Historic Packing Houses and Other Industrial Structures in Southern California

Virtual Tour of Los Angeles County: Claremont

Copyright 2002, 2005, 2011 by William Messecar and James Lancaster.

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Claremont (ATSF)

Claremont is located at the eastern edge of Los Angeles County on the former 2nd District of the Santa Fe Railroad. It had the first citrus association to pack and ship oranges from California. Like many communities along the Southern California Railroad (the Santa Fe in 1906) in the 1890s to 1920s, citrus groves were planted and packing houses built to process the fruit and pack in to boxes or crates. Citrus quality and production decreased in the 1940s and '50s due to a mysterious disease that attacked citrus trees. That, along with a booming home building after World War II, lead to a sharp decline in citrus production and closing of the Claremont packing houses in the 1960s.

During its peak of citrus production Claremont was served by both the Pacific Electric and the Santa Fe. The two lines paralleled each other approaching Claremont from the west with the PE line to the south of the ATSF. The PE line crossed over the ATSF about a mile west of the College Heights Lemon packing house. A (Photo) by William Wherry looks west at the Santa Fe-PE crossing and shows the PE interlocking tower that protected the crossing. It also shows two spurs on the right of the PE mainline. Both served the College Heights Orange PH and the Union Ice Company. The photo also shows two 36 ft. wide smudge oil tanks that were part of the College Heights Orange and Lemon Association. [Note: The copyrighted photo is used by permission from Charles Wherry and may not be posted on any other web site with permission of the owner. It was originally posted in a message on Trainorders.com on November 23, 2004.]

If you're interested in the history of Claremont, the Claremont History Image Gallery has a nice selection of old photos and links to other resources.

The Claremont Citrus Association built the first packing house around the turn of the century on the southwest corner of Alexander and First Streets. The Southern California RR also built a wooden packing house just west of this structure for other growers to use, however, this was torn down to make way for a much larger structure by 1920. The Claremont Citrus Association packing house was almost doubled in size by the early 1930s and continued in operation to the 1950s but was torn by 2000.

The College Heights Orange and Lemon Association built a packing house in 1916 for use in orange packing. This PH was located at the NW corner of West 1st and Cornell Ave. and was served by both the Santa Fe and Pacific Electric.

First American Title Photo

An image of the PH as it appeared in 1920 is also shown in the Claremont History web site. An image of one of the orange crate labels shows the College Heights PH (Label-WM). The packing house was torn down in the early 1970s, as shown in the following photo taken on December 31, 1972.

Lee Gustafson Photo

The El Camino Citrus Assn built a packing house in Claremont in 1913. It was located between Olive and Spring on the south side of the Santa Fe mainline and was served by a 670' spur facing west and crossing the east facing spur serving the Vanderwood lumber company. An image of the as built structure is shown in Claremont's History website (URL). This structure was built in a distinctly Spanish style not used by many other packinghouses (Photo-First American Title). By the 1930s it had been almost doubled in size with the addition of a box making area, and additional space for cull bins (Photo-First American Title). This PH was closed in the late 1950s and torn down some time later.

The largest Claremont packing house, and the only one still standing in 2005, was built in 1920 and used by the College Heights Orange and Lemon Association for lemon packing. This packing house is located at the south end of Oberlin and 1st Streets on the north side of the Santa Fe mainline. It was significantly expanded in the 1920s and 1930s into its final appearance and was more than double it's original size. The Claremont Courier newspaper published an article on the College Heights Orange and Lemon Association packing house in its April 10, 2002 edition. The article included a photo from the 1940s (Photo-Claremont Courier). This 2002 photo of the packing house was taken at the southwest corner along the former Santa Fe mainline.

William Messecar Photo

Additional photos show the northwest corner along 1st Street (Photo-WM), the west end (Photo-WM), and the east end (Photo-WM). Co-Ed brand was one of the orange crate labels used by the College Heights Orange and Lemon Association.

William Messecar Collection

Citrus production from the four packing houses served by the Santa Fe shipped 1,062 cars in 1943 and 1,396 cars in 1944.

Two other structures supplied precooling and ice for the Claremont citrus packing industry. The Union Ice Company plant No. 15, located originally on the northwest corner of Oberlin Avenue and West 1st Street, provided precooling and ice to fill or top off reefer ice bunkers. A view of the south side of this structure built in the 1920s is shown without the 15 foot high icing platform.

William Messecar Photo

In the 1930s the Union Ice Company moved into a new plant located across Oberlin on the northeast corner of 1st Street (Photo-WM).

The ATSF and PE had spurs alongside both ice facilities. The PE line continued east along First Street past the ATSF depot to their own depot on the SE corner of College Ave. and First St.

The April 10. 2002 edition of the Claremont Courier newspaper included a 1946 aerial view of Claremont with a focus on the packing houses (Photo-Claremont Courier).

Bob Chaparro visited Claremont in August 1994 and took the following photos:

College Heights Orange and Lemon Association packing house
(Photo 1-BC) (Photo 2-BC) (Photo 3-BC) (Photo 4-BC) (Photo 5-BC) (Photo 6-BC)

Union Ice Company
(Photo 7-BC) (Photo 8-BC) (Photo 9-BC)

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