Citrus was the chief industry during the first part of the last century in Claremont and other foothill towns. At one time in our citrus history, there were four packing houses, an ice house, and a pre-cooling plant lining the sidings and main railroad tracks in Claremont. Largely perceived as a college town, Claremont was also an industrial town early in our history. Each packing house employed from 200-300 people, and many employees traveled from Pomona on The Pacific Electric trolleys. First Street was the center of this industrial activity and was the busiest street in town. By 1950, Claremont had between three and four thousand acres in the cultivation of lemons and oranges and in 1965, the lemon house packed about one million boxes of lemons. Housing tracts, however, became more lucrative than citrus and in the late 1960 s and early 1970 s, citrus production dwindled and most packing house functions were transferred to Riverside County. Some packing house activities continued, however, until 1972 when our last packing house – College Heights Lemon packing house – ceased operation as a packing house. The College Heights Association lemon packing is the last visible link to Claremont’s pioneering history in the citrus industry. It belonged to the largest citrus association, College Heights Orange and Lemon Association, which at one time also had an orange packing house along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks.
The packing house is Utilitarian Vernacular architecture. Almost by definition, utilitarian buildings lack “style” – but inevitably, as in our packing house, function, form, proportion, detail, material and construction reflect the individuality and personality of the time. Vernacular buildings are usually the work of craftsmen who might prefer to follow local tradition rather than the latest vogue. Our packing house, built by Clarence Stover, follows Southern California tradition and is a classic industrial structure. Our packing house is very well built. Its floors have supported tons of lemons, people, and machinery. When one enters the building, it is easy to imagine adaptive uses – community functions in the main space surrounded by galleries, and a restaurant; work/live studios with lofts in the upper level. The Packing House is now open. View website.