Snapshots by Decade
1900s: Arcadia incorporated by founder Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin in 1903. Saloons in the tiny community were open 24/7 and a horse race track opened in 1907. Not until Baldwin’s death and the end of horse racing in 1909, did the image of Arcadia change.
1910s: The sale of alcoholic beverages was outlawed in 1912, so the saloons closed. An active real estate market developed and a poultry industry began. Two grocery stores, a drug store, barbershop, hardware store and then a bank opened on First Ave.. The first official City Hall was erected in 1918 and Ross Field (a World War I reconnaissance balloon school) was established on Baldwin’s deserted racetrack grounds.
1920s: The Arcadia Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1921 and Arcadia’s Rotary Club received its charter in 1927. As the city grew, and with large undeveloped areas, a Planning Commission was established. Before long there were paved streets, street signs and reservoirs. Enforcing the provisions of the Volstead Prohibition Act was a major task for Arcadia’s police force. Poultry houses and garages were found to be used as distilleries. Citywide raids were frequent.
1930s: Deodar trees were planted in 1931 every 50 feet along Colorado Boulevard and Huntington Drive. These routes had opened Arcadia to automobile traffic and were considered a trade asset, thus beautification was necessary. A Public Library opened on North First Ave. next to the City Hall that served the city until 1961. A new Santa Anita Park horse racetrack opened on Dec. 25, 1934 with 30,277 in attendance. A bridle path along Santa Anita Ave. that led to the foothills and into the mountains added to the popularity of horseback riding in Arcadia. Horses were permitted in a large part of the city. Arcadia County Park was completed in 1938 with golf course, swimming pool and bowling greens.
1940s: Arcadia’s population grew from 9,122 in 1940 to 15,524 in 1946, which created the demand for three new schools: Santa Anita, Hugo Reid and Highland Oaks. Sewer Bonds passed and plans were finalized for an arboretum. During WWII many restrictions were placed on citizens: Vacation trips were taboo, auto speeds were limited to 35 miles per hour, car-pooling was encouraged and many foods were rationed. Car registrations dropped. Victory Gardens became popular, as did home gardens and food canning. A new City Hall was built on West Huntington Drive.
1950s: Arcadia became a Charter City in 1951, with a City Manager to oversee the city’s business. Six schools opened: Longley Way, Bonita Park, and Camino Grove Elementary schools, Arcadia High School, and Dana and Foothills Middle Schools. The Queen Anne Cottage and Coach Barn at the Arboretum were restored. Methodist Hospital opened, Wilderness Park was dedicated, and “Bekins Van & Storage” was the tallest building in Arcadia.
1960s: Population had grown to 41,005 at the beginning of the decade. A sidewalk construction program was adopted; Baldwin Stocker School opened; and the business of poultry raising was no longer permitted. A new Arcadia Public Library was opened on West Duarte Road, and, on Nov. 13, 1965, a unique and distinct Chamber of Commerce building was dedicated.
1970s: New City Council Chambers were built; a Paramedic Program launched; the 210 “Foothill” Freeway was completed; Santa Anita Fashion Park (mall) was opened; the historic Santa Anita Depot was reconstructed on the Arboretum grounds; and the population exceeded 45,000.
1980s: The community began to grapple with issues such as how to handle the growing trend of “mini-malls,” larger mansion-size houses on confined lots; and new types of signage with multiple languages. The 911 emergency number became operational. By an act of Congress, title to the Rose Garden portion of Arcadia County Park was transferred to Arcadia for its historical museum. A community center was built on this land. Real estate values soared.
1990s: Arcadia’s population was 48,290. High-rise construction was limited. Downtown and First Ave. areas were revitalized. The decades-old Anoakia Estate was demolished and a gated community was sanctioned. An $8 million police facilities bond was approved.
2000s: As Arcadia celebrated its Centennial anniversary, English was no longer the primary language of Arcadia’s students. The Hugo Reid Family statue was relocated from Arcadia County Park to behind the Community Center, Rotary International of Arcadia dedicated a clock by Huntington Drive and Holly Ave., and “Shops at Santa Anita” was initiated and later abandoned.
2010-2015: As the population grew to 56,565, Arcadians were instructed how to co-exist with coyotes left with no habitat. An unprecedented windstorm destroyed hundreds of trees and property. A light rail train line was approved and four bridges were constructed through town, three of which featured notable public art elements. A train station and transit plaza featuring their own public art elements relating to the city’s peacocks and iconic Santa Anita Park race track were opened across the street from the former site of Lucky Baldwin’s Oakwood Hotel. Baldwin’s legacy was further entrenched with the dedication of a statue across from the track entrance, and his name and prize-winning horses included on a new Thoroughbred Racing Walk of Champions in Downtown Arcadia.
Compiled and written by Carol Libby of the Arcadia Historical Society – all photos courtesy of Arcadia Historical Society.