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Art in Public Places
In 1993, the City Council adopted the Art in Public Places Ordinance (WMC 12.52), which established a percentage for art programs in the City. The intent of the program is to provide a collection of nationally recognized artwork throughout the City for public benefit. The Ordinance requires new residential, commercial or manufacturing development having a total value of $250,000 or more to provide artwork valued at one-half of one percent of the total project cost or pay in-lieu contributions equal to the same amount. The Art in Public Places Advisory Committee advises the Commission and the Council on public art matters. Learn more about Whittier's Art in Public Places
Formerly known as "The Old Ranch House," the Jonathan Bailey House is still located at its original site at 13421 Camilla Street. The Bailey House was built by Jacob Gerkens around 1868-1869 and is the oldest building in the City. The property was the home of Whittier's first settlers, Jonathan and Rebecca Bailey, between 1887 and 1894. The first "Friends" meetings were held on the front porch of the house. The house was deeded to the City of Whittier in 1975 and is operated under the auspices of the Whittier Historical Society. The Bailey House is on the Local Official Register of Historic Resources. Guided tours are available by calling (562) 945-3871 for more information.
Bailey School House Bell
In 1888, school bonds in the amount of $8,000 were approved and the Jonathan Bailey Grammar School was completed in 1889. When the second Jonathan Bailey School building was razed in 1962-63, many people sought to save Whittier's first school bell. Today the bell can be seen at the rear entrance of City Hall, 13230 Penn Street. The plaque on the monument reads "First Bell in Whittier - 1889 Hung in old Bailey Street School -1926 rehung in new Bailey School on Hadley Street. In early days this bell was rung on many civic and patriotic occasions. Erected in Civic Center, 1963."
El Camino Real
The origin of El Camino Real, "The Road of the King," dates back to the founding of the Missions in California by the Padres. Northward from San Diego, the road passes through many intervening towns of the present day to San Luis Rey, San Juan Capistrano, Tustin, Orange, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Fullerton, La Habra, Whittier and Pio Pico Mansion to Los Angeles Plaza; then connecting with Sunset Boulevard and the Cahuenga Pass to Ventura, Santa Barbara to San Francisco. An original "El Camino Real" marker dating from the 1930's can be seen at Whittier's Civic Center (across from the Bailey School House Bell).
Cedar of Lebanon - Harriet Strong
In 1867, Charles and Harriet Russell Strong purchased 320 acres of land from the former Governor of California, Pio Pico. The property, known as Rancho del Fuerte, was planted with walnut trees, a crop just coming into favor with California farmers, and pampas grass. Mrs. Strong invented a process for preserving pampas grass to be used decoratively, mostly to overseas customers. When Charles Strong died in 1883, Harriet assumed management of the Ranch and the business of pampas grass took it to new heights. She became the first female member of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, founded the Ebell Club, served as a Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, spoke before Congress on Water Conservation, and was one of the first to advocate bringing Colorado River water to Los Angeles. Mrs. Strong was also instrumental in saving the Pio Pico Mansion. In 1905, she started the Governor Pico Museum and Historical Society that raised money for the acquisition and renovation of the site, which was threatened by demolition from state road crews paving Whittier Boulevard. In 1888, Mrs. Strong planted a seedling of a Cedar of Lebanon that she had shipped from the Holy Land. It was planted on the site of the first Strong house (11000 block of Howard Street). The tree died in 2001 and was removed but the Whittier Historical Society Museum has a slice of the trunk and the historical marker that marked the tree. The preserved portion of the Cedar of Lebanon tree and the Strong House (private residence) are the City's remaining links to this remarkable woman and her impact on the City of Whittier.
Grave of George "Greek George" Caralambo
The gravesite of "Greek George" is State Historical Landmark 646 and is located in Founder's Memorial Park, 6031 Citrus Avenue. "Greek George" was a camel driver from Asia Minor who came to the United States with the second load of camels purchased by the War Department as an experiment to open a wagon road to Fort Tejon, California from Fort Defiance, New Mexico. Because of the Civil War, the experiment was abandoned. "Greek George" became a naturalized citizen in 1867 under the name George Allen. He built an adobe on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Historic Residential District
Whittier has four Historic Residential Districts. The Hadley/Greenleaf District is bounded by Greenleaf Avenue to the west, Broadway Street to the north, Hadley Street to the south and Painter Avenue to the east. The Central Park District surrounds Central Park (Washington and Friends Avenues run N/S and Hadley and Bailey Streets run E/W) but extends at points to Painter Avenue and below Bailey Street on both Washington Avenue and Friends Avenue. The third is the College Hills District with homes along Worsham Drive, Hillside Lane, Philadelphia Street, Ridge Road and ending on the eastern side of Bailey Street. The fourth, and most recent, is the Earlham Historic District. The District includes portions of the original tract and represent an early Whittier College neighborhood with many existing architectural examples of early 20th century homes, structures and objects from 1903-1940 that still reflect their era of development through their physical placement, architectural design, material cladding and method of construction. Many of the homes were also associated with Whittier College administrators and faculty. For a complete list of contributing/non-contributing properties, please contact the Secretary of the Historic Resources Commission at (562) 567-9320. Click on the links above to view District maps.
Founders' Memorial Park (Mt. Olive and Broadway Cemeteries)
Founders' Memorial Park, 6031 Citrus Avenue, was once the Whittier Cemetery, Mount Olive Cemetery and Broadway Cemetery. The cemeteries were abandoned in the 1930's. In 1968, the City of Whittier took advantage of legislation allowing the acquisition of the property and created Founders Memorial Park on the four acres of land. Gravestones were removed and two monuments were erected that list the 2,380 persons who were buried there. A listing of the graves with a plot map of the cemeteries is available at City Hall by appointment only - (562) 567-9850.
Fred C. Nelles School
Located at 11850 Whittier Boulevard, State Historical Landmark 947 was originally named "Reform School for Juvenile Offenders," then "Whittier State School," later "Whittier School of Trades and Agriculture," and finally "Fred C. Nelles School," after the superintendent who served at the school between 1912-1927. The facility was originally built on 160 acres of land following the establishment of an 1889 Act of the California Legislature authorizing the establishment of a school for juvenile offenders. The school was laid out and planted with fruit and shade trees, barns with corrals, poultry houses and cow sheds. It was intended to be a trade school where boys were trained and expected to hold jobs when they were released. Girls at the school were taught household management including cooking and sewing. Girls were transferred from the school in 1916 and shortly afterwards, wards with mental disabilities were relocated as well. Only boys were in residence after that time. Dedicated by Governor R. W. Waterman on February 12, 1890, the school began operations on July 1, 1891. In 2004, the State of California closed the school and in 2011, sold the property to Brookfield Homes for commercial development. For more information on the future of the Nelles property, call 562-567-9320.
In 1997, Whittier began more than a decade of planning, negotiating and acquiring funds to purchase and develop a 4.5-mile abandoned Union Pacific Railroad property into the bicycle and pedestrian trail.
The result was the transformation of an abandoned railroad right-of-way into the Whittier Greenway Trail, a recreational and commuter bikeway and pedestrian path. The Trail begins on the western City boundary near Los Angeles County’s San Gabriel River Bike Trail and travels through Whittier, linking schools, homes, parks, shopping areas and transit stops. Public art and interpretive exhibits dot the pathway. Residents use the Whittier Greenway Trail for recreation, transportation, exercise or to simply enjoy the outdoors. The Trail was funded with $15,000,000 in federal, state and county grants.
The formal dedication of the Whittier Greenway Trail was held on January 31, 2009. Since then, the Trail has grown and evolved, providing a lush greenbelt for walking and bicycling from the western boundary of the City at Pioneer Boulevard near the 605 Freeway to the current eastern terminus of the Trail at Mills Avenue and Lambert Road, where the Oak Station is located. Whittier has acquired an easement from Mills to First Avenue along the active Union Pacific Railroad line that travels east from this location to take the Trail to the City limits. Acquisition from First Avenue to the Whittier city limit line shared with La Habra is in process and will allow the Greenway to link into the OC Loop, Orange County’s bikeway system. The Trail includes six “Stations", each designed to highlight a different facet of Whittier’s history, growth and development: Oak, Laurel, Sycamore, Walnut, Citrus, Palm, and Pioneer.
Nixon's First Law Office (Bank Building)
The former First National Bank and Bank of America Building, 13006 Philadelphia Street, occupies the site of the very first bank in Whittier (1895), and has been the location of at least four banks. The existing building, built in 1928, is the best remaining example of Beaux Arts style in the City. The building is of national significance as it was the site of 37th United States President Richard M. Nixon's first law office. Whittier was the boyhood home of the former President; although born in Yorba Linda, California, his family relocated to Whittier when he was 9 years old. In 1938, he served as the Deputy City Attorney to the City of Whittier. A replica of President Nixon's office has been re-created and is available to tour at the Whittier Historical Museum. The site is on the Local Official Register of Historic Resources.
Paradox Hybrid Walnut Tree
The most outstanding tree of Whittier, among the more than 40,000 trees under the jurisdiction of the City's Parks Division, is the Paradox Hybrid Walnut Tree on Whittier Boulevard between Penn and Mar Vista streets in what was once known as Roadside Rest Park. Planted in 1907 by the University of California Department of Agriculture (Experiment Station) on land acquired by the State in 1886, the tree now is about 14 feet in circumference and has a spread of 100 feet. It is a living reminder of the once flourishing walnut industry in this part of Southern California. It is a cross between an English Walnut and Black Walnut, a vigorous fast-growing tree. In 1955, it was saved through the efforts of the Native Daughters of the Golden West, Parlor 298, and the Daughters of the American Revolution, Whittier Chapter. The Tree, a National Landmark, and designated in 1959 as State Historical Landmark 681, is on the Local Official Register of Historic Resources.
The Whittier Peace Memorial was dedicated by the citizens of the Whittier area to the men who gave their lives in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The names of 157 men who were killed, and two missing in action in Vietnam, are listed on three plaques. The fourth plaque contains the dedication and Whittier Bicentennial logo. The sundial represents the world as a hollow sphere with the equatorial band parallel to the equator. Parallel to the axis of the earth and pointing to the North Star is the arrow, or gnomon, which casts a shadow on the equatorial band indicating the time and was designed to fit local time changes. Monies for the Memorial were raised by individual contributions, from the sale of needlepoint kits and from the Bicentennial Committee funds. The memorial was designed by the architect William H. Harrison, and is located on the east side of the City Hall lawn, 13230 Penn Street.
At the City’s 2010 Veterans’ Day observance, Army 1st Sgt. Blue C. Rowe had his name affixed to the Wall next to the Peace Memorial. Sgt. Rowe is the first Whittier resident to receive the Gold Star for being killed in action in the Afghanistan-Iraq conflict, and the first name added to the Wall. Sgt. Rowe, 33, was killed on May 26, 2009 while on duty in Afghanistan.
On the northeast end of City Hall, 13230 Penn Street, next to the former Whittier Police Station, is a small charming outdoor area dedicated to Whittier’s Sister City, Changshu, China. The attractive, cool green space includes several items of relevance to Whittier’s relationship with Changshu – three, tall gracefully draping trees; a small pillar of peace and – a street sign!
The first in this eclectic collection celebrating the relationship between Whittier and Changshu are the three Fishtail Palms, which were given to Whittier during Changshu’s first delegation here in 1995. The palmlets have grown to an impressive size, a symbol of the growing friendship between the two cities. Continuing the theme of peace and friendship, in 1997 the Whittier Interfaith Council presented the “Peace Pole” to the City of Whittier. A small, slender obelisk, the Peace Pole presents the phrase “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in several languages, including English and Chinese. The Peace Pole is part of a worldwide program, The Peace Pole Project, which has placed tens of thousands of poles in 180 countries, to serve as monuments of the need to strive for peace in our world. The street sign is a new addition to Whittier’s little patch of Changshu. A directional sign pointing the way to Changshu – 6,519 miles precisely – was installed in July 2009, during a delegation visit of Changshu officials to Whittier.
Since 1995, Whittier, a modern California city established in the late 1880’s, and Changshu, a bustling Chinese city with a history that goes back 3,000 years, have been Sister Cities. Whittier and China have a special connection – President Richard M. Nixon, who was raised in Whittier, attended Whittier High School and graduated from Whittier College – was responsible for re-establishing relations with the People’s Republic of China during his term of office.
The Whittier Community Foundation formally dedicated the Whittier Police Memorial on May 20, 2011. The privately-funded sculpture was placed in front of the new Whittier Police Station at 13200 Penn Street to honor the men and women who make up the Whittier police force. Funding for the Police Memorial was raised by the Whittier Community Foundation, a non-profit group which raises funds for projects and programs to benefit the local community. The Memorial is a gift to the City and the Police Department from the Foundation. The Whittier Police Memorial, by California artist Alanna Roth, is entitled “The Final Salute” and features a sculpture of a police officer saluting a fallen comrade, while his hand rests on the shoulder of the fallen officer’s child, who holds an American flag. Three Whittier police officers have been killed in the line of duty over the years: Mike Lane, John Pierce and Keith Boyer.
Pio Pico Historical State Park
Following the Mexican War, Pio de Jesus Pico, the last Governor of Mexican California, acquired the 9,000 acre Rancho Paso de Bartolo. Pico built an adobe home that was destroyed by the floods of 1883-1884. His second adobe casa, now known as Pio Pico Mansion, represents a compromise between Mexican and American cultures. While living here the ex-Governor was active in the development of an American California. Located at 6003 Pioneer Boulevard, at Whittier Boulevard, State Historical Landmark 127, Pio Pico State Historic Park re-opened on September 20, 2003 after an extensive renovation of the grounds and structures on the site. For information on days and hours of operation please call (562) 695-1217 or visit the Pio Pico website.
Site of The Four Bricks of Whittier
The original Town Center of Whittier was located at the corner of Greenleaf Avenue and Hadley Street. The Lindley Building was the first to be constructed on the SW corner, followed by the Harvey Apartments on NE corner. The other two corners were built at the same time in 1888 by C. W. Harvey for Moses Ricker and George Mason. Mr. Mason later demolished his building, which occupied the site where the First Christian Church now stands. The building on the SE corner was demolished prior to 1930. In 1913, C. W. Harvey doubled the size of the Harvey Apartments and added italianate features before selling the property. The remaining portions of these early structures were demolished after the 1987 Whittier Narrows Earthquake; the current Lindley Building and Harvey Apartments were rebuilt using original bricks. Original Lindley bricks are also incorporated into the Palm Station on the Whittier Greenway Trail, near Palm Park. As time passed, however, the natural center of the Uptown business/commercial district evolved at the intersection of Greenleaf Avenue and Philadelphia Street.
Twin Towers Relic at City Hall
In the lobby of the Whittier City Hall, 13230 Penn Street, is a quiet, unassuming display of dignified patriotism. But the emotions it evokes are far from quiet and unassuming – grief, rage, fear and pity are all contained within this small space. This is the Twin Towers display, featuring a piece of the wreckage of the Twin Towers, as the 10th anniversary of the most darkest of days for the United States – September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were destroyed, the Pentagon attacked and United Flight 93 went down – when thousands of innocent people were killed as the result of terrorist attacks. The piece of rusted steel rests on a low pedestal draped in blue. Next to this stark evidence of tragedy that affected everyone in the country is a photograph of the Twin Towers in all their former glory, taken by retired Whittier Police Sgt. Mike Willis.
A small plaque is also placed on the display. It reads, in part: “The City of Whittier is a proud recipient of this two hundred and twenty-five pound piece of steel salvaged from the rubble of the towers. It serves as a reminder of that horrific day. We proudly and reverently place it here for you to view and touch. This inanimate object has power; its power resides in its ability to cause us to remember and reflect. It is a tangible connection to those who died and those who chose to sacrifice. It reminds us of our own personal experience of that day - our fear and rage as the towers fell, Flight 93 went down and the Pentagon was attacked. The City of Whittier is very grateful to the New York Port Authority for their willingness to share this piece of history with all of us.
“We will never forget.”
Whittier Former Citrus Association Packing House
Located at 12327 Whittier Boulevard is the last remnant of the once-flourishing citrus industry in Whittier. Built in 1902 and enlarged in 1904, it became one of the largest packing plants in the State of California and included a main packing house, lemon curing plant and an office building. The development of the Citrus Association and packing houses was one of the main economic bases of the area for many years. The main structure is now used as an antiques mall. The Packing House is on the Local Official Register of Historic Resources.
You can see historic photographs of the packing house and more information about early Whittier's agricultural industry at an interpretive display on the Whittier Greenway Trail immediately east of the building. Enter the bicycle and pedestrian trail at Penn Street and head south to reach the Citrus Station exhibit.
Whittier City Hall
The City of Whittier broke ground on a new City Hall, located at 13230 Penn Street, in 1953, construction was completed in 1954 and the new Civic Center, which by now included a Police Station, was dedicated in 1955. The architect for both City Hall and the Police Station was William H. Harrison. Mr. Harrison designed the poured concrete building using Arizona flagstone, aluminum and glass on the exterior finish. The tall tower atop City Hall adds height to the predominantly horizontal lines of the building. A notable feature of the interior is the "floating" cantilevered stairway in the lobby. The walls in the main lobby are italian travertine and maple paneling, the original flooring was a variegated black terrazzo (the original flooring is still under the carpet). Mr. Harrison also designed the Central Library, 7344 Washington Avenue, and the Peace Memorial on the front lawn near the corner of Penn Street and Painter Avenue. City Hall is part of an 11 acre Civic Center that includes the former City Police Station (built 1955) and the Whittier Public Library (completed 1958). A new Police Station opened October 2010 on the Civic Center grounds, 13200 Greenleaf Avenue, just west of City Hall.
Whittier Historic Depot Transportation Center
Initial construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad Station began in 1888. In 1891, the citizens of Whittier put up $42,000 to bring a 6-mile Southern Pacific spur track from Los Nietos. Final construction of the Victorian-style station was completed in 1892. In 1895, a southern extension was added to the depot to provide fruit packing space for the Whittier Fruit Exchange. It is one of only 4 remaining 1890's stations in the state of California. Restored, then re-dedicated in 2002 as the Whittier Historic Depot, the station is used by the City of Whittier as a Transportation Office and Transportation Museum (open by appointment). Located at 7333 Greenleaf Avenue, the Depot is on the Local, State and National Registers of Historic Resources.
Whittier Historical Society & Museum
The Whittier Historical Society was formally organized in 1970. The Museum, located at 6755 Newlin Avenue, offers an archives room, ongoing programs and tours. The Society also operates the Bailey House. For more information about the Museum and its collections, please call the Museum at (562) 945-3871 or visit the Historical Society website.
Whittier National Trust and Savings Bank
Built in 1932 as a replacement of a 1905 brick building 6754 Greenleaf Avenue, the Whittier National Trust and Savings Bank was designed by Whittier resident William H. Harrison in the Moderne style. The Bank's building committee insisted that local businesses be used for construction whenever possible, approximately 75% of the workers on the building were from the Whittier area.