I took a little walk around the neighborhood today .
I don’t live in the better part of Arcadia , I remembered , if by better you might mean , mainly , bigger . There was a house under construction on the corner of Highland Oaks and Sycamore . It’s the kind of house that Ada used to ask , ” How many families do you think live there ?” about . But , they were all single family places , many of them strewn about on the hillsides as if they are insolent sentinels watching the commonplace society below . This one was built as a single family joint , too . It will have a pool out back when someone gets around to gunite-ing it . Probably has a microwave in the kitchen .
Big deal ! — Ada and I have a microwave , too .
A man named Hal Slemons owned much of the land north of Foothill in the 1920s and 30s . His brother raised chickens on part of it . Hal owned the nearby Orange Inn stretched along Foothill , with its orange-shaped juice stand . The Orange Inn , still owned by Slemons , evolved into the palm frond- thatched place called the Wigwam . It was ready to cash in on Route 66 traffic . The remnant of these old days is nearby Wigwam Avenue . Eventually Slemmons retired to …………………….wait for it …………………………Orange County . Yeah . On the site of the old Wigwam is a McDonalds . No longer are there any citrus-shaped structures .
Slemons built himself a house on his property in 1925 . The house is still there . It out-shines every other house in the area , most of them large and on large lots , all of them built decades after the Slemons house . The new one under construction is a block away . The 1925 house wins that beauty contest too .
I saw a 1927 picture of the new subdivision , laid out that year , around the Slemons house . There are wide streets , a center island , street lamps . But what happened ? Nothing seems to have progressed beyond the street lamps and the wide curbed street . All the houses in the neighborhood except the Slemons place look like they were not built until the 60s or 70s . None of them .
I suspect what happened was the Great Depression . Best laid plans of mice and men , and all that . The buy-in prices were too high after 1929 .
The City of Arcadia wanted to zone a cemetery nearby in the early 1930s , next to the Santa Anita wash , but local protests quashed that idea . Slemons tried to sell several acres to Arcadia for use as a park , but his asking price of $30,000 was just too high for the city’s budget . I’ll guess that the huge house under construction may cost some proud buyer a hundred times that amount .
Times change .