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

 

 

Controversy in 1893 over postmaster

The following article was run in the January 28, 1970 edition of the Ojai Valley News.  It is reprinted here with their permission.  Photo of George W. Mallory courtesy of the Ojai Valley News.  Photo of Mallory – Dennison Store added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

Controversy in 1893 over postmaster
by
Ed Wenig

As a rule, local politics in a village the size of Ojai are of interest to its residents only. But the year of 1893 proved to be the exception to the rule. In that year an election was held in the Ojai Valley which received national attention.

It came as the result of the election of Grover Cleveland, Democrat, to replace President Benjamin Harrison, Republican, in the White House. According to time-honored custom, this signified a nation-wide shifting of all local postmasterships from the incumbent Republicans to “deserving Democrats.” In Nordhoff it meant that B. F. Spencer, Republican postmaster, would normally expect to relinquish his position to a Democrat nominated by the local Democratic Committee.

But the attitude toward the “Spoils System” was undergoing a change throughout the nation, and, in tune with the times, some citizens of Nordhoff, including several Democrats, decided that this procedure was not in the best interest of the Ojai Valley. They resolved to take positive action to remedy the situation. Accordingly, the Ojai Club, which was made up of prominent citizens of the valley and which was very influential in the affairs of the community, received the following petition:

“TO THE OJAI CLUB: We, the undersigned residents of the Ojai Valley, believing in and desiring to initiate the principle of election of postmasters by the people, request of the Ojai Club—a non-partisan association—to take the proper steps for the holding of a PUBLIC ELECTION IN NORDHOFF; the returns of which would indicate the choice of its people for postmaster…”
(Signed)
James Braken, Democrat
Joseph Hobart, Republican
H. J. Dennison, Populist
W. L. Hall, Republican
John Murray, Jr., Democrat
J. R. Bennett, Independent
K. P. Grant, Republican

After due consideration the Ojai Club complied with the request and arranged for two election boards. One was instructed to handle the ballots for all the men over 18 years of age who were served by the local postoffice. Another was instructed to tally the women’s vote — this in spite of the fact that woman suffrage had not yet been granted. There were no public nominations, each voter merely writing the name of his choice on the ballot. Thus many received only one vote. However, the men generally voted for the incumbent, B. G. Spencer, and the women split their vote between Spencer and G. W. Mallory, the choice of the Democratic Committee.

George W. Mallory 1859 -1939
George W. Mallory (1859 -1939)

This novel election aroused widespread interest in the communities throughout the nation. The MORNING BULLETIN of Norwich, Connecticut gave a detailed account of the election in an article entitled, “A NORDHOFFIAN METHOD.” Its concluding sentence was, “It has not been announced yet whether Headman Maxwell, within whose jurisdiction the Nordhoff post office is, favored the people or the machine.”

In this case, the “machine” turned out to be the winner, and Mallory, the choice of the Democratic Committee, was duly appointed postmaster. After the election, but before Mallory’s appointment, the local editor commented, “The irregular election last Saturday to ascertain the choice of the people of Ojai for postmaster of Nordhoff was deemed a success by those most interested. It is not, and was not expected that the result of the election will have any immediate influence in Washington. It is designed as a reform measure, to secure a postmaster desired by the people who support the business, and should have a voice in the management of their own affairs. As G. W. Mallory is the choice of the Democratic Committee, he will probably receive the appointment, and he will be generally acceptable to the people.”

Mr. Mallory served as postmaster throughout the four years of the Cleveland administration, and in accordance with custom, was replaced by a Republican postmaster upon the election of the Republican William McKinley to the Presidency. Mallory regained his position in 1914 when the Democrats returned to power with the election of Woodrow Wilson. Thus he served the citizens of Nordhoff well as postmaster for a total of twelve years.

Mallory had come to the valley in 1886, establishing himself in a men’s furnishings store. He immediately began to devote much of his time and talent to the benefit of the community. During his 53 years in the valley he served the Presbyterian Church as elder and superintendent of the Sunday School; the Masonic Lodge as treasurer for nine years; the City Council, both as member and mayor; the Jack Boyd Club as director; and the elementary school district as clerk. His business activities included acting as director of the local bank and of the Ojai Power Company. After his retirement he became deputy assessor for Ventura County.

George W. Mallory standing behind counter on the right. This photo was taken in 1905 of the Mallory - Dennison Store.
George W. Mallory standing behind counter on the right. This photo was taken in 1905 of the Mallory – Dennison Store.

Mr. Mallory’s widow lives in Ojai, and his son, Bill Mallory, is a businessman in Ojai.

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.

Early Stories of Ojai, Part VII (Downtown Nordhoff)

Early Stories of Ojai, Part VII (Downtown Nordhoff) by Howard Bald
Written in 1972 by longtime Ojai resident Howard Bald.

Main Street of Nordhoff

Nordhoff (now Ojai) has generally been described as a quiet, peaceful little place, and generally it was. Several oak trees strung along Main Street from Tom Clark’s livery stable [Ojai Village Pharmacy] to Schroff’s harness shop [Ojai Cleaners] furnished the only shade, for there was no arcade until 1917.

There were three gaps in the row of buildings on the north side of Main Street. One was between Lagomarsino’s saloon and Archie McDonald’s blacksmith shop at the east end of the business block [the Hub], and Barrow’s hardware store stood alone. There was an alley on both the east and west side of that building, which I think was the site of the present hardware store [Rains].

Corner of Montgomery and Main looking west.

The east alley was used by pedestrians. I think the board sidewalk prevented vehicles going through. But the sidewalk ended at the west corner of Barrow’s hardware, so that alley was quite generally used by horsemen as well as pedestrians.

West of that alley was Bray’s plumbing shop, and from there on to Signal street was the livery stable with its buggy sheds, corrals, and hay sheds. West of Signal on the site of the Oaks Hotel stood a small, whitewashed, clapboard building where Chet Cagnacci was born at the turn of the century and later, I believe, Tommie Clark.

Corner of Signal and Main, looking east.

Across the street about the site of Van Dyke’s Travel Agency [Library Book Store] stood Dave Raddick’s residence, then easterly a break then the meat market [The Jester]. On the southwest corner of Signal and Main was The Ojai newspaper printing office where the theater now stands and easterly across the street, where the present post office is located, was Charley Gibson’s blacksmith shop. There was a gap between the blacksmith shop and Lauch Orton’s plumbing shop, the barber shop and post office. Through that gap could be seen the Berry Villa, which is now the Post office employee parking place.

A little distance east of the post office, briefly, stood C.B. Stevens little grocery store, then the entrance and exit to the Ojai Inn, which is now our city park. A leaky, redwood horse trough and a hitch rail extended onto the barranca. It was always shady, and teams of horses and buggies were customarily tied there while the out of town folks did their shopping.

The Ojai Inn.

I once had a Plymouth Rock hen who would bring her brood through the alley between the saloon and blacksmith shop to scratch around where the horses were tied. Sometimes she would miscalculate and be overtaken by darkness, so hen and chicks would simply fly up on a vacant spot on the hitch rail and settle down for the night. Our stable and chicken coop was just back of Dr. Hirsch’s office [Dr. Phelps], and more than once at about bedtime, I would carry them back to their own nest.

Schroff’s harness shop east of the barranca stood high enough from the ground that one could step from a saddle horse onto the porch, which was convenient for ladies riding sidesaddle to dismount and mount.

The corner of South Montgomery and Main was open and was used mainly by Thacher boys to tie their

Presbyterian Church on southeast corner of Main & Montgomery.

horses while attending services at the Presbyterian church, which then stood where [Jersey Mike’s] parking lot now is. That building is now the Nazarene Church [Byron Katie’s headquarters] on N. Montgomery and Aliso.

I could go on and on and on with details of the village of Nordhoff at the turn of the century, but I fear that would become too boring, so I will get on with some of my memories of the activities of the time.