MY ADOBE HACIENDA NESTED IN THE WESTERN HILLS — HACIENDA HEIGHTS
This blog entry is about the community of Hacienda Heights, which rocketed to the top (becoming the most voted for neighborhood yet) following efforts by the City of Hacienda Heights on Facebook. Initially I was looking forward to meeting some locals to play tour guide but by the time I came they weren’t able. No worries, however, as I brought along Hacienda Heights native Brandi Shaver and recurring companion Will Fleming. To get in the mood I set the CARDIS‘s radio controls to KAZN, a Mandarin station broadcast out ofPasadena.
Hacienda Heights is a San Gabriel Valley city inthe located on the northern face of the Puente Hills and the floor of La Puente Valley. The highest point in the Heights is Workman Hill. Hacienda Heights is neighbored to the south by the SELACO communities of Whittier and La Habra Heights. To the west is North Whittier. North are Avocado Heights and the City of Industry. To the east is Rowland Heights which along with Hacienda Heights is sometimes referred to as The Heights.
Like its neighbor, Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights is primarily a residential neighborhood, with wealthier residents residing in the hills, and more modest homes and businesses in the flats of the north.
The CARDIS arrived in the morning and under cloudy skies and the group was greeted by the purplicious sight of copious jacaranda trees.
Prior to the Spanish Conquest, the Puente Valley (between the Puente Hills and South San Jose Hills to the north) was inhabited by the Tongva, who named the area “Awig-na,” meaning “abiding place.” The Spanish founded the nearby San Gabriel Mission in 1771 and the indigenous people were subjugated. Their land in what’s now Hacienda Heights was used for ranching and grazing to support the mission.
John Rowland William Workman Rancho La Puente
After Mexico gained independence in 1822, the missions were secularized and the former Spanish holdings were sold and granted to private parties. Two such parties were John Rowland and his partner William Workman. In November 1841 they arrived in a wagon train from Taos with a group of settlers from Missouriand New Mexico. In the early part of the followingyear, the two applied for a land grant from governor Juan B. Alvarado. For $1,000 and pleading to employ Tongva, they obtained the 49,000 acre Rancho La Puente. They used the land to for cattle ranching, wheat production and wine and brandy distillation. The two partners amicably split their holdings in 1852.
Rowland prospered as did Workman for a time. However, Workman lost almost everything following the 1875 failure of the poorly managed Temple-Workman Bank he’d founded with his son-in-law, Francis Pliny Fisk Temple. Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin issued a loan which allowed the bank to re-open but with conditions that were almost impossible to meet. The bank again failed in 1876 and a despondent Workman shot himself in the head at his home on May 17 of the same year.
After the competing Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads arrived in the area, Lucky Baldwin began subdividing his possession although La Puente Valley remained primarily agricultural until the 20th century. Four years after Baldwin’s death, his daughter Anita Baldwin sold 1,826 acres to developers Edwin Hart and Jed Torrance who established the community of North Whittier Heights.
Cattle and sheep ranching largely gave way to avocado, citrus and walnut groves and North Whittier Heights became well-known for its walnuts. The North Whittier Heights Citrus Association and opened a packing plant near Ninth and Clark avenues and the small community that grew up in the area became known as Hillgrove.
La Puente Valley in 1935 Hacienda Heights in 1965
As with so much of Southern California, North Whittier heights grew into a large suburb of LA after World War II, with massive scale housing especially occurring in 1957. In 1961, the residents of North Whittier Heights successfully petitioned to change their town’s name to Hacienda Heights (which, if you think about it, is kind of a silly name, no?) A master development plan was drawn up and over the next two decades the community saw a lot of housing construction. Several times citizens attempted to incorporate but, being primarily a bedroom community, its usually felt that the proposed city’s sales tax base is too small to support a city.
For most of 20th Century, Hacienda Heights was primarily home to Anglo Angelenos. In the 1980s, Latinos, many from the Eastside and Midtown, began moving to the hilly suburb. By 1990, the Latino population was dominant and, up till the early 1990s, Hacienda Heights was regularly referred to as “The Chicano Beverly Hills.”
In the 1990s and the decades since the area has seen another dramatic demographic shift with the arrival of many Taiwanese-Americans. Although there were Asian-Americans in the San Gabriel Valley for decades, real growth began in the 1970s, after realtor Frederic Hsieh began promoting Monterey Park as the “Chinese Beverly Hills” in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In the years that followed, many Chinese businesspeople and their families moved to the area. By the mid-1980s, people were commonly referring to Monterey Park as Little Taipei. Even as more and more Chinesemainlanders and Hoa arrived Cantonese became the dominant language as many wealthy and by-then-established Taiwanese-American families began to relocate to classy communities like Arcadia and San Marino, nearby communities like Temple City, and less-developed communities like Walnut, Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights, communities whose rolling hills practically begged to be covered by big, new-money/no-class McMansions.
Nowadays the community is mostly Latino and Asian-American – 46% Latino (mostly Mexican) of any race, 37% Asian (mostly Taiwanese and Chinese) and 5% non-Latino white.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing,Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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