SAN GABRIEL VALLEY / COVER STORY : Historic Homes Help Rebuild City’s Image : Lincoln Park, filled with good neighbors and hard-to-beat real estate deals, is an important part of Pomona’s wave of revitalization.
When Michael and Bonnie Bone first began looking for a historic house to buy in the San Gabriel Valley area, they were discouraged to find nothing they liked in their price range. Then a real estate agent mentioned a quaint neighborhood called Lincoln Park.
There was only one drawback for the Bones: The neighborhood was in Pomona, a city they thought of as downtrodden and gang-ridden.
“My husband wasn’t thrilled at first. He was convinced it was gangland, but I told him, look, this is a real nice little neighborhood, just look, just look,” Bonnie Bone recalled.
Look they did, and when they spied the old California bungalow with three bedrooms and a den, the Bones knew they had hit pay dirt. Over several years, they fixed up their starter home, then traded up as children came. Now the Bones own a larger house with Spanish architecture, five bedrooms and a huge yard.
And they couldn’t be happier with their choice of neighborhood.
“People are really friendly and down to earth. I love the antique district nearby, and we can afford to send our kids to private school because our entire income isn’t engulfed in a mortgage,” Bonnie Bone said.
The Bones are part of a wave of renovation that has turned Lincoln Park, northeast of downtown Pomona, into a highly sought-after historic district of old homes, friendly neighbors and good real estate deals.
In years past, Lincoln Park was known as Pomona’s Silk Stocking Row because many wealthy people built houses there, around a small park from which the neighborhood takes its name.
In fact, the city of Pomona has 2,784 historic homes and buildings, one of the county’s highest numbers, said Diann Marsh of Marsh & Associates in Santa Ana, which recently completed a historic resources survey of the city.
“Outside of Pasadena, Pomona was the most significant community east of Los Angeles and has more remaining homes from those early years. There are an unusually large amount of Victorian homes,” Marsh said.
The prices are also right. A historic two-bedroom, one-bathroom house with a formal dining room and 1,100 square feet in Lincoln Park goes for about $120,000, said Margaret Ruecker, a real estate agent who lives in the area and has sold houses there for 10 years. At the other end, a 3,000-square-foot residence with five bedrooms, a guest house and a vast yard goes for about $285,000.
Ruecker says the homes have held their value despite the downturn in Southland real estate because people looking for vintage homes come in a steady stream from Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. These home buyers are willing to forgo more-popular middle-class neighborhoods and tract homes for a character-laden house to restore and call their own.
Pomona police say the crime in Lincoln Park is among the lowest in the city.
“It’s always been a really nice area. We never have problems up there except for the occasional burglary,” said Mary Ann Rogers, a Pomona police officer.
A civic spirit prevails, with many residents involved in the revitalization of downtown Pomona as well as their own residential neighborhood. Steve Sisneros, president of the Pomona Antique Row and a partner in McBeth’s Antiques, owns a house in Lincoln Park.
So does Michael Agee, who recently opened Michael’s Coffeehouse downtown. Agee grew up in Pasadena but found the cheapest old home there out of his range at $200,000. Then he visited Lincoln Park and found the same thing for $100,000.
“It was built in 1922, it has beautiful hardwood floors, it’s in a quaint old area,” he said. “I could have never afforded this in Pasadena.”