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Ojai to Santa Paula
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Oh Hi to Santa Paula

Original Article and Photographs by Kenneth A. Larson © 2012 - 2017

We got off about 10:00 am heading west along Highway 118 to Ventura and then north on Highway 33 about twelve miles to Ojai (pronounced 'oh-hi'), arriving about 11:30. Our first stop was at Rotary Community Park. This is not a large park, just a short trail past quotations and words of wisdom, a sculpture of a house, and a 'Welcome to Ojai' sign. I liked the double drinking fountain, one lower basin for dogs. The Ojai Valley Trail cuts through this small park.
Welcme to Ojai

The Chumash lived here for thousands of years before the Spanish arrived, founding the first Mission (San Diego) in Alta California in 1769. In 1837 Governor Juan Alvarado granted Rancho Ojai to Fernando Tico who sold it in 1853. George Gilbert extracted oil near Rancho Arnaz in 1861 and the first subdivided land within Rancho Ojai was sold in 1868. Royce Surdam established the village of Nordhoff in 1874 and in the same year, Lafayette Herbert opened Nordhoff's first general store. The Nordhoff Grammar School was built in 1895 on the corner of Ojai Avenue and Montgomery Street. Gold fever struck the community in 1897, but it was short lived as there wasn't enough of the yellow stuff to make mining profitable. The village name was changed in 1917 from Nordhoff to Ojai. The Ojai Arts Center was founded in 1939 and the first concerts of the Ojai Music Festival were performed in 1947.

World famous ceramicists Otto and Vivika Heino and Beatrice Wood made their home, and pottery, in Ojai. Ojai has been called the second best tennis town in the nation, wine tasting is a new development, and spas are popular along with shopping and dining. Arts and art galleries fill the town and several annual festivals entertain visitors. Nearby Lake Casitas is a popular recreation site.

It took only a few minutes to find out first destination, the Ojai Valley Museum. Housed in a former Catholic church, there are two main spaces. The original church houses historical exhibits and a wildlife diorama fills the space where the altar was once located. A display features Ceramicists Heino, Heino, and Wood and another on Libby glass (Edward Libbey, a prosperous glass manufacturer, chose to winter in Ojai). The west gallery held a temporary exhibit, a Retrospective of the work by artist Nancy Whitman. The front yard of the museum has several sculptures by local artists and a small Visitor center is located at the far west end of the building. The museum is at 130 W. Ojai Avenue in Ojai.
Ojai Valley Museum
Ojai Valley Museum.

We drove by Lavender Inn which we were told is the old school house and then stopped at Jersey Mikes for lunch. While my wife waited for our sub sandwich, I walked back to photograph the row of arches, called the Arcade, an arcade of shops along Ojai Avenue. These arches, along with the bell tower at the Post Office, are signature pieces of architecture in Ojai.

We drove to the back of Libbey Park where there is a parking area near the tennis courts. Both were empty as it was early afternoon and
The Archade
The Archade - a shopping street.
a bit warm, but a short walk back toward the Ojai Avenue end brought me to the historic Ojai City Jail. The jail is a concrete structure built in 1929 about twelve by twenty-four feet with a single door and small four-inch windows cast in the wall for light and ventilation. It was locked so I photographed the exterior and returned to the car. A couple with two dogs arrived to play tennis on one of the empty courts as we were leaving.

We drove around to the other side of Libbey Park, stopping first to take a quick photo of City Hall. From Libbey Park we got another perspective of the Post Office and the Arcade. the park has a fountain, further in is a bandstand and Libby Bowl, along with more tennis courts and children's play area. The Ojai Valley Trail, a hiking and bicycle path cuts through the middle of the park and continues west through Rotary Community Park and beyond to the coast and east, ending at East Ojai Avenue a few blocks east of Libby Park. Libby Park is on Ojai Avenue in the middle of town.

Plazza at Libbey Park with the iconic Post Office tower beyond.

As we drove around town, we noticed the many art galleries and studios that fill this artist mecca.
Our time was limited so we continued east on East Ojai Avenue which becomes Ojai-Santa Paula Road. My wife doesn't like mountain roads and the road into Ojai from Ventura was relatively straight and flat, not so for the road to Panta Paula, although not intimidating for most of us. From Ojai, we could have continued north on Highway 33 through Taft in Kern County and all the way to Sacramento, but that was not where we were headed. We stopped a few minutes at Vista Point to take one last look out over the valley. We had meant to visit Meditation Mount with a great view of the valley, but it slipped my mind as we left.

Not long after Vista Pont, the road got a little less intimidating for my wife and she settled down as we continued to Santa Paula.

Santa Paula is a wonderful small town with oil and agriculture at its roots. Two museums cover these two subjects. The California Oil Museum, which we had visited twice before but would skip this time, and the newly opened (the previous September) Museum of Ventura County - Agriculture Museum. We stopped at the Agriculture Museum and had a wonderful time looking at old farming equipment and learning about Agriculture in Ventura County, still a major business. Through the back glass door we could see a large empty lot which a sign explained will soon be an exciting outdoor Museum of Ventura County -
Agriculture Museum
Museum of Ventura County - Agriculture Museum
exhibit, so we will have to return in a year or two. A case contained an actual beehive with a tube connecting to the outside so these little workers could get to the pollen in the surrounding area. There were several other exhibits and a small Children's Discovery corner had objects for children to explore. The museum is located at 926 Railroad Ave, adjacent to the old Depot and a train from the Fillmore and Western Railroad sat at the track having brought a train load of tourists from Fillmore. The California Oil Museum is located at 1001 E. Main Street.

Santa Paula is designated a Preserve America Community and calls itself the Citrus Capitol of the World . Santa Paula was founded in 1872, was the birthplace of the Union Oil Company of California, and is home to the Limoneira Company, a major agricultural company. Santa Paula was once a center of the silent movie business when the Star Film Stock Company made films here. The annual Citrus Classic Balloon Festival was taking place this weekend in July. The Aviation Museum of Santa Paula is a collection of flyable aircraft that gather the first Sunday of the month, but this wasn't Sunday. We had visited the Aviation Museum about ten years ago, but I usually volunteer elsewhere the first Sunday.

Just two blocks away is the Santa Paula Art Museum with municipally owned and loaned artworks. This day we viewed an exhibit by Carlisle Cooper and student works. The city usually buys winners in an art festival for display throughout the city. The museum is located at 117 North 10th Street.

Out the back door of the museum is one of the several murals throughout the downtown area, so we began the mural tour here with Discovering Black Gold: CA Oil. We next visited the Blanchard Community Library with the mural Our First Inhabitants (Chumash) painted on the west wall. The library also contains some of the municipal art, but closed at 2 PM and it was now just after 4:00. We didn't find Legends of the Airport but did drive past Family Farms.
As with similar murals in other towns, not every mural was easy to photograph and vehicles sometimes blocked part of the mural, but we proceeded. Main Street Circa 1910 wasn't hard to find and photograph, Celebration of Our Latino Culture was a little harder. We drove back to the depot area to find Transportation from 1800 to Today on the side of what I believe is a former packing plant and finally Santa Paula Artists & Architects which has relevance to me as a bit of both. This last mural is adjacent to a large Morton Bay Fig Tree. Across the street is the old Depot, now Chamber of Commerce.
Celebration of Our Latino Culture
Celebration of Our Latino Culture, one of the several murals in Santa Paula.

A little known aspect of the California Missions story is that of the Asistencias, or sub-missions, that were often built inland from the better known costal chain. They were the beginnings of a move toward the interior of the state which ended with secularization of the Missions in 1834. Asistencia Santa Paula was a sub-Mission to San Buenaventura. All that remains today is a roadside marker at the northeast corner of Harding Park at about 1400 east Harvard Boulevard, next to the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Paula. The date of founding is unknown, but the plaque tells of the Portola (acent on a) Expedition camping near here on August 11, 1769 - the year the first California Mission was established in San Diego.

The entire focus of this trip was to celebrate our anniversary at Familia Diaz, an award winning family run restaurant serving wonderful traditional Mexican food. Located at the northeast corner of Santa Paula Ojai Road / 10th Street and Harvard Boulevard, in the shadow of Highway 126.

We took Highway 126 home traveling east through Fillmore and Piru. I saw a sign for Honey tasting, but it was too late to stop, so I filled it in memory for the next time. We arrived home about 7:30 after a short but fun road trip to northern Ventura County.
Familia Diaz
Familia Diaz.

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This page last updated: Saturday, 06-Jul-2013 05:49:57 EDT

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