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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

High marks for history

December 12, 2004|Mark Kendall | Special to The Times

Ontario's College Park Historic District has homes from the 1910s through the 1940s built in a variety of architectural styles in a setting shaded by mature trees. This San Bernardino County neighborhood is a popular spot for walking and is home to a gourmet olive business that draws visitors from near and far.

Beginnings

Developers of the College Park tract had upscale aspirations when they subdivided an orange grove for housing in 1914. The subdivision was one of the first in the area to offer underground phone and electrical lines, as well as gas and water. Buyers of most lots were required to spend a minimum of $2,000 to build their houses -- a substantial sum in those days -- and for some choice lots the minimum was $3,500.

Parkford Realty Co. promoted the neighborhood and didn't hold back on the hype in its advertising in the Ontario Daily Report. One ad anointed College Park as "The Most Artistic, the Most Attractive, the Most Exclusive, the Swellest and the Best Built of Any, Anywhere."

The original tract consisted of 48 homes. When the city established the College Park Historic District in 2000, the boundaries included 76 properties. The district encompasses 4th Street between Euclid and Sultana avenues and the 100 and 200 blocks of East Princeton Street and East Harvard Place. The 1100 block of North Columbia Avenue also is included, as are a few homes in the 300 block of East Princeton Street.

Drawing cards

College Park home styles include Craftsman Bungalow, Colonial Revival, Mediterranean, Prairie and Provincial Revival.

"There's no duplication," said Burt Farber, who bought a Colonial Revival home with his wife a year and a half ago. "It is the antithesis of the modern housing development."

Deodar cedar trees form a woodsy canopy over much of the district. Farber said this keeps the area cooler than surrounding neighborhoods in the summer.

"A lot of people walk that area, a lot of mothers with their baby strollers," said Rick Gage, a real estate broker and president of the Ontario Heritage preservation group. "People love the large trees and the whole ambience."

The residential neighborhood is home to the Graber Olive House at 315 E. 4th St. Clifford Graber established the enterprise in 1894, and his descendants still run the operation. Olives are grown in the San Joaquin Valley, but the company's heavily landscaped grounds are home to a cannery, which is open to the public for tours from October through December.

The business has provided first jobs for many teenagers over the years, some of whom have stuck around. On a recent November day, 70-year-old Jack Piser was working the boiler room. He started working there when he was 16, and hasn't seen much change. "All the equipment is basically the same," he said.

Picnic tables and trees ranging from redwoods to oaks to palms create a park-like setting on the Graber grounds, and social events are held there. An old orange grove, historical structures, a gift shop and museum also are located on the property.

Good news, bad news

The original promoters of College Park touted the neighborhood's location adjacent to Chaffey College of Agriculture, started in the 1880s, now the site of Chaffey High School.

The 65-acre high school has several historical buildings, including the Gardiner W. Spring Auditorium. Built in the 1930s with help from the Works Progress Administration, the Mission Revival-style auditorium serves as a performing arts center for the community.

But these days College Park's proximity to the school brings heavy traffic through the neighborhood when classes let out in the afternoon, according to Farber. Graffiti also crops up in the area, though the city quickly cleans it up, Farber said.

Housing market

Buyers pay from $400,000 to $500,000 for a typical 2,500-square-foot home in the district, said Gage, who specializes in historical properties. Few homes sell each year in the district. A year ago, a 2,000-square-foot English Tudor home sold for $400,000 and a 2,600-square-foot Dutch Colonial sold for $475,000. About 18 months ago, a two-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot Spanish Revival home sold for $330,000.

Though the College Park district is limited to several streets, many other historical properties are nearby on Euclid Avenue. The Rosewood Court Historic District borders the southern end of College Park.

Report card

Students attend Edison Elementary School, which scored 691 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2004 Academic Performance Index. Vina Danks Middle School scored 642. Chaffey High School, for which 2004 scores are not available, scored 615 on the 2003 Academic Performance Index.

Sources: api.cde.ca.gov, Ontario Daily Report (1915), Rick Gage of Ontario Heritage, www.ci.ontario.ca.us, www.chaffey.org, Ontario City Library's Model Colony Room.

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