History of Santa Fe Springs told in pictorial book

SANTA FE SPRINGS - This week, Santa Fe Springs residents and city officials alike are celebrating the release of a 125-page pictorial book with more than 200 vintage images, giving readers a comprehensive account of the history and development of the city of progress. Produced by Arcadia Publishing as part of its popular Images of America series, the book was complied and written by the Santa Fe Springs Historical Committee and Chairman Larry Oblea, a local historian who has written several articles in community publications.

"This was a complete group effort - we worked tirelessly," said Oblea.

In 2010, the Santa Fe Springs Historical Committee was approached by Arcadia Publishing, known for their pictorial history books, which chronicle the development of small towns and downtowns across the country.

"The committee was quick to accept the challenge," Oblea said. "But finding 150 pictures was harder than we thought."

With just 15 members, the historical committee, which advises the city council on historical matters, spent more than a year scouring through city archives and the vast photograph collection at the Hathaway Ranch Museum to find the most fascinating images that tell the story of Santa Fe Springs.

"Residents brought pictures to us, we scanned them and soon we had too many photos - we had to winnow it down," said Oblea who worked with his wife, Amparo, to write accurate captions for each photo. "The city archives have hundreds of pictures, but unless you know who it is, you can't use it. Thankfully we had some local experts we could turn to."

Before its incorporation in May 1957, Santa Fe Springs, like several of its neighboring cities, was part of the early Spanish rancho of Jose Manuel Nieto, the holder of the largest Spanish land grant in California.

However, as the land began to subdivide into small parcels, Santa Fe Springs was comprised of three early settlements, Los Nietos, Flood Ranch, and Fulton Wells, which became a popular destination for those seeking the healing powers of a local sulfur hot spring.

Following an oil strike in 1919, a dramatic change occurred in the area as oil derricks and refineries soon covered the landscape, paving the way for famous entrepreneurs Alfonso Bell and J. Paul Getty who started their careers in Santa Fe Springs during one of the largest oil strikes in the country.

"The previous histories left out the Flood Ranch area. There's a lot of history there, we wanted to make sure that story was told," said Oblea, who graduated from Santa Fe Springs High School in 1970. "We also wanted to make sure to cover the incorporation of Santa Fe Springs. There was a lot of intrigue; you could make a movie out of it."

Santa Fe Springs Councilman and liaison to the historical committee Richard Moore praised the book as a great accomplishment, achieved by a small group of dedicated residents.

"Volunteers are not people with time, but people with heart," said Moore on Wednesday. "These people didn't have a lot of time, but they have big hearts. This was hard work, there was a tight format they had to meet, but it's quite a book."

Oblea acknowledged the difficulty of the project, but hopes the book will educate residents and inspire a new generation to study the history of Santa Fe Springs.

"I would like to have been able to share more, but a lot of the facts are gone. I tried to tell as much as I could," said Oblea. "But maybe we'll do another book - there's always next volume."

Members of the Santa Fe Springs Historical Committee include Janice Smith, Gloria and Ed Duran, Merrie Hathaway, Astrid Gonzales, Janie and Gilbert Aguirre, Alma Martinez, Sally Gaitan, Mark Scoggins, Francine Rippy, Hilda Zamora, Tony Reyes, and Larry and Amparo Oblea.

The pictorial book, entitled Santa Fe Springs, is currently available for purchase at the Santa Fe Springs Library, Heritage Park in Santa Fe Springs, local retailers and online bookstores.

********** Published: June 07, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 08