Sharing History on Double Duty in Los Angeles and Chino Hills

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

It was quite a day today sharing very different elements of our greater Los Angeles history for very different audiences in Los Angeles and Chino Hills.

The first presentation, given this morning at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, was for a week-long art collectors program held by Elderhostel/Road Scholar, a non-profit educational travel organization.  This is my 17th year working with the program and the Monday talk is comprised of biographical sketches of well-known regional art collectors, from Henry E. Huntington to J. Paul Getty to Norton Simon to Eli Broad.

Huntington cartoon
A cartoon touting Henry E. Huntington as “The Modern Colossus of Roads” for his streetcar system in greater Los Angeles.

While there are speakers and docents giving the twenty participants excellent overviews of the art collections and museums established by the first three, what the Monday kick-off aims to do is give a historical background to the trio, while looking at Broad as the next generation of collector in contemporary Los Angeles.

Huntington’s history doesn’t just involve the collection of art and books and manuscripts that make up much of the famed Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens in nearby San Marino.  His real estate and transportation projects, most especially the Pacific Electric Railway, from 1900 onward were significant parts of our region’s development and a recent post here focused on his Los Angeles Inter-Urban Railway.

Getty became famous for his work with his father’s Getty Oil Company, which had a major regional presence from the early 1900s onward, and the firm’s work in such local fields as Santa Fe Springs and Long Beach was a major part of the oil boom of those first decades of the 20th century.  However, Getty’s “well-to-consumer” approach of a fully integrated company pushed him to global heights of wealth and power that made him the planet’s wealthiest person up through his death in 1976.

Getty SF Springs
A photo of employees at the Getty Oil Company facility in Santa Fe Springs.

Simon, born in Portland, Oregon, moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1926, when he was 19.  The budding tycoon formed a steel company that year in the city, but went on to be a food production mogul from the late 1930s onward and then branched out into all kinds of economic ventures, with his heyday being in the 1950s and 1960s, both in business and in his amazing art collection.

Broad built his initial fortune in real estate, where his KB Home is still, at sixty years this year, a major home building corporation, but his wealth significantly jumped after parlaying the purchase of an insurance company into SunAmerica, a venture capital firm that grew dramatically in the heady 1990s.  Broad, whose wife Edythe brought home the first piece of modern art that launched their collection, constructed a museum, simply called The Broad in downtown Los Angeles that has proven to be highly successful in attracing younger audiences and families.  It’s not part of the week’s visits for the program, but he is definitely in the same “pantheon” of museum founders as his forebears.

AM Lugo
An oil painting of Antonio María Lugo (1778-1860) by Henri Penelon of Los Angeles.  Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, which owns the painting, now displayed in the “Becoming Los Angeles Exhibit” there.

Tonight took an entire different tack with a talk given for the Chino Hills Historical Society about Don Antonio María Lugo, a prominent Californio who was a soldier, politician and rancher of wide renown and accomplishment in greater Los Angeles.  Born in 1778 at Mission San Antonio (which may explain his name) in central California, Lugo came to Los Angeles at age 11, joined the military and later was an alcalde (mayor), member of the ayuntamiento (town council), and juez del campo (judge of the plains, overseeing ranching issues and conflicts) in the region.

Lugo was a provisional grantee in the early 1810s of Rancho San Antonio (ah-ha), southeast of the pueblo, and then was given a permanent grant in 1838 to the nearly 30,000-acre property.  In the early 1840s, he secured Rancho San Bernardino for three of his sons and a nephew and then obtained Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, which includes modern Chino Hills within its boundaries.  Lugo then turned over the ranch to his son-in-law, Pennsylvania native Isaac Williams.

In September 1846, on the grounds where Lugo built an adobe house then occupied by Williams, occurred the Battle of Chino, in which about two dozen Americans (including John Rowland of Rancho La Puente) and Europeans were in the residence and besieged by some fifty Californios, including two of Lugo’s sons (and brothers-in-law of Williams).

Chino ranch map
A map of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, granted to Lugo in 1841 with an addition obtained by his son-in-law, Isaac Williams, two years later.

The conflict, which included the death of one Californio and wounding of a few Americans, ended when the Californios set fire to the roof of the building and flushed out its occupants.  These men were then seized and taken to what later became Boyle Heights near Los Angeles, where they were held until freed by the efforts of Ygnacio Palomares, co-owner of Rancho San José in modern Pomona and surrounding areas, and William Workman of the Homestead and Rancho La Puente.

Lugo, who enjoyed the economic boon of the Gold Rush after 1849, lived until January 1860, when he died at 81—a very long life by the standards of the time.  Though conflicted by the American conquest, Lugo also had several daughters marry Anglos and was the subject of admiring reminiscences by such chroniclers of early Los Angeles history as Horace Bell, Harris Newmark, Henry D. Barrows, and Lugo’s son-in-law, Stephen C. Foster (not the composer!)

In summer 2015, when I happened to stumble upon the Charles M. Jenkins diary, which has been covered extensively here, in the collection of the Historical Society of Southern California, I also found, lying at the bottom of box with society papers, an original printed notice announcing the death of Don Antonio.

Part of an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 150 persons at tonight’s talk on Lugo, including Josette Temple and her cousin Sheryl Rowland, second row, second and third from left.

With permission of the HSSC, the notice, along with a translation of it, and copies of Barrows’ 1896 tribute to Lugo, published by the Society, and of Bell’s 1881 Reminiscences of a Ranger, which contains a (typically for Bell) exaggerated encomium of the man often called el viejo Lugo (Old Lugo).

Due to excellent publicity in the local weekly paper, the Chino/Chino Hills Champion, which has, amazingly, been published continuously since 1887, the turnout for tonight’s talk was tremendous, with nearly 150 people in attendance (see accompanying photos.)  Included were descendants of Lugo, as well as of the Workman, Rowland and Temple families.

Getting out and sharing the multi-faceted histories of greater Los Angeles is easily one of the most rewarding, exciting and fun aspects of the job and pulling double duty today made it twice as rewarding, exciting and fun!

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