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Neighborhood Spotlight: Rowland Heights an Eastern suburban gateway

Like that of most places in the Los Angeles region, the recorded history of Rowland Heights stretches back to the time when Spanish expeditions wandered the sere plains and craggy hills of California, trying to take the measure of the vast land they had stumbled upon while searching for gold.

It was Gaspar de Portolá — on his long, dusty march from San Diego to Monterey — who claimed the place for the king of Spain and named the area Puente, for a bridge his men built over a nearby creek.

In the 1840s the Mexican government, the inheritors of the remnants of the Spanish empire in North America, granted rights to the 49,000-acre Rancho La Puente to John Rowland and his partner.

Together they raised crops and cattle and fought in support of Pio Pico and the Californio cause in the Second Battle of Cahuenga Pass in 1845, in which the warring sides fired artillery at each other until they ran out of shot, resulting in the deaths of one horse, one donkey and zero Californians.

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The rancho remained a sleepy agricultural corner of Southern California, untouched by generations of boom and bust cycles until the 1950s, when the Rowland and Walnut Water District was formed to bring water from the Colorado River to what would soon become a bustling bedroom community. The construction of the 60 Freeway in 1970 fueled the boom in subdivisions and strip malls in what was now called Rowland Heights.

It was also in the 1970s that the surrounding San Gabriel Valley began to develop into an important commercial and residential center of Chinese-American life.

Eschewing the traditional gateway community of Chinatown in downtown L.A., newly arrived Chinese, like so many of their fellow Angelenos old and new, opted for life in the suburbs.

Today, Rowland Heights is one of the San Gabriel Valley’s many communities with pluralities of Chinese-American residents and is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in L.A. County.

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