On January 7, 1978, Glendora's first State Historical Land-mark was dedicated. Known as
the Glendora Bougainvillea, the site contains the largest growth of Bougainvillea in the
United States. Planted at the turn of the century, the vines cover the lower portion of
twenty-five, ninety-foot palm trees, stretching for 600 feet along Bennett Avenue and 600
feet along Minnesota Avenue. The twelve-hundred foot growth borders two sides of an orange
grove owned by Dr. and Mrs. L. J. Pittman. These magnificent vines have been viewed
through the years by thousands of people from all over the U. S. and other countries. The
beautiful magenta to purple-colored bracts are in evidence throughout the entire year,
although the heaviest bloom is in December, May, June and July. During these months there
are so many florescences that the green leaves can scarcely be seen. The trunks of these
giants are 18 to 24 inches in diameter.
The soil around the vines has been kept from eroding by a 20-inch cobblestone wall
which surrounds the entire grove. This wall, built in 1912, also is of historical
interest. It is composed of round rocks hauled by team from the San Gabriel River bed,
four miles to the west. Constructed by contractor Martin Pierce, it was bonded and capped
with hand-mixed mortar. There were once many miles of cobblestone walls surrounding groves
in the area, but most have been destroyed.
The Pittman orange grove, the palm trees (Washingtonia robusta) bordering it on two
sides, and the Bougainvilleas, were planted by Reuben Hamlin, a former Canadian, who came
to the area in the late 1800's. However, Hamlin's wife, Helen, is credited with having
instigated the planting of the vines. According to information passed from owner to owner,
and the recollections of residents still alive, the grove and palm trees were planted in
about 1890 and the Bougainvilleas in the early 1900's. Being fertilized and irrigated as
part of the orange grove, the growth was rapid. In the 1930's and 40's each of the 25
Bougainvilleas reached a height of 50 to 70 feet, forming a column of color 12 to 20 feet
in diameter. In the 1950's, heavy rainfall and winds caused some of the dead palm fronds,
which were the climbing frame for the vines, to start shearing off. Gradually over the
years, the vines have slid down and bulged out. At the present time, some are only 20 feet
in height, although others still reach 40 feet.
footnote: Dr Lloyd J Pittman. on whose property the magnificent vines and palms grow,
shares with us this story behind the new state historic marker.
Being sub-tropical to tropical, the Bougainvillea cannot be grown as a year-round
outdoor plant in any part of the continental United States except along the coastal region
of southern California and certain parts of Florida. Even in these locations, cold nights
below 32 will cause considerable dieback of the smaller branches. One of the reasons for
the great success of the vines at the Pittman ranch is the flow of warm air from the
Dalton Canyon on cold nights. The air flows along a temperature slot less than 1/2 mile
wide. The vines, being in the center of this slot, are seldom subjected to below freezing
It has been difficult to exactly pinpoint the year of planting of the Glendora
Bougainvilleas. From the old time residents in their 70's to 90's the Pittmans have
received the only pertinent data. Mrs. Keith Suydam came to Glendora in 1901 and lived
within 800 feet of the planting, until 1977 when she passed away. She stated that when she
and her family arrived, the vines were already growing. Mrs. Ruth Kimball Richardson,
local historian, claims that her family left Glendora in 1900 and returned in 1914, at
which time the vines were already quite large. Francis Detwiler attended Wilson Elementary
School, located across the street from the planting, from 1914 to 1920. He remembers often
retrieving baseballs from the vines. Two other prominent Glendorans, Mrs. Stanley Lawton
and Mrs. C. M. La Fetra, remember being shown the magnificent display when they first came
to Glendora in 1927. Melvin Shorey, manager of the Foothill Supply Company and grandson of
Phillip Shorey, a prominent pioneer of Glendora, says that the Bougainvilleas were very
large in 1929 when the second owner, Ivan Hanley, bought the ranch from Reuben Hamlin.
A newspaper article from 1944 states that the vines were planted by Mrs. R. W. Hamlin
over 41 years before, thereby placing the date of the planting about 1903. The late Dr.
Glenn Odell, who passed away recently at the age of 92 said, "I can't remember a time
when the Bougainvilleas were not growing there!"
The staff of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, particularly Mrs.
Beatrice Beck, Librarian and Mr. John Dourley, Superintendent, have contributed
substantially to our knowledge of the history of the genus in California and the world.
Bougainvillea is named for Louis Antoine de Bougainville, the first Frenchman to cross the
Pacific. He was aide-de-camp to General Montcalm in the French and Indian Wars. When
France lost her empire in Canada, he, in 1768, with the King's botanist Philibert
Commerson, set sail on a voyage of discovery for France. During this voyage, Commerson
found a plant in Brazil and named it after Bougainville. It was taken on their voyage to
the South Pacific and later to France as a "stove plant." This is an old term
applied to plants that had to be taken indoors in the winter and kept near a stove.
Because they have grown so profusely in the South Pacific, people do not realize that
Bougainvillea is native to South America!
It is believed that Bougainvilleas were brought to southern California by a whaling
ship, about 1870. By 1895 the vines were flourishing in the citrus growing areas. In the
book, Plants For Extra Tropical Regions, by Reidel, it states, "Dr. Franceschi
says that both "giabra" and "spectabilis" (the two species at the
Glendora site) were old-timers in Santa Barbara in 1895."
When citrus was one of the two major industries in California, tourists and laborers
were being attracted by the many pictures of beautiful ranch homes in a setting of orange
groves, palm trees, flowers and snow-capped mountains. Beautiful gardens flourished in the
citrus communities. The period had a culture of its own, as many of the ranchers were
wealthy men who had come from the east. They helped start fine colleges and generally
encouraged fine arts in this part of the valley. In the 30's and 40's Glendora stores sold
post cards showing the Bougainvilleas in bloom. During this time, Hollywood film crews
regularly filmed the vines and the footage was shown across the nation in theaters as a
promotional effort. Mrs. James Vincent, who grew up on East Bennett Avenue, remembers that
it was a treat for local children to watch the movie companies shooting pictures of the
Bougainvillea-covered palm trees with the orange grove and Mt. Baldy in the background.
Later they were thrilled to see these pictures at the theater.
For many years it was the dream of Dr. and Mrs. Pittman to preserve in some way the
palm trees and Bougainvillea so that future generations could enjoy the display. It had
taken so many years to create this magnificence that it seemed a crime to allow it to be
destroyed. On more than one occasion, Dr. Pittman had fought, with the help of other
concerned citizens, to preserve the site against the ax of progress and the philosophy of
destruction that preceded the present era of ecology. Now the preservation of our nation's
historic heritage is being recognized and furthered. When it became apparent that the
Pittmans would have to subdivide the orange grove (they now are an island of citrus in the
middle of the city), they decided that the only way they could guarantee the preservation
of the Bougainvillea was to have it established as a California State Historical Landmark
and listed in the National Register.
In November of 1976, they contacted State Senator H. L. Richardson, whose office did a
superb job of bringing them together with the proper people in state Government; both in
the Los Angeles and Sacramento areas. The first act was to apply for listing in the
"California State Inventory of Historic Resources," and the state program of
"Points of Historical Interest," through Los Angeles County representatives
connected with the state programs. Then came the contacts with Sacramento, determining the
requirements to qualify for a California State Historical Landmark.
Research had to be done, in establishing the history of the genus, the history of
Bougainvillea in California and Florida, the determination of the location of the largest
domestic plantings in the world, and the date of planting of the Glendora Bougainvillea.
In accomplishing these requirements, many people had to be interviewed and some contacted
by mail. The services of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden were volunteered by Dr. Lee Lenz,
Administrator. They researched the history of the genus throughout the world and provided
the determining factors in establishing the Glendora Bougainvillea as the largest domestic
growth in the United States.
After seven months of preparation, the applications were filed on May 31, 1977. On
September 1, 1977, by a unanimous vote of the California Historical Landmark Advisory
Committee, the Glendora Bougainvillea became California State Historical Landmark No. 912,
and was nominated by the Committee to the National Register in Washington, D. C.
Following this achievement came several months of planning for the dedication ceremony.
The date had been set for January 7, 1978. A monument had to be built, at the expense of
the Pittrnans, on which the bronze plaque supplied by the State could be mounted. At the
suggestion of state officials, the monument was constructed by hand, using rocks from the
San Gabriel River bed, in the same way and to get the same appearance as the historic wall
surrounding the site. The neighboring city of Azusa was very generous in supplying
materials for the construction. Great credit should also go to Frank Foti of Glendora and
Charlie Summers of Covina, whose spirit and efforts in the construction of the monument
saved the Pittmans about $1,000. There were also contributions to the dedication from
Glendora High School, Citrus College and Oakdale Cemetery. The Tom Rector family installed
their professional sound equipment and the City of Glendora provided traffic control and
chairs. Neighbors addressed over 600 invitations and helped set up the stage at the site.
One of several things the Pittmans had not anticipated in planning for the dedication
was the almost continuous rainfall which persisted right up to the day of the ceremony.
The monument was built in short periods sometimes of only a few hours between showers.
Several people advised Dr. Pittman to arrange for tents to cover the crowd, or make
provisions to have the ceremony at one of the churches in case it was raining. However,
Dr. Pittman did not make any provisions for a wet day.
Because the foundry had made a mistake on the delivery date the bronze plaque was not
ready until 8:00 A.M. on January 6, the day before the dedication! Starting before dawn,
Dr. Pittman drove 140 miles in heavy rain to get it, arriving home about 11:00 A.M.
"I drove in an almost blinding rain storm all the way," he recalls. "More
than once I said, 'Lord, how are we going to make it?' When I was five miles from
Glendora, the rain stopped. My friend, Frank Foti was waiting for me and had everything in
readiness for mounting the plaque. We worked until 12 o'clock that night, putting the
finishing touches on the speaker's platform, using extension lights from a neighbor's
house. It was cloudy, but not raining. The next day, the day of the dedication, the sun
rose in a clear and beautiful sky! This was only one of the almost insurmountable problems
that were overcome. Some details will not be told here, but if the truth were known, the
story of the Glendora Bougainvillea Historic Landmark would be considered a fiction
By 11:00 A.M. Saturday morning, January 7, hundreds of people had lined the streets.
The Glendora High School Band and Drill Team marched along Minnesota and Bennett Avenues,
starting the ceremony. Dr. Glenn Vaniman, retired President of Citrus College, acted as
Master of Ceremonies, introducing the Pittman Family and other dignitaries. Congressman
John Rousselot of the 26th District, gave the opening address, stressing the importance of
historic preservation to the people of our nation. Prominent Glendoran Mary E. La Fetra
was the keynote speaker, presenting the story of the Bougainvillea, its beginnings, its
importance and its future. Dr. Knox Mellon, California State Historic Preservation Officer
from Sacramento, presented the Historical Landmark No. 912 to the people of Glendora. His
address was most complimentary to the sponsors and the citizens of Glendora and the
neighboring communities who had worked so hard to make this preservation a reality. Mayor
Joe Finkbiner accepted the Landmark for Glendora.
The inspiring program was climaxed with the unveiling of the monument by the local
Campfire Girls and Boy Scouts. The crowd pressed forward to read on the bronze plaque:
PLANTED IN 1901 BY THE R. W. HAMLINS, EARLY CITRUS GROWERS, THE GLENDORA BOUGAINVILLEA
IS THE LARGEST GROWTH OF THIS EXOTIC PLANT IN THE UNITED STATES' THE PARENT STOCK WAS
BROUGHT TO CALIFORNIA BY A WHALING SHIP ABOUT 1870, AND THE VINES SURVIVE AS ONE OF THE
BEST EXAMPLES REMAINING OF THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY PROMOTIONAL IMAGE OF CALIFORNIA AS A
CALIFORNIA REGISTERED HISTORICAL LANDMARK NO. 912
PLAQUE PLACED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION IN COOPERATION WITH THE
L. J. PITTMAN FAMILY, JANUARY 7, 1978.
On February 7, 1978, the Glendora Bougainvillea was approved for listing in the
National Register of the Department of the Interior, giving it Federal protection and
making it eligible for a grant-in-aid under the Historic Preservation Act of 1966. This
grant-in-aid can be used for restoration or rehabilitation. At the recent Third Annual
Historic Preservation Conference it was mentioned by Dr. William Murtagh, Keeper of the
National Register and state representatives connected with the program, that the Glendora
Bougainvillea has set a precedent by being the first plant or group of plants ever listed
in the National Register.
It must certainly be mentioned here that credit should be given to Congressman John
Rousselot and his staff, both in Washington and Arcadia, for their dedicated support of
the project. On February 24, John Rousselot made a presentation to the Congress so that
the people of other states could be made aware of the Glendora Bougainvillea and its
importance to the Nation as a point of beauty. His words were printed in the Congressional
The Pittmans plan a program of restoration for the Bougainvillea. With the help of
grant-in-aid money, if it becomes available, they will surround each palm tree with a pipe
trellis, after first trimming the vines to approximately an 8 foot diameter column. It is
believed that in a matter of 3 to 5 years each plant will be able to regain a height of 50
feet and will grow around the trellis so that the pipe structure can no longer be seen.
The site will be set up in a Landscaping District, through which fertilizer and water will
be provided. Under the rules of the State of California and the national government, Dr.
Pittman will continue to be responsible for the welfare of the Bougainvilleas and will
direct cultural practices for their maintenance, improvement and preservation.
The best time to visit the Landmark is in May, June, July, and December. June and July
are usually the months of heaviest florescence. The winter bloom in December is usually
less intense. Unless there is quite a period of heavy rainfall, the Bougainvilleas have
some bloom in evidence throughout the year. The display is more exciting with a moderately
low sun, either in the morning or late afternoon. It is interesting to note that most of
the color comes from the bracts that surround the flower. They are really a leaf-form
color variation, and for this reason there are times that it seems the vines are solid
flowers with practically no green leaves in sight.
The State of California Department of Highways will soon post signs on the 210 Freeway,
visible as one approaches the Grand Avenue off-ramp. From there it is hoped the city of
Glendora will provide signs leading to the site. Until then, the best plan is to follow
the 210 Freeway to the Glendora area, turning off at the Grand Avenue off-ramp and
proceeding north on Grand 1.3 miles to Bennett Avenue. Turn right (or east) on Bennett and
travel 0.6 miles to the intersection of Minnesota Avenue. The monument stands about 40
feet east of this corner on the north side of Bennett Avenue.
The people of Glendora are especially grateful to the State of California and the
National Government for preserving the Glendora Bougainvillea.