Route 66 in La Verne, California
You are near the end of your Route 66 journey when you descend the San Bernardino mountains into the Inland Empire of Southern California. The drive is easy now, and in another 50 miles, you will start to feel the cooler weather of the Pacific Ocean.
One of the first cities on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County is La Verne. Foothill Boulevard is Route 66 through this southern California suburb. The route runs straight through the middle of town, which incorporated in 1887 as Lordsburg by the land speculator Wilson Lord. The name changed after Wilson Lord died. This photo scrapbook will take you down Route 66, starting on the east and ending at the west end of the city.
U.S. Route 66 Through La Verne
The entire stretch of Foothill Blvd has been redeveloped in this LA suburb. Only a couple of buildings still stand that would have been part of a traveler's experience in the 30s and 40s.
La Verne has decided not to actively commemorate Route 66, so you will not see many signs like other cities along the route. The city has pretty much cleared the old, and the road looks late-20th century now.
Traveling through today, you will find a tree-lined boulevard with condos and shopping divisions. There is an Old Town along D Street about a mile from Foothill. There you will see turn-of-the-century buildings and commemoration of the old orange groves. Old Town is also home to La Verne University, a popular private college. It is a small college situated on old-town city blocks and blends in with the neighborhood.
Two blocks south of Foothill on D St. is the United Methodist Church, site of the closing scene of 1964 movie The Graduate.
Read "Remembering Mt. Baldy Drive-In" for more information about the immediate area on Foothill.
Your Route Starting From the East End
At Gary and Foothill past the Jack in the Box is the oldest-looking building on Foothill. Look for a good view of the San Gabriel Mountains with the "L".
As you travel down Foothill Blvd, look for this original native California Live Oak tree behind the La Paloma sign. Before the citrus groves were planted, this tree dominated the area.
The first street in La Verne coming up after the landscaping place is Williams Ave. A big citrus grove lined Foothill during the late twenties owned by the Williams family on the north side. When the road was designated Route 66, the family started with a citrus stand and then expanded to Tom's Cafe.
The farm property was divided and sold in the sixties, but this building remains. The original Tom's Cafe's stained glass windows were retained for a popular Mexican eatery established in the sixties.
An old photo appearing in the local newspaper showed a double window where the side door is now. The window invited travelers into a comfortable family eatery. The original family farmhouse still stands on Williams Ave.
The city has preserved a small orange grove at Heritage Park. A California live oak that is endemic to the area is there as well (see above). A creek runs through the park. Orange groves could have been seen from Foothill all the way to the base of the foothills. The groves are tract homes now.
The DeWenter Mansion, built in the 40s, is still the grandest house in town and sits on a knoll about a mile from Route 66. Henry DeWenter was able to build the gem from the earnings of his 299-acre orange grove and ranch. The traveler would have seen the house above the orange groves from Foothill Blvd. Built for grandeur and entertaining, there is an indoor pond/pool under a glass atrium on the south side and a two-story-high living room with views facing the mountains on the north. Actors and the rich enjoyed stays and entertainment in this impressive 10,000-foot house.
In 1986 the Heritage Foundation of La Verne offered tours. The neighbors enjoyed seeing fairy-tale decor, such as tasteful wood trim, stairs, and windows of the early 20th century. A patio setting with concrete banisters lines the north side of the house. The front of the house faces the San Gabriel Mountains. The high windows you see on the left is the beautiful living room. The two small windows on the second story seen at the corner of the house is an open loft with wood banisters and a cozy view of the living room below. A doorway from the loft leads to a castle-like stairway to the atrium and pool below.
By the early nineties large tract homes and a new elementary school circles the property. The school is to the west of a creek that runs past the house. This picture is a view from the school grounds. It is visible from Heritage Park, as well. The mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and owned by a private resident.
West End of La Verne
Half a mile west of the Mansion is a house still standing from the early 20th century. It is a restaurant at the corner of Moreno and Foothill and a couple of blocks from the Hormel House (the food-processing family).
The Hormel summer house now faces a 20-foot wall for the 210 freeway. It probably had a beautiful lawn facing Foothill at one time. A glimpse of the living room, dining room, and kitchen at an antique sale confirmed that this is a lovely example of Spanish-Mediterranean style.
Department of Water of Power
In the 20s and 30s, this was orange-grove country. By the 40s, the trees started to fade and began to be bulldozed for tract homes.
Just a half mile south of the boulevard on Moreno, the Department of Water and Power built a water processing plant in 1940. This concrete structure is an Art Deco gem and is still processing water for the area for the county. Designed by Daniel Elliot of reinforced concrete, it is a substation of a 392-mile aqueduct.
How About You?
Have you enjoyed traveling on Route 66?
Stainless Steel Restaurant
At the western border of the city is the stainless steel Denny's Restaurant with a Route 66 sign. Around 2014, this diner became a Mr. D's Restaurant with Greek-inspired American menu items. It has been immensely popular since.
The contractor reused the very tall palms from the shuttered fast-food drive-in that used to be on this location.
If you should take a Route 66 road trip, I hope this will make your trip through La Verne a little more enjoyable.
Postcards From the Past
Questions & Answers
© 2009 Sherry Venegas