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Santa Paula, California
A vanishing way of life in the midst of 21st century California
by: John Chamberlain


(Santa Paula, California) Some 70 minutes and 70 years from Los Angeles is the singular city of Santa Paula. This is a place warmed by year round sunshine, enfolded by the mountains and by the last great citrus greenbelts of Southern California. Small town charm, rich in history and only 10 minutes from the Pacific.

Amidst the dash and splash of contemporary California, Santa Paula's downtown is a pleasant surprise. There are no strip malls, billboards or cookie-cutter chain stores here.

Historic Downtown Santa Paula

Visitors can peacefully stroll through its old fashioned streets lined with Queen Ann and Victorian style homes. Craftsman-era residences also add to the architectural diversity of this charming town. Historic Main Street offers a glimpse of buildings dating from the late 1800's

There are a variety of attractions for Santa Paula Visitors:

The Santa Paula Oil Museum- This beautifully restored Queen Ann -Italianate style building was built in 1890 by Union Oil Company. The Santa Paula Oil museum tells the story of the 'black bonanza' that created wealth, work and prosperity for generations of Californians. The museum highlights the inner workings of the state's 'black gold' industry through interactive displays videos, working models, games, photographs, restored gas station memorabilia and an authentic turn of the century cable tool drilling rig. Visitors can see how the Chumash Indians used natural oil seeps, watch a miniature-drilling rig bore into the earth and experience the excitement of 'wildcatting' for petroleum.

National Register of Historic Places #8600249. California Historical Landmark#996.Ventura County Historical Landmark#36. California Oil Museum (805) 933-0076.

The Santa Paula Murals- Throughout the downtown core, visitors can view a series of brilliant murals that celebrate Santa Paula's singular place in California History. The murals provide a vivid introduction to the town's rich multicultural history by some of our nation's most accomplished muralists.

Our First Inhabitants: The Chumash Indians-

The artist, Ann Thiermann, researched this mural by hiking to the historic site of the Chumash village, Sisa, in the foothills above Santa Paula and listening to local Chumash culture bearers. The artist created a dialog between a grandmother of today and her granddaughter sharing the story of the life of the Chumash, from their experience during the Mission period back thousands of years to life in the village of Sisa along the Santa Paula Creek.

Transport in Time & Place: Trains, Planes & Automobiles-1890's -1940's

This mural centers on the historic Southern Pacific Depot, built in 1887, illustrating the many activities relating to the use of the railroad. Panels depict U.S. President Benjamin Harrison's train stop in Santa Paula in 1891, a 1937 Hudson coupe, a 1934 Dodge Panel Truck, a 1931 Indian motorcycle, and lemons from Limoneira being loaded on boxcars.

Santa Paula Artists and Architects-

Since the 1890s Santa Paula has been home to many talented artists and architects whose works and presence have enriched not only Santa Paula but the state and nation as well. Among them are Jessie Arms Botke and her husband Cornelis Botke whose works are featured in the Smithsonian. Douglas Shively, a contemporary of the Botkes specialized in local landscapes. Robert Clunie, also a plein air painter, became known for his paintings of the Sierras. Photographer Horace Bristol attained national recognition for his Depression era photos where he worked for Life Magazine documenting the conditions of migrant workers along with John Steinbeck.

Santa Paula's first architect/builder was Herman Anlauf who designed the landmark Faulkner House in 1894 with Franklin Ward. Roy C. Wilson's architectural firm spanned over 50 years and was the most prolific in Ventura County. Many architects got their start here including Robert Raymond and John Stroh. Raymond became best known for the Masonic Lodge built in 1930 and John Stroh for his design of Saint Sebastian's Church in 1951. 

Santa Paula Family Farms-

The small family farms seen all around us today on the outskirts of Santa Paula are a testament to the hard work of the early pioneer families and workers. Here you see the evolution of agriculture from the 1880s to the 1930s.

Santa Paula Citrus Capital of the World-

This mural highlights a 60-year span (1880-1940) of the citrus industry in Santa Paula. The first in 1900 shows Japanese, Anglo and Hispanic field workers harvesting lemons. The second shows Nathan Blanchard, founder of Santa Paula and his packinghouse, the third pays tribute to all Latino pickers who have harvested citrus over the years. The fourth, the 1940s shows the significant role of women in the packinghouses, including those whose families fled the terrible 'dustbowl' conditions sweeping thought the mid-west in the 1930s.

Main Street Santa Paula-

This mural reflects Main Street as the vital center of the growing town, which was founded in 1875. Main Street served as the social, educational and religious center of town. Vignettes include the Blanchard Library and El Brilliante Market, the center of the vibrant Mexican commerce in Santa Paula at the time.

Celebrating Santa Paula's Latino Culture-

This mural depicts the rich culture of Santa Paula's Latino community. It honors their devotion to family, religion, education and country. Landmarks in the background are Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (ca. 1929), Santa Paula High School Bell Tower (ca. 1939) and the Main Street Clock Tower (ca. 1905).

Discovering Black Gold in Santa Paula (1860s-1950s)

As a result of the Civil War, shipments of oil and kerosene from the east declined and interest rose in finding a source of oil in California. Depicted in this mural are Lyman Stewart and Wallace Hardison who discovered oil in California in this area and formed Hardison and Stewart Oil Company in 1883. It became Union Oil in 1890.

The Santa Paula Airport-

Throughout the years, Santa Paula Airport has been widely recognized around the world for its antique, classic and experimental aircraft. Many talented and famous pilots have flown in and out of Santa Paula airport, including Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, Roscoe Turner and Pancho Barnes.

There is a lot of aviation history stored around this airport and some of the artifacts date back to the airport's beginning. The Santa Paula Airport Museum is a treasure trove of aeronautical memorabilia. Hanger Number 1 in the airport's 'Chain of Hangars' vividly relates the history of the airport during the period 1927-1930 through the use of historic photos, artifacts, and a video, which shows the airport's construction and opening day festivities.

Hangar Number 2 in the 'Chain' reflects the 1930 era aircraft popular at the time. Displayed are a 1930 De Havilland Gipsy Moth and a 1942 De Havilland Tiger Moth, related artifacts and model airplanes. This hangar was originally owned by the legendary airplane pilot, Ted Homan who flew for Western Air Express, one of the earliest West Coast Airlines later named Western Airlines, which merged into Delta Airlines.

The Tiger Moth was the type of aircraft used by the British as a primary training airplane to prepare Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots in the fight against the Germans in World War II. Only 500 Gipsy Moths were built in England and they were know as the 'Gentleman's Aerial Carriage'. David Watson, a Lockheed aircraft engineer, owns both airplanes and Hangar Number 2.

As an added interest for children and the young at heart, David has a fully functional Lionel train set, which visitors can view and operate. Also of interest is the workshop and office at the rear of the hangar. Santa Paula Airport and Aviation Museum (805) 933-1155, (805) 525-1109.

The Glenn Tavern Inn-

Established on May 19, 1911, The Glenn Tavern Inn is noted on the National Register of Historic Places, the only hotel in Ventura County so honored. Built in the days of grand hotels, the Tudor style building has a beautiful craftsman influence. The flowing tapestries adorn the burnished wood paneling. Dimly lit sconces reveal only a glimpse of the distressed bar that entertained the likes of Clark Gable, Carol Lombard and Harry Houdini.

As a salute to WWI draftees in Ventura County, a special banquet and dance was held at The Glenn Tavern Inn. Dancing took place in the lobby, which was decorated with flags and flowers.

In the early 1920's dozens of Western films were made in and around Santa Paula. The Glenn Tavern played host to many movie stars and companies.

Steve McQueen and John Wayne were guests while filming one of the many movies made nearby. In June 2004, Jeff Bridges had a private party here during the filming of 'The Moguls', and Billy Bob Thornton was a recent guest during the recent filming of 'Mr. Woodcock' in and around Santa Paula's historic Main Street.

In January 2004, Tom and Rossana Jennett purchased the Inn and have been in the process of restoring it to its former beautiful condition. The Glenn Tavern Inn (805) 933-5550.

Faulker Farm-

The George Washington Faulker House was designated as Ventura County Landmark No. 1 in 1968, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. The NRHP listing was based on the significance of George Washington Faulkner and the architectural significance of the house and its designers.

G.W. Faulkner attained significance for the role he played in the development of agriculture in Ventura County between 1880 and 1935. His willingness to experiment with crops in the early 1880s led him to be among the first to raise apricots in the Santa Clara Valley. He was also the first person to raise soft-shelled walnuts in the valley. Mr. Faulkner also pioneered lima bean cultivation in the 1880s.

In 1901, Faulkner and Jefferson Crane invented a machine for the washing, treating and drying of walnuts, which was used by the Santa Paula Walnut Association. He also invented a planter for lima bean cultivation.

In 1879, Faulker purchased the 150-acre site on Telegraph Road. A barn was built in 1886 and a large house in 1894. These structures remain on the present 27-acre property.

Currently the Hansen Agricultural Trust owns the property. The philosophy guiding the trust is based on the belief that a healthy agriculture is an essential ingredient in a healthy economy and community. It links us to the soil, weather, water and land of which we are all a part.

The Historic Faulkner Farm is open to the public during Pumpkin Patch Season and Farm Fest in April. Please check the web site for the numerous activities during these periods. Faulkner Farm (805) 525-2226.

Fillmore and Western Railway-

The Fillmore and Western Railway offers passenger excursions, dinner trains, private parties and corporate events on it's 19th century antique train cars between Santa Paula's picturesque depot and scenic downtown Fillmore.

The majority of the train equipment was acquired from the property departments of three major movie studios: MGM, Paramount and 20th Century Fox. In addition to providing excursion service, the line's collection of rolling stock is used in the film industry through its Short Line Enterprise Film Division. Short line has been used in over seventy feature films, television series and commercials.

The principal's of Short Line have been engaged by the California Department of Parks and Recreation to supervise restoration of the extensive and historic collection of the California State Railroad Museum. Additionally, Short Line was retained as the prime contractor by the Nevada State Museum on restoration projects in Carson City.

The beautiful valley and mountains provide a special background for the delightful passenger excursions of the Fillmore and Western Railway. Fillmore and Western Railway (805) 524-2546.

Limoneira Mercantile-

Limoneira Company, a 112 year-old Santa Paula land farming and food company has brought a bit of California and Ventura County history and heritage to its new Limoneira Mercantile, a seven-store retail and food destination in Santa Paula.

The Mercantile includes Limoneira Fresh a 3,200 square foot open-air farmer's market with farm fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables. Limoneira Fresh sells only the finest quality produce-quality usually found only at high-end retail grocery stores. Gift packs filled with fresh fruit and coffee products are sold at Limoneira Fresh and are also available online at the company web site.

A 300-square foot flower shop, Natural Beauty Flowers is also inside Limoneira Fresh. All flowers are from local growers in Carpinteria and Oxnard.

Limoneira Company Founders were frequent visitors to South America in the early days of the company. Limoneira Coffee Company's Café do Brasil taps into this tradition with its 100 percent Arabica premium coffee grown and roasted exclusively at a 40,000-acre family-run farm in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Besides serving and selling only Guara coffee brand products, the café features a full coffee house menu including hot and iced coffee drinks, gourmet teas, desserts, baked goods, bags of whole bean coffee and Brazilian coffee and chocolate gift packs. The café is a wireless internet hot spot where customers can access the Internet from their wireless laptops or through the coffee house's own bank of computers.

Celebrating a Ventura County tradition of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, the Mercantile includes Bob's Bib Box Express, complete with the landmark Bob's Big Boy statue out front. All the Bob's Big Boy classics are back including Big Boy Original double decker hamburger, hand-breaded onion rings, fresh strawberry pie and shakes.

Other merchants at the Mercantile include a Union 76 gas station, car wash and convenience store. Santa Paula is the original home of the Union Oil Company and the founding fathers of Limoniera Company were also involved in the formation of Union Oil as well as Santa Paula. The Limoneira Mercantile is located at 55 Hallock Drive and Highway 126.

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Additional Santa Paula Attractions-

Santa Paula Theater Center. Originally the Ebell Club; offers live theater in a 1917 building; National Historic Register #89000949, Ventura County Historic Landmark #76. (805) 525-3073.

Mountain View Golf Course. Scenic 18-hole public golf course nestled between the mountains and the Santa Clara River. (805) 525-1571


Information and photos submitted by:

Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce
200 North 10th Street
Santa Paula, California 93060


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