The Palmer Canyon Deeds Collection includes original documents, agreements, correspondence, receipts, and other administrative
materials related to the sale of Palmer Canyon properties between land investor C.S. Phillips and new parcel owners. The land
once owned by the Palmer Family was sold to the Los Angeles capitalist in 1921, who in turn subdivided the property, selling
lots to investors.
Early pioneer and land developer, Henry Austin Palmer has been called the City Father of Claremont and was instrumental in
the founding of the city. Coming to Pomona from northern California in 1882, Palmer left behind years of community service
in Berkeley to try his hand at land development in the area. Palmer and his nephew, Frank Palmer, quickly ingrained themselves
in the community, helping to re-organize the Pomona Land and Water Company, where Henry served as its second president, and
also founded the Pomona Bank in 1883. When the Santa Fe Railroad extended its route from San Bernardino to Los Angeles, it
was Palmer who convinced the railroad company to lay track in northern Pomona based on the argument that following this route
would allow the Santa Fe to help establish several new towns. Santa Fe followed this suggestion and the town of Claremont
was one of many new townsites founded because of the railroad expansion. The townsite of Claremont was laid out on 365 acres
of former Rancho San Jose land purchased by the Pacific Land Improvement Company from the Pomona Land and Water Company. Additionally,
the townsite sat on 65 acres of Palmer’s own land. Palmer helped oversee the land sale between the two companies and is also
attributed with giving Claremont its name.
In addition to his land holdings and civic duties in Pomona, Palmer also had several personal interests in the surrounding
area. Henry Palmer and his family lived in a house known as “El Alisal”, former site of the Alvarado Family Ranch and current
site of Claremont’s Memorial Park. Palmer also held personal investments in land in the foothill areas including Piedmont
Mesa (near the Webb Schools today and where Pomona College was to originally move from Pomona), the current Padua Hills area
(where he planted olive trees), and Palmer Canyon (named for his daughter, Elizabeth Day Palmer).
Palmer Canyon has always been a coveted place, first for the local Native American tribes who lived off the bountiful wild
game in the vicinity and utilized the constant water supply from Palmer Canyon Creek. As a literary connection, Palmer Canyon
is thought to serve as the basis of the location in Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona (1884), where the protagonists, Ramona and
Alessandro elope to “amidst chaparral and under the gnarled oaks and giant sycamores.” Palmer Canyon attracted many early
pioneers for its water supply and saw settlers build living quarters in the canyon. As facilities for digging wells were obtained
to supply water to the valley below, many of the early settlers moved back down from the hills, however a few remained in
Palmer Canyon. John Hughes first filed water rights on the creek, followed by Henry Palmer, the Priester Family, and Mrs.
By the 1920s, Palmer Canyon became a popular weekend destination for the growing population of Claremonters. The canyon was
a favorite spot for botanists, where 94 different kinds of wild flowers were gathered in one afternoon by a botanizing party
and was popular hiking destination for its views of the valley below. In 1921, real estate developer Frank Wheeler helped
close a deal that opened Palmer Canyon up to great improvement. Property owner, Elizabeth D. Palmer, sold her 360 acres of
land to C.S. Phillips, a Los Angeles capitalist, who in turn subdivided and sold lots in the canyon to investors and property
developers. By the 1950s, Palmer Canyon became a unique residential neighborhood in contrast to the popular tract home models
of the time. A single paved road ran through the center of the neighborhood that was about a mile in length with the houses
sitting on unincorporated land in Los Angeles County.
In 2003, the Grand Prix fire passed through Palmer Canyon destroying a vast majority of the homes. The destruction was devastating,
leaving only 4 of the 47 homes that once lined the canyon. The Palmer Canyon Homeowners Association attempted to regain the
building rights for its former residents, yet could not do so unless infrastructure like flood control, modern streets, and
septic updates were included. As the cost was too great for the Palmer Canyon Association to meet for rebuild, it was decided
to sell the land.
1.04 linear feet (3 boxes); containing administrative materials, real estate agreements, deeds, receipts, correspondence,
housing documentation, tract maps, housing covenants, and ledgers.
Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be
secured from the repository and the copyright holder (if applicable).