Feb 2, 2011

Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley

The Facts
What it is:
A 7.5-square-mile city eight miles east of downtown L.A; the San Bernadino Freeway (I-10) runs through the south end of town, and the 710 Freeway ends at Valley Blvd.
Population: 85,804
Ethnic Diversity: 47% Asian, 35% Hispanic, 30% Caucasian, 2% black or African-American
Median Household Income: $44,513

Key Players
During the era of Mexican rule, Ramona Yorba of the Rancho de Santa Ana clan married rich trapper Benjamin (“Don Benito”) Wilson, bringing him large land tracts, which he skillfully added to, and which included what is now Alhambra. (Ramona died young, and Wilson later remarried.)

The Name
Wilson named his town for the book about the Morrish-Spanish palace, Tales from the Alhambra, because his 10-year-old daughter Ruth (who became the mother of Gen. George S. Patton) was reading it.

Telling Moment
Don Benito Wilson’s son-in-law, an engineer named James de Barth Shorb, mastered iron plumbing for the new town of Alhambra and cleverly sited plumbed lots near the new transcontinental railway (mail delivery daily—not weekly, as in Pasadena!). And so the new town prospered.

Then & Now
After WWII, Alhambra became a destination for upwardly mobile Latinos; in the ’50s, many Italian-Americans discovered these pretty neighborhoods. White flight in the ’70s made way for émigrés from Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and mainland China. The more recent immigrants have been less affluent than in neighboring Monterey Park and San Gabriel, and the community has had to deal with some crime issues. But this is an energetic and pleasant Asian-majority town with an appealing Old Town and lots of good Chinese restaurants.

Our Favorite…
The new, even busier 45,000-square-foot Civic Center Library houses wings for children’s, adult nonfiction and reference—and there’s two floors of garage parking, too!
Farmer’s Market: On Monterey St., Sunday 8:30 a.m-1 p.m
Park: Massive Almansor Park, home to a highly regarded 18-hole golf course, large soccer fields, playgrounds, tennis, a gymnasium and more
Hospital: Alhambra Hospital Medical Center, with a 24-hour emergency service, 626.570.1606
Web Site:,

Don’t Be a Lawbreaker!
Did you feel that?
It shall be unlawful for any person to create, maintain or cause any ground vibration that is perceptible without instruments.

Best Hangout
The small Old Town-style district centered around Main and Garfield, where people gather at Starbucks and Bluecherry, a yogurt spot that’s not at all a ripoff of a certain pink spot!

Slept in Alhambra
Swashbuckling star Tyrone Power lived here in the early ’20s—he was a sickly child, and his parents thought the climate would help. But when they divorced, it was back to Cincinnati for the family.

Embarrassing Fact
Famed record producer Phil Spector (that’s Mr. Wall of Sound to you), who once claimed his parents were first cousins, lives here, in a double-gated hilltop fortress, where B actress Lana Clarkson was found shot dead, with Spector and his gun present. The first murder case ended in a mistrial; at press time he was holed up awaiting a retrial. Maybe his parents really were first cousins. It would explain a lot.



Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena