I have a new project over at the Gilb Museum of Arcadia Heritage . I’m going through a collection of Arcadia tract maps , entering them into the database . Most of them are from the 1920s , but some were drawn in the 1930s or 1940s . A few date back to 1910 . Old man Baldwin , who owned the land and founded the city , had died , as I recall , in 1909 . Arcadia was his little city . The city was a gambling den with a racetrack when “Lucky ” Baldwin was around .
My friend Bill , the surveyor , was interested in my project . All hand-drawn maps back then , of course . Bill spent most of his surveying career hand-drawing maps . The County of Los Angeles has a copy of all of these maps , Bill assured me . I wonder if the copies are all digital nowadays or not .
The subdivision where the Ada and Dan house now sits was drawn up in 1924 . Our house was built in 1941 . I know that a couple of the houses on my street were already here in the 1920s , but most of them showed up in the 1940s and 1950s.
In recent years several of them on the block have been renovated . The old structures were too small and simple , I suppose . All of the renovated houses , almost all of them now ugly as sin , were across the street until just a couple of years ago . My next door neighbors re-did their house last year . It was originally built a year before ours , and it was small . The new ediface is too big for the lot , but it’s not especially ugly , just out of place for the old neighborhood . They didn’t ask my opinion before they began the renovation . And besides , the “old neighborhood” is becoming merely a fantasy .
I look at these old subdivision tract maps and I wonder how things were in the city in the old days . People were busy designing , developing , building , financing . Huge lots , many of the land agricultural , were continually being subdivided , even during WWII .
There’s no open land in Arcadia now . The subdivision fever of old has long-ago subsided . Now , the old houses are being renovated or replaced , one by one . The new structures stretch all construction codes . Waivers seem to be freely given because governments like that extra tax revenue , I suppose .
There’s a house across the street on sale now for 2.8 million bucks. Technically , I guess , it’s a renovation , but there’s really nothing of the old house left . It hasn’t sold for the year or so that it’s been on the market .
To say that it doesn’t fit to the old neighborhood is a bit of an understatement , and I think that’s why it hasn’t sold . I could have told the builder that , but no one ever asked me . They never do .
There are a couple of houses two blocks away that were mail -order Sears-Roebuck houses , delivered by railroad in the 1920s . I like ’em . They seem to be well designed and they’re interesting to look at . But two blocks away is Monrovia , the next town over . Monrovia has managed to keep the feel of the old neighborhoods , the quaint old houses along tree-lined streets . There are a few renovated houses , but they were done with grace and beauty .
I wonder how the city of Arcadia was when vacant land was being mapped out into measured lots . People from , mostly , the mid-west were moving in , buying up the new houses or freshly mapped lots in the relatively new city . New streets were being paved and real estate ads , bragging , mentioned the number of miles paved . Phone service and gas service were newcomers , too .
I don’t believe that there’s a time , perhaps a year , that could be declared the best year for the city . Everything changes continuously . Some changes might be considered good , some bad . Every person might look back to a different year , anyhow , with idiosyncratic attitudes about such reflections .
Maybe we should all stick with this year as being designated the best . What do you say ? Okay , call me Pollyanna .