Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Actually, this detail of a map published in 1924 and showing oil wells in a broad section of portions of Los Anglees and Orange counties has material dating back about twenty years.
That is known from this detail because at the upper center is a parcel with the name “L.F. Lewis” on it. This is the 75-acre Workman Homestead where our museum is now located. Lafayette F. Lewis, an Anaheim resident, owned the ranch from 1903-1907. What happened, as is often the case with maps, is that information was added over time.
Take, for example, the subdivided tracts to the lower left of the Homestead. At the time Lewis owned the Homestead, these areas were the property of Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, the aging multi-millionaire who took possession of these areas in 1879 after foreclosing on a loan he made to the failed bank of Temple and Workman.
Baldwin died in 1909 and his nephew and executor, Hiram A. Unruh, adeptly and efficiently maximized benefit to the estate by selling large portions of William Workman’s part of Rancho La Puente to which Baldwin succeeded. Not long after Baldwin’s estate was settled and during a period of growth in the regional real estate market, the tracts (1953, 2421, 2472, etc.) were subdivided and sold. Much of this was sold by Edwin Hart, developer of La Habra Heights and other locations in the region.
The general area was known as North Whittier Heights as an attempt to make the property more marketable and valuable as a promoted appendage to the growing Quaker-founded town to the south. Oil development was also expanding in the Whittier area, which probably fueled (!) some of the interest in buyers to the Heights. Absent of oil, as it turned out, the tract became known for its orange and lemon orchards and avocado groves.
Note the big difference between Tract 2421 and its neighbors. The topography of steep slopes and deep canyons provided the rationale for the winding streets and uneven boundaries of lots. The windy road wending its way from the lower left, where Whittier is, out towards the Heights is Turnbull Canyon Road, which was pushed to completion in 1915 as a way to connect the inland regions with the coast.
Tracts 2472 and 1953, meanwhile, were generally flatter and more amenable to straight streets and lot lines. 2472 takes in the southern reaches of Hacienda Heights above today’s Colima Road and the straight line coming from the lower center is today’s Hacienda Boulevard, though it did not go through towards the Homestead as it does now.
Tract 1953 is the Hillgrove subdivision with the straight west to east streets including Clark Avenue, named for William Andrews Clark, a Montana mining magnate (say that ten times fast) and founder of the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, completed in 1901 and the railroad line of which (today’s Union Pacific line) runs from the top left to the right center, just below the Southern Pacific line, which cut through the area nearly three decades prior. Clark Avenue is parallel just along the track to the south.
The street below that became Gale Avenue, named for one of the principals of the Purcell and Gale real estate firm that sold the lots for Hillgrove. Gale Avenue later was extended eastward along the route slightly off-kilter with the road in the tract and which bordered the properties of Victoria Hudson, Belle Hume and Mary Forman.
The road running south to north to the right of center and along the Hudson, Hume and Cross properties became Stimson Avenue which extended directly into the town of Puente, though Stimson now is cut off at the Southern Pacific track.
As to some of those names on the parcels: Victoria Hudson was a daughter of John Rowland, original owner of Rancho La Puente with Workman, and his second wife, Charlotte. Mary Forman was the daughter of Charlotte and her first husband, John, who was killed while the Gray family was on its way west in 1851 to help found what became the town of El Monte.
Josephine Cross and Charles W. Rowland were the children of Victoria Hudson’s brother, Albert, one of the founders of Puente in 1885 with A.E. Pomeroy and Charles Stimson (who, incidentally, also founded the central California seaside resort town of Pismo Beach.) Cross’s husband, George, was a realtor, merchant and otherwise prominent citizen of Puente for many years. The Crosses owned two parcels at the center right just below the Southern Pacific line and Josephine had land at the upper right above the Puente townsite. Her brother, Charles, also had land at the very upper right of the image.
At the lower right is part of the substantial holdings of William R. Rowland, son of John Rowland and his first wife, Encarnación Martinez. Born at the end of the Mexican era of California in 1846, William assisted his father in managing the Rowland portion of La Puente rancho, served as Los Angeles County sheriff in the first part of the 1870s and was known for managing the capture of famed bandit Tiburcio Vasquez in 1875, served another term as sheriff in the 1880s, and formed the Puente Oil Company with gushers on part of his inherited land high in the Puente Hills. Rowland died in 1926.
The “J. Ferriero” owning parcels below and to the right of Puente was actually Joseph Ferrero, an Italian immigrant of the 1880s, and who worked on ranches near Los Angeles before buying a place in Whittier in 1898. Shortly afterward, about 1903, he bought his land near Puente and became one of the community’s best-known farmers.
Adjacent to Ferrero is a small plot labeled “Didier” and this was the dairy of French-born Louis Didier. A migrant of 1884, Didier eventually owned 1200 acres in the Puente area with his dairy starting in 1906. Today, Alta Dena runs their dairy facility on the same property and Didier’s beautiful 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival home stood there until not long ago. He also raised walnuts and oranges, was a founder of the Puente National Bank, and a partner in the Puente Rancho Packing Company, formed in 1911, and which used the Homestead as a slaughterhouse for livestock and a canning facility for fruits and vegetables for a few years.
One more name worth pointing out is at the far upper left, west of the Hillgrove tract in the hills where the Puente Hills Landfill now is. J.M. Danziger was an attorney and oilman who married Daisy Canfield, the daughter of the founder, with Edward Doheny, of the famed Los Angeles oil field in the early 1890s. Canfield had extensive oil holdings in the San Joaquin Valley as well as in greater Los Angeles.
Daisy Danziger (how’s that for alliteration), however, left her husband for the famed heartthrob film star, Antonio Moreno, best known for his role opposite Clara Bow in the 1927 film It. The couple used her father’s vast fortune (Canfield died in 1913, seven years after his wife was killed by a former family employee in a sensational incident in Los Angeles) to build a large mansion in the Silver Lake community of Los Angeles. After she and Moreno separated, however, in 1933, Daisy was killed when a friend driving her car on a high-speed thrill ride on Mulholland Drive went off the road and the vehicle plummeted 300 feet killing the pair.
This map was made to show oil wells in the area, but the names of property holders and the laying out of subdivisions, among other details, provide more information to feed the narrative of the development of the La Puente/Hacienda Heights area in the first few decades of the 20th century.