 Admission was 25¢,8 and the popular Sunday afternoon games attracted hundreds of fans.9

Covert's financial support also paid for much-needed improvements to the field and bleachers,6 and snazzy new uniforms that were clearly tailored to impress.3 According to the Los Angeles Herald:

The body of [Covina's] suits will be white, with green trimmings, and the same color scheme will be carried throughout, the coat being green with white cuffs, white pearl buttons, white old English "C" on left breast. Small green "C" showing through white diamond on sleeves of coat. Breeches will have a small green bead running down outside seam, the caps having the same kind of bead on the seams. Stockings will be green, with a broad white band.4

And here are the Covina boys, all gussied up in their fancy new finery.

The Covina White Squadron, March, 1909.
Standing: Stewart, 2b; Pitts, p,1b; Covert (Manager); "Bab" Fairly, rf; Shirley, 3b.
Seated: King, c; ?Hooker, cf; Hughes, ss; "Ping" Fairly, p,of; Libby, 1b (Captain);4 team mascot; Montague, lf.
Photo courtesy Mark Thiel, Powell Camera Shop, Covina.

Angel in the Outfield

Meet Mr. Glenn Montague, a/k/a "Monty" to his teammates and friends. I've gotten to know this gentleman pretty well the last couple of weeks, and I think you'd enjoy meeting him, too. Our acquaintance began when I stumbled upon this rare postcard.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Arrow Highway

One-hundred years ago today – March 20, 1924 – the "Arrow Route Association" was formed at the Sycamore Inn in Upland1,2 to promote the development of a modern 80-foot-wide2 interurban highway from San Bernardino to Los Angeles. It was proposed to relieve traffic on Foothill Boulevard while also linking the business districts of Rialto, Fontana, Cucamonga, Upland, Claremont, La Verne and San Dimas.1,2 The ambitious initial plans even called for the new thoroughfare to extend beyond Los Angeles to Santa Monica.3

A pleasant rural stretch of the early Arrow Route in Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, 1933. (The approximate location today.)
Photos courtesy Darin Kuna and Huntington Digital Library.

In Covina at that time, the existing main boulevards to Los Angeles – Foothill and Valley – were 3 and 7 miles away from town respectively; not exactly convenient. The Arrow Highway, however, was to pass only a mile north of Covina, so community leaders were very much for the idea right from the start. Accordingly, on November 6, 1924, Covina's own J. L. Matthews was appointed chairman of a committee to oversee Arrow's completion west from La Verne to El Monte, where it was to intersect Valley Boulevard.4

Matthews, significantly, was also the publisher of the city's most influential newspaper, which he used as a platform to actively booster the plan. In this editorial, it's clear he could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

Covina Argus, September 30, 1927.5

Ironically, it would be landowners in the Covina area who would erect most of the procedural roadblocks that impeded Arrow Highway's eventual completion.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Covina's Early Churches

During Spanish and Mexican rule, the Catholic Franciscan Misión de San Gabriel Arcángel (1771) was the sole religious institution in the region. After statehood, however, the overwhelming majority of area settlers were members of Protestant denominations, and the first of those to form congregations in what was then called the Upper Azusa Valley were the Methodists in 1872, followed by the Baptists in 1873.1

The German Baptists in particular played a significant role in the early history of Covina. In 1883, they proposed to purchase the entire Phillips Tract in the Lower Azusa Valley for the purpose of establishing a religious colony. Even though the deal eventually fell through, a fair number of Brethren remained in the area, and in 1886,1 they began construction of the first dedicated church building in the new townsite of Covina.

The local Methodist and Episcopal congregations soon followed suit with their own pioneer churches; in 1888 and 1891 respectively.1

The early Methodist and Episcopal Churches in Covina, 1894. Source: California State Library.