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FOCUS : Northern Placentia: Founder Bradford Would Be Proud

February 22, 1990|ELENA BRUNET | Clipboard researched by Elena Brunet / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

The orange groves are mostly gone, the packinghouses mostly shut. But there is still a sense of history in this northern Placentia neighborhood, where few of the houses are more than 20 years old.

Early settlers are memorialized with street names--among them (Daniel) Kraemer, (Albert S.) Bradford, (Domingo) Bastanchury--as are explorers (Coronado, Balboa, Lewis, Clark) and astronauts (Aldrin, Armstrong, Glenn). And the home of Albert Sumner Bradford, the man credited with founding Placentia in 1910, still stands and today is a museum.

"Bradford and (Richard) Melrose laid out the original town site," Max Ellis, president of the Placentia Founders Society, explains.

It is appropriate that Bradford's home should be the centerpiece of this neighborhood, which honors pioneers of all sorts. Born in Shapleigh, Me., in 1860, Bradford arrived in Orange County in 1887 and became a citrus rancher in what would become the city of Placentia. But Bradford was "a banker, an oilman and businessman in general," as well as an orange grower, Ellis adds. He organized the Placentia National Bank and was instrumental in bringing the Santa Fe Railroad through Placentia.

The Bradford House, built in 1902 and located at 136 Palm Circle, is a two-story, Queen Anne-style frame house of 15 rooms, including seven bedrooms. The most remarkable thing about the building are the intricate wood carvings on the stair banister and the pillars at the entrance hall leading to the front parlor, as well as the ruby window rumored to have been inspired by a similar window at the home of Madame Modjeska.

Sliding wooden (pocket) doors between the front and back parlors suggest the architecture of Bradford's Eastern youth, and the need to contain the heat emanating from the fireplace. The original kitchen holds several flour bins and a kerosene stove dating from the 1920s. The vent on the wall, however, indicates that a wood stove was originally in use. The dining room's built-in sideboard, with leaded glass windows, has a false back in the kitchen: dishes could be passed straight through from the kitchen directly into the dining room. Back-to-back fireplaces separate the dining room from the back parlor.

Only one of the upstairs bedrooms is decorated to the period style. On the bed is spread a baby dress that originally belonged to Clairee Tynes, not a family member but a prominent member of the Founders Society, who with the society was instrumental in saving the house from the bulldozers. Another bedroom is a dressing room being used during the occasional weddings held in the house. And three bedrooms make an apartment for the Bradford House's live-in caretakers.

Bradford's downstairs office is preserved as it was during his lifetime. On the side of the desk, there are buzzers that sounded in his packinghouse and ranch barn. The original orange crate labels that sent the fruit off on the railroad, are featured--among them Pala Brave, Sun-Tag and Bradford's Tesoro Ranch.

The Bradford House remained in family hands for 70 years until, in 1973, the 2 1/2-acre lot and house were donated to the city. The only stipulation made by the family in the agreement was that the acreage would remain an open space, "a buffer between commercial and residential."

Only four or five orange trees of Bradford's original Tesoro Ranch exist today. But the so-called Bradford Park surrounding the house still provides the welcome respite of greenery, a grassy lawn with palm trees and orange trees away from the burgeoning shopping centers and multiple-unit housing complexes on Yorba Linda Boulevard to the south.

The fate of the Bradford house was uncertain until it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, guaranteeing its protection from alteration or demolition.

The drive for the preservation of older homes also has a commercial aspect. "Historic House and New Office Building," boasts the sign in front of a house at the corner of Palm Drive and Placentia Avenue. The existing clapboard structure is being rehabilitated, and a new section in the same style is under construction behind the house. The house and its addition now under construction will serve as offices for the Realty World Classic Properties, and is expected to be ready for operation next month.

So Bradford will remain a neighbor, of sorts, in this area where he so distinctly made a mark.

Population Total: (1989 est.) 4,109 1980-89 change: +8.6% Median Age: 37.0

Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino): 88% Latino: 6% Black: 1% Other: 5%

By sex and age: MALES Median age: 34.4 years FEMALES Median age: 39.8 years

Income Per capita: $19,104 Median household: $59,957 Average household: $60,957

Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 10% $25,000-49,999: 26% $50,000-74,999: 36% $75,000-$99,999: 17% $100,000 and more: 11%

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