Part 1: An introduction to an iconic family
By Galen Patterson
Anita Baldwin was the daughter of Elias “Lucky” Baldwin and heiress of the Baldwin estate. Lucky had built and left behind a large estate worth millions at the time, and one that still echoes through the San Gabriel Valley.
His empire started with a wagon full of brandy and tobacco from Racine, Wis. Historic accounts tell us that he sold the brandy to Mormons in Salt Lake City for $16 per gallon, and the tobacco sold for $1 a plug. (A plug is a small brick of aged, dried and pressed tobacco leaves, which the smoker must then cut off and rub to stuff into a tobacco pipe.) By the end of his life he would be relatively famous and wealthy, expanding his investments into mining and horses, and leave $10 million to Anita and to his eldest daughter, Clara Baldwin-Stocker.
Like her father, Anita had a large impact on not only local, but national culture in the early 20th century. She donated anonymously and extravagantly, sparing no expense when it came to helping those she cared for and rewarding good deeds with good fortune. Her obituary tells of a lost ring, worth $35,000, in a train station restroom in Gila Bend, Ariz. An attendant returned the ring and she gave the man a $5,000 reward.
According to local historian Carol Libby, Anita discreetly paid the debts of the people she knew and cared for, and helped war veterans get back on their feet when they returned home. She was generous, talented, loving and secretive. “She was a very quiet and shy woman honestly,” said Libby.
Part of Anita’s inheritance was the 8,000-acre Baldwin Ranch on which she built her historic home. Anita constructed a large, 17,000-square-foot mansion in the Italian Renaissance style on Baldwin Ranch. The home was a local treasure and served the community well after Anita’s death.
Anita passed away in October of 1939 from heart complications at the age of 65. Her home served different roles in the community before it was approved for demolition 20 years ago in 1999. Actual destruction began in 2000. Her home was emptied, many of her possessions were sold off, and the Baldwin footprint shrank tremendously.
Over the coming weeks Arcadia Weekly will shed light on Anita Baldwin, her contributions to California, and what happened to her historic home and the artifacts that adorned it.