Norco's founder had vision for city until Great Depression hit
10:00 PM PST on Saturday, March 12, 2011
As professional history surveyor Bill Wilkman was researching Norco's history for the city, he discovered that Rex Clark, Norco's founder, was more than the builder of the Norconian Hotel. He found that Clark was a true visionary with a plan for the entire city.
The discovery came while Wilkman was preparing a draft Norco Historic Context Statement to the city for a Norco preservation program to determine what residences and commercial buildings in Norco could be qualified as landmark buildings or points of interest. From his research, Wilkman learned about Clark's big plans for the city.
Wilkman, owner of Wilkman Historical Services, was hired by the city of Norco after Norco became the 57th Certified Local Government city in California. In 2008, the Norco City Council decided to create a more professional historical preservation program that together with the CLG designation would give Norco access to training and grants related to its history.
Clark built about 50 houses in an attempt to lure buyers to buy them or build their own, and farm on the properties. Clark had built the old Norco general store, a lumberyard and other retail stores to support new homeowners. If someone bought a house and land to farm, Clark would teach the buyer how to raise chickens to make the residents independent. If they could make money from their own homes, they wouldn't be dependent on an employer.
"Clark was a believer in rugged individualism and was trying to help people gain their independence in life," said Wilkman.
Clark also laid out and built 12 homes on city size lots in a tract he planned as a city village. He created five tracts for development, of which Wilkman said Tracts 1 and 2 were the most developed. Unfortunately, all Clark's plans were affected by the Great Depression. But the houses and other buildings he built may be eligible for funds for preservation once they are indentified.
In the second part of the survey, Cory Tibbet of LSA Associates will be visiting 325 properties that were built between 1900 and 1946 to photograph and take notes for historical significance.
After that, the city can decide which buildings to designate as landmark, such as the old Norco school on Hamner Avenue and which to designate as points of interest. Wilkman said that property owners in Norco might see Tibbet outside their house, not on their property, taking notes and photographs. She will be wearing an orange jacket or shirt. Wilkman said the survey should be finished by October.
"Historical preservation has to work in the real world," said Wilkman, noting that all historically significant buildings may not be saved.
With a complete list of historical properties, the city will be armed with information going forward to the future.
"You want people to see the benefit of it and to be in the plan," said Wilkman.
Reach Nita Hiltner: firstname.lastname@example.org