Claremont’s history the perfect backdrop for a walk outside
By John Neiuber
With social distancing and stay at home orders in effect because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, I have observed the world passing by from my study that looks out on Indian Hill Boulevard.
Because so many people are out walking, I thought it would be good to publish a Claremont Heritage walking tour, replete with some historical information to help pass the time. As we look to the future and getting back to our way of life, it is only fitting that we appreciate the past.
This tour is an expansion of a column published in 2016 and adapted from a Claremont Heritage tour. For other information and tours, please visit: www.claremontheritage.org.
Begin your tour on First Street and Harvard Avenue.
THE CLAREMONT DEPOT, 1927
110 WEST FIRST STREET
This stunning example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, with its thick stucco walls, wood grille windows, red tile roof, and Moorish arches, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands along the railroad tracks where Claremont began in 1887, as a town site on the Santa Fe Railroad route into California. This 1927 structure replaced the original 1887 wooden Victorian station. In 1967, the Santa Fe Railroad closed the Depot and it remained vacant until 1990, when the city of Claremont purchased the building and restored it to its 1920s splendor, to serve as a transit center for Metrolink commuter trains and a regional bus system. It now serves as the home to the Claremont Museum of Art.
From the Depot, head north on Harvard Avenue to Second Street.
THE POST OFFICE, 1936
118 HARVARD AVENUE
The post office was a Works Progress Administration project built during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Its well-balanced façade and elevated placement help define this corner as part of the city’s civic center. Claremont artist Milford Zornes painted the mural in the lobby that depicts Claremont scenes of the 1930s.
Proceed to the northwest corner of Harvard and Second Street.
CLAREMONT CITY HALL, 1925
207 HARVARD AVENUE
Begun in 1925 (with additions and remodeling in 1930, 1935, 1948, and 1998), as a fire and police station, it was expanded to include city hall. The current city council chamber on Second Street occupies what used to be the 1925 fire station. Look at the tall arched openings and bumpers and picture the fire engines with the volunteer firemen speeding out of the fire station. As with the Depot and post office, the architecture is Spanish Colonial Revival, which was popular in the 1920s. Head north on Harvard to Bonita.
HARVARD SQUARE, 1939
SOUTHWEST CORNER OF HARVARD and BONITA AVENUES
This building is an example of successful, adaptive reuse in the Village. The tall two-story brick structure once housed Claremont’s only movie theatre and shops. It was designed by Sumner Spaulding, a prominent Los Angeles architect, renowned for projects such as the Los Angeles Civic Center, silent-film legend Harold Lloyd’s estate, Green Acres, the Avalon Theatre on Santa Catalina Island and much of the north campus of Pomona College. Imaginative reuse of the large theater space produced shops on the ground floor and on a mezzanine. The former lobby is now home to Bardot restaurant. Proceed west on Bonita and turn south on Yale Avenue.
RHINO RECORDS, 1938
235 YALE AVENUE
Known to many longtime residents as Bentley’s Market, this site was a grocery store until the 1980s, and was operated by three generations of the Bentley family. Notice the rounded corner and the simple band
of concrete encircling the entire building. These are all hallmarks of the Streamline Moderne architectural style of the 1930s.
VERBAL BUILDING, 1912
NORTHEAST CORNER OF YALE
AVENUE & SECOND STREET
This Classical Revival building is one of the finest commercial buildings in the Village. Built first to house the Claremont National Bank, it served as the Bank of America for years. The first floor became Claremont Pharmacy and the second floor served as the Masonic Lodge. The Verbal family restored the building to house Pizza ‘N Such and Claremont Fine Arts, which features California artists. Head across Second Street to the Village Grille.
THE VILLAGE GRILLE, 1924
148 YALE AVENUE
Built originally as the Anson Thomas Ford-Lincoln Automobile Agency, the building now houses a ‘50s-style diner. Under the awning on the Yale Avenue window is the arch that once defined the entrance and where automobiles were moved in and out of the showroom. Cross to the west side of Yale and head south.
SOME CRUST BAKERY, 1889
119 YALE AVENUE
This building is on the site of Claremont’s first general store, Urbanus. John Urbanus, the owner, was also the first postmaster, and the first telephone in Claremont was installed there in the early 1890s. There has been a bakery at this location for nearly 100 years.
Proceed south to First Street, turn right across Indian Hill and proceed south to the Vortox Building below the railroad tracks.
THE VORTOX BUILDING,
121 S INDIAN HILL BOULEVARD
The Vortox Air Technoloy building was constructed in 1928. After achieving success with the Garner House, architect Arthur Munson was commissioned by the Garners to design the Vortox Building as well. The Spanish Revival building was one of the first that travelers encountered when arriving in Claremont and is an outstanding example of a commercial building from the city’s early history. Head back north to First Street and turn left to The Packing House.
THE COLLEGE HEIGHTS
PACKING HOUSE, 1916-1945
520 FIRST STREET
This wooden structure was the lemon packing house for the College Heights Orange and Lemon Association. It is the only one that remains of four packing houses that once lined the Santa Fe tracks in Claremont. It was here that citrus fruit, which was the economic lifeline of this community, was washed, graded, stored, and shipped all over the US, Europe, and eventually to Japan. Claremont growers were among the first to organize a cooperative method for marketing their fruit. Their system, which was adopted statewide, became known throughout the world as “Sunkist.” The adaptive reuse of this packing house includes live-work lofts, shops, restaurants, galleries, and activity centers.
The tour continues next week.