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Book Takes Step Back Into the Region's Past : THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY: CHRONICLES OF AN ABUNDANT LAND, by William F. King . Windsor Publications Inc.. $27.95, 152 pages

July 04, 1990|BEN SULLIVAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government established La Mision del Santo Arcangel San Gabriel de Los Temblores in 1769, the surrounding land was marked chiefly by broad grass plains and clusters of oak and alder trees.

Today, the area known as the San Gabriel Valley is better identified as home to nine freeways, more than two dozen cities and communities and close to 2 million residents.

That transition from virgin land to major metropolis is the subject of historian William F. King's "The San Gabriel Valley: Chronicles of an Abundant Land."

Commissioned by the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, the book looks at the area's history and its impact on the rest of California.

For example, as one of the state's most fertile regions, the valley was an original site of what was to become California's booming citrus industry, King writes.

In 1940, the state's first freeway was built in the San Gabriel Valley. The opening of the Arroyo Seco Parkway, later called the Pasadena Freeway, ushered in an era of great highway construction for the West Coast.

Today, King said, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and the region's aerospace industry continue to affect the rest of the state, country and world.

A native of Glendora and history professor at Mt. San Antonio College, King said much of the material for the book came from the college courses he teaches.

"Chronicles of an Abundant Land" is one of a series of community and regional histories produced by Windsor Publications. Others in the series include the San Fernando Valley and St. Paul, Minn.

According to Windsor editor Jeffrey Reeves, the books chronicle histories of areas that might otherwise go unrecorded. "They tell a story that doesn't normally get told."

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