07 July 2008

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #1

This is the first in what I hope will be a regular series of posts of historical images and artifacts relating to Carbon Canyon. It's almost impossible to visualize this site now with its mowed down chain link fence, dense patches of weeds, overgrown trees and bushes and Carbon [a.k.a. Carbon Canyon] Creek choked with arundo, but here is a really cool view, perhaps from the 1950s or 1960s, of La Vida Mineral Springs.

In the foreground is Carbon Canyon Road with a wood fence and a small asphalt sidewalk. At the left is what is described on the reverse as an "Old wooden bridge" as a "familiar landmark." The one-story white building may have been the restaurant (corrections will be much appreciated) and the two-story structure behind it is part of the hotel. Beyond the hotel was the mineral springs pool.

Note how well maintained the site looks and you can readily see why it was a popular place for many years. From a timeline at: http://www.ocalmanac.com/History/hi01f.htm we learn the the resort was opened by William Newton Miller and an unnamed son-in-law in 1924. Esther Cramer, however, in her 1992 history of Brea, states (p. 134 with footnotes referencing the old Brea Star newspaper) that the facility was there in 1921. She goes on to state that the mineral springs in a more natural state were patronized as a favored picnic spot by residents of the oiltown of Olinda (the site is now Carbon Canyon Regional Park--see the links). I would sugges that those springs were probably patronized as far back as human beings lived and traveled in the canyon and that the native Indians of the area undoubtedly took advantage of the springs. Cramer also mentioned that "speakeasies" serving illicit alcohol during Prohibition (a ban on most alchohol production and possession via a constitutional amendment enacted in 1920 and repealed in 1933). Moreover, she relates that the narrow dirt road that was Carbon Canyon Road was given a stronger surface in 1920 and then paved after 1921 because of the patronage at La Vida.

There was another business (perfectly legal!) conducted at La Vida, but I'll save that for another time. As the region urbanized and Carbon Canyon was no longer as remote from Los Angeles as it used to be, the use of La Vida declined (as did the use, for example, of Sleepy Hollow as a weekend cabin get-away). By the 1990s, the decrepit motel was gone and everything either torn down or left to be swallowed by the weeds and other plant life, except for the restaurant. This rustic old building hosted punk rock and blues concerts and became a favorite hangout for bikers enjoying the then-wide open rides on Carbon Canyon Road. Earlier this decade, though, after the owner's death, the restaurant/bar closed and was razed. Banners have advertised the property for sale, but there is apparently little if nothing going on at the site.

Wouldn't it be a good idea to place a historic marker at the site someday, so people would know about his early Brea landmark? Just don't make it brass, because it wouldn't last a day without being poached!

Note: this postcard comes from the Carbon Canyon Collection, item 2008.1.1.1, and was published ca. 1950s or 1960s by Amescolor Publishers of Escondido, California. The image was scanned at 150dpi and is not watermarked, so I'm going by the honor system here if it is good enough quality or interest for someone to "steal"!

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