27 April 2015

Cleve A. Purington, Sleepy Hollow Founder

Back in early August 2008 in the early days of this blog, some biographical information was presented about Cleve Alpheus Purington, founder of Sleepy Hollow along with a group of investors in 1923.  At the time, it was known that Purington was a shipyard foreman in the Seattle area as well as at San Pedro here in southern California.  The recent find of Purington's obituary, however, provides more about him.

The obit was in the 15 May 1928 edition of the Chino Champion, with the article noting that Purington died a few days prior at San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland and that his funeral was held at the Congregational Church (now known as Pilgrim Congregational Church) in Pomona with burial in that city, presumably at the city cemetery in the south portion of town.

Clearly, the writer of the piece knew Purington as he was said to be "a wonderful personality and a most absorbing personage with whom to talk."  Not only was he said to be a ship builder, but also an engineer, architect and developer.  His life story was then given, with details about his upbringing in Maine, being born in the town of South Paris.

It was said in the article that Purington started in the shipbuilding business in his native state and the earlier finding from 2008 that he worked for the Bath Iron Works confirms this.  Evidently, he continued in this line of work upon his arrival in 1905 in northern California with San Francisco's Union Iron Works and, for a time, in Washington state where he was put in charge of building ships for the military.  By the end of the First World War when a massive shipbuilding effort was developed, he was supervising the building of ships for the Southwestern Shipbuilding Company (owned later by Bethlehem Steel) at San Pedro.

The headline and subhead for the Chino Champion obituary of Cleve A. Purington, 15 May 1928.  From newspapers.com.  Click on either image to see them in a larger view in a separate window.
The obituary noted that he "rendered his greatest service" while with Southwestern and "gained national acclaim for the records he established in efficiency and quantity of ocean craft constructed under his direction."  His employer cited not only his work in "time-saving devices and methods," but also "his understanding and sympathetic attitude toward the men working under him."

Another career highlighted in the article was Purington's work as an engineer and architect, specifically with the Los Angeles firm of Munson, Rouff, Roalfe and Purington.  This enterprise followed Purington's decision, in his late thirties, to quit shipbuilding because of ill-effects to his health.  By 1920, he had moved into construction engineering and it was an ideal time to do this, as the Los Angeles region was fully immersed in another of its frequent housing booms and there was plenty of work available.

Arthur Munson and Allen Ruoff were architects while Purington and George Roalfe were engineers and the quartet seems to have been active for a few years in the early 1920s, working on projects in the Los Feliz neighborhood near Griffith Park, in Venice and in Claremont.  There was a main office in the Walter P. Story Building, a 1909 structure still standing at 610 S. Broadway, but, in 1922, Building and Engineering News reported that a branch office was opened in the State Bank Building in Pomona, which was the home of a few local architects, and which also noted that Purington was the manager at the branch.

His association with Munson, Ruoff and Roalfe, however, was soon over.  The engineer who conducted the 1923 survey of Sleepy Hollow, Edward Taylor of Claremont, became a partner of Purington in a new business, Taylor & Purington, which specialized in civil and construction engineering, including land surveying, development of subdivisions and townsites, the design and building of steel and concrete structures, and reporting and appraisal services.  The firm, housed in Claremont, began advertising in the Champion in November 1924.

An advertisement for the firm of Taylor & Purington from the Champion, 14 November 1924.  From newspapers.com.
Among the projects cited in the obituary that Taylor & Purington developed were Padua Hills, in the foothills north Claremont and where a famed theater operated for many years, Evey Canyon, which is essentially the Baldy Village area in the canyon leading from Claremont and Upland to Mount San Antonio (Baldy), and Carbon Canyon (that is, Sleepy Hollow.)  The article went on to say that, "the latter development became the home of Mr. Purington during the last year-and-a-half so that he could watch the growth of the beautiful canyon to the southwestern edge of the Chino Valley."

Purington was also, at the time of his death, the Vice-President of the Vortox Company, founded in Pomona by H. H. Garner in 1922 as Pomona Air Cleaner.  This firm provided air cleaners for agricultural equipment used in the famed citrus groves that formed the economic background of the foothill regions of the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire at the time.  When the company decided to move its plant to Claremont, it was readying for its grand opening when Purington unexpectedly died, leading Vortox to postpone the event to a later date.  Vortox still operates today at that same location at 121 S. Indian Hill.

The obituary concluded with the observation that Purington's widow, Elizabeth (Heald), was "intimately associated with her husband's business activities and in later years has lifted a great portion of the responsibilities connected therewith from Mr. Purington's shoulders."  It was stated, further, that "many of the details became hers and with Prof. Taylor she will continue the work begun by her husband."

Whatever happened with the Purington & Taylor firm, it is true that Elizabeth Heald Purington became the prime mover in the Sleepy Hollow community from her husband's death and remained so for many years.  Moreover, her son David continued to live in the neighborhood for decades.  The original Purington home just across from the Sleepy Hollow Community Center along Carbon [Canyon] Creek still stands and David Purington had several parcels in the community, as well.

Purington was just forty-six when he died, but the little subdivision he started over ninety years ago still retains the rural atmosphere (for now) and a great deal of the charm that he mainly brought into being.  Hopefully, he will be remembered in the future as the founder of Sleepy Hollow.

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