The Historical Society of La Verne, also known as the La Verne Historical Society, was founded in 1969 and incorporated in 1973. The Society's goals are “to encourage and promote the history and culture of La Verne and surrounding environs; to collect, classify, and disseminate historical information, data, and facts; (and) to locate, mark, and preserve historical places and structures worthy of recognition and perpetuation.” From 1984, a group of dedicated volunteers produced a newsletter for the LVHS, carried out a program to mark historical residences with bronze plaques, and assisted La Verne’s elementary teachers in a “Hands-On History” program.
This year the group has expanded activities, collaborated with the San Dimas Historical Society, gained visibility through active “Get on the Bus” and home tours, and participated in the La Verne Fourth of July parade.
The Society’s new motto is “Preserving Old La Verne’s Environment: Making History for the Future.” Started as an organization to preserve fast-vanishing aspects of La Verne’s ‘orange grove’ days, the La Verne Historical Society continues to build our community through educational programs, tours, and lectures. Type your paragraph here.
A Brief History of the La Verne Historical Society
The City of La Verne was founded in 1887 as Lordsburg, after its founder, promoter I.W. Lord. It was incorporated in 1906, and in 1917 the name was changed to La Verne. The fruit from hundreds of acres of orange trees led to La Verne's designation as the “Heart of the Orange Empire,” but a citrus disease and new housing development after World War II saw groves being bulldozed for tract homes. In 1969 the City Council became concerned about the loss of history and appointed a Cultural Heritage Commission to seek a solution. The chair, Rose Palomares, born in Lordsburg in 1894, was one of the daughters of early settler Jose Dolores Palomares. A teacher, she had a keen sense of history and well-remembered the dusty little streets of her childhood.
The Commission recommended that La Verne start a historical society, so an “Old-Timers Picnic” was held in Kuns Park. More than a hundred persons came. They dined, talked of the old days, and elected officers and a board to form a historical society. The group has met regularly for more than fifty years.
For the first few years, the meetings were quite formal, held in public halls, and opened with a flag salute and invocation. Lecturers spoke. The Society began to accumulate old photographs and historical records, books, yearbooks, and all sorts of artifacts from the orange grove days. An old house was donated for a museum, but the low-budget group had no funds to move it - just income from dues and donations. The house was unfortunately bulldozed.
Smarting from this loss, the Society, under President Inman Conety set up a collection center for old newspapers and glass. Conety trucked the paper and glass to recycling centers in his 1938 International truck. The funds raised by recycling were used to publish a history: La Verne - the Story of the People Who Made a Difference. City Historian Evelyn Hollinger, a newspaper reporter and city welcome lady, wrote the book after interviewing old-time residents and reading hundreds of old news articles in the Pomona Progress-Bulletin and the La Verne Leader. The book was printed as an exercise at a Los Angeles trade school. Members of the Society filed around tables and assembled the sections for binding. Copies of the history were placed in schools and libraries. Book sales brought in funds for projects, one being microfilming of the La Verne Leader. The book is now out of print.
Two Groups Became Closely Affiliated with the Historical Society
A group known as SOLVE – “Save Old La Verne’s Environment” – was formed early in the 1970s. Planning Commission member Robert Hoover encouraged a small group of young couples to get involved in trying to enhance the old part of town. Most were restoring older homes on tree-lined Third Street. The group became politically active when they found that city planners had rezoned the area from R-1 to R-4. This meant that old homes could be divided into apartments or razed for modern structures.
SOLVE members met in each other’s homes for planning sessions and attended meetings of the City Council, Planning Commission, and Commission on Environmental Quality. They raised funds by holding nine annual “Olde Home Tours” of fine old houses and pressed for preservation and beautification of the city. They were successful in getting the zoning changed, having a historic element added to the city’s master plan, and doing a survey of all the historic homes in La Verne. Finally, a hillside ordinance has preserved foothills and mountainsides.
A second group, the La Verne Heritage Foundation, was formed in 1984 by City Councilman Craig Walters. He closely identified with the citrus industry of the past and pressed to save a small part of the vanishing ‘orange empire’. Walters and others worked to establish a park and preserve an adjoining orange grove in a small draw just below an old mansion. The developer building tract homes in the area arranged to have a derelict 1883 farmhouse (the Weber House) moved to a site in the orange grove. It took several years but volunteers rebuilt and restored the house to its original condition. Rusting old vehicles and farm equipment were rescued, a windmill donated by the Historical Society was re-erected, and two old barns and other buildings were moved to the property.
SOLVE and the Heritage Foundation functioned as almost independent arms of the non-profit Historical Society for several years. They met separately and had their own programs. The Heritage Foundation eventually chose to secure its own non-profit status. The group’s volunteers in cooperation with the City, maintain the orange grove and eastern section of the popular Heritage Park on Via de Mansion. The 1883 Weber house contains antique furniture and household items.
The Historical Society experienced an organizational crisis in 1991. Most of the original members had passed away, leaving a good treasury but few members. SOLVE, on the other hand, had well-attended meetings, but few funds. The decision was made to merge the two groups and call the resulting organization “The Historical Society of La Verne / Save Old La Verne’s Environment,” also known as HS/SOLVE. Now we use the official name, La Verne Historical Society, with the motto: Preserving Old La Verne's Environment: Making History for the Future." The Society is currently active with a full program of monthly events and regular member meetings.
The group assisted in forming the “Hands-On History” program of the Bonita Unified School District. Each spring, hundreds of fourth-graders experienced a “Gold Rush” day in San Dimas Canyon that included panning for ‘gold’ and visited adobes to learn of Spanish Days in California. On Hands-on History bus tours, students were taken around La Verne and to La Casa Primera in Pomona. The students heard of the orange packing houses, the homes and careers of eminent citizens, businesses, the origin of our parks, and locations where buildings - such as the Lordsburg Hotel - once stood. A high point of each tour was a stop at Heritage Park. Here students toured the Weber House, learned how to wash clothes on a washboard, admired a century-old windmill and old farm equipment, and got to pick an orange. This program is no longer part of the curriculum.
Currently, third grade students in the Bonita Unified School District are exposed to The Story of La Verne through a series of videos that were created by members of the Hillcrest Retirement Community in collaboration with the Historical Society, faculty of the University of La Verne, and school district participants. A highlight of the videos was narrative recollections by Hillcrest and other community "culture bearers" who told stories from their childhoods in La Verne.
A historical marker program began in the year 2000. The Historical Society has joined with homeowners and the city to place bronze plaques at more than thirty residences. (A listing of these is available on the La Verne Historical Society website for self-guided tours). Our Society also works with La Verne city staff members to assist homeowners who seek recognition for state-level historical status for their homes.
Some of the highlights of Society membership includes six annual newsletters, titled Legacy Links. In addition to feature articles of historical interest, the newsletters recognize new and life members, trace the progress of the Society's International truck restoration, and report on current events of potential historical interest. The Society displays its artifacts in display cases at La Verne city venues and plans to expand to elementary school libraries. Lecture series explore the history of cities along the citrus belt.
La Verne is a nice place to live. When Rose Palomares passed away at the age of 103 at the house she was born in, she was proud of her part in preserving our history. Likewise, members of the La Verne Historical Society are proud of what has been done to save our history and preserve our environment.
To order this book, contact Sherry Best at 909-596-4679 or firstname.lastname@example.org and be prepared to learn about the many people and institutions that grew to become the city of La Verne!
In addition to our book, you can make a donation for t-shirts or homemade jelly, jam, or marmalade. Contact Sherry Best to learn more.
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