08 January 2015

Happy 100th Birthday, Carbon Canyon Road!

In the 10 January 1915 edition of the San Bernardino County Sun, that paper reported that, the previous day, the 9th, the completion of Carbon Canyon Road from Chino to Brea over in Orange County was complete.

The project was at least a few years in the making and it is not surprising why.  The increasing availability and use of the automobile (the "horseless carriage" to old-timers of the day), a growing appreciation and marketing of the region's tourism potential, changes in land ownership and use, and a rising economy were just some of the factors that led to the promotion of road-building throughout the region.

For example, at about this time, Turnbull Canyon Road was built from the La Puente area into Whittier for many of the same reasons there was a push for Carbon Canyon Road:  easier access from interior valleys to coastal regions, a pleasant "Sunday drive" and, less overtly stated, a chance for developers to use these roads to promote their projects.

Some of the prior planning goes back to at least late 1913, when a short article in the Sun noted that crews working for county surveyor Bright were at work on the new "Chino district road" that "will cut about 15 miles from the route from San Bernardino to Newport and other beaches."  The piece observed that Orange County officials were proceeding with plans to "extend the county highway from Olinda to the county line near Chino," an aspect discussed in this blog previously.

An article from the 10 March 1914 edition of the San Bernardino County Sun concerning lobbying efforts by prominent residents of Chino (which had incorporated just the previous year) requesting the Board of Supervisors to approve appropriations for a new Carbon Canyon Road to link the inland area with the coast.
In March, a delegation of some 40 citizens of Chino attended a board of supervisors meeting to lobby directly for approval of the new road.  Three of these Chinoans (is that a word?) were named as principal spokespersons including C.F. Ten Eyck, J. T. Schroeder (manager of the Chino sugar beet mill) and Edwin Rhodes, one of Chino's best-known citizens and author of a 1950s history of the community.  It was reported that the three "were well-armed with data, having exact estimates on cost," the total said to be a little under $8,300.  It was also noted that, because much attention was being paid to a proposed road, called the Mill Creek Road, through Cajon Pass along which Interstate 15 partially passes, the relatively minor cost of Carbon Canyon Road seemed to be a useful selling point.

Two weeks later, a special excursion was organized by Chino folks for the purposes of promoting the project during the famed "Alfalfa Day" event in town (what, you haven't heard of "Alfalfa Day"?)  The "auto parade," as it was called, was to take a couple of hours and to be back in town just in time for a dinner.

Tout suite something took place rather quickly, as an April note in the Sun reported that a baker's dozen of laborers were at work in the Canyon, evidently at the behest of Supervisor Samuel Pine (no, Pine Avenue in Chino Hills and Chino is not named for a type of tree).  The short piece stated that "there was formerly a poorly kept road through the canyon, little more than a trail," but that "little work had ever been done on it, and storms have made it next to impassable."

On the 14th of April, the Chino Chamber of Commerce organized another trip, this time inviting county supervisors, their Orange County counterparts and other interested parties to meet at the county line to discuss the proposed road and inspect the route.

Five days later, the Sun reported that there were 50 teams hard at work on the road project, which, evidently, was being pursued by local private interests in anticipation of approval by the county.  It was noted that, at the aforementioned Chamber ramble, Supervisor Pine was joined by two colleagues, J.C. Jones and J.B. Glover, along with boosters from Chino and Ontario.

A short piece in the Sun, 5 May 1914, reporting on approval by the Board of Supervisors for an appropriation of $5,000 towards the construction of Carbon Canyon Road from Chino to the Orange County line, where the road would meet up with the section built by Orange County in its jurisdiction.
With all of the lobbying conducted, no small wonder, that, in early May, the board of supervisors went ahead and gave their approval for the construction of Carbon Canyon Road.  Even though the estimate of cost was over $8,000, the board decided to appropriate $5,000, though that was likely just an initial outlay.

Part of an article from the 23 June 1914 issue of the Sun explaining how labor from prison camps on the Mill Creek Road and Carbon Canyon Road represented a huge savings for the county, while providing prisoners "the blessing of fresh air and honest work, receiving a small payment for their work."
In late June, the Sun issued an article noting that much of the county's road work was being contracted out to employ labor from prisoners and that this represented a huge cost savings for the county, for very obvious reasons.  The paper made sure to note that "at the same time the prisoners are enjoying the blessing of fresh air and honest work, receiving a small payment for their work."  Consequently, this interesting interpretation continued, "the gain on the humanitarian score is incalculable."

The announcement of the 9 January 19154 opening of Carbon Canyon Road from Chino into Orange County was made in the Sun's edition of the following day.
A little more than six months later, the announcement was heralded in the Sun that the road was completed and opened on 9 January 1915.

Another beautiful scenic and practical highway has been added to this district, with the finishing of the new Carbon canyon [road] through the hills south of Chino into Orange county.  Formal announcement that the road is open was received here today and will undoubtedly cause general interest, especially to automobile drivers, for there is offered a new and shorter route into Orange county and the beaches
It was added that previous excursions into the coastal region required going either "through the Santa Ana canyon, where the grades are steep and the road often impassable" or the alternate route of "the La Brea canyon . . . [which] is poor at the best."

With a lack of precision in its reporting, the paper stated that route involved, "leaving the hills west of the George Junior Republic [now Boys Republic in Chino Hills], [where] the highway comes out at Olinda and there connects with the Orange county good roads system."  The implication seems to be that the road went west from Chino, perhaps along what is roughly Grand Avenue or maybe Eucalyptus and then went into the lower reaches of the Chino Hills and came down through what might be close to today's Chino Hills Parkway before heading west into Carbon Canyon.

Later, a new route extending from Central Avenue south from Chino was developed, or so it seems.  In any case, speaking of impassable, the success of the first incarnation of Carbon Canyon Road, which was unpaved, was short-lived, as will be discussed in a future post.

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