Los Altos in Long Beach – special then and now

Los Altos being built in the 1950s Long Beach

What Makes Los Altos Special

The Los Altos area is a highly desirable neighborhood in east Long Beach. This slice of suburbia is close to the beach which brings cool ocean breezes but it also close to freeway access. Los Altos lies next to Cal State Long Beach which offers plenty of enjoyable cultural and sporting events.

History of Los Altos

The Los Altos area was developed to accommodate the scores of military personnel returning to civilian life after World War II. Many came from states with severe weather so it must have been an easy decision to start a new life in weather temperate southern California.

Lloyd S. Whaley was born in 1906 and raised on a farm in Nebraska. He graduated from Iowa State then moved to north Long Beach in 1935. He started as a laborer but was soon designing homes in North Long Beach’s Houghton Park area. Later during World War II Whaley was developing homes in Wrigley Heights. It was after the war that Whaley saw the potential of developing the land north of PCH that was previously part of the old Rancho Los Alamitos.  This land was called “Alkali Flats” because of the strong smell from its swampy soil.

In 1946 Whaley hired L. Deming Tilton to design this master-planned community that almost became known as University Village, which is interesting because Cal State was not established until 1949. Antique marketing pieces and newspaper advertisements show the name of the development was Los Altos Village.

Pulling permit records of Los Altos homes gives a perfect snapshot of where construction started and how it progressed.  Construction on homes at the corner of Atherton and Clark were started in 1946 with completion of the tract at Bellflower and Atherton in 1949. As you move further east and north the completion dates start to move further into the 50s. The original Los Altos Village ended on Stearns at San Vicente Avenue with nothing but bean fields to the east.

Thankfully the history of Los Altos was captured on film by past Los Altos resident John W. Cleveland. They can be found on YouTube here and here.

Memories of Los Altos

Imagine Bellflower Blvd as a two lane country road and the only artery leading up from the beach. I consider myself fortunate to have met and taped Jimmie Harrison who painted that vivid picture for me. Mr. Harrison told me how in 1949 he and his wife came to live in ‘the sticks’, as his mother-in-law put it.  With a $25 deposit which was borrowed from his boss they bought their first home on Radnor Avenue. And don’t even get me started on the story of how he and his wife met over an egg at the age of two; history, nostalgia and true love, who could ask for more!

Los Altos Fun Facts

One of the key features Tilton and Whaley included in their plan was the Los Altos Shopping Center.

Fun fact #1 – Miss Nebraska (not Miss California) was at the ground breaking ceremony that must have been carefully orchestrated by Whaley. Fun Fact #2 – Long Beach is known as Iowa by the Sea due to the large number of migrates from this state.

Mr. Lloyd S. Whaley became one of the most successful Nebraskans to settle in Long Beach eventually building and selling over 11,000 homes. He was also involved in the planning and developing of Park Estates which is known for its large lots and quality custom built homes. 

Fun Fact #3 – Whaley kept the largest Park Estates parcel for himself and CC&R exempted this lot from the yearly association fee. That parcel still retains that exemption.

Whaley left a legacy of parks that are still in use today. He donated 12 acres for eponymous Whaley Park, 11 areas for Scherer Park and five acres for Los Altos Park.

Features of Los Altos Homes

As a Realtor that previews homes all over Long Beach I was not surprised to learn Whaley had such a far reaching impact in the Long Beach.  I always thought the similarity between homes in North Long Beach and Wrigley to Los Altos homes was uncanny. I like to think that by the time Whaley got to Los Altos he got it right.

Los Altos homes are turning 70 years old and they have weathered time very well. All were built with beautiful, just about irreplaceable, hardwood floors and large double-hung sash windows that give the home an inviting exterior appearance and fill the home’s interior with light.

The maturing of the trees have made Whaley’s Los Altos even more beautiful as it ages. Take a drive down Abbeyfield Street for the best example of early Whaley homes enjoy its canopy of trees. Of course some of Whaley’s creation have been taken down to allow for a rebuild of a larger home, but the vast majority of homes would be easily recognizable to Mr. Whaley if he were to visit today.

Los Altos Today

Los Altos is still known as a family friendly place just as it was in Whaley’s time. The grade schools of Minnie Gant, Bixby, Prisk, Tincher and Stanford Middle School are all highly ranked. The 1800-1900 block of Carfax Avenue was famous in the 50s for having a 50 children living within this short stretch. Today children once again rule the day. My short stretch of 1800-1900 block of Chatwin Avenue currently has 20 children with more on the way!

Los Altos Real Estate

For Los Altos market trends and home searches click here. Or you are  free to call me directly at 562-243-2171. I am more than happy to help!

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