Historically, the Riverside County city of Beaumont has been just a place that you passed through on your way to somewhere else. But nowadays, many new homeowners are making Beaumont a destination -- and saying it's a great place to raise a family.
The Pacific Railroad started passing through Beaumont on its route through the San Gorgonio Pass to the coast in 1876. It wasn't until 1907 that a few hundred settlers began farming and raising poultry here. Beaumont was incorporated in 1912 with a population of 1,200.
Today's city of 18,982 is still a stopping point for travelers making their way from the Colorado River to Los Angeles through the pass. But it has traded its manufacturing and working-class roots for more upscale tract homes. And with a 14.1% growth in population since 2004, it is one of Riverside County's fastest-growing communities.
What's it about?
City Councilman Roger Berg, now in his early 50s, grew up in Beaumont and remembers it as a small town with one traffic light.
"Now it's quite a bit different," he said. "One of the draws is that transportation in and out of here is pretty easy. The small-town feel still draws people."
But unlike in his youth, modern-day Beaumont has more professionals living in the community and more racial diversity and culture. He said those were among the reasons he chose to raise his family here.
Small town indeed. Beaumont celebrates the end of the cherry harvest with its Cherry Festival and parade each June. The city has a Christmas Light Parade in December and sponsors a "Maze of Terror" for Halloween. The city also provides anyone who asks with a Thanksgiving Day dinner each year, for pickup or home delivery.
Joan Taylor, 61, executive director of the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, moved to the area from Claremont last year. She said her experience living in the town was a revelation.
"There's not a kid in this town that goes without a Christmas gift or anyone that goes without a Thanksgiving dinner," she said. "It's all about action around here, not just talk."
The large number of young families makes Beaumont's schools central to its community spirit. Most parents know one another from school plays, sports or events and are school boosters.
Children still ride their bicycles in neighborhood streets before dinner and families picnic together in the city's parks.
Beaumont homes are a mixture of Craftsman, Art Deco and Victorian architecture. Most of Beaumont's downtown was torn down in the mid-1960s to make way for Interstate 10, but pieces of its past still exist. The Victorian McCoy home is a historical landmark only two blocks from the interstate. More than 25,000 new housing units are proposed and/or in development for the next few years, which could raise Beaumont's population to close to 100,000 -- more than quintupling its current population.
Students attend one of Beaumont Unified School District's five elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Scores on the 2005 Academic Performance Index Growth Report, out of a possible 1,000, were: Palm Elementary, 754; Chavez Elementary, 830; Sundance Elementary, 764; and Three Rings Ranch Elementary, 775. Scores for the newly opened Brookside Elementary were not available. Mountain View Middle School students scored 733, and San Gorgonio scored 707. Beaumont Senior High students scored 704.
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; City of Beaumont, www.ci.beaumont.ca.us; the San Gorgonio Pass Historical Society, www.sgphs.org/beaumont; California Department of Finance, www.dof.ca.gov; and realtor.com.