All Over the Map in the Eastern San Gabriel Valley, 1923

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

As noted in other posts here lately, 1923 was the peak year of a post-World War I growth boom that expanded greater Los Angeles dramatically.  While the city of Los Angeles grew significantly, so did the sururban areas surrounding the metropolis, whether it was the Westside, South Bay, San Fernando Valley or San Gabriel Valley.

The eastern portion of the San Gabriel Valley, where the Homestead is situated, was, though, still very rural for the most part.  The bulk of the growth during that boom was in the western end, especially in the Pasadena and Alhambra areas which had closer proximity to downtown Los Angeles job centers.  Walter Temple launched his Temple City project in 1923 with the advertising and promotional focus being on close access to the big city but with the advantages of country living.

The boom, however, wasn’t just about growing city and suburban populations, it also was about economic changes.  The oil industry, for example, was seeing tremendous growth during these years, especially in such thriving areas as Signal Hill near Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Santa Fe Springs, Montebello, Brea-Olinda and others.  Agriculture was still very strong with oranges, lemons and walnuts extensively grown, particularly in the San Gabriel Valley and western part of what became known as the Inland Empire.

This detail of a regional Automobile Club of Southern California from that year, from the Homestead’s collection, reflects the changes going on during that apex of the boom.  The highlighted area runs from Alhambra, San Gabriel, Montebello and Pico Rivera on the west to Pomona and La Verne (formerly Lordsburg) on the east and from El Monte, Baldwin Park and Covina on the north to Whittier and the Puente Hills on the south.

This is a detail of a large 1923 Automobile Club of Southern California map of greater Los Angeles from the Homestead’s collection, showing the eastern San Gabriel Valley at the peak of a post-World War I boom.

As stated above, the population influx was greater at the west end where Alhambra was growing mightily in those first years of the 1920s–this was a major reason why the Temply family moved there once the revenue from its lease to Standard Oil of California, now Chevron, began to flow from the Montebello Oil Fields (shown at left center.)  The new town of Monterey Park (originally Ramona Acres) began to see development.  San Gabriel showed some modest growth and just above it on the map is “Temple,” officially known as the “Town of Temple” upon its opening in September 1923 and changed to Temple City five years later.

By 1923, Walter Temple had real estate interests in Alhambra, where he owned a substantial area of the expanding downtown on Main Street, west of Garfield; in Monterey Park, though he sold his property there to pursue a new project, this being Temple City; in El Monte, where he built a post office and movie theater; and in San Gabriel.  In the latter, he bought land across the old mission and built three business buildings, all of which survive, and donated the lot for a new city hall, which his architects, Walker and Eisen, designed–this also still stands.

East of the San Gabriel River, for the most part, the rural environment remained.  Covina was a modest-sized town; Baldwin Park was experiencing some growth; West Covina was newly incorporated in 1923; and Puente expanded somewhat, as well.  Pomona, a gateway to the Inland Empire, was a prosperous citrus-oriented town that also saw significant growth.

The map shows a number of notable elements beyond the cities and towns.  For example, in addition to oil fields at Montebello, Whittier and Puente Hills (Rowland Heights), note the new Western Air Express airport in southern Montebello at the lower left.  At the top was “Ross Field” in southern Arcadia, a military air field from the First World War where a balloon corps was established (more in a future post on that).

A further detail shows the El Monte, San Gabriel, Baldwin Park, Puente area.  Note the new town of “Temple” at the upper left and the area north of “Hudson” at the lower right where the Homestead is now.

Or, at the far right, the “Pacific Colony”, which was recently established by the State of California as a mental health facility and which closed not many years ago as the Lanterman State Hospital in the southwestern corner of Pomona.   Above that in the far right corner was the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds, which hosted the first edition of the county fair in 1922–the 2016 version is underway now.

Below and to the left of the Pacific Colony was the Pacific Lodge in modern Walnut, which was a facility for troubled boys and which moved out to the San Fernando Valley in 1927.  Below and left of the boys’ home was the Silver Peak Guest Ranch, a resort located in the far western boundary of modern Diamond Bar, but which was listed as in Walnut when it was operating during the 1920s.  There, guests could enjoy a motel-like room and the outdoors on an elevated knoll on the ranch.

Adjacent to Silver Peak, the Colonel Robert M. Baker Home for retired ministers of the United Church of the Brethren was established in what was called Otterbein Acres (named for Church co-founder William Otterbein) in 1911 on 20 acres in what is now Rowland Heights.  The facility still exists today.  At the very bottom center is the new Hacienda Country Club, established in 1920 and still in operation in what is now La Habra Heights.  Another new golf club was Mountain Meadows, also still in operation in Pomona.

As for major streets, the main highway running through the lower part of the valley was then commonly known as Pomona Boulevard, though the parenthetical (Valley) is there because locals also called it by its current name, Valley Boulevard.  The other key west-east roadway was then called Ramona Boulevard in El Monte and Baldwin Park becoming Covina Boulevard (now San Bernardino Road) in West Covina and Covina.  In the 19th century, in fact, this was the Upper San Bernardino Road and Pomona (Valley) was the Lower San Bernardino Road).

Another view of the map takes in areas from El Monte and Whittier to Pomona, which were mainly agricultural and rural in the early Twenties.

Regarding north-south streets, there is Downey Road coming from the south to meet San Gabriel Boulevard.  At that intersection is where the Temple family had their home from the early 1850s to the late 1910s.  Part of Lexington Road became Santa Anita Avenue.  Workman Mill Road, Seventh Avenue/Sunset Avenue, Hacienda Road, Glendora Avenue, and Brea Canyon Road are also of note.

There are plenty of place names that are unfamiliar today, some being old villages and others railroad stations.  At the lower left “Pico” and “Rivera” were separate and there was the Latino hamlet of “Jimtown,” as well.  Spadra, created in the late 1860s, still had a separate identity, but later became mainly part of Pomona.  At the top right, Charter Oak and Valley Center are in unincorporated Los Angeles County near San Dimas and Covina.  Similarly, Bassett, at the left of center, is another county area.  Rarely recognized railroad station stops include Niobe, Bartolo, Hudson, Rowland, Marne, Fallon, Wilmer, Shorb, Hayes, Cogswell and more.

Finally, the Homestead, known by several names, including “La Puente Homestead”, “Workman Homestead”, “Temple Homestead,” and “Temple Ranch” is not specifically identified, though it often was on maps.  It is located just above “Hudson” along San Jose Creek, east of 10th Avenue, now Turnbull Canyon Road and west of the unmarked but clearly indicated Hacienda Road.  In 1923, Walter Temple, whose wife Laura Gonzalez had just died at the end of the prior year, was deciding what to do with their just-begun mansion, La Casa Nueva.  He soon sold the family’s Alhambra home, moved full-time to the Homestead, and finished La Casa Nueva in 1927.  Within a decade of the issuance of the map, however, in 1932, the Temples lost the property.

This map is a particularly interesting visual representation of growth and change in the eastern San Gabriel Valley during the early 1920s.  Check back for other great examples in the “All Over the Map” series of posts.

Leave a Reply