Early day Auto Club strip map

Early day Auto Club strip map shows windy Carbon Canyon Road.

Paul Spitzzeri

(Continuing a history started January 4)

After the completion of Carbon Canyon Road to Orange County in 1915, it became apparent over the next decade that the unpaved road could not be sustained with increasing traffic and degradation from washouts and wear. 

By 1925, a movement to pave the road gained momentum, especially as the operators of the newly opened Los Serranos Country Club lobbied hard to improvements to shorten the trip to the golf course and associated housing tract. Soon after the club opened, San Bernardino County actively began the process for the project of improvements and paving, while Orange County signaled its intention to pave its side as soon as feasible.

In February 1926, the Champion reported that, as a first step, a contract for grading and culvert construction was let to a Santa Ana company with the cost being just over $12,000. It was expected the work would begin in two weeks and the road be ready for use by May.  A survey was completed “and many of the sharp curves of the old road taken out” so that the new alignment was both safer and shorter by a little over a mile. 

Despite rosy projections for the timetable, the project was significantly delayed. The water-logged winter of 1926-27 led to much damage from flooding, including to the recently expanded La Vida Mineral Springs resort. It appears the San Bernardino County portion was covered with gravel before the rains set in as a protective measure.

In 1927, efforts proceeded slowly (a road through Soquel Canyon was also being pushed during this period). 

Finally, by early 1928, some work was started, including some cement bridges and additional straightening, grading, and culvert work, costing around $30,000. In late summer, a nearly $100,000 contract, almost $25,000 less than the county engineer’s estimate, was issued to a Los Angeles firm to do the paving work. The county was to pay a little above $20,000 and assessments to property owners along the route furnished the rest of the funds.

A summer issue of the San Gabriel Valley Monthly noted that the paving would run from Central Avenue to the county line, adding that "Carbon Canyon Road has always been listed as one of Southern California’s notable scenic drives, and provides easy access to the famous Li Vida [sic] Mineral Springs, midway tween Chino and Olinda."

It was not until spring 1929 that the project finally was finished. The Chino Chamber of Commerce sponsored “a gigantic picnic of Chinoans” on May 5 at the Oasis Country Club, which was not a golf course but a general social club and situated just south of the road and west of the summit in the vicinity of today’s Carriage Hills subdivision.

Orange County finished its paving in the early 1930s, upon which the state took over the highway, which was assigned a route number of 177 though it was never signed. In 1964, amid major changes to the state system, Carbon Canyon Road was designated State Route 142. 

(Paul Spitzzeri, historian and author who lives in Chino Hills, maintains a blog on the history of Carbon Canyon called carboncanyonchronicle.blogspot.com. The above column was part of a talk he gave to the Chino Hills Historical Society Monday. The next Society program will be June 8.)

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