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A slice of vintage Upland

September 13, 2008|Mark Kendall | Special to The Times

T HE OLD MAGNOLIA Historic District, which was one of the first neighborhoods built in what is today the city of Upland in San Bernardino County, offers charming vintage homes within walking distance of downtown shops, eateries and a commuter train station.


Like many of the boom-and-bust settlements that sprouted up across the region in the late 1800s, Magnolia never quite blossomed into a full-fledged city under its original name.

With the Santa Fe railroad arriving in the area in 1887, the Bedford brothers purchased 200 acres in the northern section of the vast Ontario agricultural colony. They laid out streets, sold lots and built the fancy Magnolia Villa Hotel. Then came the region's big real estate bust of 1888. Business withered, and the brothers, who ran into title problems on the hotel, saw their property fall into foreclosure. North Ontario came to reign as the name for the town.

In 1906, North Ontario broke away to form its own city called Upland. It wasn't until 2003 that the Magnolia name was revived as Upland designated this core neighborhood its first historic district.

Insiders' views

Beyond the white picket fences and spacious front porches, the Old Magnolia district is known for its wide variety of architectural styles, including Colonial Revival and Victorian. Many homes were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"They're all different," said Dave Stevens, a former Upland City councilman who bought his Craftsman bungalow in the district for $29,000 in 1974. "Every home has its own character."

Kati Parker, who has lived in three homes in this neighborhood in eight years, couldn't agree more. While still single, she bought her first Old Magnolia house after falling for a 1935 Spanish colonial revival bungalow with its original look preserved. "I always wanted to live in old homes," she said. "They have a lot more charm in the architecture and woodwork."

Later, married with children, she moved up to a nearby four-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot turn-of-the-last-century cottage. Just recently, Parker and her husband, Craig, snapped up a bank-owned, 2,000-square-foot English Tudor, built in 1925, with hardwood floors they couldn't resist. They paid $372,000, Parker said, adding that the home needed "a lot of TLC."

Walkers' delight

Parker enjoys the convenience of being able to walk only a few blocks to dine at restaurants, relax at a coffeehouse or stroll the weekly (for much of the year) farmers market in Upland's old-fashioned downtown, centered along 2nd Avenue south of the Old Magnolia district.

"The people downtown, they all know who I am," she said.

Also within walking distance are City Hall, the public library and a post office. Running north-south through the entire city, Euclid Avenue's wide, tree-shaded center median is popular with joggers and strollers. And a newer east-west biking trail now crosses through downtown, connecting Upland with neighboring cities.

The big draw for commuters is the Metrolink train station, only four blocks from the historic district, with double-decker trains carrying riders to downtown Los Angeles every day.

Housing stock

A three-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,400-square-foot home in average condition in Old Magnolia goes for about $300,000 these days, according to Karen Ocker of Ward & Ward Realtors in Upland, though she notes that vintage dwellings in top shape can fetch far more. The district tends to attract niche buyers hooked on old homes, she said, with some going to great lengths to restore them to their original look.

About 109 historic homes are in Old Magnolia, which is roughly bounded by Euclid Avenue on the west, 3rd Avenue to the east, 11th Street to the north and Arrow Highway to the south.

Additional historic properties can be found nearby in other old neighborhoods, including the expansive Pleasant View Historic District that lies southeast of Magnolia.

Report card

The Old Magnolia neighborhood is within the Upland Unified School District. Upland Elementary received a score of 766 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2007 Base Academic Performance Index Report.

Upland Junior High scored 710, while Upland High earned 760.


Sources: "Upland Trails" by Donald L. Clucas; "Pages from the Past" by Bernice Conley; www.historic;

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