October 6, 2014 | by Cassandra Ramos
Whether we originally hail from the San Gabriel Valley or halfway across the world, we as City of Hope graduate students have become intimately involved with the city of Duarte. After all, Duarte is where we diligently investigate important biomedical questions at research laboratories every day. As we spend time in Duarte, we are also contributing to the city’s rich story, outlined here.
These fascinating bits of history were recounted in Images of America: Duarte by Irwin Margiloff, Neil Earle, and the Duarte Historical Society; Duarte Chronicles by Claudia Heller; and also by the vivacious docents at the Duarte Historical Museum.
Timeline of Significant Events in Duarte
Pre-19th Century- The San Gabriel Valley was inhabited by a group of Native Americans called the Tongva. They were later referred to as the Gabrieleños when the area was colonized by Spanish settlers in the 1700s.
1841- Andrés Duarte, a former corporal in the Mexican army, acquired 6,595 acres in the San Gabriel Valley after the Mexican-American War. This land, which he named Rancho Azusa de Duarte, comprised what is now Duarte and Bradbury, plus parts of Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Irwindale, and Monrovia.
1843- Andrés Duarte owned about 400 head of cattle and filed his own cattle brand, which is the lowercase d with an arrow that is still used today as a symbol for the city.
1861- Dr. Nehemiah Beardslee arrived in Duarte from Texas bearing the fruit seeds and trees that jumpstarted the city’s subsequent agricultural boom.
1872- Rancho Azusa de Duarte was divided into 40-acre plots and sold among many owners.
1878- The first school in Duarte was built. Prior to this, instruction was held in a shed. Records indicate that Duarte schools were ethnically integrated before this was the norm throughout the country.
1887- Three railways, Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe, were completed through Duarte and mainly served as transportation for citrus. The Santa Fe railway is to be reused for the Metro Rail Gold Line.
1890- Local citrus growers joined to form the Duarte Company and won first prize at the State Citrus Fair.
1902- The Duarte Company controlled 325 acres of citrus groves in the Duarte foothills.
1913- City of Hope, founded by the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association as the Los Angeles Sanatorium, first opened its doors for treatment of tuberculosis patients. City of Hope started as two small tents on the lower part of the Rancho where the soil was too poor to farm.
1926- The US Congress ordered the construction of Route 66, which ran along Huntington Drive and helped launch successful businesses in Duarte. Today, the annual “Salute to Route 66” parade is held to commemorate the city’s connection with this historical route.
1938- “The Great Flood of 1938” hit Duarte. A normal year’s worth of rain fell in only four days and several bridges on the San Gabriel River were destroyed.
1940s- The citrus industry faced a large decline due to the Great Depression and competition from the expanding citrus industry in Florida. The land used for growing crops eventually went on to be used for building housing.
1941- The famous big-band jazz musician, Glenn Miller moved to Duarte, and built a home on 54 acres of land. While living in Duarte, Miller gave 800 performances and recorded several records. A bronze plaque was erected in Miller’s honor in 2001 at Glenn Miller Park.
1957- The city of Duarte was incorporated into the state. The city’s first traffic light was installed on the corner of Huntington Drive and Las Lomas Road.
1966- The county library in Duarte was completed on Buena Vista Street where it remains today.
1971- Donald R. Watson became the mayor of Duarte and was the first African-American mayor in the San Gabriel Valley.
1973- The City of Duarte and City of Hope have been teaming up to create floats for Pasadena’s annual Rose Parade since 1973. The duo won first place from 1973 to 1980.
1988- Duarte began its own public access television station, DCTV.
2007- Duarte celebrated the 50th anniversary of its incorporation and erected a 14-foot-tall statue of Andrés Duarte on Huntington Drive across from City Hall. Many people attended the statue dedication, including over 30 direct descendants of Andrés Duarte.
Did You Know?!
In the 1950s, a song named “Cinco Robles” by Larry Sullivan was very popular. Sullivan was inspired to write this song after he saw the Cinco Robles sign in Duarte near City of Hope.
A few historic gas lamps are still in use today in Duarte Mesa. The city has decided to pay the gas bill in order to keep these lamps in service.
Duarte Road has had many name changes, including County Road and Main Street. Huntington Drive used to be called Falling Leaf Avenue.
The first adobe in Duarte still exists, as it is incorporated into a late-Victorian home on Tocino Drive.
Over 70% of the housing in Duarte was built before 1980 as single-family houses.
Duarte locals used to visit the local Monrovia Airport as a popular pastime when it was open from 1928 to 1953. The small airport was used for many activities, including mail services, flying lessons, and air shows.
Duarte used to have its own variety of avocado called the Chappelow. The Chappelow avocado trees were planted in Duarte with seeds from a Mexican tree that was resistant to frost. Unfortunately, the Chappelow variety is now extinct.