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FOCUS : Yorba Linda Keeps Past Alive

Clipboard researched by Elena Brunet / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Western Yorba Linda is keeping its past alive. Among its claims to fame is the birthplace in 1913 of our 37th President, Richard Milhous Nixon.

The former President’s family home (until 1922, when they moved to Whittier) at 18061 Yorba Linda Blvd., just off Eureka Avenue, has been a museum since 1959. Today, what stands only as a wooden skeleton immediately outside the house will be the Richard Milhous Nixon Library and Birth Place once construction is completed. The library is scheduled to open July 20 and Nixon is expected to attend.

In addition to documents and excerpts from the White House tapes, the library will feature a video-image exhibit where visitors will be able to have a few words with the former President. A questioner may touch a screen and trigger an answer (from one of 400 video clips) that appears on the former President’s lips.

Visitors may hear Nixon’s apology for the scandal that drove him from office: “That the way I tried to deal with Watergate was the wrong way is a burden I shall have to bear for every day of the life that is left to me.” The city of Yorba Linda isn’t one to hold a grudge, however. The former President’s birthday, Jan. 9, is a local holiday and was celebrated this year for the first time.

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The neighborhood still looks like an equestrian haven. South of Yorba Linda along Eureka Avenue stands a blue farmhouse and stables. The scent of horses emanates from the area.

Even the development announced at the corner of Yorba Linda Boulevard and Eureka promises equestrian lots and trails. The Buena Vida Estates will one day grace the crest of the hill along Eureka Avenue with “4,100-4,150-square-foot homes on spacious equestrian lots,” the sign promises, in this “quiet and secluded Yorba Linda setting.”

Vestiges of the old frontier are in evidence here in western Yorba Linda. Horses stand in a paddock along Lakeview Avenue toward Bastanchury Road and stables announce their offerings. Three or four pumps dredge for oil.

The city’s past is recognized with architectural landmarks. One of the original red railroad cars stands prominently behind a yellowish engine along Imperial Highway. The red railroad car, which reads MJB Pacific, once housed a mini-museum but has been closed for many years because of vandalism.

Oranges were once the city’s big cash crop. “Fruit was shipped out by the carload while fertilizer, lumber, machinery and other supplies were delivered here,” reads a historical plaque at 18132 Imperial Highway. Here stands the original depot built by the Pacific Electric Railroad in 1911 for the Yorba Linda stop. This “big, red car,” representing the first means of public transportation, took townsfolk to Los Angeles nine times a day. The plaque even includes a bit of folkloric whimsy: “As passengers approached,” it reads, “conductor Ben Foss would shout ‘Yorba Linda, capital of the world!’ ”

Today the building’s front door announces a restaurant, “Maloney’s Station.” On the rear is a sign designating the saloon entrance. A recent fire closed the restaurant and its reopening is as yet undetermined--a modern-day variation on the shoot-out in a saloon and other casualties of a frontier town.

The area demonstrates a curious mix of history and new construction. At 18200 Yorba Linda Blvd., a sign announces the site of the Yorba Linda Packing House, built by the Yorba Linda Citrus Assn. in 1929. Today, the building houses offices and a retail center.

At 4688 Olinda Street, the first schoolhouse built in Yorba Linda (in 1911) now houses Pudmuckle’s, A Tole-Painting Cottage. A plaque reminds visitors that the craftsman-style structure was a one-room school. In 46 years, this public building housed such public forums as the Chamber of Commerce, citrus association, women’s club, community church and a Sunday school. At one time, the Yorba Linda Mutual Water Company also had its headquarters there.

Times past live on in Yorba Linda.

Population Total: (1989 est.) 7,264 1980-89 change: +17.2% Median Age: 32.7

Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino), 76%; Latino, 11%; Black, 1%; Other, 12%

By sex and age: MALES Median age: 32.2 years FEMALES Median age: 33.1 years

Income Per capita: $17,257 Median household: $49,799 Average household: $52,699 Income Distribution: Less than $25,000, 19%; $25,000-49,999, 32%; $50,000-74,999, 28%; $75,000-$99,999, 13%; $100,000 and more, 8%


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