From the files of Claremont Heritage: Preservation Month – People Saving Places

by John Neiuber

I’m a gawker. A gawker of buildings that is. When I visit a city I may like a certain place, a hotel, restaurant or a museum but I am the more interested and taken if the building is a striking piece of architecture. I like to gawk at the Carnegie Library on the Pomona College Campus. It was designed by Franklin Pierce Burnham, who designed 12 Carnegie Libraries, nine of them on his own and only three of which are still standing, and two of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Claremont is not. The other two are in Colton and Oxnard.

No matter how many times I see the Carnegie Library or others in town such as the Depot, the Darling/Wright House, the Garner House, the Horizon House (Claraboya), the Scripps College campus or even approaching my home, I gawk. I am taken by the architecture, the history, the stories of those places. For my own house, I am reminded of the words of Mark Twain about his family’s home:

“To us our house was not unsentient matter–it had a heart and a soul and eyes to see us with, and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome–and we could not enter it unmoved.”

May is Preservation Month. People involved in saving places expend their time, energy, and resources into protecting places they care about, often without recognition. So, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has designated this year’s Preservation Month theme as “People Saving Places.” It is their way of recognizing all of those doing the great work of saving places and inspiring others to do the same.

The California Office of Historic Preservation is inviting California communities and preservation enthusiasts to make the month of May an opportunity to discover or re-discover, honor, and share the unique heritage of their local region. This can be done by visiting a historic site, attending a cultural event, nominating a historically significant property to the National Register of Historic Places and more. Historic preservation is not only about preserving buildings and sites, but also the stories and traditions connected to those places. Preservation is about telling the full story of who we are.

In Claremont, we are fortunate to have three resources readily available that tell the story of who we are. Longtime resident, author, columnist, preservationist and civic leader, Judy Wright (1939-2012) gave us two volumes that chronicle the story of Claremont. Claremont: A Pictorial History, first published in 1980 and revised and expanded in 1999, chronicles the history of Claremont into the 1990s.

Carnegie Library. Pomona College, 1908


Wright’s second book, Claremont Women 1887-1950, They Created a Culture, was published in 2007. The book, 20 years in the making, creates awareness of the vital role women played in the establishment and development of the city. Judy often said, “The men built the college(s) and the women built the town.” Unlike many other cities, women in public life in Claremont did not emerge in the latter part of the 20th century. There have been active, effective women leaders in the city since its establishment.

Images of America: Claremont, Arcadia Publishing, published in 2014, was written by Claremont Heritage staff, Eva Landsberg and Sean Stanley and is another pictorial history of the city. It is notable in that it has a section on the art and architecture of Claremont and discusses the art movement that took place at mid-century in Claremont.

These books help to tell the full story of who we are as a community. Most communities have at least one book that addresses the history of the respective city. Not many have three and not many chronicle the contributions of women and the cultural aspects. Most discuss the political, growth and development history of the respective city.

Horizon Home. Claraboya, 1964


Judy Wright wrote the history column for the Courier until her death in 2012, when longtime Claremont Heritage Executive Director Ginger Elliott and I took over the duties. We shared those duties for two years when Ginger stepped back, and I took over full time in 2014. Ginger Elliott was one of the founders of Claremont Heritage and served as executive director for 25 years. Even after her departure, she still gave of her time by representing the organization on the Citywide Design Guidelines and Historic Preservation Committee for the past three years, along with Mary Stoddard, longtime resident, preservationist and founding member of Claremont Heritage.

For me, these three women have been inspirational and their lives and dedication to preservation are part of telling the full Claremont story. All three, along with many others, including elected officials and city staff, have been instrumental in advocating for and saving places in Claremont. We have the Depot, the Packing House, and Padua Theatre because of their combined efforts.

Santa Fe Depot. City of Claremont, 1927


Here is how you can participate in Preservation Month:

• Spread the word about Preservation Month in the community.
• Become a member of and donor to Claremont Heritage.
• Follow Claremont Heritage on Instagram and Facebook.
• Visit the Garner House in Memorial Park and shop in the Gift Gallery for unique Claremont-centered merchandise and the three books mentioned above.
• Attend the annual home tour and walking tours of the Village and Colleges
• Visit our website at
• Contribute to “Our House,” the campaign to restore the Garner House. Phase two of the campaign, “We’re Movin’ On Up!”, to restore the second floor is now underway.
• Attend the Annual Awards Gala, “Welcome Home” on June 4, where the Bess Garner

Preservation award will honor Wheeler & Wheeler Architects and the Cultural Heritage Award will honor the Claremont Chamber of Commerce.

Claremont Heritage invites you help tell the full story, to become one of the People Saving Places.


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