29 June 2011

Olinda Oil Field History: The Origins of Olinda, Part 1

Back in the earliest days of this blog, a reference was made to the beginnings of the Olinda oil field (see here) regarding its founding by a W. H. Bailey in 1891. This post offers a correction and a good deal more (interesting?) information about the origins of the community.

Early in 1888, when the Los Angeles region was deep in the throes of a massive land boom known as the "Boom of the Eighties" and real estate speculation was in a frenzy, an advertisement appeared in the Los Angeles Times that was typical in its florid, overheated language praising "The Olinda Ranch" and its "fertile farms" and "beautiful villa sites."

The notice went on to claim that "this land is some of the most fertile in the Santa Ana Valley," which was a little strange because Santa Ana is a good deal south, although the reference could have been to the old Rancho Cajon de Santa Ana, which was historically near the tract. Moreover, it claimed that the property was "highly improved and now producing a great variety of fine fruits, grains, alfalfa, etc."

By improvements, this presumably meant the most important of all, a reliable water supply and the piece went on to claim that there was an "ample supply of water for irrigation and domestic use." Yet, it went on to note that "Hotel and Water Works in course of construction [italics added.]"

In addition, there was mention of "a $50,000 plant to develop the immense deposits of Asphaltum and Oil on the north line of this ranch," a direct reference to the fact that asphaltum was so common in the area that the name of a ranch, "Cañon de la Brea," embracing Brea Canyon, was a reference to the tar that residents in the area during the Spanish and Mexican eras used to coat their house roofs (the tar pits on Rancho La Brea, now part of the La Brea Tar Pits at the George Page Museum, were the source for Los Angeles residences.) It also followed by three years the discovery of oil nearby in what is now Rowland Heights on the north side of the Puente Hills within the portion of Rancho La Puente owned by former sheriff William R. Rowland.

Moreover, the ad stated that "the Anaheim, Olinda & Pomona R.R., now building, gives direct communication with Los Angeles and the sea." This project was evidently projected to go through Brea Canyon to connect the established towns of Anaheim and Pomona.

An advertisement filled with hyperbole and rampant over-enthusiastic observations
about the newly-subdivided Olinda Ranch, Los Angeles Times, 24 January 1888.

The parcel was said to contain a "fine view of sea and mountains and the neighboring towns of Santa Ana, Anaheim, Orange and Long Beach [the latter was hardly neighboring, though]."

Most importantly, however, was the fact that "the finest portion of this ranch" was "surrounding the Rousing Town of Carlton." This townsite, "situated in the midst of the ranch" was said to be "rapidly taking its place as an important town, and is preparing for electric lights, newspaper, bank and business buildings." Not only that, but its unnamed "principal boulevard is to be paved throughout with asphaltum, making a handsome drive through the town and ranch."

Carlton was located at what is now the area east of Rose Drive and north of Imperial Highway. Even today, 123 years later, some of its streets survive, including the east-west thoroughfares of Wabash Avenue, Chestnut Street, Chicago Avenue, Walnut Street, Brooklyn Avenue, Pacific Avenue (though east of Valley View or the old First Street and, therefore, outside the actual Carlton boundary), and Los Angeles Street (while Orange Street is now Marda Avenue and Richfield Avenue is today's Bastanchury Road.) Of the numbered north-south lanes, First is now Valley View Avenue, Fifth is now Prospect, Seventh is today's Rose Drive and Eighth and Ninth seem lost to history. But Second through Fourth and a sliver of Sixth streets are all still around. At the southeast end of the old townsite, there is even a small little lane called Carlton Place. Most of the site is now situated within the City of Yorba Linda, although some of the western portion is in Placentia, where pieces of Brooklyn and Chicago avenues extend west of Rose Drive and flank Golden Avenue, which might be the western extension of Walnut Street.

To top off the hyperboles, the ad claimed that "three-fourths ofthe town of Carlton was sold in 30 days, and prices have advanced 400 per cent. This acreage will rise in the same proportion, though its opening prices were promoted at a mere "$100 per acre upward" in lots of one to twenty acres.

The piece concluded by offering daily excursions to "fertile Olinda" with trains leaving at 9:30 a.m. and returning at 3:15 p.m. (presumably offering a free lunch in the bargain.) Interested parties were requested to inquire at the Los Angeles office of the company with its agents, Maurice Clark and George W. Parsons.

For a time, this ad and slight variations of it appeared in the Times, but the problem was that the real estate boom was filled with myriad other examples of Olindas and Carltons and the speculation was so rampant that the inevitable bust came by the end of the year.

Still, despite the failure of the real estate market and the collapse of Carlton and the Olinda Ranch subdivision, its owner, W.H. Bailey pressed on. Next, more on him.


coco.beeware@gmail.com said...

Hello - I found your blog accidentally by using Google. I am trying to find out what ultimately happened to the Olinda Land Company, specifically around 1937 or 1938. I have an old stock certificate from my grandfather, who purchased it in 1937 in Los Angeles, and am trying to research it. Any assistance would be appreciated. Thanks.

prs said...

Hello coco.beeware.com: The 31 August 2011 post, which was the last of nine parts on the history of Olinda, ended with this: "But, in early 1938, Olinda Land Company voted to issue a liquidating dividend on its capital stock based upon 'the sale of the company's real holdings in Orange county to the Shell Oil Company for $500,000.' Other assets of the firm, basically in marketable securities, were also liquidated and distributed to the company's stockholders." Hope this helps and am glad you stumbled onto the blog and left your comment and question.

coco.beeware@gmail.com said...

Hi - thanks for answering! Maybe my stock certificate transferred to Shell Oil?! I will look into it. Many thanks, and keep up the good work.