Time Capsule Tuesday: The City of Industry’s Acquisition of the Homestead, 1963

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Much of the content of posts in the last year commemorating the 60th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Industry has focused on reports and documents outlining the early history and planning of the city, especially after 1963 when the seven-year old city intensively moved into long-term planning.

A study by the Stanford Research Institute, published in 1964 and including projections of the city’s development and growth through the end of the decade, was a key document.  Seven years later, in summer 1971, the city issued its General Plan, drafted by the planning firm Gruen Associates, and which was heavily influenced by the Stanford study.

From there, implementation of key General Plan elements began, such as the development of the Industry Hills project, the remaking of the Civic-Financial Center, major transportation improvements, the creation of the Puente Hills Mall and regional shopping area, and more.  These components took a master planning approach that represented a significant shift in the development of industrial areas in the region.

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One element of this movement towards a more comprehensive planning process was the creation of the “City of Industry Historic-Cultural Landmarks,” comprising the Workman Homestead including the Workman House, La Casa Nueva and El Campo Santo Cemetery.  The historical value of the property was recognized early on by city leaders and, while the Homestead had been operated as El Encanto Sanitarium since 1940, the City decided to acquire some of the property as the facility’s owners, the Brown family, were readying to build a new compound on the Homestead because of changing conditions in their industry.

On 19 December 1963, an agreement was enacted between the Browns (Lois Heaton Brown and her three sons, Kenneth, Gene and Robert) and the City, noting that because Industry

has heretofore acquired, through eminent domain proceedings, title to certain real property and improvements thereon, previously owned and occupied by [the] Browns, for public park, public buildings and grounds purposes, including the Workman Homestead Building and the Rancho La Puente Private Cemetery and Walter P. Temple Memorial Mausoleum . . .

it was decided to forge the agreement “setting forth certain understanding relating to occupation and use by each of the parties” for the property.  Consequently, it was decided that, for five years, the Browns would allow the City to use water and electricity for the Workman House “for public purposes,” stating that the 19th century home was then used as “the existing sanitarium administration building.”

Additionally, the Browns agreed to “provide City with the services of such competent personnel . . . as may reasonably be necessary to conduct tours by the public or organized groups” of the home “and surrounding public grounds.”  These tours would be arranged by the Browns and be at no cost to the City.

It was further stipulated that the Browns “will provide, without cost, expense, or charge to City, the services of such competent personnel . . . as are reasonably necessary to inspect physically and safeguard the said Workman Homestead Building during such hours as said building is not open to the public . . .”

Notably, there was a significant condition attached to El Campo Santo Cemetery, in that

Until each of the Browns shall be deceased, [the] Browns shall have the right and privilege to bury or locate such deceased members of the Browns’ immediate family as [the] Browns may designate in the existing cemetery and/or mausoleum area of the property acquired by City, as above described, not to exceed a total of four such deceased persons in number.

Although the idea of creating a historic site museum was years away, the City made these initial steps to provide public access to the Workman House, as well as safeguard the Brown family’s interest in using El Campo Santo, in recognition of the historical importance of the Homestead for limited public access just six years after incorporation.

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By the end of the 1960s, the Browns completed the new El Encanto facility directly north of the Workman House and La Casa Nueva.  The latter home, however, was not sold to the City of Industry until the end of 1975, though the City began devising potential uses of the Homestead through its General Plan process several years earlier through the work of Gruen Associates.

Next week’s final post in the Time Capsule Tuesday series for the City’s 60th anniversary will touch upon the early planning for what to do with the Homestead, so be sure to check back for that.

One thought on “Time Capsule Tuesday: The City of Industry’s Acquisition of the Homestead, 1963

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  1. Hummmm public tours. . . ? Who might have been on one of these very early tours?

    Local history is/was generally taught around the fourth grade. Between 1966 and 1968 I somehow remember my older brother going on a tour of an ‘old house and cemetery’ that was located to the west of Hacienda blvd near Valley. Even at a young age it sounded like a neat field trip and I had hoped that when I got to the the 4th grade I too would be taken to visit the old house and cemetery (especially the cemetery! To a kid they are always exciting)

    Sadly however I never got to visit the homestead until 1982 after it was restored and open to the public.
    I do remember going to the Rowland house on Gale avenue around the fourth grade. The rumor of an old cemetery just off of Hacienda near Valley intrigued me and I sometimes thought of walking (west) across the open field from Hacienda blvd to try to find it. Without Don Julian road, access was not easy and I could not see anything from the Hacienda bridge over the creek, but I did look every time my parents drove over it.

    The idea of seeing it, was both frightening and exciting to a 10 year old boy. Especially around Halloween. I guess my better sense prevented me from trying to explore what was also called an abandoned house and maybe it is best that I did not, but today as an adult and having so enjoyed the restored homestead, I really wish I had experienced it in its un-restored state, through the eyes of a child.

    I wonder today did that Workman house school tour actually happen as I remembered it?
    Were local school children ever taken to this local historical landmark long before the restoration? Have other local residents ever shared childhood stories of pre-restoration school tours?

    Also of note is that the business address of the Browns was 456 Turnbull Canyon road. The site of an Edison substation today. Without Don Julian road going through, perhaps El Encanto did not receive their mail at the Workman building? What was located on Turnbull back then? Was it just a mailbox? or something more?

    Another memory invoking blog of growing up in the area. Thanks for sharing.

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