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City Smart | Community Profile: La Verne

August 23, 1996|MAYRAV SAAR

From its ambitious beginnings in 1887, the city once known as Lordsburg placed what is now the University of La Verne at its economic and strategic core.

Isaac W. Lord, a Los Angeles businessman who owned a significant amount of land in the foothills of the Pomona and San Gabriel valleys, convinced the Santa Fe Railroad to extend its lines to Lordsburg. The railroad did, and what ensued was one of the most massive real estate coups of that time: Lord sent brass bands marching up and down the streets of Los Angeles and San Bernardino, heralding his town and inviting would-be landowners to an enormous open house. More than 2,500 jumped on the train and bought $200,000 worth of lots.

Buildings started going up, including a large hotel in which Lord had invested $70,000.

Lord was a shrewd businessman with a big dream, but he was no Bugsy Siegel, and Lordsburg was no Las Vegas. Despite the tremendous amount of money and work poured into the area, practically no one lived there, and it is believed that the ill-fated hotel never had a single paying guest.

But when a religious group moved into town, the large building was saved. M.M. Eshelman, a Midwesterner and member of the Church of the Brethren, rode into Lordsburg after helping to create a Brethren college in McPherson, Kan. George McDonaugh, a fellow Brethren and a public relations man for the Santa Fe, caught up with Eshelman and persuaded him to convert the failed hotel into a religious college.

Eshelman bought the hotel and 100 adjacent city lots for $15,000. Brethrens flocked to the town and established a congregation. And by the fall of 1891, the college opened with eight faculty and 135 students.

The university is no longer exclusively Brethren, and the original hotel/school building, which faced south along Second

Street, was razed in 1927, when the college moved into Founders Hall.

The town had a more difficult time tearing down its old identity. Although a movement to change the town's name began in 1912, the dwellers of Lordsburg had to wait until their founder's death in 1917 to officially become La Verne. The new name came from a northern foothill rancher known as Mrs. Bixby, who called her land La Verne because it was filled with trees and she spoke a little French (verne means "alder" in French).

A ceremony celebrating the city's new name involved a symbolic wedding in which "Miss Lordsburg" was married to "Mr. La Verne." No one blinked at the ploy at the time, but had the residents waited until the 1990s to conduct these nuptials, the city might now have the cumbersome name of "Lordsburg-La Verne."

La Verne Tidbit

The Liberty Bell in front of La Verne City Hall is an exact replica of the bell in Philadelphia and was cast in the same British foundry. It is one of only two sold in California when the bells were purchased by public subscription in 1976.


By the Numbers


Date incorporated: Aug. 20, 1906

Area in square miles: 10

Number of parks: 12

Number of city employees: 144 fulltime; 180 part time

1995-96 operating budget: $12 million



Latino: 18%

White: 71%

Asian: 7%

Black: 3%

Other: .6%



Population: 30,897

Households: 10,843

Average hopusehold size: 3

Median age: 35



Median household income: $46,587

Median household income/LA County: $34,965

Median home value: $253,200

Employed workers (16 and older): 16,216

Women in labor force: 60%

Men in labor force: 78%

Self-employed: 1,119

Car-poolers: 1,823



Married couple families with children: 34%

Married couple families with no children: 31%

Other types of families: 12%

Nonfamily households: 23%



$0 to $14,999: 13%

$15,000 to $24,999: 11%

$25,000 to $49,999: 30%

$50,000 to $74,999: 26%

$75,000 to $99,999: 13%

$100,000 or more: 8%



Total stores: 181

Total employees: 1,584

Annual sales: $169 million

Source: Claritas Inc. retail figures are for 1995. All other figures are for 1990. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

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