by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Gale Avenue, which runs on the west from Seventh Avenue and the 60 Freeway eastward to Nogales Street, after which it becomes Walnut Drive North, is about six miles long and all except a mile of it runs through the City of Industry. Of all the major thoroughfares in the city, a very few are named for people (Colima Road, Temple Avenue, and, of course, Don Julian Road are among these).
But, Gale Avenue, running north of and parallel to the 60 Freeway, has some of the city’s most prominent elements along its route. These include big box retail centers like Walmart, Best Buy, Sam’s Club, 99 Ranch Market and Home Depot; many restaurants; several car dealerships; the district offices of the Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District; and the Rowland House, the oldest surviving brick building (built in 1855) in southern California.
And, of course, commuters often use it as a bypass for the freeway when it is clogged (as it so often is) with heavy traffic. Yet, where did the name of this major City of Industry street come from?
As mentioned in last week’s installment of “Time Capsule Tuesday,” a group of investors in the Cross Land Company purchased nearly 2,000 acres of Rancho La Puente, directly west of the Homestead and owned by William Workman from 1842 to 1876 and then lost by foreclosure on a loan to the Temple and Workman Bank to Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin.
After Baldwin’s death in 1909 and following the settlement of his estate, the land was sold with the firm of Purcell, Gray and Gale representing the Cross Land Company in the development of Tract 1343, later renamed La Fortuna Farms. One of the principals of the firm, renamed Aronson-Gale Company, was John Frederick Gale (1883-1951), for whom the main street on the southern end of the tract was named.
Gale was born in Greeley, Colorado, north of Denver, in 1883. His parents, Otis and Mary Jane Anthony, were from Massachusetts and migrated to the west, where Gale’s father was a stock raiser and then a merchant before his death when Gale was about 4 years old. Gale remained with his mother and sister in Greeley, until he ventured to Los Angeles during the first decade of the 20th century.
Gale quickly ventured into the business world in a rapidly developing Los Angeles, working in insurance, in stocks and bonds, and in real estate. He loaned money, bought and sold stocks and bonds, and traded and sold real estate located in Imperial County as well as in greater Los Angeles. His work with Tract 1343/La Fortuna Farms was one of his bigger projects.
The firm he was with on the tract development was called Purcell, Gray and Gale, former Gray and Gale, but when major investors Marco and Irving Hellman joined in on the purchase of the tract, they installed their brother-in-law, Solomon Aronson, formerly a real estate dealer in San Francisco, as a principal of the renamed company, Aronson Gale Company.
Meantime, Gale continued in other Los Angeles endeavors, including the Metropolitan Fireproof Building Company (1912), the California Pipeline Company (1911), and the Pacific Homeseekers Bureau (1911).
One of the partners in the latter two firms was Solomon N. Clark, a native of Georgia, who was vice-president of Aronson Gale and the Cross Land Company. Clark and Gale even talked of building a lodge-type country estate on Tract 1343, probably in the Avocado Heights section, because it was to have a view of the property. It is not known, though, if the structure, to have chicken sheds, a tennis court, and other amenities, was ever built.
While it was previously thought that Clark Avenue, which runs parallel to Gale in a portion of the tract, was named for mining and railroad tycoon William Andrews Clark, whose San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad line is along the road, it is clear the thoroughfare is actually named for Gale’s partner in the development of the tract.
Gale remained involved in the tract for a few years, but then launched into a new profession that took him far beyond this area. By 1915, he went to work for Muller and Phillips, a New York firm which imported goods from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. This work took him, sometimes accompanied by his Swedish-born Laura, who migrated to Nebraska with her family, on frequent long travels by steamship. Some of these trips involved going through the Middle East and Europe to return home to America.
In Gale’s years as a world-traveling importer, he resided in San Francisco, New Jersey, New York City, and Connecticut. For a time, he lived in a villa on the French Riviera near Monaco before retiring from business in the mid-1930s. He lived in the Bay Area south of San Francisco and in New Hampshire before returning to California, where he died in San Francisco in July 1951, at age 68. He was survived by his wife and the couple had no children.
Check back next Tuesday for the next installment of the “Time Capsule Tuesday” series, which will look at another element of City of Industry history as the city celebrates its 60th anniversary.