06 September 2013

Carbon Canyon History from The Champion

Allen McCombs, the publisher emeritus of The Champion, the community newspaper serving Chino and Chino Hills and which has managed to survive for over 125 years, likely knows far more about local history than anyone.  He frequently dedicates his "Rolltop Roundup" feature in the paper's editorial page, which he still edits, to aspects of the area's history and tomorrow's edition is devoted to a general review of the history of Carbon Canyon.

McCombs notes, for example, that the canyon's name came from natural oil seepages from the surrounding hills and that, geologically, it consists of two parts separated from the hill section where the S-curve is near where the Carriage Hills subdivision and from which two branches of what is called either Carbon Creek or Carbon Canyon Creek flow east and west, the former to Chino Creek and the other towards Carbon Canyon Dam.

There is also some good information on Sleepy Hollow and its founders Cleve and Elizabeth Purington, whose work was carried on by their son David, who died some twenty-two years ago after his ranch burned in the 1990 fire that ravaged the canyon.  Also of interest is the statement about Carbon Canyon Road being connected completely through the canyon in 1928, after segments were built from either end previously, but lacking the final connection.  Five years later, the road was incorporated into the newly-revamped California state highway system.

McCombs briefly noted the existence of the camp started just east of Sleepy Hollow by the Workmen's Circle--this being "Camp Kinder Ring," which was opened in 1928 and survived for thirty years before the left-leaning organization sold it, because of water supply problems among other issues, to a buyer, who then saw the property affected by a major fire in 1958.

He also makes reference to a mineral springs resort opened in Sleepy Hollow, a couple miles east of the more-established and somewhat famous La Vida resort, referred to in McCombs's piece as "La Vida Hot Springs," though, officially, it was the "La Vida Mineral Springs."  Though the statement that it closed in 1933 is not correct, what may have happened is that the earlier Hiltscher Mineral Springs, located just west of Rosemary Lane/Hillside Drive on the south side of the highway shut down as stated, but there are 1938 photos, as shown in this blog, of the Carbon Canyon Mineral Springs on the same spot.   As noted here, the current owner of the property actually has remnants of the some of the concrete tubs still on site.

The more recent history is capsulized briefly with quick references to the Western Hills Country Club (and the interesting information that its owner was killed in a plane crash on that site); the Ski Villa facility, on part of the old Camp Kinder Ring complex, and which had a short and bizarre chapter in canyon and skiing history with its plastic needle surface and of which the concrete base remains until an approved housing development comes soon to eradicate that residue; the "hippie retreat" known as the Purple Haze, after the classic Jimi Hendrix song from the Summer of Love in 1967, and which was also on the old Camp Kinder Ring; the horse stables now on that same site; and the several residential communities which have been built since the 1960s.

Other points covered deal with the volunteer fire department in Sleepy Hollow; the regular explosions from the Aerojet weapons testing facility in adjacent Soquel Canyon, a relic of the Cold War-era where the exclusive Vellano gated golf course community now is located; the intriguing St. Joseph's Hill of Hope religious facility just northwest of Sleepy Hollow; the strange attempt to build an airport in the Chino Hills south of the Canyon in the early 1970s and the later successful effort by Claire Schlotterbeck and others with the Hills for Everyone grassroots organization to save that land as Chino Hills State Park, which was created in the early 1980s.

As for very recent history, McCombs touches upon the important work of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council and the very recent and very much ongoing history surrounding the TRTP renewable energy project, which has some new elements to be discussed here tomorrow.  He also notes, however, that for all of its charm and historical associations "western Carbon Canyon . . . is getting crowded."  Indeed it is and it could get much worse and that's where learning from history in future planning, especially when it comes to wildfires, water, and traffic, could have provided valuable lessons in responsible planning.

Finally, McCombs concludes by promising that, "in future Rolltop columns I will relate some of the stories that add to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, some that may be remembered by only a handful of oldtimers who have long called Carbon Canyon home."  These will certainly be looked forward to and included here, as McCombs is one of the few real authorities on local history.

Although many of the aforementioned subjects have been covered here and, in some cases, the information might be somewhat different, it is great to see the history of Carbon Canyon presented in the pages of The Champion by someone who knows it as well as, if not better than, anyone.  Thanks to Allen McCombs for keeping that history alive and it will be great to see what more he will relate about the canyon's history in upcoming "Rolltop Roundup" editions.

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