by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Nearly two decades elapsed between the time the City of Industry bought the Workman House and El Campo Santo Cemetery from the Brown family, operators of El Encanto Convalescent Hospital, and when the Workman and Temple Homestead, as it was then called, opened to the public in May 1981. The acquisition, which took place in 1963, was made as the Browns were in the process of moving El Encanto from the site’s historic structures, including the Workman House, La Casa Nueva, Water Tower, 1860s winery buildings, and others, to a site immediately north of the houses.
The construction of the new hospital and the move over took a few years, but the sale of La Casa Nueva was not completed until 1975. During the interim, the City completed its first general plan, adopted in 1971, and in that document, a commitment was made towards the preservation of the historic site. That didn’t mean, at that early date, that there would be a museum, as there were several scenarios laid out in planning documents that followed from about 1973 onward, but that, of course, became the goal.
After La Casa Nueva was purchased, the Homestead was put under the City’s Urban Development Agency, a redevelopment entity, and planning continued, with the project being identified as the City’s contribution as a historical project to the American bicentennial in 1976. Work didn’t really begin until after that, but today’s highlighted historic artifacts from the museum’s collection are photographs taken to document the condition of the site preparatory to restoration and renovation.
These images were taken on 25 September 1976 and show several areas, including a view from the west taken towards La Casa Nueva; a planter at the west end of the property; Evergreen Lane from near the Water Tower and wineries and looking east toward El Campo Santo; two shots of the heart-shaped planter and palm tree in front of the cemetery; and two views of the field to the east of the houses.
The first photograph was taken in a field near where a small parking lot and the office building for the museum’s staff where later built. What was still a full-width driveway that went around La Casa Nueva’s West Lawn and Mission Walkway was still intact and a low cement wall that survives can be made out. Behind that and in front of the arched openings of the walkway’s wall are a profusion of plants, albeit overgrown and in need of pruning and care.
In the West Lawn area on the other side of the walkway are some taller trees, including one to the left or north end of the lawn that was a massive one and still standing when I began working at the Homestead not much more than a decade later, but which was removed years back. To the right are two tall sycamore trees, planted by the Temples in 1927 as they built the Tepee retreat, obscured here, just off the southwest corner of La Casa Nueva. To the right of that are two palm trees believed to be from the Temple era, as well.
Only a small portion of the enclosed second floor west wing, which was an open patio when the house was finished in 1927 and turned into dormitory space by William Knueven, who was married to a niece of Walter Temple, can be picked out through the dense landscaping, as can the top of the chimney for the Living Room fireplace.
Behind the house and about dead center in the photo is another palm tree, moved to the property from San Gabriel in 1925 and claimed by the Temples to date back to 1775 when the Mission San Gabriel was moved from its original location at Whittier Narrows where the Temples long had their Homestead. The palm died three years ago unfortunately.
Left of that can be seen the tops of some of the large oak trees in the Workman House courtyard. At the far right is a power pole that was next to Evergreen Lane, which entered the Homestead from the west as a continuation of Don Julian Road, which then ended at Turnbull Canyon Road. Evergreen Lane was partially retained as a walkway on the path of that historic road to El Campo Santo, while Don Julian was extended through the ranch just to the south and opened to Hacienda Boulevard.
The view of the planter, which was triangular in shape, is an interesting one because it has been completely removed, though the planters were saved by relocating them. The orientation is looking north toward the southwest portion of the square shaped El Encanto facility in the background and this locale is at the far right of the photo above.
In fact, the palm tree is in both image, though the gangly deodar tree is not in the other photo. The road in the foreground is Evergreen Lane, which, again, went east from Turnbull Canyon to El Campo Santo. The planter is just about where the entry gates are for what we call the West Parking Lot, originally intended to be the everyday lot for visitors touring the Homestead, even though there were only a couple dozen spaces plus a bus loading zone. At the left background are nearby industrial buildings off Turnbull Canyon Road and Proctor Avenue.
Moving east, there are a pair of photos taken in the undeveloped area east of the Workman House, with one looking toward Hacienda Boulevard. Again, this is before Don Julian was extended west from Turnbull Canyon to Hacienda. At the far right are some dark arbor vitae shrubs in El Campo Santo Cemetery, though the distance is such that not much else can be discerned. There are tire tracks criss-crossing in the field, but, otherwise it is a broad expanse that was included with the sale to the City of the rest of the developed portion of the Homestead.
The view looking west shows a garage, built in the 1940s by the Brown family when they established El Encanto and which still stands and is used for museum storage. Behind that building are tall trees in front of the Workman House, which is just off camera. At the center left is El Encanto, though parking was later established in a portion of the field on which the photographer stood. To the right are industrial buildings off Proctor Avenue.
Two shots were taken where a heart-shaped planter, built by the Temple family in the early 1920s when they did considerable renovation work to El Campo Santo, years after it was nearly destroyed by a non-family owner early in the 20th century, is in front of El Campo Santo. One looks to the east and shows a generally well-maintained entrance area, with sprinklers running for the grass in the planter, in the middle of which is a palm tree, perhaps planted by the Temples.
Behind that are large shrubs in front of the sole remaining portion of the original brick wall enclosing the cemetery and constructed by the Workman family in the late 1850s or early 1860s. The original iron gates are opened and through that entrance is part of the Walter P. Temple Memorial Mausoleum, completed in April 1921, and which contains many members of the Workman and Temple families, some of the Brown family (and their relatives, the Heatons), and Don Pío Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, who was reinterred with the remains of his wife, Ygnacia Alvarado, when the mausoleum was finished. Several tall trees, including some arbor vitae are also of note.
The other image is taken from in front of the cemetery entrance and looks east, past the planter and the driveway which encircles it and which is lined with a low cement wall and rose bushes. On the other side is a worker wearing a construction helmet and standing next to a closed and locked chain link fence. This would open to Evergreen Lane and some of the arbor vitae and trees lining that road are in view, as well. In the distance to the left is the far western end of the Puente Hills, where the landfill bearing that name recently opened and which has now been closed for several years. At the far right, there is a bit of the Workman House roof visible in the background.
The last photo is a very interesting one showing Evergreen Lane looking east toward the chain link gate and the cemetery. The paved road, lined by a low cement wall like those in the photos from the front of the cemetery, as well as by arbor vitae, is cracked and worn with plenty of weeds growing through the exposed areas. Some wood debris is at the left and the scene in general is somewhat desolate and shows that little care was taken with this part of the site for quite some time. To the right it looks as if there was a sidewalk the paralleled the road down to the cemetery, though, at one time, there were outbuildings along that section, so the walk may have been a remnant of those structures.
There is a dramatic contrast now as this is the Pío Pico Memorial Walkway and is paved with concrete and brick, lined with recently planted oak trees (replacing Chinese elms that were there from the time the museum opened until just last year), and well-lighted in the evenings. Surrounding the walk are lawns and tall pine trees, while a large fish pond was added to the left near where the road circled the heart-shaped planter.
These documentary images were taken, by the way, a couple of years after the Workman House and El Campo Santo Cemetery were jointly declared California Historic Landmark #874. That designation, made on 18 November 1974, was part of the planning process that led to the major renovation and restoration work undertaken by the City of Industry in the late 1970s and very early 1980s and culminated in our grand opening on 1 May 1981.
As we approach our fortieth anniversary, fewer than eight months from now, these images are among others that we’ll highlight on this blog as we approach that date. So, look for those in the runup to the museum’s birthday next May!