District 8 - San Bernardino

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Projects | San Bernardino County | SR-330 City Creek Bridge

Project Description

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) proposes to replace the existing concrete bridge rail and rail approaches and reinforce the bridge decks at City Creek Bridge (Bridge No. 54-0365) and East Fork City Creek Bridge (Bridge No. 54-0345). 

Purpose and Need

The project’s purpose is to reinforce the bridge decks and avert continuous and severe deterioration of the bridge rails and approach on the City Creek Bridge and East Fork City Creek Bridge on SR-330, to ensure the safety of the traveling public by enhancing the reliability of the bridge rails and to extend their lives. 

Both bridge rails and approach are in need of replacement with a two year factor due to severe deterioration.  Extensive cracks in the balusters, along the top of the bridge rails were found at various locations on both bridges.  The project was proposed in order to comply with current standards for crash test sufficiency.

pdf gifClick here to view Initial Study [with Mitigated Negative Declaration]


Cultural Resource Mitigation

This project involves railing replacement on two bridges; City Creek Bridge (built in 1947), and East Fork City Creek Bridge (built in 1948). Both structures are cultural resources that have been determined significant for aspects of their design and construction. The two bridges are open spandrel, concrete (rib) arch structures uniquely designed for very different and specific site locations. As part of a previous seismic retrofit project in 1995, both structures were evaluated and found eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for their engineering significance and are therefore considered Historic Properties.

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Figure 1. Route 330 City Creek Bridge, PM 32.5 (built in 1947)

 

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Figure 2. Route 330 East Fork City Creek Bridge, PM 33.7 (built in 1948)

In 2017, A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was executed for the project between Caltrans and the State Office of Historic Preservation. Mitigation measures specified in the MOA to address the adverse effect caused by the railing replacement project include modifications to the proposed bridge railing designs to make them more visually and aesthetically compatible with the existing historic structures and Caltrans gathering historical information about the City Creek bridges and making it available on the Caltrans District 8 website in order to provide a public benefit to anyone interested in the history of City Creek Bridge, East Fork City Creek Bridge, concrete arch bridges in California, or the general history of the project area.

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Figure 3. Detail of original City Creek Bridge railing featuring a pointed arch design. (This type of railing is known as a “picture” railing, as you can see through it.)

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Figure 4. Detail of original East Fork City Creek Bridge picture railing featuring a rounded arch design. (The metal plates and bolts are for guardrail that has been attached to the south side of bridge.)

Route 330 and Highland Vicinity Narrative:

Introduction

Route 330 is in the San Bernardino Mountains above Highland; a community once known for its high-quality citrus including oranges and lemons. The area was sparsely settled until the 1880s when local water resources were developed, making the large-scale irrigation of crops possible. (Guinn:454) Route 330 leads up into the City Creek drainage and connects to Route 18 near Running Springs. Route 330 is one of three roads into the mountains: Route 18, Route 330, and Route 38. These highways provide access to Lake Arrowhead, Lake Gregory, and Big Bear Lake from the south. Route 18, which is known as the Rim-of-the-World Highway, forms part of a 100+ mile loop that has been a popular scenic drive since the early 20th century. Route 18, which is the most heavily utilized road into the mountains, leads up Waterman Canyon from San Bernardino, around Panorama Point, then proceeds east along the main ridge and through the communities of Rimforest, Skyforest, Running Springs, Arrowbear, Snow Valley, and Big Bear Lake. East of Big Bear Lake, Route 18 intersects with Route 38. Route 18 then circles behind Baldwin Lake and down the back (north) side of the San Bernardino mountains into the desert reaches of Lucerne Valley. While Route 38 forms the eastern portion of the 100+ mile loop, climbing into the San Bernardino mountains east of Redlands and Mentone, Route 330 splits the difference, allowing quicker access to the Running Springs area and an alternative route into the mountains.

Early Roads and Resource Extraction    

Early roads into the San Bernardino Mountains were constructed for mining and logging purposes, which mainly took place during the mid-to late-19th century. Some of these roads were based on trails established by Native Americans, but many were not. In 1839, Juan Bandini was granted permission from Governor Alvarado to harvest timber in Devil’s Canyon and Sawpit Canyon above present-day Verdemont. In the 1840’s Bandini improved the trail and used it as a haul-road that soon became known as Bandini Road. (Robinson:10) One of the earliest routes into the mountains led up Santa Ana River Canyon. In 1845, Benjamin Wilson and twenty-two men ventured up the Santa Ana River and over steep mountain ridges into a broad, meadowed valley in pursuit of a group of stock raiders.  While in the area later known as “Bear Valley”, his party killed twenty-two grizzlies during two hunts; eleven bears at each over the span of a few days at the most. (LaFuze:19) Wilson’s was one of the first well-documented trips into the San Bernardino mountains. Within the next decade, multiple routes would be established into the mountains. These early trails and wagon roads can be distinguished in location and use from those leading around and through the mountains, such as those in the Cajon and San Gorgonio passes. To most 19th century travelers, the San Bernardino Mountains were a formidable barrier that was to be avoided. However, for those seeking game, lumber, or gold, the early trails and roads leading into the San Bernardino mountains were a vital, although often unpleasant and dangerous necessity.

The Spanish ventured into Mill Creek canyon, which is located a few miles east of City Creek, to cut timber beginning around 1800. (Robinson:25) In 1845, the first saw mill was built on Mill Creek to supply lumber for wooden barrel staves used by the Los Angeles vineyards of Jean-Louis Vignes, who was one of the first commercial vintners in California. This mill, and others nearby, also supplied the valuable lumber that was used to build hundreds of structures in Los Angeles. (Robinson:22) In the 1840s, a new road was built up Bailey Canyon, also for logging purposes.  After construction of their stockade in the San Bernardino Valley in 1851, the Mormons built a road up Hot Springs Canyon in 1852 to increase access to timber that was needed in and around the new community. The building of the Mormon Road up what is now known as Waterman Canyon utilized every able-bodied male in the community and took about two weeks to construct. (Robinson:20) Lumber was such a lucrative source of income for the group that the milled boards were known as “Mormon Banknotes”. (LDS True Community) While most roads built during the mid-19th century in the mountains were toll roads, the Mormon route up Hot Springs Canyon was public. By late summer of 1852, Charles Crismon was operating a saw mill in upper Hot Springs Canyon, which he moved within the year further up the hill into the Crestline vicinity, perhaps to reach better stands of timber. The second Crismon mill was steam-powered, utilizing a heavy boiler brought up the Mormon Road. (Robinson:20) The Seely (also spelled Seeley) brothers, David and Wellington, set up a saw mill in 1853 in an area that would become known as Seeley Flats northwest of Crestline. In 1855, they converted the mill to steam-power, as water-powered mills were at a distinct disadvantage during dry spells. (Robinson:22) The Seeley’s so-called Salamander Mill, which was located southeast of Huston Flat and one of the largest and most extensive in the mountains at that time, burned to the ground in 1854. The Salamander was rebuilt within a year and converted to steam-power. However, the mill was destroyed again in 1859, this time by a boiler fire. (Robinson:26) By 1856 there were six steam-powered saw mills operating in the San Bernardino Mountains. (Robinson:21)

After the Mormons were recalled to Salt Lake City in 1857, others had to take over the task of building and maintaining roads into the San Bernardino Mountains, including the Mormon Road which was subject to frequent wash-outs.  In 1858, the San Bernardino Pine Mountain Company was formed to repair the Mormon Road, and by 1860, it became the first toll road leading into the rugged San Bernardino range. Heavy rains during the winter of 1861-62 again washed-out the Mormon Road. (Robinson:26) The same storms destroyed two of the remaining lumber mills on Mill Creek. The Seely Mill at Seely Flat was so extensively damaged during this storm event that David Seely soon abandoned his lumber operation in the San Bernardino Mountains. (Robinson:27) While most heavy-hauling into and out of the mountains was done using wagons pulled by oxen or horses, mule pack trains were also used to transport goods and supplies needed by the lumbermen and gold miners, especially over the rougher trails. In 1867-1868, Nathan Swarthout constructed a lumber road up Bailey Canyon to replace the much earlier (1840s) Bandini Road. While Swarthout used it to haul cut cedars out of the mountains, the road was too far west to really benefit lumber mills located further east in the Little Bear and Big Bear valleys. (Robinson:31) During the spring and summer of 1870, a new logging road, the Twin and City Creek Turnpike (located west of present-day City Creek Road) was constructed into the mountains from Del Rosa. Edward Daley surveyed the road and it became known as the Daley Canyon Road. By 1879, a new logging road had been constructed in Devil’s Canyon, west of Waterman Canyon. (Robinson:31) The new road up Devil’s Canyon was apparently an improvement on the nearby road in Bailey Canyon (built 1867-68), and at least two mills, the Jobs Peak Mill and the Cedar Flats Mill, utilized the new road to bring their lumber to market. However, as the thick stands of timber became depleted, logging activities moved north and east into unharvested areas. By the 1890s, there were over thirteen lumber mills in the San Bernardino Mountains that utilized logging roads located in the Devil, Waterman, Daley, and City Creek canyons. (Robinson:35) Ironically, most of these 19th century mill sites were later flooded by water projects (dams) and/or by formation of lakes that became largely utilized for recreational purposes, including Bear Lake (renamed Big Bear Lake), Little Bear Lake (renamed Lake Arrowhead), as well as Arrowbear Lake, Green Valley Lake, and Lake Gregory.

 

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After a few small strikes in 1859 in Bear Valley, gold was discovered in nearby Holcomb Valley, north of the area that would later become Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. By 1860, a wagon road had been constructed between Holcomb Valley and the desert side of the San Bernardino mountains. The Van Dusen Road was a longer route than the other existing roads into the area but was also a much easier traverse than those leading into the mountains from the south. (Robinson:51) By August of 1860, over one thousand persons were living in the Holcomb and Bear Valley mining district (Robinson:51) and the route up the Santa Ana River, which was nothing more than a rough trail, was judged to be inadequate for the mining concerns. In the early 1860’s, San Bernardino County supervisors proposed construction of a road from San Bernardino into the Bear and Holcomb valleys, but the proposal was dropped. (Robinson:51) Soon after the Van Dusen road was completed into the west end of Holcomb Valley, another route was constructed up the Cushenbury Grade to the northeast. For many years, these two roads were preferred for hauling goods, supplies, and heavy equipment into the area. For example, in 1861, a huge 8,000-pound boiler was carefully transported up the Van Dusen road for an eight-stamp gold ore mill. (Robinson:53) The Mellus Mill boiler, which was installed in the first stamp mill in the Holcomb Valley, remained a rusting relic in the landscape well into the later years of the 20th century. (Robinbson:56) By late 1861, there were approximately fourteen hundred gold miners occupying the boomtowns of Belleville, Clapboard Town, and Union Town. However, in 1862, an especially brutal winter greatly reduced the number of miners in the Holcomb and Bear valleys (Robinson:54). In the early 1870s, a strike at Gold Mountain near Baldwin Lake lead to a renewal of mine development in the area, much of which was rumored to be financed by Lucky Baldwin (Robinson:66). By 1875, Baldwin’s massive 40-stamp mill had begun operation on Gold Mountain, but within two months, reduced ore-processing capacity by half. Baldwin’s mill went on to burn in a spectacular fire in 1878. (Robinson:68) Except for a few small-scale claims, mining had largely ceased in the San Bernardino mountains by the early 1900s -except for the long-lived, but modestly productive Doble mine. (Robinson:70) However, during these same years, the lumber concerns continued to chew through dense stands of mountain timber at a prodigious rate.

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The Community of Highland and the Highland Lumber Company

The story of the community of Highland is inextricably linked with that of the Highland Lumber Company and the history of logging in the San Bernardino mountains. By the late 19th century, one of the largest lumber operations in the mountains was run by the Highland Lumber Company, which had been founded in 1890 by two brothers, C.D. and J.E. Danaher of Michigan, when they purchased a 26,000-acre tract of land in the San Bernardino Mountains, some of which had been owned by David Seely. The Danaher’s purchased additional acreage in 1891, along with right-of-way from orange-growers and ranchers on a shelf of land below the mouth of City Creek which they planned to use for a logging and toll road. (Robinson:37) The Danaher’s soon began construction of a road between the tiny community of Highland and the proposed mill site at Long Point, near present-day Fredalba. The road was planned to have no more than 10% grade. Work was slow, so the brothers pushed for a series of switchbacks up the ridge, making the final grade much steeper, but also allowing the road to open sooner than it would have otherwise. (Robinson:37) The road was completed by mid-1891, and the Danaher brothers began building a $50,000 sawmill that would contain the latest equipment and have an astounding capacity of 60,000 board-feet of lumber per day. By 1892, the mill was producing 35,000 board-feet per day, most of which was transported in lumber wagons down the City Creek road to a box factory at Molino, located just southeast of Highland. As a measure of their strong belief in the new community, in 1891, Highland-area residents secured (by subscription) the right-of-way needed for a new Santa Fe railroad line and construction of the famous “kite shaped” track that would circle the northeast end of the San Bernardino valley soon commenced. (Guinn:454) The lumber company located their large box factory at Molino to take advantage of the new Santa Fe rail line loop that connected San Bernardino, Redlands, Mentone, and Highland, with Los Angeles. (Most of the boxes produced at the Molino box factory were used to pack locally-grown citrus.) The factory utilized about 60% of the lumber produced by the Long Point mill, while the rest was sold out of a retail lumber yard in San Bernardino. (Robinson:38) However, the high cost associated with building and running the Long Point mill and the box factory, along with building and maintaining the new road up City Creek, had left the owners financially over-extended and production ceased in 1892. (Robinson:38) In 1899, the Highland Lumber Company was purchased by the Brookings Lumber Company; a family-owned business based in Michigan and backed by foreign (mainly English) investors. Included in the transfer of assets was the Long Point sawmill, over 6,000 acres of timber in the San Bernardino mountains, the City Creek logging and toll road, and the nearby box factory in Molino.

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By 1901, the Brookings Company had widened and regraded City Creek Road, expanded and improved the Long Point mill, hired a hundred men to work in the mill, and built a small company town nearby at Fredalba, as well constructed a narrow-gauge railway from the mill six miles further into the Heaps Peak and Green Valley areas in search of more timber. (Robinson:38) Brookings was apparently not shy in making investments in their operation and in 1904, a 27-ton railroad locomotive (in sections) was hauled up the City Creek Road on six wagons, each pulled by ten mules. By 1906, Brookings was clear cutting ten acres of timber a month and producing over 50,000 board-feet a day. The construction of the rail line in the mountains and use of other modern machinery including Shay locomotives, so-called Donkey engines, and specially modified lumber skids, and their improved mill, allowed Brookings to out-produce the other lumber operations in the San Bernardino mountains. However, the visibly dwindling stands of timber made clear supplies were not inexhaustible, and other groups with vested interests in the mountains, including hunters, campers, hikers, fishermen and conservationists, began organizing and lobbying for better resource management. By 1912, Brookings had ceased logging in the San Bernardino Mountains and relocated to Oregon where they resumed harvesting timber in the Cascade Range.

Initial settlement in the Highlands area was scattered with the first cluster (1856) around what became known as Cramville, which was near the present-day Village Lakes subdivision at Fifth and Orange Streets. (Highland Area Historical Society web page, A Brief History of Highland, June 1994) By 1858, Henry Rabel had purchased forty acres on Base Line Road just west of present-day Victoria Avenue. The area, which featured natural artesian springs, became a popular recreation spot known as Rabel Springs after the owner-built bath houses and a small hotel. The area became known as Harlem Springs around 1887 when the facility was further developed with a swimming pool, additional bath houses, an entertainment hall and picnic grounds. (HAHS web page, A Brief History of Highland, June 1994.) By the 1870s, a small community known as Messina had been established at Base Line Road and Palm Avenue that contained a cluster of commercial buildings. For a while, the post office was located inside the grocery store. The name “Highland” was apparently first used officially when the local school districts were named, as the general area had been known geographically as the Highlands for years. (HAHS web page, A Brief History of Highlands, June 1994.) As early as 1879, two local investors, E. G. Judson and Frank E. Brown, who would go on to co-found Redlands in 1881, had built a large fruit dryer near the Cram Ranch (East Highlands) and were busy processing dried peaches, apricots, and apples that had been grown locally using water from the South Fork Canal. (Beattie, George William, Origin and Early Development of Water Rights in the East San Bernardino Valley, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, Redlands, California, Bulletin Number 4, November 1951, accessed by HAHS web page link.) With the completion of the kite-shaped track by the Santa Fe Railroad, local communities were renamed. Cramville became East Highlands, Del Rosa became West Highlands, with the central depot at Highland. In 1899, the Messina post office moved to the Santa Fe Railroad depot and the local community petitioned to be renamed “Highland”. The original commercial district of the town on Base Line Road was moved north once the kite line was completed and bricks reused for the new business district centered on Palm and Pacific. (HAHS web page, A Brief History of Highland, June 1994.) 

Historic maps indicate that by 1902, Highland was an agricultural community centered at the cross roads of Pacific Street and Palm Avenue. The kite route was located about ½ block to the north and traversed the community in a northwest to southeast direction. The Molino box factory is shown almost directly due south of the mouth of City Creek on present-day Boulder Avenue, about half-way between Baseline and Pacific Street. The Highlands Ditch is shown running along the base of the San Bernardino mountains from approximately Del Rosa to well east of East Highlands, connecting to a small reservoir about half way between City Creek and Plunge Creek. Other prominent irrigation ditches and channels ringed Highlands and irrigation infrastructure remains visible in the community to this day along may of its original streets and lanes. By 1900, over five million citrus trees had been planted in California. Well into the mid-20th century, Highland played an important role, along with other foothill and valley communities in the area, in the growing and processing of citrus crops, including a wealth of sun-yellow lemons and golden oranges that were shipped by rail throughout the United States. While still a very popular crop, the start of the decline in citrus production in the area was around 1948. (HAHS web site, Time Line of Citrus in the Inland Empire.) At that point, a post-World War II population boom was making land more valuable for residential construction than for growing crops. By 1954, while the area was still largely agricultural, suburbanization was taking place with multiple clusters of development appearing north of Norton Air Force Base and east of San Bernardino, and in the older community of Harlem Springs southwest of Highland. Along with Patton (location of Patton State Hospital), Highland is shown on the 1954 quad map framed by West Highlands (which appeared to consist of a cluster of buildings at Orange Avenue and Date Street and railroad siding and oil tank along the north side of the AT and SF tracks) and East Highlands, which was the larger of the two. By 1967, much of the land between Harlem Springs (vicinity of Victoria Avenue and Base Line Road) and Highland had been subdivided. By the late 1980s, the area north of Highland Avenue between Sand Creek (bordering Del Rosa) and City Creek and the base of the hills, including along either side of the Highland Canal, had been subdivided- a process that initially started around 1973- with a few remaining agricultural parcels evident. Starting at about the same time, Highland was impacted by local and regional transportation improvements, including freeway expansion and construction. Route 30 originally was situated running west to east on Highland Avenue (from San Bernardino) and connected with City Creek Road at the base of the San Bernardino mountains in a modified “Y” intersection. (The bottom of the “Y” was Boulder Avenue/Route 106, which lead south to Redlands via Orange Avenue.) By the early 1970s, Route 30 had been improved to freeway standards on a completely new alignment and extended east to Highland Avenue from San Bernardino and dead-ending near Arden Avenue. Within the next 20 years, this last remaining section of improved Route 30 would be completed, allowing more direct and faster connections between City Creek Road (Route 330), Route 30 west (to San Bernardino), and Route 30 south (to Redlands).  Route 30 later became part of the 210, closing the last part of the loop at the east end of the valley between San Bernardino (and points further west and south), Highland, and Redlands.

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The Community of Highland and the Highland Lumber Company

The story of the community of Highland is inextricably linked with that of the Highland Lumber Company and the history of logging in the San Bernardino mountains. By the late 19th century, one of the largest lumber operations in the mountains was run by the Highland Lumber Company, which had been founded in 1890 by two brothers, C.D. and J.E. Danaher of Michigan, when they purchased a 26,000-acre tract of land in the San Bernardino Mountains, some of which had been owned by David Seely. The Danaher’s purchased additional acreage in 1891, along with right-of-way from orange-growers and ranchers on a shelf of land below the mouth of City Creek which they planned to use for a logging and toll road. (Robinson:37) The Danaher’s soon began construction of a road between the tiny community of Highland and the proposed mill site at Long Point, near present-day Fredalba. The road was planned to have no more than 10% grade. Work was slow, so the brothers pushed for a series of switchbacks up the ridge, making the final grade much steeper, but also allowing the road to open sooner than it would have otherwise. (Robinson:37) The road was completed by mid-1891, and the Danaher brothers began building a $50,000 sawmill that would contain the latest equipment and have an astounding capacity of 60,000 board-feet of lumber per day. By 1892, the mill was producing 35,000 board-feet per day, most of which was transported in lumber wagons down the City Creek road to a box factory at Molino, located just southeast of Highland. As a measure of their strong belief in the new community, in 1891, Highland-area residents secured (by subscription) the right-of-way needed for a new Santa Fe railroad line and construction of the famous “kite shaped” track that would circle the northeast end of the San Bernardino valley soon commenced. (Guinn:454) The lumber company located their large box factory at Molino to take advantage of the new Santa Fe rail line loop that connected San Bernardino, Redlands, Mentone, and Highland, with Los Angeles. (Most of the boxes produced at the Molino box factory were used to pack locally-grown citrus.) The factory utilized about 60% of the lumber produced by the Long Point mill, while the rest was sold out of a retail lumber yard in San Bernardino. (Robinson:38) However, the high cost associated with building and running the Long Point mill and the box factory, along with building and maintaining the new road up City Creek, had left the owners financially over-extended and production ceased in 1892. (Robinson:38) In 1899, the Highland Lumber Company was purchased by the Brookings Lumber Company; a family-owned business based in Michigan and backed by foreign (mainly English) investors. Included in the transfer of assets was the Long Point sawmill, over 6,000 acres of timber in the San Bernardino mountains, the City Creek logging and toll road, and the nearby box factory in Molino.    

By 1901, the Brookings Company had widened and regraded City Creek Road, expanded and improved the Long Point mill, hired a hundred men to work in the mill, and built a small company town nearby at Fredalba, as well constructed a narrow-gauge railway from the mill six miles further into the Heaps Peak and Green Valley areas in search of more timber. (Robinson:38) Brookings was apparently not shy in making investments in their operation and in 1904, a 27-ton railroad locomotive (in sections) was hauled up the City Creek Road on six wagons, each pulled by ten mules. By 1906, Brookings was clear cutting ten acres of timber a month and producing over 50,000 board-feet a day. The construction of the rail line in the mountains and use of other modern machinery including Shay locomotives, so-called Donkey engines, and specially modified lumber skids, and their improved mill, allowed Brookings to out-produce the other lumber operations in the San Bernardino mountains. However, the visibly dwindling stands of timber made clear supplies were not inexhaustible, and other groups with vested interests in the mountains, including hunters, campers, hikers, fishermen and conservationists, began organizing and lobbying for better resource management. By 1912, Brookings had ceased logging in the San Bernardino Mountains and relocated to Oregon where they resumed harvesting timber in the Cascade Range.

Initial settlement in the Highlands area was scattered with the first cluster (1856) around what became known as Cramville, which was near the present-day Village Lakes subdivision at Fifth and Orange Streets. (Highland Area Historical Society web page, A Brief History of Highland, June 1994) By 1858, Henry Rabel had purchased forty acres on Base Line Road just west of present-day Victoria Avenue. The area, which featured natural artesian springs, became a popular recreation spot known as Rabel Springs after the owner-built bath houses and a small hotel. The area became known as Harlem Springs around 1887 when the facility was further developed with a swimming pool, additional bath houses, an entertainment hall and picnic grounds. (HAHS web page, A Brief History of Highland, June 1994.) By the 1870s, a small community known as Messina had been established at Base Line Road and Palm Avenue that contained a cluster of commercial buildings. For a while, the post office was located inside the grocery store. The name “Highland” was apparently first used officially when the local school districts were named, as the general area had been known geographically as the Highlands for years. (HAHS web page, A Brief History of Highlands, June 1994.) As early as 1879, two local investors, E. G. Judson and Frank E. Brown, who would go on to co-found Redlands in 1881, had built a large fruit dryer near the Cram Ranch (East Highlands) and were busy processing dried peaches, apricots, and apples that had been grown locally using water from the South Fork Canal. (Beattie, George William, Origin and Early Development of Water Rights in the East San Bernardino Valley, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, Redlands, California, Bulletin Number 4, November 1951, accessed by HAHS web page link.) With the completion of the kite-shaped track by the Santa Fe Railroad, local communities were renamed. Cramville became East Highlands, Del Rosa became West Highlands, with the central depot at Highland. In 1899, the Messina post office moved to the Santa Fe Railroad depot and the local community petitioned to be renamed “Highland”. The original commercial district of the town on Base Line Road was moved north once the kite line was completed and bricks reused for the new business district centered on Palm and Pacific. (HAHS web page, A Brief History of Highland, June 1994.) 

Historic maps indicate that by 1902, Highland was an agricultural community centered at the cross roads of Pacific Street and Palm Avenue. The kite route was located about ½ block to the north and traversed the community in a northwest to southeast direction. The Molino box factory is shown almost directly due south of the mouth of City Creek on present-day Boulder Avenue, about half-way between Baseline and Pacific Street. The Highlands Ditch is shown running along the base of the San Bernardino mountains from approximately Del Rosa to well east of East Highlands, connecting to a small reservoir about half way between City Creek and Plunge Creek. Other prominent irrigation ditches and channels ringed Highlands and irrigation infrastructure remains visible in the community to this day along may of its original streets and lanes. By 1900, over five million citrus trees had been planted in California. Well into the mid-20th century, Highland played an important role, along with other foothill and valley communities in the area, in the growing and processing of citrus crops, including a wealth of sun-yellow lemons and golden oranges that were shipped by rail throughout the United States. While still a very popular crop, the start of the decline in citrus production in the area was around 1948. (HAHS web site, Time Line of Citrus in the Inland Empire.) At that point, a post-World War II population boom was making land more valuable for residential construction than for growing crops. By 1954, while the area was still largely agricultural, suburbanization was taking place with multiple clusters of development appearing north of Norton Air Force Base and east of San Bernardino, and in the older community of Harlem Springs southwest of Highland. Along with Patton (location of Patton State Hospital), Highland is shown on the 1954 quad map framed by West Highlands (which appeared to consist of a cluster of buildings at Orange Avenue and Date Street and railroad siding and oil tank along the north side of the AT and SF tracks) and East Highlands, which was the larger of the two. By 1967, much of the land between Harlem Springs (vicinity of Victoria Avenue and Base Line Road) and Highland had been subdivided. By the late 1980s, the area north of Highland Avenue between Sand Creek (bordering Del Rosa) and City Creek and the base of the hills, including along either side of the Highland Canal, had been subdivided- a process that initially started around 1973- with a few remaining agricultural parcels evident. Starting at about the same time, Highland was impacted by local and regional transportation improvements, including freeway expansion and construction. Route 30 originally was situated running west to east on Highland Avenue (from San Bernardino) and connected with City Creek Road at the base of the San Bernardino mountains in a modified “Y” intersection. (The bottom of the “Y” was Boulder Avenue/Route 106, which lead south to Redlands via Orange Avenue.) By the early 1970s, Route 30 had been improved to freeway standards on a completely new alignment and extended east to Highland Avenue from San Bernardino and dead-ending near Arden Avenue. Within the next 20 years, this last remaining section of improved Route 30 would be completed, allowing more direct and faster connections between City Creek Road (Route 330), Route 30 west (to San Bernardino), and Route 30 south (to Redlands).  Route 30 later became part of the 210, closing the last part of the loop at the east end of the valley between San Bernardino (and points further west and south), Highland, and Redlands.

Resource Protection and Recreation   

On February 25, 1893, the San Bernardino Mountains were established as a United States Forest Reserve. By 1925, it had been designated as the San Bernardino National Forest by presidential proclamation.  Presently, the San Bernardino National Forest consists of over 800,000 acres; almost 200,000 of which are a combination of state-owned and private lands.  The Forest Reserve was established to protect the remaining timberland, watershed, and other natural resources, Nationally, there was a growing interest in conservation of both forest and wilderness areas through resource management. Forest Reserves allowed for limited resource extraction, harvesting, and development, albeit with permits and permission. Timber, especially, needed to be carefully managed to assure the longevity and health of the resource, as well as for watershed protection. The first guide published for the use of the Forest Reserves indicates that the “timber, water, pasture, mineral, and other resources of the Forest Reserves are for the use of the people…and may be obtained under reasonable conditions without delay.” (USDA/USFS 1906 Guide:6) While “legitimate improvements and business enterprises” were encouraged, the guide also made it clear that the forest reserves were “for the purposes of preserving a perpetual supply of timber for home industries, …and to protect local residents from unfair competition in the use of forest and range.” (USDA/USFS 1906 Guide:7) This was in recognition that previous land-use acts, which largely applied to the Western United States, had resulted in resource and land monopolies, in turn leading to serious resource depletion and land degradation. Regionally, the clear-cutting and rapid disappearance of timber in both the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains had alarmed residents, visitors, and tourists who desired opportunities for recreation and the possible pursuit of a growing variety of outdoor activities. Hiking clubs were popular, as were sport fishing excursions and wilderness camping-both in small family groups and large communal outings. However, during the early and mid-19th century, options for recreation in the San Bernardino Mountains had been limited as the area was remote and difficult to reach. However, this would change as mining and timber operations were reduced in scope and scale in the late 19th century, and horse-drawn passenger stages began regular service in the San Bernardino Mountains. The increased public access was possible only through a lengthy process of trail, road, and later, modern highway improvements that took place over many years. This trend was further accelerated in the early years of the 20th century when automobiles first made their presence known in the San Bernardino Mountains.

By the late 19th century, a growing demand for water, especially for citrus crops, lead investors to look for opportunities in the mountains for possible dam and reservoir sites. The City of Redlands built a hydroelectric system on the lower reaches of Mill Creek in 1893 to provide electricity for the prosperous citrus center. Around 1897, the Southern California Power Company (Edison) started construction on the first of three power plants on the Santa Ana River below Crystal Creek. The San Bernardino Mountains seemed ripe for this type of development due to their geographic location adjacent to flat and fertile valleys, and due to their steepness and height, which would greatly aid gravity-assisted water delivery systems -should any be built- and by the 1890s, dams were being constructed in the Little Bear and Big Bear valleys. (The lakes formed behind these dams would later become known as Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake.) Seasonal meadows and marshes soon became jewel-like lakes. The Talmadge Mill, which was one of the largest and longest-running lumber operations in Little Bear Valley, was active as late as 1894, but was later submerged under the waters of Little Bear Lake. (Robinson:28) Around 1899, efforts to improve the wagon road up Waterman Canyon were initiated by the Arrowhead Reservoir Company to facilitate their planned dam construction, and road tolls were instituted. The first telephone line into the area came up the Arrowhead Toll Road and was reserved for use by the dam-building managers and crews. Regardless of the efforts of the Arrowhead Company, utilization of the Little Bear and Big Bear lakes for irrigation purposes was never realized due to a series of on-going lawsuits regarding water rights of ranchers on the desert side of the mountains, an over-reliance on out-of-state and foreign investors who were impatient with the pace of the project, and quality control issues regarding the materials used for the initial dam construction; all of which delayed and ultimately stopped progress on the project.

At about the same time, the mountains were becoming increasingly popular for a wide range of recreational activities. As the adjacent valleys grew more populous, greater numbers of residents sought recreation, relaxation, and rejuvenation in the nearby mountains. In 1888, Gus Knight Jr. developed a hotel in Bear Valley that provided the first overnight public accommodations in the Big Bear area. By around 1890, “Knights” could accommodate fifty paying guests, albeit on cots, and offered boating, fishing, hiking, and other popular activities. One of the best-known resorts in the mountains was the Squirrel Inn built in August of 1892 by the Arrowhead Mountain Club which had been formed by executives of the Arrowhead Reservoir Company. The Squirrel Inn was situated on a ridge with dramatic views over the San Bernardino valley and was meant to be an exclusive, private retreat. The buildings were both rustic and lavish in design and furnishings. The resort consisted of a large lodge and dining hall, ringed with smaller private cabins. One of the odder activities associated with the club was the “changing of the squirrel”, an elaborate ceremony which involved replacing the previous years’ stuffed squirrel mascot from over the front door of the main lodge with a new one, and then moving the old retired squirrel to the massive stone fireplace mantle. After almost perishing in a fire in 1911, the main clubhouse and inn building burned to the ground in 1922 when a fire started in one of the upstairs guest rooms (Robinson: 134). It was not the only rustic lodge in the mountains to suffer this fate.  

In an ill-timed stab at resort development, the twin Smiley brothers, Alfred and Albert of Redlands fame, purchased a forested tract in the San Bernardino mountains in 1896 on the City Creek Toll Road and called it Fredalba Park, which was a combination of their first names. The land was next to the defunct Highland Company lumber mill that within a few years would resume operations under new ownership. While Fredalba Park had a brief life as a resort, it went on to became popular with loggers and their families after the Long Point mill was revived by the Brookings Lumber Company. However, curtailment of resort activities for the continuation of resource extraction, as was the case here, was a rare as the norm was the reverse. The granting of leases for resorts, summer cabins, and cottages by the Forest Service within the forest reserve encouraged both continuing and new public uses. While numerous campgrounds and resorts were built in the San Bernardino Mountains during the late 19th century, the majority were in use only during the summer and early fall but were not occupied during the winter months. Most people at the time made their way into the mountains by horse-drawn stage from San Bernardino and Redlands, both of which offered easy and reliable train connections and modern hotels. However, one account notes that in 1896, cyclists had been seen going up Waterman Canyon toll road, then traveling at a leisurely pace through Green and Bear valleys, then descending the winding and steep road down City Creek. While the new toll road up Waterman Canyon was an improvement over the previous route, it also had higher tolls than the road up City Creek. However, by that point, there was more logging traffic on the City Creek road, as it was closer to prime stands of timber and the operations of the Brookings Lumber Company, which made the trip for other road users- while cheaper than the route up Waterman Canyon-potentially much more unpleasant.

Roads and Highways in the San Bernardino Mountains  

By 1899, the narrow trail up the Santa Ana River canyon had been improved by Gus Knight and Hiram Clark as the Bear Valley and Redlands Toll Road, and the route up Waterman Canyon had been improved by the Arrowhead Reservoir Company. While the Brookings Company had widened and improved the City Creek toll road soon after purchasing the Highland Lumber Company, the upper portion remained steep and treacherous. Due to its steepness, the City Creek road was not popular with the teamsters, especially those driving heavy lumber wagons, as extra skill and attention was required to safely bring the loads down the hill to the flatlands. (Robinson:38) However, the steep 20% or more grade on City Creek Road was no obstacle for an early test run undertaken in June of 1900 by Dr. Sanborn of Redlands and Mr. F.E. Olds of Los Angeles in an electric-powered Locomobile, (LaFuze:87) which was likely the earliest trip up City Creek Road in an automobile.  The new toll road up the Santa Ana canyon was barely one-lane wide and had steep grades and switchbacks, but it was also passible by wagon and made the trip into the mountains less onerous. Around 1916, the lower section of the road in the Santa Ana canyon was destroyed by floods and a new one built along Mill Creek, which was the next main drainage to the east, and up to Camp Angelus, then west to connect to the upper portion of the earlier road and a series of switchbacks known as Clark’s Grade. In 1905, San Bernardino County began acquiring the toll roads in both Waterman and Santa Ana canyons in anticipation of making them free public roads. As early as 1902, the Arrowhead Reservoir Company had banned automobiles on its toll road, perhaps due to safety concerns regarding the mixture of traffic. For almost a year, between June of 1908 and May of 1909, automobiles were banned on roads in the San Bernardino Mountains. Once the ban was lifted late that year by the county, at least two cars made the trip up Waterman Canyon.

“330 History Align”


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View E. from south of City Creek Bridge toward 19th century highway alignment on plateau, mid-background. (Caltrans: 2008)

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View S. from original toll road alignment at Old City Creek Bridge built in 1924. (Caltrans: 2007)

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View NE. from deck of Old City Creek Bridge. (Caltrans: 2008)

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View NW. from 1924 bridge to new City Creek bridge (visible at far-left background) built by the state in 1947. Caltrans: 2008)

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View S. at north elevation of Old City Creek Bridge showing Pratt Deck Truss (meaning deck of bridge is on top of truss) and metal lattice railing. (Caltrans: 2007)

By June of 1910, an article published in the local Evening Index newspaper (Where the Tall Pines Sway, p. 15), noted those traveling into the mountains above San Bernardino could utilize “natural means of locomotion”, or they could be “pulled up by the power of gasoline, seated comfortably in deep cushions”. The article also mentioned that some mountain resorts could “stable” a car if necessary, at least for those that could “support a gasoline engine on rubber-tired wheels”, an indication that most people at that time, could not. As early as 1912, large, multi-passenger automobile “stages” were being utilized to bring people up into the mountains. One of the most successful was the Mountain Auto Line started in 1912 by Kirk Phillips with one White-brand truck. In 1914, his outfit, which by then consisted of nine White trucks, was taken over by Perry and Max Green after Phillip’s untimely death at the age of 35. (The Big Bear History Site; Big Bear Historical Timeline - Part 2) Within a year, the old horse-drawn passenger stages were replaced by “auto-stages” which consisted of a heavy truck chassis with open bench seats bolted to the frame. (Hathaway/Keller:14) By 1915, the highway up Waterman Canyon had been improved and was known as the “high-gear” road. The 100+ mile loop drive along the famous “Rim-of-the-World” soon became a popular outing in and of itself, and lead to a general increase in automobile traffic in the San Bernardino Mountains. The eastern section of the loop, which at that time went up the Santa Ana River canyon and Clark’s Grade, was later bypassed by a newer road along Mill Creek that became the modern-day Route 38 through Barton Flats and over Onyx Summit.

A 1915 Automobile Club of Southern California map indicates that the main route into the mountains at that point was the road north from San Bernardino up Waterman Canyon to Crestline, east along the ridge past the Squirrel Inn and Pine Crest, southeast past Heaps Ranch to Hunsaker Flat (later known as Running Springs), past a secondary road that lead to Fredalba (i.e. City Creek Road), then swinging north behind the ridge into Green and Fawnskin valleys, east along the north edge of Big Bear Lake, then back around the far (east) end of the lake and southwest past the Pine Knot Lodge to the summit near Bluff Lake. From there, the route was down the twisting switchbacks of Clark’s Grade and through the Santa Ana River Canyon, past the three power plants, then along the north side of the Santa Ana River wash and into East Highlands. One of the main drawbacks to this route, besides the steep switchbacks and vulnerability to flooding, was that the road could only carry traffic in one direction at a time due to inadequate width and tight turns.  Sometime in the 1920s so-called “Control” stations were set up at each end and at the mid-point of the road, and traffic, which was a mix of wagons, passenger stages, and private automobiles at that time, were assigned “up” or “down” time slots (spaced about three hours apart) in which to safely utilize the twisting and narrow road. A map published by the Automobile Club of Southern California indicates that by 1925, the lower section in the Santa Ana River canyon, which had been on the 1915 map as the main route, had been bypassed by a new road that went due east from Redlands and Mentone along Mill Creek, northeast towards Camp Angelus and Seven Oaks, then north up the much older route up Clark’s Grade to the summit near Bluff Lake. Clark’s Grade was eventually bypassed when a new highway was built east from Barton Flats northwest to Big Bear Lake.

20th Century Road Improvements and new Recreational Uses 

Public access into the San Bernardino mountains increased with the acquisition of toll roads by the county, although resultant improvements were slow to take place. The route up Waterman Canyon was purchased by the county in 1905, and by 1918, had become a state route. City Creek Road was re-graded and improved by the county between 1917 and 1919. By the beginning of the second decade of the 20th century, what had once been a rare sight- a private automobile being driven in the mountains, had become commonplace.  By 1929, when the route up Waterman Canyon allowed “high-gear” travel, more and more private automobiles made their way into the mountains (Robinson: 142). Maps produced by the Southern California Automobile Club between 1915 and 1926 show that within the span of a decade, both public campgrounds and private resort development had boomed in the San Bernardino Mountains.  In the Big Bear area alone, the number of resorts in about that same span of time went from two (Pine Knot and Knight’s Camp) to fifty-two by 1921 (Robinson: 183). On the 1915 map, two ranger cabins are shown adjacent to the main loop highway, one near Heaps Peak and the other in Green Valley. Scattered camps are shown on the 1915 map including the City of Los Angeles Playground, Camp Bacon, and an unnamed camp just north of Keller and Slide peaks, northwest of Bear Creek. Clusters of buildings are shown on the 1915 map at Knights and Pine Knot Lodge on south side of Big Bear Lake and further west at Pine Crest, Skyland, and Thousand Pines. The map includes Fredalba but shows the main access at that time was from the north through Hunsaker Flat and not up City Creek Road.  The map published about a decade later (c. 1926) includes a ranger station at Converse Flats, a ranger station near Bertha Peak on the north side of Big Bear Lake, a ranger station at the mouth of Devil’s Canyon northwest of San Bernardino, and a ranger station (noted as “Ranger”) on Mill Creek west of Forest Home. The c. 1926 map also notes multiple campgrounds including Camp Waterman, Rogers Grove (City of San Bernardino), Camp Seeley (City of Los Angeles), Strawberry Flat (Public Camp), the Pacific Electric Employee Vacation Camp, Smiley Park (formerly known as Fredalba), Camp Fleming, Riverside Municipal Playgrounds, Radford Camp (City of Los Angeles), L.A. County YMCA Camp, Orange County YMCA Camp, Fullerton Boy Scout Camp, and at least four noted as “Public” that were likely either free, or involved very low fees.  In addition, the map includes what were likely private facilities, or accessible to the paying public, including the Big Bear Golf and Country Club, Mile High Resort, Burnt Mill Resort, Belts Duck Club, Pan Hot Springs, and the Baldwin Lake Country Club. Multiple structures along the south side of Big Bear Lake are noted as “Big Bear Lake Resorts”. Hotel accommodation could also be found at the time at the Strawberry Lodge, the Raven Hotel, Hotel La Fontenelle, and the Baldwin Lake Lodge. While 19th century recreation had been largely seasonal during the warmer months, starting in the 1920s, winter recreational activities became much more popular due to better roads and more reliable automobiles, and soon, the San Bernardino mountains became a year-round destination. Around 1920, the former Hunsacker Flats area was purchased by a real estate syndicate and renamed Running Springs. A small business district and club house were constructed and lots for vacation cabins staked out. Within a few years, the area had over 400 part-time residents. (L.A. Times October 28, 2007 Cecelia Rasmussen.) As a true measure of the extent of speculation in the mountain areas, by the late 1920s, one prominent land owner in Crestline was running a courtesy (free) “real estate bus” up from Los Angeles to Rim of the World Inn for potential buyers. By the end of the decade, the Crestline area contained over 500 homes and over one thousand had been constructed in the area between Cedar Pines Park and Valley of the Moon (Robinson: 147). While visitation to the Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead area was generally down during depression years, one bright spot was the formation of Lake Gregory at Huston Flat which began in 1935 with the clearing of trees from the site. The dam was constructed in 1936-38 and utilized Works Progress Administration (WPA) labor (Robinson:152). By January of 1939, the lake and related facilities had been completed and named for Arthur Gregory, a local land-owner and Redlands businessman and the main proponent for the lake.     

By 1925, City Creek Road had been improved and was one of three or four main routes leading into the mountains. Completion of the final link between City Creek Road and the Rim of the World Highway helped spur development in the area. (Robinson: 162) In 1934 the Big Bear Sports District was formed by Judge Clifford R. Lynn to develop winter sports in the area. The first ski resort, Snow Valley, was founded in 1937. However, summer and winter tourism took a back seat during the war years due to gas-rationing. At the end of World War II, resort owners in the San Bernardino mountains wished to bring more visitors into the area, and population growth throughout Southern California was also fueling the demand for more and varied recreational opportunities in the surrounding wilderness areas. By the late 1930s, the county route up City Creek had been relinquished to the state and had become part of the secondary highway system. In 1946, the first contracts for improving City Creek Road to address “the rapidly increasing recreational traffic to the San Bernardino mountains” (California Highways and Public Works, July-August 1946) were awarded. The new route required extensive blasting and grading, especially in the lower sections of the roadway in the canyon directly above Highland. The new higher-speed, “high-gear” roadway (with two new modern bridges) was “considered an exceptionally high-standard recreational road for the precipitous terrain traversed.” (CHPW 7-8/46, M-A/1948.)

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The so-called “Flying Tomato” seal was designed in 1924 by E. M. Muse of the Division Testing Laboratory and formally adopted in 1927 by the California Highway Commission when the Division of Highways was formed. [The transit symbolizes Science, the pick and shovel symbolize Labor, and the winged wheel stands for Transportation and Speed.] This seal was used until 1973 when the new “CT” logo was adopted when the Division of Highways was reorganized into the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.  (Source: Caltrans Transportation Library and History Center/Caltrans History Preservation Committee. February 10, 2010.)

Winter Sports in the San Bernardino Mountains

Winter sports officially came to the Big Bear area in January of 1924 when the Sierra Club held its first annual winter meeting at Baldwin Lake. Featured activities included ice skating, skiing, and sledding, and tobogganing and skiing soon became popular in the area (Robinson:190). In 1925, Walter Kruckman, who worked for a bus service company that served the mountain communities, began to promote winter sports in the Big Bear area, largely to fill buses during the “off” season. He helped to form the Southern California Winter Sports League and, with their sponsorship, began broadcasting 15-minute “radio spots” from three Los Angeles stations that included weather, road, and snow conditions. (Big Bear Lake.net/The History of Big Bear.) While the 1920s saw increased growth and development in the mountains, many of the lodges, hotels, and club houses that had been built during the teens would later burn, as much of them were constructed of logs in a rustic “alpine” style. Among the losses due to fire were Knight’s (burned in 1900), Stillwell’s (in 1928), Pan Hot Springs (burned in 1933), the Samarkand (in 1937), and the exceedingly popular Peter Pan Woodland Club, which burned down in 1948.  By the late 1930s, the community of Pine Knot had changed its name to Big Bear Lake and the area around Baldwin Lake became known as Big Bear City.

In 1932, a temporary ski jump was built on a hill just south of Pine Knot and the Viking Ski Club of Los Angeles held both a ski-jumping exhibition and a 12-mile cross-country race. In February of 1933, a ski championship meet drew over 4,000 visitors to the area (Robinson: 193). By 1934, the Big Bear Lake Park District had been formed to help develop winter sports in the Big Bear area. Within a few years, the Park District and the San Bernardino Recreation Club had opened a skiing and tobogganing area on Lynn Hill (which would later become Snow Forest) south of Big Bear Lake Village (Robinson: 193). The first ski-lifts in Big Bear date to the late 1940s and were at Snow Valley Mountain Resort and Snow Forest. Bear Mountain started up in the early 1950s as the Moonridge Ski Resort. However, ski resorts in Southern California were often handicapped by a lack of snow, so the ability to manufacture it on a consistent basis made the business model more feasible. The first attempt to manufacture snow in the area was in 1955 at Moonridge and only covered a 300-foot long run. This early attempt was less than a complete success but was the precursor to efforts on Rebel Ridge in 1959 that were a success (Robinson:195).

While sledding, ice-skating, and tobogganing had been a strong draw to the area during the winter for years, downhill skiing began to gain in popularity starting in the 1950s. In 1947, a young German/Czech immigrant, Tommi Tyndall, came to Big Bear. Tyndall, who is largely credited with popularizing the sport of downhill skiing in Big Bear, was the first professional certified ski instructor in the area and founded a series of ski schools at local resorts. He was one of the original members of the California Ski Instructor Association and helped form the Big Bear Ski School. He also organized the Big Bear Winter Club, which held its first Snow Carnival in 1949. In 1952, Tyndall and his wife Jo formed an investment group and began construction on Snow Summit. (BBVHS website: Big Bear History/Resorts) Around 1961, Tyndall began to develop an extensive snow-making system at Snow Summit that was the largest in Southern California when completed in 1964. (Far West Ski Association, www.fwsa.org, Far West Industry Awards, 2018) Sadly, Tyndall was killed that same year in a tractor accident while maintaining the slopes of the resort he’d worked so hard to create. His wife, Jo, and stepson, Richard Kun, took over at Snow Summit, continuing his legacy. (Skiing Heritage, December 2002, p. 5) Years of light snow during the early 1970s forced many of the ski resorts in the San Bernardino mountains to either temporary close or cease operations, including Rebel Ridge and Snow Forest. However, due to the quality and extent of their snow-making equipment, Snow Summit managed to survive. By the mid-1970s, Snow Summit had become the most popular ski resort in the region. (Los Angeles Times Obit for Richard Kun, December 5, 2016). Continuing road improvements in the mountains during the 1960s and 1970s also aided in bringing more people into the area for recreational purposes, especially during the winter season.

Modern City Creek Road

The history of City Creek Road/Route 330 and the Highland area are inextricably linked with early resource extraction in the mountains, mainly logging, and later, wilderness recreation. While an early route up City Creek to Long Point had been surveyed for the county by Fred Perris in 1878, nothing was done due to the cost of $20,000 he estimated it would take to build the road (Robinson: 159). In many ways, the 1891 route up the hill between Highland (and Molino) and the Long Point Mill constructed by the Highland Lumber Company, which was twisting and steep, had almost nothing in common with the road the county constructed in the early 20th century, and later, the modern and scenic highway that the state built. Location was largely determined by cost and distance, as the original purpose of the road (for hauling lumber) was primary, and other uses were secondary. Traversing the City Creek road was not an easy task and took an experienced teamster an four-horse team about three hours to haul a wagon load of lumber from the Long Point Mill to the box factory in Molino (Robinson: 42) Once the route became a toll road in 1892, users had to weigh the cost of the toll against the time required to transit the route and the possibility (or likelihood) of running into a fully-loaded and skidding lumber wagon coming down the hill from the Long Point mill. Clearly, travel on the early City Creek road was not for the faint-of-heart. Early on, residents of Highland petitioned the county board of supervisors regarding the high tolls and got the rates reduced. (LA Times 8/9 and 8/21/1892.) While there was apparently some county involvement in improving City Creek Road as early as 1904, actual transfer of ownership did not take place until 1914 when the county board of supervisors accepted the former “Brookings Road” as a county route. (CHPW 3-4/48.) By 1915, the county proposed an official survey of the old logging road to determine the cost of improvements and for making the former toll route into a public road. (Reprint, San Bernardino Sun, October 24, 1967.) The new proposed county route up City Creek was not without controversy, however. Both Highland and San Bernardino were in favor of a new, improved route up the hill, while other communities, including Redlands, apparently did not want scarce funds spend on “another mountain road” when other routes needed attention. (LA Times 7/18/1917). By 1917, sixty miles of the famed 101-mile Rim of the World Highway (completed in 1915) had become a state highway and the development of mountain communities accelerated. As early as 1916, weekend traffic congestion was becoming a problem on mountain roads. Between 1917-1919, the county improved the highway up City Creek, eliminating hair-pin turns, reducing the grade back to a more-reasonable 10-12%, re-grading the roadbed, and applying oil surfacing. (CHPW May-August/1948.)

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The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 allowed for the designation of a National Forest Highway system, which made the use of public funds on roads through National Forest reserves possible, including the San Bernardino Reserve, and many of these roads later became part of newly expanded county and state highway systems. By 1923, a work camp had been established on City Creek Road and prison labor was being used for roadway improvements that included widening turns, reducing the grade (again), banking the roadbed, and replacing the existing late 19th century wooden trestle bridge with a modern steel Pratt deck truss. In 1924, the former Brookings holdings near the juncture of City Creek Road and Rim of the World Highway, which were extensive, were purchased by B. L. Smith. While most of the mature timber had been removed from the majority of the 5,000 acres that Smith purchased, they had been replanted prior to 1912 with grass, small oaks, cedars, and transplanted pines. Smith laid out a small business district, housing tracts, and a resort, and called his new development Running Springs Park. (The “Park” was later dropped.) By 1925, work on the City Creek highway was complete, including the new bridge, and the road widened to 21 feet. The LA Times noted at the time that the new improved route “is one of the best” of a series of roads that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors was working on in conjunction with the state and federal governments. (LA Times 5/31/1925).

Over the 4th of July weekend of 1925, Forest Service records indicate that more than eleven thousand automobiles used City Creek Road to get up into the mountains, and many of those people took advantage of real estate sales in the area and purchased cabin sites, as mountain property at the time was “almost an unbelievable bargain” (Robinson:163). Completion of the last section of City Creek Road to Hunsacker Flats (present-day Running Springs) spurred development in the area. The former Fredalba resort (and Highland/Brookings mill location) became the Smiley Park Subdivision, and additional residential development took place at the Luring Pines tract, the Clinton Miller tract, and the Rim of the World Land parcels (Robinson:162).  By 1927, Running Springs could proudly boast of a general store, café, gas station, post office, and over 300 residences (Robinson: 162). While most mountain developments were modest in scale and price, the Rim of the World Lands, Incorporated, developed the area just south of Running Springs with exclusive, and expensive, “view” lots. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, these more-exclusive mountain areas became popular with motion pictures stars and the Hollywood set, including David O. Selznick, who hosted a series of “who’s who” guest-list parties at his palatial two-story estate at Seymour Flats. (Robinson:162).

In 1939, funds for additional improvements to City Creek Road were allocated, but the work was put on hold until after World War II due to a shortage of materials and man-power. Caltrans contract records indicate that five different construction firms were involved, with work completed on each phase, beginning in Highland, between 1948 and 1951. Between 1940 and 1950, the population of Southern California doubled, increasing pressure on the regional and local roadways, including those in the mountain areas. Recreational use of lands and facilities in the San Bernardino National Forest greatly increased during the post-war years, rising from 5.6 million visitors in 1958 to an astounding 12.2 million by 1974 (Robinson: 106). However, the need for further road improvements in the San Bernardino mountains was not just caused by visitors to the area, as the year-round population also increased greatly during this same period, from approximately 7,000 in 1950 to 15,000 by 1964 (Robinson:105-106).

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By late in 1946, work was already underway on the first section to be improved between Highland Avenue near Patton and the existing City Creek Bridge, on new right-of-way acquired with limited access (CHPW: July-August 1946, p. 22). By early 1947, progress was being made on the first 3.2 miles of the 15-mile project which was being constructed as a “though traffic artery” to handle “heavy summer and winter recreational traffic to the resort and playground areas of Big Bear Lake and Arrowhead Lake” and would also serve communities (unspecified) having an estimated permanent population of 20,000 (CHPW: January-February 1947, p 17). The new road was obviously meant to be scenic, but the 1947 article also notes that one of the unique design features was the provision for overtaking slower vehicles using sections of straight tangents (between curves) that would afford adequate sight distance for faster traffic to pass safely. This “departure from older mountain highway design” was meant to address the problem of long lines of traffic getting stuck behind slower-moving vehicles on the steeper sections of road. The highway realignment required extensive cut and fill, especially in the lower reaches of City Creek canyon, and construction of stepped embankments formed by compacted earth “ramps” with additional fill placed on top. The new road also utilized side-hill excavation, use of “bin-type retaining walls” (cribbing), and installation of specialized drainage and erosion protection features. An article published during construction noted the dramatic difference between the old City Creek route and the new highway indicating that: “Out of the contrast of time, purpose, and use comes the contrast in type, grade, and alignment.” (CHPW: March-April 1948, p. 14) Among the unique features of the new road, and a poignant sign of the times was the use of surplus war material in the form of thick mats made of camouflage netting wire and woven wire “fabric” that were placed horizontally inside the embankments to prevent erosion and aid in the establishment of ground cover. (In 1950, these were supplemented with sections of spring and wire army cots,) Other erosion control methods used on the new City Creek highway included using race track stable bedding straw from Santa Anita (where it was changed daily), and indigenous willow-like Baccharis shrub seed and seedlings to hold the soil in place. (CHPW: September-October 1948, p. 33)

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City Creek Bridge and East Fork City Creek Bridge

The two bridges constructed as part of the City Creek realignment are both open-spandrel concrete arch structures. The arch on these types of structures are usually formed by multiple (usually two) parallel rib members that support the bridge deck. The open spandrel concrete arch bridge, as a bridge type, has a long history in the state of California due to the availability of high-quality cement within the state and the higher cost of steel on the West Coast which was distant from the main production centers. Early examples were being constructed in the ‘teens, such as the 1918 Arroyo Hondo Bridge in Santa Barbara County, while better known examples, including the Donner Summit Bridge  in Nevada County (1921) and a series of seven constructed along the coast on Highway 1 (Garrapata Creek in 1931, Granite Canyon in 1932, Rocky Creek in 1932, Wildcat Creek in 1933, Malpaso Creek and Bixby Creek in 1935, and Big Creek in 1938), and stunning and monumental grouping that were built over the Los Angeles River, represented high aesthetic values and were constructed at the height of the style in the 1920s and 1930s.  

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View NW. at City Creek Bridge from 19th century road alignment showing center arch formed by two “ribs” tied together with transverse members, straight and horizontal deck, and tall vertical pier supports. (Caltrans: 2012)

The City Creek Bridge was completed in 1947, while the East Fork City Creek Bridge was completed in 1948. One of the design engineers for the City Creek Bridge was Henry E. Kuphal who started his employment with the California Division of Highways in 1924. (Previous to his involvement with the City Creek Bridge, he had worked on the design of the well-known Bixby Creek Bridge on the coast highway in Monterey County.) Kuphal was born in Montana and graduated from the Montana School of Mines and was involved in the design of other noted bridges in California including the Russian Gulch Bridge in Mendocino County (1939-40), and later, the famous “stack” or four-level interchange in downtown Los Angeles (1944, 1947-49) for the Hollywood, Pasadena/Harbor, and Santa Ana freeways. He retired in 1948.

Image 23
View NE. at East Fork City Creek Bridge showing location at base of hillside. (Caltrans: 2007)

The East Fork City Creek Bridge was completed in 1948, a slightly later “twin” to City Creek Bridge. The design engineer for the East Fork bridge was Claud H. Darby who graduated from Oregon State College in 1924 and later served in the United States Navy. After working for the Oregon Highway Commission, including on a series of noted bridges built along the coast of Oregon, he became employed at an unknown date for the State of California with the Division of Highways. (The as-built plans for the East Fork City Creek Bridge were signed-off on by Henry E. Kuphal, one of the designers of the City Creek Bridge just prior to his retirement.) Darby would later design an experimental prefabricated steel deck bridge in eastern Riverside County in 1950 (Smokey Gulch Bridge, no longer extant), as well as work on the design for the Arroyo Seco Bridge (1950-53) in Pasadena who, ironically, succeeded Kuphal on the same project.

Image 24    Image 25


Image 26
View SE. from north end of City Creek Bridge showing straight alignment in canyon setting. (Caltrans: 2012)

Image 27
View W. from nearby ridge above Route 330 at curved alignment of East Fork City Creek Bridge. (Caltrans: 2012)

Image 28
View W. from east approach (detail) to East Fork City Creek Bridge at curved alignment. (Caltrans: 2007)

While both the City Creek Bridge and East Fork City Creek Bridge are open-spandrel concrete arch structures, they differ in terms of site conditions, general configuration, and visual appearance. This is likely due to both the unique site conditions present at each bridge location and different approaches taken by the design engineers, including Kuphal and Darby. The City Creek Bridge is on a straight alignment with a steep bluff on the south, and a narrow “hog-back” that runs between the two branches of City Creek on the north, at the far south end of a crescent-shaped plateau that extends about a mile to the north. (The two branches of the creek converge approximately 200 feet southeast of the City Creek Bridge.) The City Creek Bridge is 125 feet above the streambed and is 430 feet long with a center arch span 160 feet in width. The road deck is 26 feet wide. The bridge has 22 vertical columns or piers, approximately 15 of which rest on concrete footings in the bedrock on either side of the creek, and the remainder on the curving center arches. The vertical columns are slightly recessed from the edge of the deck, as is the face of the arch-rib, giving the structure a slender and graceful appearance. The concrete deck almost appears to float, as if it was suspended in space above the substructure. Of the two bridges, it represents the more “classic” and traditional aesthetic, harking back to earlier designs from the 1920s and 1930s, but its siting and construction utilized modern survey and calculation techniques that were required due to the steep and challenging terrain (CHPW: M-A 1948, p. 22).

Image 29
View SW. at City Creek Bridge from 19th century road alignment. Note distinctive parabolic curve of arch and slender support piers. (Caltrans: 2007)

Image 30
View SE. from north end of City Creek Bridge at west elevation. Note height of center arch and rugged canyon setting which posed a challenge for bridge designers. (Caltrans: 2007

Image 31
View W. at center of City Creek Bridge arch, top of vertical piers, and thin deck profile. (Caltrans: 2007)

Image 32
View NW. from east end of East Fork City Creek Bridge at south elevation. Note the recessed arch and thick vertical bents that join the arch “ribs” near the base. (Caltrans: 2007)

Image 33
View N. at south elevation (detail) of East Fork City Bridge. Note the thicker, wider arch ribs and end supports in comparison to the City Creek Bridge. (Caltrans: 2007)

Image 34
View W. at southeast end post of East Fork City Creek Bridge showing curved profile and railing termination. (Caltrans: 2018)

The East Fork City Creek Bridge, which was built in 1948, is about 0.95 miles northeast of the City Creek Bridge and is situated on a curve where the roadway transitions from a predominantly north-south alignment to one oriented east-west. The bridge is situated at the base of two hills that flank the stream on the northwest and southeast at this location. While the City Creek Bridge is on a straight alignment with a level roadway, the bridge over the East Fork of City Creek is curved and the deck banked, or super-elevated. The northernmost bridge is shorter in length (9 spans with a total length of 152 feet), a smaller arch (100 feet in width), less in height (approximately 20-25 feet high, with the deck about 35 feet above the streambed), and a few feet wider than the other bridge (30 feet wide), giving it a slightly less graceful appearance, and at the same time, making it appear more solid and less ethereal than the other nearby span. While the City Creek Bridge has a pronounced vertical aspect, the East Fork City Creek Bridge- with its curving alignment, banked deck, and decidedly more solid form- has a more dynamic horizontal visual aspect. Open-spandrel concrete arch bridges were first being built in California for at least 20-30 years prior to the construction of City Creek and East Fork City Creek bridges, so their design and technology were not new in 1947 and 1948, but represented older methods of design that, in this instance, were modified to fit site conditions and roadway configuration, leading to a slightly different interpretation of the same bridge type at each location. Of the two bridges, the East Fork City Creek Bridge, while an example of an earlier bridge type mastered in the 1920s and 1930s, is the more modern of the two in appearance and exhibits a stronger and more robust aesthetic.

City Creek Bridge Construction Video, 1948

Remnants of City Creek Road’s Past

Sections of the previous county road alignment in the City Creek area are visible in the lower section of the road just north of Highland, on a shelf above the current traveled way. Sections of the 1890 wagon road can also be seen, but mainly from the previous county alignment from the early 20th century. Most of the 19th century roadway was removed when the county road was built, although short sections that remained may have been removed with the state built the modern highway, the construction of which involved extensive and cut and fill. A concrete foundation and masonry wall are the only remnants of a ranger station located along the older county alignment above Route 330 about 1.2 miles north of Highland. The old City Creek Bridge, built by the county in the early 1920s, is visible from the current City Creek Bridge. It is a unique Pratt deck truss with metal lattice railing. From the deck of the old county bridge, remnants of the previous span’s footings and masonry retaining wall (c. 1890s) can be seen well below the county bridge. From the newer City Creek Bridge (1947) and the portion of the highway to the north, which is situated on plateau near a spot that was once known as “Dutch John’s Flat”, portions of an earlier (county) alignment can be seen on the east side of the canyon. Southwest of the East Fork City Creek Bridge, there was once a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp of which a road and bridge ruins are the only remnant.  At the East Fork City Creek Bridge (1948), a series of masonry retaining walls and concrete bridge footings for the road to the CCC camp are visible on both sides of the creek, underneath and immediately southwest of the 1948 bridge. Starting from northeast of the East Fork City Creek Bridge, bypassed and isolated sections of previous alignments of the earlier county highway and the 1890s logging and toll road can also be seen from the current highway.

Image 35
View N. from above Route 330 (to far right) north of Highland at possible combined 19th and 20th century alignment, at hillside cut, center left. (Caltrans: 2012)

Image 36
View W. at early 20th century alignment, visible running horizontally left to right, at intersection with 19th century alignment, visible running diagonally, upper left to center right, showing much steeper grade of earlier road. (Caltrans: 2012)

Image 37
View S. toward Highland at early 20th century ranger station foundations. Cut for earlier county highway visible upper right and center. Route 330 visible center background. (Caltrans: 2011)

Image 38
View SE. from City Creek Bridge toward Old City Creek Bridge. (Caltrans: 2006)

Image 39
View N. at south elevation and metal lattice railing on Old City Creek Bridge. (Caltrans: 2012)

Image 40
View from Old City Creek Bridge down to streambed below at footing and masonry retaining wall from 1890s bridge, mid-ground center and left. (Caltrans: 2012)

Image 41
View W. from below East Fork City Creek Bridge on east bank of creek at masonry retaining wall and concrete footings for previous bridge associated with C.C.C. camp that was west of creek. (Caltrans: 2012)

Image 42
View E. from below East Fork City Creek Bridge on west bank of creek at masonry retaining wall and concrete footings (opposite) for previous bridge associated with C.C.C. camp that was west of creek. (Caltrans: 2012)

Conclusion                                       

The history of the San Bernardino mountains above Highland in the 19th century was based on extensive resource extraction (mining and logging) leading to development in the area, and the roads, such as they were, were functional, and hardly scenic. City Creek Road, which started out as a dusty and steep toll road into the mountains primarily used to transport lumber, was improved by San Bernardino County in the early 20th century for better access into the San Bernardino mountains. By the late 1930s, the highway had been relinquished to the state, and further improvements were made, including extensive realignment and construction of two brand new open-spandrel, concrete arch bridges across City Creek (1947) and the East Fork of City Creek (1948). These two elegant bridge structures featured baluster railings along with curved and fluted end parapets.  As part of a seismic retrofit project in 1995, both bridges were evaluated and found to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) under Criterion C as examples of significant engineering design. In 2017, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was executed for the replacement of the railings on both historic structures with solid barrier railings. Mitigation measures to address the adverse effect caused by the proposed railing replacement, including the development of a historic narrative for City Creek Road/Route 330, were stipulated in the MOA with requirements that this information be placed on a website accessible to the public. (The posting of this narrative partially fulfills requirements specified in MOA Stipulation II A.)
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