How Magnolia and Victoria avenues in Riverside got their names and their landscaping – Press Enterprise
In 1874, Samuel Cary Evans and William Sayward founded the Riverside Land and Irrigating Company by buying and combining three developments – the Riverside Colony, the Santa Ana Colony (around what is now La Sierra, not Orange County), and its former New England Colony . In total, they controlled around 6,000 hectares in the region and were now faced with the prospect of selling the land and recouping their investment.
One way to do this was to run a long boulevard style street through the middle of their holdings.
Instead of just classifying a small street, they planned to build a storefront boulevard that would be the main thoroughfare for the new city and for potential buyers. The street, ultimately referred to as Magnolia Avenue, would be 132 feet wide, 82 feet of which would be used for the two streets and the rest for landscaping on both sides and in a central median. It originally began on what would become Arlington Avenue and ran southwest through the holdings (it wouldn’t connect to downtown until 1913).
Periodically, they crossed Magnolia Avenue and were streets all named after US presidents from Washington to Grant (the then president).
For some reason, however, the line of succession was not strictly adhered to. The first six streets went: Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Monroe, and Jackson, while the presidents were in that order: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, and Jackson (part of which is due to the elimination of John Adams declared the second president to eliminate repetition).
Magnolia Avenue was developed and landscaped between 1875 and 1877.
Originally it was supposed to be laid out with magnolia trees, hence the name. However, these were expensive, required a lot of irrigation in Southern California, and did not grow quickly enough. So these were only planted at the intersections of presidential streets, while eucalyptus, palm trees, and California peppers were planted on both sides and in the median.
Magnolia Avenue became a notable boulevard in the 1890s, and pictures appeared in advertisements for Riverside.
Of course, other people saw Magnolia Avenue and copied the concept, particularly Euclid Avenue in Ontario, Brookside in Redlands, and Palm in Beaumont.
In the 1890s, as Matthew Gage expanded his holdings and developed the Arlington Heights area, he too decided to have a large boulevard running through his country. This was created starting at Victoria Hill and ran roughly parallel to Magnolia Avenue, but further south. Since the Arlington Heights area was mainly developed with British investment and Gage was Canadian, he decided to name Boulevard Victoria Avenue after Queen Victoria, the then ruling British monarch.
Over the years, both Magnolia and Victoria Avenues have kept their original configurations with a few changes.
Orange groves can still be seen along Victoria Avenue. But no one living today would think of enjoying a slow drive to pass the day like people did 100 years ago.
If you have an idea for a future Back in the Day column about a local historical person, place, or event, contact Steve Lech and Kim Jarrell Johnson at email@example.com.