The alliterative openings for these “A to Z” columns are kind of corny, but they were my way of starting each one off with some humor. My thesaurus got a workout, that’s for sure. At any rate, I’m going to resist the impulse to rewrite these pieces, other than to correct an error or two. I’ll also annotate each piece with an introduction like this one. This column originally appeared July 18, 2004.
A is for Adobes: ‘Pomona A to Z’ starts at city’s beginnings
Pomona is a cool, classic, crazy city, and that’s using only the letter C. I’ll be employing 26 letters to describe Pomona as I highlight one neat thing about the city for each letter of the alphabet.
Call it “Pomona A to Z,” a humble attempt to shine a positive light on some of the city’s most fascinating corners. As mentioned previously, this is a frank ripoff of “Pittsburgh A to Z,” a marvelous WQED-TV documentary by Rick Sebak. Except mine won’t have the Steelers.
Let’s start with Letter A candidates, of which Pomona has an awesome array:
Antique Row and the Arts Colony — but who can choose between them?
Agriculture, which gave Pomona its start and its name.
The Arby’s on Garey, built in the original chuckwagon style.
Angelica Textiles, a commercial laundry dating to 1885 that’s still in business.
Richard Armour, a humorist whose memoir “Drug Store Days” is a fond reminiscence of his father’s turn-of-the-century Pomona pharmacy.
An abundant assembly! But in this little survey, A will stand for Adobes.
Luis Guerrero greeted me last Sunday outside La Casa Primera, the first home built in Pomona. It was built from adobe brick in 1837, back when California was still part of Mexico.
Guerrero, a 23-year-old docent, led me inside the one-story home on that sweltering day.
The main room was almost chilly.
“I like to keep the door closed so when you step in, you can really feel the difference in temperature. The adobe walls really keep it cool,” Guerrero said.
Although the first room is set up as a parlor, it was originally a bedroom. It slept seven.
Seven? Not so different from a lot of Pomona homes today, I said, and Guerrero agreed.
“That’s why when Latino families come in, they say, ‘We’ve been there, it happens,’” Guerrero joked.
The home was built by a man named Ygnacio Palomares, a name that rolls like the Ganesha Hills.
He and his business partner, Ricardo Vejar, were given 15,000 acres of former mission land by the governor of Mexico for their cattle operation. That’s essentially modern-day Pomona, Claremont, San Dimas, La Verne and Glendora.
Quite a spread. As Palomares was reputed to have told a friend, quoted in a history by Bess Adams Garner: “All these fertile leagues of land are mine. Every smoke you see rising is from the home of one of my children or one of my friends to whom I have given land.”
Lord of all he surveyed, Palomares lived for 17 years in Pomona’s original starter home. In 1854 he traded up to larger digs with 13 rooms.
He gave the first home to a son, Francisco — avoiding a test of Pomona’s nascent real-estate market.
His second home is known as the Palomares Adobe, and it’s still here too. Volunteer Gena Carpio gave me a tour of the gracious, T-shaped home.
Nice joint, although I can’t say much for the family’s taste in art. Three framed wreaths on the walls are woven from — ugh — human hair. (A waste of good hair, that’s what I say.)
Carpio, 21, was recently involved in a “mudding party” that renovated a wall at the edge of the property. Since the wall is adobe, fixing it simply meant hurling mud at it. “Straw, water, dirt — mix it together and you get bricks that last a lifetime,” Carpio told me.
Or in the case of Palomares’ two adobes, several lifetimes.
TO VISIT: La Casa Primera is at 1569 N. Park Ave. at McKinley; the Palomares Adobe is at 491 E. Arrow Highway at Orange Grove. Both are owned by the city of Pomona and opened to the public by the Pomona Valley Historical Society. Hours are 2 to 5 p.m. each Sunday only. A $2 donation is requested. For a group tour, call (909) 626- 2198.
(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, columns formed from straw, water and dirt.)