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Alhambra City


Alhambra City Hall is located at 111 South First Street, Alhambra, CA 91801; phone: 626-576-8568.

Alhambra City
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Beginnings [1]

Alhambra has a long history with roots preceding the birth of the United States. Many of Alhambra's earliest settlers shaped the land in ways that still influence the city over a century later. For thousands of years, the Tongva Native Americans lived in villages throughout the San Gabriel Valley until the Spanish took over in the 1700s. In the 1840s, Benjamin Davis Wilson, the "founding father" of Alhambra, acquired much of the land of the San Gabriel Valley and property throughout Southern California. Wilson and his son-in-law, James deBarth Shorb, an innovative engineer, subdivided a portion of Wilson's land, and in 1875 they developed the first tract home properties with water piped in through iron pipes in California. Wilson and Shorb noted that the descriptions from Washington Irving's Tales from the Alhambra were similar to the mountain vistas visible from the tract of land, thus inspiring the name, "The Alhambra Tract." Due to the water pipeline, the tract sold out quickly, and Wilson and Shorb developed and sold additional land tracts. Single family residential subdivisions became a key feature of Alhambra that has continued to define the city even today. These earliest neighborhood land tracts were typically acquired by educated Americans permanently relocating from east of the Mississippi. They built unique homes to settle in for the rest of their lives. To meet the needs of the growing population, Hiram Willard Stanton, Alhambra's first schoolteacher, storekeeper, postmaster, telephone agent, and promoter, established Alhambra's first business center centered around a common corridor in 1885—Main Street. Main Street quickly transformed into a commercial and social hub for the entire San Gabriel Valley, a distinction that has been reclaimed in recent years.

In 1901, more than 500 community residents formed the Alhambra Improvement Association and advocated for incorporation which occurred on July 11, 1903. A Moorish-style arch was adopted as a symbol for Alhambra as a nod to its Spanish namesake, as well as a symbol of the city's role as the gateway to the San Gabriel Valley from Los Angeles. It is currently part of the City's logo and incorporated into public art throughout Alhambra.

Alhambra underwent tremendous population growth and economic expansion throughout the twentieth century. A mere decade after incorporation, Alhambra's population grew from 500 to 5,000. By 1930, the population rose to 30,000 and by 1950, over 50,000 people called Alhambra home. While the City's growth benefitted from its close proximity to Los Angeles, Alhambra succeeded in developing its own economy by successfully attracting dozens of manufacturing plants and businesses.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, Alhambra's population growth was fueled by immigration. Alhambra embraced a wave of Italian immigrants in the 1950s, Mexican immigrants in the 1960s, and Chinese immigrants in the 1980s. Today, with over half of its current population foreign born, Alhambra is not only the Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley, but a gateway into an American life. These first generation immigrants help inject new life and business into the city and bring firm ties to a global economy. This substantial, diversified growth poses a challenge to Alhambra's leadership. Alhambra must actively plan to achieve a balance between preserving Alhambra's historic small-town feel while exploring areas for new development to accommodate a growing population and an expanding economy.

Alhambra Single-Family Neighborhoods [2]

The City of Alhambra was originally composed of the smaller communities of Alhambra, Ramona, Shorb, and Dolgeville, with Alhambra located northwest of Mission Road and Atlantic Boulevard; Ramona bounded by Valley Boulevard, Atlantic Boulevard, Hellman Avenue, and Fremont Avenue; Shorb concentrated at the corner of Mission Road and Fremont Avenue; and Dolgeville located north of Shorb. The majority of residential development in the early 1900s was concentrated in these communities. Single-family houses built during this period were predominantly Craftsman, Foursquare, Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Victorian architectural styles.

The most significant era of residential development in Alhambra happened during the 1920s and 1930s. New homes filled in existing neighborhoods and expanded onto former farmland such as the Bean Tract in the northeastern corner of the City and Emery Park in western Alhambra. Since most of these houses were being built individually by future homeowners and small contractors, the neighborhoods developed slowly and contained a diverse number of architectural styles and building layouts compared to modern residential projects. The most popular architectural styles during this period were Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival with intermittent Colonial Revival, Modern, Monterey, and Ranch houses.

In the years after World War II, the last undeveloped and underdeveloped portions of the city gave way to single-family neighborhoods. These new neighborhoods included the former Midwick Country Club, the area south of Almansor Park, and the former Alhambra Airport property. Developers and homeowners were embracing the informal and flexible layout and low cost of Ranch style houses in the late 1940s. Almansor Park, the Airport Tract, and much of the Midwick Tract neighborhoods are exclusively Ranch houses with Colonial Revival and Modern touches.

  1. City of Alhambra with funding by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Compass Blueprint Demonstration Program, Community Plan, 2012, sustain.scag.ca.gov, accessed August, 2015.
  2. City of Alhambra, California, Single-Family Residential Design Guidelines, 2009, www.cityofalhambra.org, accessed April, 2016.
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