February 2014 Meeting – Program: History of Carbon Canyon – Speaker: Paul Spitzzeri

Old Carbon Canyon post card

Paul Spitzzeri will give a lecture about Carbon Canyon on Thursday, February 13, 2014, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

Tucked in the northeastern corner of Orange County, Carbon Canyon is mostly known as a commuter alternative to the busy 91 and 60 freeways to and from the Inland Empire. The canyon and its surrounding areas, however, have a varied and interesting history, dealing with oil development, mineral hot springs, concrete outdoor ski slopes, hippie hangouts, hit jobs, and much more.

While the canyon was certainly a place for native peoples to gather plant material, hunt for game, and serve as a trading spot between coastal and inland regions, little is known about how the area was actually used over time. During the Spanish and Mexican eras, neighboring rancheros used Carbon Canyon as part of the common public land set aside for grazing and watering of cattle.

Map showing Olinda/Carbon Canyon area

In the late 1880s, William H. Bailey bought land outside the canyon’s mouth and named his domain “Olinda Ranch,” after his family’s Hawaiian pineapple plantation. Several years later, Edward Doheny, developer of the famed Los Angeles oil field, brought in a still-operating well that inaugurated Orange County’s oil industry.

Oil workers, it is said, used the natural hot springs in the canyon for pain relief, and by the 1910s the La Vida Mineral Springs resort was opened. For nearly a half-century, the Miller family operated La Vida’s baths, pools, motel, and café, and its water was bottled and sold widely. After most of the facilities closed, the La Vida Roadhouse continued operation until the early 2000s. Little remains of the original site to date, except a water tower with the faded “La Vida” logo still emblazoned on it.

Paul Spitzzeri

In recent years, sub-urbanization has crept into the canyon and has transformed it. Wildfires, traffic and other concerns remain ongoing issues as the area faces an uncertain future in this century.

Our guest speaker is the Assistant Director at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, California, where he has worked since 1988. He received his B.A. and M.A. in History from California State University, Fullerton and has published pieces on local, regional and state history in many journals and anthologies. His book, The Workman and Temple Families of Southern California, won the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History in 2009. A resident of Sleepy Hollow in Chino Hills within Carbon Canyon, Paul has blogged extensively on the history of the canyon on carboncanyonchronicle.blogspot.com.