New Book from Arcadia Historical Society Brings Photos Together—Many for the First Time
A group of photos from Arcadia’s early days, many never before seen, are presented in a book a new publication sponsored by the Arcadia Historical Society. The book shows memorable photos of places—from the racetrack to the chicken farms, and the people—from the staid to the flamboyant, that populated Arcadia during its growing years.
“The book is loaded with material donated by residents and from the archives of the Pasadena Museum of History, The Huntington Library, The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, with most coming from our own archives at the Ruth and Charles Gilb Arcadia Historical Museum and, of course, the wonderful archives at the Arcadia Library,” says Carol Libby, the Arcadia woman whom her friends at the Arcadia Historical Society claim was the force behind the book.
“Our goal was to highlight the homes and the people who had an influence on the community, and in many cases, the world,” she recalled.
The photos combined with picture captions and some editorial material is a unique view of the city’s history ranging from 1875 to 1977. The book begins with a photograph of Elias J. (“Lucky”) Baldwin taken in 1875 when he was 47 years-old, the year the multimillionaire entrepreneur purchased the 8,000 acre Santa Anita Rancho and water rights to Santa Anita Canyon from Harris Newmark for $200,000.
In nine chapters, the book journeys through the Baldwin’s rancho era, the city’s incorporation in 1903, scenes of Anita Baldwin “at home” in Anoakia, the community’s development into the “egg basket” of Los Angeles County, pre-World War II Arcadia as it turned more to entertainment and recreation, two chapters on post-war growth and finally a re-cap of then and now.
An entire chapter is devoted to Baldwin’s daughter Anita. Pictures reveal her social and charitable activities in the 1920’s, and the real estate holdings which were sold to Los Angeles County to establish Ross Field, the 1918 balloon school. “Two things I would have had included in the book if I could have come into possession would have been photos of Anita Baldwin, and also some of Arcadia’s original houses,” Libby said.
In some cases, copyrights were in place, others are being protected by families. Libby suspects there are many more of her at Anoakia that many in the area would enjoy seeing.
Two pictures in the book believed to be rather unique by Libby: an 1875 photo of an orchard on Rancho Santa Anita, and the earliest photo yet found of the coach barn, dated to 1880 Still, she credits Arcadia residents for being generous to the project with pictures and anecdotes, including Jean Parrille, Faye Nouhi, Jerry and Doris Selmer, Roberta Ramsell, Terri Weeks, Barbara and Gary Kovacic and Tatsushi Nakamura.
There are three Arcadia archives relating the city’s history. The Arcadia Public Library overseen by librarian/archivist Yvonne Ng maintains a large archive as does the Ruth and Charles Gilb Arcadia Historical Museum and the Arboretum. The museum’s curator during the book project was Alycia Wood. The current historic collections curator at the Arboretum is Mitchell Hearns Bishop. Each was of significant help in completing the book, according to Libby.
Outside Arcadia, the Pasadena Museum of History curator, Laura Veraque, assisted and files were made available at The Huntington Library.
Revealing how the process worked, Yvonne Ng, at the Arcadia Public Library, said, “My role as librarian/archivist was to give Carol Libby the photos she selected in the form of a scan…Usually she would select a photo from our binders or tell me which subject matter she wanted. I’d search our data base for her subject and pull the relevant photos to show her and she would then choose.”
While Ng downplays her role, Carol Libby disputes that characterization. Her recollection is that Yvonne Ng, along with Director of Library and Museum Services, Carolyn Garner-Reagan, and Reference Librarian Mary Beth Hayes, spent countless hours searching and locating photographs.
Editorial assistance on the life of Baldwin was given by Sandra Snider, the retired historic collections curator at The Arboretum who is considered an expert on Baldwin’s life and author of two books which are credited as sources in the bibliography.
In addition to Libby, Jack McCrea, Scott Hettrick, and Jena Ball pooled their time and talents and are credited as the authors of the text materials. Others were educational coordinator Hwee-Ching Sinclair and museum volunteers Abraham Ho and Lindsey Sun.
But, as the Acknowledgement page recognizes: “Carol was the inspiration and guiding light behind this project. Her knowledge of Arcadia history is truly remarkable and her unwavering dedication kept the project on track.”
The book “Arcadia” is available for $19.99 at the Ruth and Charles Gilb Arcadia Historical Museum, local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.
By Bill Peters