Claremont’s Foothill Corridor

Claremont’s stretch of Foothill Boulevard—about two miles that opened in 1931—was recaptured from Caltrans in 2012, and with it came $5.7 million for improvements. Foothill, or Route 66, has long been celebrated as a refuge for travelers.

In order to effectively spend the $5.7 million from Caltrans, the Claremont City Council approved $320,000 for a master plan to help develop plans for the city’s main drag and to create a community vision for the future of Foothill.

Link to PDF pages of our ‘DEAL With It’ shopping special section

In its 1994 guide, “Claremont: Profile of a City,” the League of Women Voters highlighted city services and benefits, including its commercial neighborhoods.

As the League reported, for many years, Foothill Boulevard offered only a few businesses, most of which were highway-oriented. that offered services to the traveling public like restaurants, service stations and the Griswold’s dried fruit shop.

But, as the League notes, one exception is Wolfe’s Market, which still operates today offering delicious deli fare and a full kitchen with grilled sandwiches made to order. The grocery store portion of Wolfe’s was closed last year—and townsfolk patiently await the arrival of The Meat Cellar—but locals can, thankfully, grab a container of their chicken salad or pick up a turkey on sourdough for a quick and healthy lunch.

The Griswold’s dried fruit shop moved to Foothill and Indian Hill to form the Griswold’s Old School House (remember GOSH?) after the Griswold family purchased the former Claremont High site from the school district in 1971. Something of an artist’s center back in the day, GOSH offered public glass-blowing demonstrations and ceramics classes on the weekend. On any given Sunday, Claremont families could be seen walking the wooden pedestrian bridge enjoying ice cream as they tossed pieces of the waffle cones to the ducks in the pond that once commanded the patio.

A more frivolous and fun fact—and just in time for Halloween—is the theory that the Old School House is haunted. According to hauntedplaces.org, the “disembodied voices of ghost children have been heard among the halls,” and people have reported a white mist in the building with doors flying open for no reason. Some witnesses have described a feeling that they were “being watched.”

Things may look different now, but the Old School House is still bustling. The Candlelight Pavilion offers dinner and show, and the complex owners have added a Trader Joe’s along with many diverse businesses like Moultrie Academy of Music, Voice and Dance, Hillside Fine Art, The Leahy Law Firm, Elvira’s Grill and perhaps the center’s longest tenant, Merlin’s Crystal Cave, a metaphysical bookstore that sells quality crystals and semi-precious jewelry.

Sandwiched between Wolfe’s and the Old School House is the former Griswold’s Stone Cellar at 222 W. Foothill Blvd. This building, according to Claremont Heritage, housed retired professor George Griswold’s original dried fruit and marmalade business before he set his sights on the Old School House.

This section on the south side of Foothill immediately east of Yale Avenue now offers a number interesting options like the bike shop The Velo, College Escrow, a hair salon called Revolution, Elizabeth’s Art Studio and Bourgee Boutique, which offers a selection of yarns for Claremont’s knitting enthusiasts.

One block east in the old Paint and Glass building is a cluster of shops offering home décor and collectibles. This row of shops is anchored by the Ivy House, an antique store that offers a wide variety of furniture including dining tables, chairs, original art, bookcases and upholstered furniture. On each side of the Ivy House, which has been at the location for almost 20 years, are Sundappled (clothing, jewelry), Sewciety (sewing classes) and Artistic Expressions (fun collectibles like toys and comic books).

The future picture of Foothill has not yet developed but planners propose expanding the sidewalks, adding bike lanes and increasing  street trees all along  Route 66 from Claremont Boulevard to Towne Avenue. This will certainly keep passersby happy and, hopefully, be a boost for our longtime business owners along the Foothill corridor.

—Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com

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