Many places in Southern California bearing the name of famed real-estate speculator Elias “Lucky” Baldwin have only a tangential connection to the pioneering land baron. But the town of Vineland became Baldwin Park thanks to a literal hands-on experience with the living legend.
In 1905, an aged, infirm Baldwin made plans to establish a town called Baldwinville outside the hardscrabble San Gabriel Valley farming settlement of Vineland.
The good folk of Vineland, already hard-pressed to eke out a living while their crops relied on the meager annual rainfall, were understandably concerned that Lucky’s new venture would siphon away what little groundwater there was.
They invited him to parley with them on the matter. Baldwin agreed, and a meeting was arranged at Shultis’ Grocery in the tiny burg’s downtown. Upon entering the establishment, the octogenarian lost his footing and, as the townsfolk looked on in horror, began to fall.
Only the quick reaction of Mrs. Shultis saved him from catastrophe, as she leaped forward and caught him before he tumbled to the ground.
Lucky, who was no stranger to close calls (having survived two assassination attempts by spurned lovers), was so overcome with gratitude that he abandoned his plans for Baldwinville and granted Vinelanders the right to use his name for their town.
Baldwin Park, like much of the San Gabriel Valley, remained semirural for the first half of the 20th Century. The end of World War II touched off the population boom that transformed the Los Angeles region into the megalopolis it is today.
Suburbs soon engulfed the region’s farmland, and as they exploded in popularity, so too did the car-oriented businesses that served their residents. In 1948, Baldwin Park gave birth to a quintessential symbol of California car culture — the state’s first drive-through restaurant, an In-N-Out burger stand.
By the 1960s, the city was essentially built out, but its population has continued to grow, with new arrivals drawn by its relatively affordable housing and convenient location near the confluence of the 10 and 605 freeways.
Affordable housing: What Baldwin Park lacks in glamour is more than made up for by its extensive stock of single-family homes that can be had for less than $500,000.
Commuting convenience: With two freeways, Metrolink’s San Bernardino line and Foothill Transit’s Silver Streak bus line, Baldwin Park offers plenty of options for getting to work.
Nature calls: For outdoor enthusiasts, the Sante Fe Dam Recreational Area is right next door, and the Angeles National Forest is a short drive away.
The quiet life: Baldwin Park is great for families or those who are looking to settle down, but for party animals and singletons the lack of nightlife may leave something to be desired.
Winnie Tran, founder of Amigos Realty, has two decades of experience in Baldwin Park and six words of advice: “Strike while the iron is hot.”
Despite surges in development and diversity — in both the population and culinary scene — housing prices are still affordable at the moment.
“Previously, vacant land littered Baldwin Park,” Tran said. “Now there’s construction all over the city for new condominiums, planned unit developments and single-family homes.”
Suburban staples such as Home Depot and Walmart exist alongside Mexican restaurants and Taiwanese bubble-tea shops. The confluence of those, plus a growing business park, has brought the city new jobs and new life.
“You wouldn’t have been able to find some of these 20 years ago. The landscape of Baldwin Park has completely changed since I started working here,” Tran said.
In the 91706 ZIP Code, based on 24 sales, the median price for single-family homes in July was $472,000, up 19% year-over-year, according to CoreLogic.
Of the 19 public schools in the Baldwin Park boundaries, 18 scored above 700 on the 2013 Academic Performance Index, and eight scored above 800.
The top performers were Santa Fe School, at 878, Sierra Vista Junior High at 830 and Ernest R. Geddes Elementary, at 828. Baldwin Park High, the area’s main high school, scored 730.