The Community Building in the 1940s (top) and today (bottom).

The Community Building in the 1940s (top) and today (bottom).

Kerry Cisneroz

 Kerry Cisneroz

Chino may be a modern city filled with shopping centers, housing tracts, industrial businesses and a large population bustling through the streets, but if you look, there are many historical gems that can be found. One such gem is the Community Building on B Street, off the main thoroughfares of Central Avenue and Riverside Drive. 

The Community Building was built in 1937 with the red bricks from the old Chino School which stood at the same location at 10th and B streets. The school was built at a cost of $12,000 in 1894  by Richard and Nellie Gird, founders of Chino and the American Beet Sugar Company, which employed many who lived here. The school building was 90 feet with a 500-pound bell that would ring to call children to school, and was used as a general alarm for the city. In 1923, the school was deemed structurally unsafe for earthquakes and was closed. The school was torn down and the bricks were used to build the Community Building, a great example of repurposing material which adds to its uniqueness. 

The Community Building became a place where the city gathered for meetings and entertainment. Fourth of July dances were held after citywide picnics and fireworks as well as high school graduation parties and countless wedding receptions. Pioneer Picnics were a regular occurrence, with those who were born in the early 1900s and those who connected to them, coming together to share memories of the early days of Chino. 

Outside of the Community Building is the War Memorial, a towering monument made of rock which stands proudly to honor fallen soldiers from Chino. The names of soldiers are engraved on plaques. A few feet to the west is a sky high pine tree with a large barrel-like trunk and outward sweeping branches. George Holcomb planted the pine in the 1930s to honor the veterans of World War I. A stone plaque was placed at the tree in 1946 during a ceremony by the American Legion, in memory of Mr. Holcomb and the tree he planted. 

To the east of the Community Building is the old City Jail. In 1913, the City of Chino paid $558 to L. Ferrell of Pomona to build jail. It’s a small building made of concrete walls that originally sat in the alley west of Sixth Street and north of D Street. Those arrested for criminal activity awaiting a transfer to the county jail in San Bernardino, and drunks who needed to sober up, were tossed into the cement confinement. The police station was a block away but officers did not keep watch because the jail was very secure. The building only consisted of a steel entry door and one small window with bars. Tales were told of drunks becoming even more intoxicated when friends would hand them liquor through the window. 

The jail was no longer used after 1953 and sat in the alley where it was used for storage of old police and city documents. In 1996, the city declared the jail a historical monument and paid $30,000 to have it moved to its current location east of the Community Building, just across the street from the Old School House Museum. 

When the museum is open for visitors, the jail is opened too. So much history can be seen at this one square section of Chino, and it is often forgotten as we go about our lives. One of these days, veer off the path of daily living and drive by the Community Building to get to know the historical roots of our city. You may be surprised at the gems you find.

Share your Chino memories and feedback by email at  Kerry Cisneroz, a longtime Chino Valley resident, enjoys sharing memories and nostalgia of the community, which can be found in his Facebook group, “Chino Memories – Yesterday & Today.”

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