Beautification Month

The following article was first published in the Winter 2018 (VOLUME 36 NUMBER 4) issue of the “Ojai Valley Guide” magazine that is published by the “Ojai Valley News”. With their permission, the article is reprinted here. It ran on pages 154 and 155 in the magazine.

LOOK BACK IN OJAI 1969
Beautification Month


By
Drew Mashburn
Contributed on behalf
of the Ojai Valley Museum

In October 1969, the Ojai Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a “Beautification for Better Business Campaign.” I had graduated from Nordhoff High School only a few months before and must tell you, at the time, my business was chasing after beautiful women and cars. I could not have cared less about sprucing up things around the valley, except for a good wash and waxing of my 1961 Austin Healy “Bug Eye” Sprite to, hopefully, impress beautiful young ladies.

So, moving on, I was ignorant of this cleanup drive.

Mr. Libbey, of Libbey Glass Co. fame, was a proponent of the “City Beautiful Movement” featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. At the original Ojai Day, April 7, 1917, held in Civic Park (now Libbey Park), Libbey said in a speech: “There has been too little attention paid to things aesthetic in our communities and in our homes. The time has come when we should encourage in ourselves thoughts of things beautiful, and the higher ideals which the people fostering of the love of that which is beautiful and inspiring.”

Libbey’s speech includes the word “beautiful” twice. His words and actions emphasized improving Ojai’s aesthetic qualities. As a lifelong resident (67-plus years) of the Ojai Valley, I truly believe that Libbey’s ideals have been ingrained in our town, even inspiring the 1969 beautification campaign and valleywide cleanup drive decades after his speech.

On the evening of Oct. 30, City Building Inspector Ken Swift and Hal Mitrany of the Chamber of Commerce chaired a meeting at the Ojai Woman’s Club to organize the cleanup. Thirty-eight groups were invited and about 40 representatives attended. The PTA, American Legion, Chamber of Commerce, Boy and Girl Scouts, Retail Merchants Association, Jaycees, Woman’s Club, Garden Club, Retired Men’s Club, East Ojai Valley Associates and the Committee to Preserve the Ojai were among the groups participating.

Harrison’s Rubbish Service volunteered to place collection bins throughout the city and dates were set for free trash and junk removal.

City, county and state agencies were on board. The City Council proclaimed November Cleanup and Beautification Month. The county allowed a main trash-collecting station to be located behind Libbey Park and the state furnished a truck and driver to assist groups that picked up litter along the highways.

A city beautification conference was held at the Ojai Valley Inn, attended by about 80 planners and planning commissioners from all the cities in Ventura County. Featured speakers were Camarillo officials who touted their community’s beautification successes.

In November, the Ojai Architectural Board of Review decided to demolish the Pergola’s two large arches that had been bombed in October 1967 and December 1968. In addition to removing an eyesore, they wanted to open up the view of the park from Ojai Avenue. The Ojai Planning Commission, City Council and Ojai Civic Center Park trustees agreed.

The western arch of the Libbey Park Pergola destroyed in a bomb attack and then demolished in the 1969 beautification drive.

The city also decided to work with business owners to help pay for sidewalk repairs as some sidewalks were not only unsightly, but dangerous. Sidewalk repairs and installation of planters were coordinated with the state repaving Ojai Avenue. In addition, the city repaved 12 residential streets in the western portion of town.

Despite the fanfare and ambitious goals, Inspector Swift reported at the end of November that the beautification and cleanup campaign had fallen short, as participating organizations failed to develop, propose or implement plans. Little had been accomplished beyond some improvement at private homes. He did, however, report two successful beautification projects:

+ The Civic Center Park Board of Directors voted to demolish the bombed arches at the front of the park.

+ The Chamber of Commerce purchased and planted a permanent Christmas tree at the “Y” intersection.

That very same Christmas tree has grown into a mighty fine tree that we all continue to enjoy during the holidays and all year round.

THE TRANSFORMATION HAS BEGUN

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Friday, August 18, 1916 edition of “THE OJAI.” The author is unknown. Note: Reference is made several times to the town of “Nordhoff.” This was what the town’s name was before it was changed to “Ojai”.  All photos were added to this article by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

THE TRANSFORMATION HAS BEGUN

Just now things are doing in Nordhoff of such unusual character that the oldest inhabitant is constrained to sit up, or stand up, and take notice. In fact, the activity is being led by one of the oldest inhabitants — Thomas Clark, who, indeed, throughout all the past in Nordhoff’s history, has lived an active life, contributing his full share of the warp and woof woven into history’s fabric, which has grown threadbare in spots by the constant wear of time, and which he has started in to rehabilitate with new industrial threads and some patches.

Thomas Clark

No doubt the inspiration for greater and better things first surged in on the crest of the wave of sentiment for good roads, becoming a fixed purpose when Mr. E. D. Libbey arose to the occasion and gave added impetus to the vehicle of progress not alone in words, but in action. As a captain of industry and commercial achievement few men are better equipped than Mr. Libbey. With the wealth to humor any reasonable ambition, coupled with an inclination favorable to this locality. Nordhoff is indeed fortunate to have the right to lay partial claim to the citizenship of such a magnanimous benefactor and admirer of nature’s gifts so lavishly, of which Nordhoff is the commercial center.

Mr. Clark’s labors for betterments are closely linked with Mr. Libbey’s plans for civic or community improvements, the work of the former aiding the purposes of the latter, which are known to and being carried out by Mr. H. T. Sinclair. Mr. Libbey’s confidential agent in the matter of improvements contemplated or in progress on the beautiful park tract and the old Ojai Inn square, which is the expansive front yard or plaza of the business center of Nordhoff, to be transformed into a place of greater beauty by the hand of artifice, and to harmonize the scene, without a blemish, the property owners will obscure unsightly fronts behind an ornamental arcade of concrete and tile, the material for which already lines either side of the street, awaiting the labors of the architect and the builders.

LUNCH BREAK AT THE OJAI INN. Tourists stopped at the Ojai Inn for meals, particularly when they drove what was called “the Triangle,” from Ventura to Santa Paula and then through the Upper and Lower Ojai Valleys. The automobiles here date from about 1916, shortly before the hotel was bought by Edward Libbey and razed for creation of today’s Libbey Park. (OVM Collection)

After some parleying, and a small amount of worry as to the fate of the postoffice, Tom Clark cleared the way for a place for the old postoffice building to light, and Escovedo, the housemover, accomplished the rest, and the old Smith building has been transplanted — in two sections — across the street, and now rests intact on the east side of the Clark lot, with post office, plumbing shop, barber shop and Brady’s kitchen safely housed as of yore.

Corner of Signal and Main (AKA: Ojai Avenue) looking east. Clark’s old barn at left was razed to allow for the building of Clark’s Auto Livery. Some of the buildings at right of photo were moved to the opposite side of the street to allow for the construction in 1916 to 1917 of the new post office and tower.

To do this Mr. Clark wisely revised his plans and demolished his entire barn structure, to be replaced with a modern garage and auto and horse livery annex. The west wall of the garage, under the skilled hand of Philip Scheidecker, of Los Angeles, is rapidly going up, entirely constructed of rock, mostly moss-covered, above the rougher foundation.

Clark’s Auto Livery c1920. Note rock wall of building at left of photo.

The removal of the old building is the signal for activity on the Libbey side, but just what transformation is to take place is a matter of rumor or conjecture. A fine building, without doubt, is to replace the old, combining post office and public library — perhaps. Many other things are likely to happen that will add to the greater and more beautiful Nordhoff.

Edward Drummond Libbey

 

 

ANOTHER BEAUTY SPOT ON MAIN STREET

The following article first appeared in the Friday, November 24, 1916 edition of “THE OJAI” on the front page. The author is unknown. This was written before the town name changed from “Nordhoff” to “Ojai.”  The photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

ANOTHER BEAUTY SPOT ON MAIN STREET

Landscape gardener F. C. Fassel, on the annual payroll of Mr. E. D. Libbey, is now grading the vacant lot between the Ojai State Bank and the Boyd Club, which within a year will be styled the “Garden of Rose,” which in beauty will outrival Eden — perhaps — with the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve looking in instead of looking out.

Edward Drummond Libbey

The ground is to be artistically embellished for the reception of all the more popular and beautiful varieties of rose bushes. All of the fine specimens so carefully nurtured by custodian Achelpohl of the Club will be transplanted in the plot, without retarding their bloom. This beauty spot will serve to add to the power of the magnet that will surely attract outsiders to the Ojai valley, adding still greater charm to Nordhoff’s civic center.

It is to be regretted that the wheels of the vehicle of progress shattered and tore out the great trailing rose bush at the corner of Clark’s deposed livery barn. In full bloom, with the rich colorings gleaming from the lower and upper branches of a live oak that served as a trellis, it was the marvel of all the tourists and the pride of the valley. It, however, still survives to bloom perpetually in thousands of “snap shots” by the ladies and knights of the Camera.

But there is some recompense for its loss. A handsome garage, built of moss covered native rock and tile adornments, is nearing completion on the corner, which furnishes an attraction less dainty, but more useful.

Clark’s Auto Livery (circa 1920). Note rock wall of building at left of photo.

The new post office building of hollow tile construction, with its massive tower, is now going up. The memorial fountain, after being torn down, is assuming its former shape in a position four feet further back from the street.

The Arcade is just completed and work has commenced on the Post Office Tower, 1917. The tower is at the left of the photo. (David Mason collection)

The park wall and pergola is lining up handsomely.

Colorized post card of the pergola with fountain. The park’s name was changed from “Civic Center Park” to “Libbey Park”.

The big park is taking on more beauty daily, and the million gallon reservoir is nearly completed.

Police mull action to ‘clean up’ park

The following article first appeared in the Sunday, June 4, 1967 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on the front page. It is reprinted here with their permission

Hippie set
Police mull action to ‘clean up’ park

Ojai police, nettled by a series of provocative acts attributed to members of the Hippie set, were mulling retaliatory action Friday.

Chief James D. Alcorn said his “phone has been ringing off the hook,” with calls from citizens who are plainly disturbed by what they claim are impudent reflections on recent narcotics violations.

Most recent incident was the posting of a sign near the arches fronting Civic Park, proclaiming “Things go better with Pot.” Pot is a slang word for marijuana.

Alcorn said private citizens have also complained about the posting of a routed redwood sign with the capital letters, O-V-D-A, which reportedly stand for “Ojai Valley Drug Addicts.”

He said some of the Hippies hold the sign on their laps as they sit on the wall fronting the park.

Civic Park is a private park, administered by Ojai Civic Association. Alcorn said trustees of the association have been exploring ways of combating the situation, but thus far have failed to find any answers.

In recent discussion of the problem by the Ojai City Council, City Attorney Duane Lyders warned the council that restrictive actions would raise questions of free speech and assembly – thorny issues of civil rights.

As a private park, however, authorities have indicated there might be ways of cleaning up the situation.

The Hippie set has used the front area of the park as a rallying point for some time,, according to Alcorn, but the situation apparently worsened earlier this year when Hippies from coastal cities staged the first of two “Love-ins.”

The first event came off without incident. Barefoot youths with flowers behind their ears strummed on guitars, ate picnic lunches and proclaimed “Love” to all who would listen. It was similar to events conducted quietly in Los Angeles, San Francisco and most recently in an eastern city.

The second “Love-in”, however, had slightly different overtones. Police arrested two visitors on charges of possessing marijuana. One was a girl from Glendale, the other a boy from Los Angeles.

Observers, however, noted that some of the visitors were not so young and some were estimated to be only juveniles who supported the bizarre costumes and deportment of Hippies years older.

Alcorn said the situation was a delicate one. “We have to be careful how we handle this thing,” he warned, “publicity is what most of these people want.”

He said the most his officers could do at present was to see that no laws are broken.

Ojai was ‘torn apart and rebuilt’

This article first appeared in the August 26, 1970 edition of the Ojai Valley News. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is Ed Wenig.

Ojai was ‘torn apart and rebuilt’

(Editor’s note: this is the second in a series of articles by historian Ed Wenig on Civic Center Park and the man responsible for its gift “to the people of the Ojai Valley” — Edward Libbey).

On September 1, 1916, THE OJAI printed an editorial from the Ventura Free Press, written by Editor D. J. Reese, who had attended the Men’s League Banquet in March at the Foothills Hotel:

“Some morning, not far distant, the village of Nordhoff is going to wake up and find itself famous. The work being done in that section just now would make the man who has known Nordhoff of old rub his eyes in astonishment if he was brought into the place suddenly. Great things are in store no doubt. The town has been torn apart and several sections have been removed hither and yon. There has been a general clearing up of everything, and everybody has an expectant look as though wondering what will happen next. The main street has been piled full of terra cotta brick, and no one seems to know what is doing. Old landmarks like the Clark stables and the Ojai Inn have vanished as before a Kansas cyclone. Only the beautiful oaks, and here and there a substantial house like the bank or the clubhouse or the Nordhoff fountain and splendid Ojai atmosphere seem to be left. Something is surely doing. Ask what it is and the Nordhoffite will throw up his hands and mention the name of Libbey. You hear about Libbey every time you ask a question. Everywhere you go you note that somebody is working hard at something or other in digging ditches or burying water pipe or clearing underbrush or building massive and magnificent cobble walls. Why, it is to be another Montecito, you are told . . . “The people there are to be congratulated that they have a Libbey who has taken an interest in their affairs. It is to be hoped they will give him free rein.”

Vast Land Holdings

At an Ojai Valley Men’s League banquet at the Foothills Hotel J. J. Burke, speaking of improvements, told of a well of Mr. Libbey’s which “will pump at least 65 inches, and if Mr. Libbey’s plans materialize he will spend $20,000 in getting the water to his ranch. . . . The old Ojai Inn and all but one of the Berry Villa buildings have been torn down or moved away, making room for more extensive improvements in the future. Through the generosity of Mr. Libbey, Signal Street was cut through and graded to the railroad.”

In the spring of 1916 Libbey was reported to be visiting his friend, H. T. Sinclair and discussing with Mr. Thacher, Colonel Wilson and W. W. Bristol “sundry matters of importance to the community.”

On June 9, 1916 it was announced that E. D. Libbey had bought 200 more acres to add to his previous 300-acre property. “Among the early improvements will be the laying of a water main from his well on the Gally tract to his large holdings. And that is not all, as the entire square upon which once stood the Ojai Inn, is to be improved in a manner that augurs well for the future of Nordhoff, which is good news to the entire community. Mr. H. T. Sinclair has been taken into Mr. Libbey’s confidence and will be the directing head during his absence. Let us be glad, as well as thankful for so generous a promoter as E. D. Libbey.”

On June 16, 1916, we are told that Mr. Libbey has bought the last parcel of privately owned land in what is now the Civic Park. In the local paper, “The plans Mr. Libbey is making to benefit both the town and the Valley has met with the highest approbation of the committee and the cooperation of the League in every way is assured.”

It was reported on June 30 that the Berry Villa, “an historical step-sister of the Ojai Inn, now a demolished antiquity,” had been torn down and the lumber hauled away.

By July 14, fifty men in one crew were working on the Libbey pay roll. Tom Clark destroyed his barn north of his livery stable and constructed a rock wall for a modern garage. This wall can still be seen as part of the Village Drug Store.

Early in November, Architect Requa, of the San Diego architectural firm of Mead and Requa, went to Toledo and got full approval of the plans for the renovation of the main street of Nordhoff. The local newspaper reported, “The post office tower, penetrating the lower heavens 65 feet is to be a reality. There are many features that we shall be delighted to prattle about when fully assured that the architect has removed the censorship.”

In March, 1917, representatives of the Men’s League met with Mr. Libbey. A corporation was formed under the name of THE OJAI CIVIC ASSOCIATION. The incorporators were E. D. Libbey, S. D. Thacher, J. J. Burke, Harrison Wilson, H. T. Sinclair, A. A. Garland, and H. R. Cole. Said the editor of the paper: “The initial purpose of the corporation is to assume title to the valuable property acquired by gift from Mr. Libbey . . . This beautiful park and the tennis courts, covering more than seven acres, is to become the property of the people of Nordhoff and the Ojai Valley.

Concurrent with the changes in the appearance of the town of Nordhoff came a popular move to change the name of the village to Ojai. A petition was circulated under the auspices of Supervisor Tom Clark requesting the name change, and received so many signatures that it was five feet long by the time H. D. Morse, manager of the Foothills Hotel, sent it to Washington D. C. In March, 1917, Senator James D. Phelan sent the following telegram: “You may announce the change of name from Nordhoff to Ojai.”

David Mason: Linking past & Future

The following article first appeared on Page A-2 in the November 11, 1992 edition of the Ojai Valley News. It’s reprinted here with their permission.

by
Susan Petty

David Mason: Linking Past & Future
———————–
“In the middle of the Ojai Valley lies a little hamlet, which the people have been kind enough to name after the author of this book.”
—- Charles Nordhoff

———————–

“The Ojai Valley (pronounced Ohy) is reached by a drive of 38 miles by way of the Carpenteria and the Casitas Pass…The valley is famous even in California for the abundance and loveliness of its woods of evergreen oaks…the oaks dot the surface of the whole lower valley, and are scattered over it in single specimens and clumps…”

The description crafted by Charles Nordhoff in his 1882 edition of “California for Health, Pleasure, and Residence” is a vision shared in many ways by one special Ojai man.

Separated by a century, Charles Nordhoff and David Mason share a common bond – enthusiasm for the Ojai Valley, and the ability to communicate that to others. Nordhoff wrote eloquently one hundred years ago about the grandeur of the valley and of California. Mason, a lifelong resident of Ojai, currently gives witty, informative slide shows about the history of the valley.

“Charles Nordhoff died on July 14 in 1901. I was born 38 years later in Ojai, on July 14. That coincidence has become significant to me over time, as I have become more drawn to the early days of Ojai,” said Mason, 53. “I feel very close to Nordhoff’s era in many ways.”

Mason’s interest in the past was sparked in 1964, when a friend’s mother died. The friend asked to use Mason’s dumpster to throw out some old things. Those “old things” included hundreds of postcards and photographs of early Ojai, and other memorabilia, Mason rescued all he could from the trash bin, and he was hooked.

“I framed a lot of the postcards, and had copies of the photos made for the Ojai Valley Museum and the Ventura County Museum. Over the years I’ve collected much more, and I’ve saved things, like photos of Lake Casitas being built. I’m an incredible packrat,” he said with a chuckle.

Mason now serves as vice chairman, and is past chairman, of Ventura County’s Cultural Heritage Board. He was the first chairman of the City of Ojai’s Cultural Heritage Board, and was also Ojai’s Citizen of the Year in 1986. Mason works as a realtor, having retired after a 25 year career as a florist. He owned the award-winning Village Florist in the Arcade, and closed it three years ago.

David Mason is one of Ojai’s best known and popular historians. Here he is at the historical Ojai State Bank’s vault. News Photo by GEORGE TENNEY.

Mason’s slide show, which he presents to groups around the county, begins with Charles Nordhoff’s birth in 1832 in what was then Prussia. He tracks Nordhoff’s life – his move to America at the age of 3 and, later, traveling around the world with the U.S. Navy. Eventually Nordhoff became editor of the New York Post, and wrote his famous book “California for Health, Pleasure, and Residence” in 1872. That 206 page volume brought so many settlers to the state that Nordhoff was the name originally chosen for Ojai.

“Between 1870 and 1900, the population of California doubled, growing from 560,000 to well over a million. In that same 30 year period, over three million copies of Nordhoff’s book were sold,” Mason commented.

According to Mason, Mrs. Catherine Blumberg suggested the town be named Nordhoff in the early 1870’s. Topa Topa was also being considered. Catherine and her husband, Abram Wheeler Blumberg, came out West because of Nordhoff’s book and built the Ojai Inn in what is now Libbey Park. Nordhoff remained the village’s name for over 40 years.

“The name was formally changed to Ojai in 1917, at the beginning of World War I. There was a lot of anti-German sentiment, which fueled the change,” Mason remarked.

With slides and commentary, Mason captures the growth of the little town from 1872, when about 50 people lived in the village, up into the 1920’s. By then, cut-glass heir Edward Drummond Libbey of Ohio had come to Ojai and put his very personal stamp on the town. Libbey bought the 360 acre Arbolada, to save the area from being cut down for wood, and began to sell lots for homes. He also built the Ojai Valley Inn, the Post Office tower, the arched entryway to Libbey Park (now gone), and transformed the front of the downtown stores into a Spanish Mission style Arcade. Libbey also made a generous donation to the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel, and had a hand in its construction.

“Mr. Libbey had the desire to make things beautiful and the money to do it. He was influenced by castles in Spain and the rural Spanish towns, with their muted colors and soft, flowing lines.

“Mr. Libbey was also a smart developer. Here he had bought the Arbolada, but then had trouble selling the lots. People would come out to Ojai to buy a lot and they’d see how rustic things were downtown, with dirt streets and wooden slats along the front of the stores. It lacked charm. It looked like a Western frontier town and there wasn’t much to do,” Mason said. “So Libbey created a golf course and a nice downtown.”

Mason feels that if Libbey were to visit Ojai today, he would be quite pleased with the town.

“He would definitely approve of the look of Ojai. He would particularly like the Redevelopment Agency’s project of 1980, which remodeled the back of the Arcade to match the front. That completed Mr. Libbey’s vision for the town,” he said. “But he would miss those arches that were in front of the park!”

The arches were torn down in the late 1960’s. Originally they stood along the Ojai Avenue entrance to the park, and were designed to provide a balance to the heavy look of the Arcade. The park arches had an overhead trellis that was covered in wisteria. And directly in front of the arches, a lion’s head fountain served as a horse trough. The fountain was in place several years before Libbey commissioned the arches.

Colorized post card of the pergola with fountain. The park’s name was changed from “Civic Center Park” to “Libbey Park”.

Mason believes that there might be a resurgence of interest in the old arches, and a move to replace them eventually. Mason would support such a move.

“I have a lot of respect for Mr. Libbey’s aesthetic vision for Ojai,” he said. “It’s our heritage. It’s what makes us unique.”

[Mason later headed up a committee to rebuild the Pergola. The recreated Pergola was dedicated on July 4, 1999.]

Garden Club Founded in ’26

The following story is from the “Ojai Valley New’s” OJAI GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY — 1921 to 1971 celebratory booklet. The story is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News.

Garden Club Founded in ’26
The Fight to Preserve the Giant Native Oaks
by
Elizabeth Thacher

Every year the front inside page of the Garden Club yearbook has this line—“Founded in 1926 by Mrs. Frank Osgood.” The small group of women who started the Ojai Valley Garden Club were first of all gardeners. They wanted to know how to grow things in the Ojai and especially how to preserve the natives.

At the early meetings the members brought specimens to show each other and to discuss how best to cultivate them. They had speakers expert in their fields. One of the early speakers was Lockwood deForest, a landscape architect from Santa Barbara, who gave a series of lectures on what plants to grow in which part of the valley.

These pioneer members were the ecologists of their day, eager to preserve the beauty not only of Ojai Valley but also of all Ventura County. The Ojai Valley Garden Club was an outgrowth of a county wide garden club started in 1923. The original eleven members from Ojai have gone, except two—Mrs. Austen Pierpont and Mrs. Alfred Reimer.

Trees

The earliest minutes speak of preserving the oaks, sycamores and other trees native to Ojai—of the fights with county and city to prevent ruthless destruction of native growth to widen roads and highways.

One of the Club’s first projects was the planting of live oaks along West Ojai Avenue on both sides. These Memorial Trees honored first the unknown soldier killed during World War I, and then various Ojai persons whom we wished to honor. Club members did the planting, replanting when trees died, watering and battling those who craved their destruction to widen Ojai Avenue. Many of the trees still survive.

Memorial Oaks planted on both sides of West Ojai Avenue by the Ojai Valley Garden Club.
Memorial Oaks planted on both sides of West Ojai Avenue by the Ojai Valley Garden Club.

Creek Road winding among oaks and sycamores from Ojai to Arnaz Ranch has been preserved so far due to the Ojai Garden Club. The Club has a statement in writing from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors stating that no tree may be cut down along Creek Road without first contacting the Ojai Garden Club.

Memorial

Memorial Rock near the Bank of America [at the east end of the pergola in front of Libbey Park] was first suggested at a meeting in 1946. In 1947 the Ojai Lions Club set up the rock and asked the Garden Club to landscape around it. It did. A plaque bearing the names of the men who went from Ojai to fight in World War II was placed on the rock. In 1951 Austen Pierpont presented a plan for improving the memorial which the Garden Club accepted. It cashed its war bonds to put in a wall around the area and put in plants contributed by the members with their planting supervised by a Garden Club Committee.

Triangle

Where Highway 33 (then called 399) crossed route 150 at what is now the “Y”, there was a triangular piece of ground bare and unsightly. The Garden Club obtained permission to take over this property and plant on it trees, native shrubs and flowers. At first the county watered it. Later the Club took over this job, dragging hoses about then putting in a sprinkler system. It was hard work to keep things growing due to the adobe soil. When the roads were widened, the Y shopping center went in and a 3-way traffic signal established, the triangle became a victim of “progress”.

Post Office
Bulletin Board

In 1926 Mr. and Mrs. Austen Pierpont constructed and put up this board. Each month a Garden Club member is responsible for putting flowers in the three vases and notices of interest to gardeners and conservationists on the board. This project survives today [but in another form. Today it is a rectangle vase.]

Civic Plantings

One of the first plantings done by the then young Garden Club was to put in Matilija poppies and California poppies along Grand Avenue and in the crevices of the Japanese Fountain, which was built on the corner of Grand and McNeil Roads. Bulldozing to widen and straighten Grand destroyed forever both poppies and fountain.

JAPANESE FOUNTAIN --- built by two Japanese workmen under the direction of Sherman E. Thacher (at his expense) at the northeast corner of Grand and McNell in 1906 -- 1907. The Thacher School had been having a problem with foundered horses, the school boys cooling off their mounts too quickly after riding to town and back. Thacher felt the problem would be solved if the boys watered their horses some distance from the school. There were three basins: the top basin was for horses with buggies, and the two lower, for saddle horses. In the back was a place for people to drink. The Ojai Garden Club put plantings in the crevices of the rock structure. The fountain was demolished (with no warning) by county crews when they straightened the road.
JAPANESE FOUNTAIN — built by two Japanese workmen under the direction of Sherman E. Thacher (at his expense) at the northeast corner of Grand and McNell in 1906 — 1907. The Thacher School had been having a problem with foundered horses, the school boys cooling off their mounts too quickly after riding to town and back. Thacher felt the problem would be solved if the boys watered their horses some distance from the school. There were three basins: the top basin was for horses with buggies, and the two lower, for saddle horses. In the back was a place for people to drink. The Ojai Garden Club put plantings in the crevices of the rock structure. The fountain was demolished (with no warning) by county crews when they straightened the road.

A community Christmas tree was planted in Civic Center (now called Libbey Park). Trees, shrubs and plants were put around the tennis court area and in other parts of the park. The Garden Club is responsible for the planting in the patio constructed by Austen Pierpont. For many years the Garden Club paid the summer water bill of the Civic Center.

Shrubs, trees and flowers have been planted on the grounds of every public school in the valley by the Club—more than once. The Boyd Center, Soule Park and the Y have plants or trees supplied by the Ojai Garden Club. The latest project is the patio on the grounds of the Ojai Library—the interior wall, benches and plants all done by the Club.

Zoning

The Ojai Garden Club was one of the first to promote zoning and worked closely with the county and city zoning boards.

Signs

The redwood signs along the arcade were promoted by the Garden Club, which also prevented signs being put on top of the arcade—all but one, a rooster which flew up to his present perch where no one has been able to shoot him down. [No longer on top of the arcade, the author was referring to a neon sign in the shape of a rooster. It was installed by the first cocktail lounge in Ojai.]

Flower shows, sales of wreaths and decorating the arcade at Christmas have been club projects. This last is accomplished in cooperation with the Ojai Chamber of Commerce.

Take a walk through the wooded land of Libbey Park

This article was printed in the Ojai Valley News on March 23, 2001. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Take a Walk Through the Wooded Land of Libbey Park by Earl Bates

Walking through Libbey Park on a recent sunny day, infused with the feeling of springtime, we began taking a closer look at the trees. “Could be maybe seven kinds,” said one of the walkers. “Think there are maybe 10 species just here in Libbey Park.” said another. “Well, there are two kinds of oaks, pines, sycamores, eucalyptus. That’s five. And there’s a palm tree, that’s six.”

We were wondering who could tell us about the trees of Libbey Park, and a few days later, we met arborist and Ojai resident Paul Rogers. We asked him if he could give us a little tour and identify the different trees in the park.

We started our tree tour with Rogers in front of the post office, walked east on the sidewalk, under the canopy of a young live oak and into the pergola. At the center of the pergola we turned right into the main front entrance of Libbey Park. This entrance is guarded by two young valley oak trees, one on each side. Surrounding these two small native oaks is a group of evergreen pear trees, their bright green leathery leaves sparkling in the sun. This lovely species of pear tree is a long way from its original home, it is a native of Taiwan.

Non-native plants may look as natural as natives, but when whole plant communities are considered, natives are generally a more positive factor in ecosystem stability. Some people think more consideration should be given to the native plants that have lived and evolved the Ojai region for many thousands of years. “We are trying to define what trees are going to be here,” said Rogers.

Looking toward the post office we can see a little grove of mock orange shrub and two large live oaks. The medium-sized tree with the long skinny beans hanging from its branches is a catalpa, or Indian bean tree, native to the southeastern United States.

Looking back toward the fountain, at the Kittie Pierpont memorial, is a pistache tree. And past the fountain, in the northeast corner of the park, are a half-dozen of California sycamores.

Walking across the pavement to the south side of the fountain, we entered the heart of Libbey Park, pausing for a moment at the Austin Pierpont Rose Garden. Then we read the plaque at the base of the flagpole. “In grateful acknowledgement of the gift in the year 1917 by Edward Drummond Libbey of this wooded land…”

As we faced south, looking over the dedication plaque and past the flagpole, we saw a beautiful big pine tree. “Monterey pine, native of California,” said Rogers. “It likes the coastal environment. It’s not necessarily a good choice for inland areas, but this one is doing well here.” We walked about 25 yards along the paved path to the first intersection, then turned right down the park’s central walkway.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said Rogers. “It’s like a continuous canopy through the park.” Large old live oak branches reach way up over the path, their ends mingling in an ethereal feeling with the blue sky.

“We have a lot of big trees in here,” said Rogers. “See that one over there, that’s another valley oak, it’s about 250 years old. We have some in town that are over 500 years.”

We continued walking along the central path through the park. “Deodar cedars, sometimes called California Christmas tree,” said Rogers. We walked past three large specimens of deodar, then under the wooden trellis structure, and followed the path to the right of the tennis court bleachers.

“This is another Monterey pine,” said Rogers. “They were donated to the city, probably from people’s Christmas trees.” The smaller one is about 10 years old and the larger one perhaps 15. “They are fast growers,” he said.

“These are red iron bark eucalyptus, beautiful pink flowers as you can see.” We looked at a couple of them just past the Monterey pines. Then as we looked up high, “Those skyline trees are red gum eucalyptus, they are the ones having an insect problem,” he said.

Several more young California sycamores are establishing themselves in the lawn area of Libbey Bowl. We walked to the seating area of the bowl and paused, looking at the unusually shaped sycamore tree at the west side of the seating area. “There is a lot of lore about it, saying it was bent over by Indians to mark a spot. Whether that is true or not I don’t know.” Rogers explained that this old sycamore is not in a happy environment, because of so much paving around it. “We need to aerate this asphalt, we need to create a better environment,” he said.

“That’s (an example of) the conflict between development and the environment,” he said. “It would be terrible if these tree were not here.”bentsycamore