Whittier, California

Whittier is a city in Los Angeles County, California about southeast of Los Angeles. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 83,680. It is the home of Whittier College. Like nearby Montebello, the city is considered both part of the Gateway Cities or the Southeast area of Los Angeles County.

The city's population as a whole has grown since its founding days but has experienced rapid growth particularly starting in the 1990s. It has increased from 77,807 in 1990 to 83,680 in 2000 and is projected to grow to 90,041 in 2010.

  • 90,041 2010 Projection
  • 86,671 2005 Estimate
  • 83,680 2000 Census
  • 77,807 1990 Census


Whittier is located at (33.5756, -118.128).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 37.9 km² (14.8 mi²), all land.

Whittier is bordered by the community of Hacienda Heights to the northeast, City of Industry to the north, and several other unincorporated communities in the San Gabriel Valley mostly along its northern sections. Pico Rivera lies at the west, La Habra Heights to the east, La Habra to the southeast and Santa Fe Springs to the south.


The roots of Whittier can be traced to a Spanish soldier, Manuel Nieto, who in 1784 received a Spanish land grant of 300,000 acres (1,200 km²), Rancho Los Nietos, as a reward for his military service and to encourage settlement in California. Nieto's area was reduced in 1790 because of a dispute with the Mission San Gabriel, but he still laid claim to stretching from the hills north of Whittier, Fullerton and Brea, south to the Pacific ocean, and from today's Los Angeles River, east to the Santa Ana River. Nieto constructed a dwelling for his family near the present town of Whittier, stocked the land with cattle and horses, and cultivated corn. Upon his death in 1804, his children inherited his property. After the Mexican-American war, Jacob Gerkens, a German immigrant who paid $234 to the U.S. government to acquire of land under the Homestead Act, built a cabin on the land which is today known as the Jonathan Bailey House. The land had several owners before a group of Quakers bought the land, which had since been expanded to , with the purpose of founding a Quaker community. The area soon became known as a thriving citrus ranching region, with "Quaker Brand" fruit being shipped all over the United States. Soon after, walnut trees were planted, and Whittier became the largest walnut grower in California.

Whittier became a charter law city and was incorporated in 1898. Like many other southern California communities, Whittier experienced a population increase after World War II.

Origin of name

In the founding days of Whittier, when it was a small isolated town, Jonathan Bailey and his wife, Rebecca, were among the first residents. They followed the Quaker religion, and held religious meetings on their porch. As the city grew, the citizens named it after John Greenleaf Whittier, a respected Quaker poet. Whittier wrote a dedication poem, and is honored today with statues and a small exhibit at the Whittier museum; a statue of him sits in the park, and another representing his poem The Barefoot Boy resides by the City Hall. Consequently, the college there is called Whittier College, and the mascot, appropriately, is "The Poet." Whittier never set foot there, but the city still bears his name and is rooted in the Quaker tradition.

Quaker history in Whittier

The first Quaker Meeting, "First Friends Church" still stands on Philadelphia Street in Uptown Whittier, though its original structure was condemned after the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987. First Friends is a 'programmed' Quaker meeting and is similar to other churches in the Christian mainstream. A more traditional 'unprogrammed' Quaker Meeting group known as the Whitleaf Meeting meets in the Mendenhall Building on the Whittier College campus every Saturday morning. Many are members of both meetings.

The Mendenhall Building at Whittier College was donated by Leona May Mendenhall in honor of her husband, Oscar Mendenhall. The Mendenhalls were among the founding families of Whittier. Oscar's brother, Samuel Mendenhall, helped bring in the water system and post office. The Mendenhalls were large growers for Sunkist oranges and Blue Diamond walnuts.

Whittier Narrows earthquake

On Oct. 1, 1987, at 7:42 a.m., the Whittier Narrows earthquake struck, the epicenter six miles (10 km) north by northwest of Whittier. The seismic event, which registered 5.9 on the Richter scale, resulted in eight casualties and massive damage to uptown Whittier's historic buildings. In the years following the earthquake, the city's deteriorating uptown business district, which suffered substantial damage in the earthquake, became the focus of renewed development. By early 2007, the district thrives, and continues to grow, as a trendy open-air retail center. Out of the rubble of the earthquake the Whittier Conservancy was formed in 1987 in an effort to stop the demolition of many historic buildings and residences after the disaster.


As of the census of 2000, there were 83,680 people, 28,271 households, and 20,468 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,208.4/km² (5,719.4/mi²). There were 28,977 housing units at an average density of 764.7/km² (1,980.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 63.2% White, 1.2% African American, 1.3% Native American, 3.3% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 25.8% from other races, and 5.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 55.9% of the population.

There were 28,271 households out of which 37.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.5% were married couples living together, 14.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.6% were non-families. 22.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.88 and the average family size was 3.38.

In the city the population was spread out with 28.3% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 94.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $49,256, and the median income for a family was $55,726. Males had a median income of $40,394 versus $34,223 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,409. About 7.8% of families and 10.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.7% of those under age 18 and 8.0% of those age 65 or over.


In the state legislature Whittier is located in the 30th Senate District, represented by Democrat Ronald S. Calderon, and in the 58th and 60th Assembly Districts, represented by Democrat Charles M. Calderon and Republican Bob Huff respectively. Federally, Whittier is located in California's 38th, 39th, and 42nd congressional districts, which have Cook PVIs of D +20, D +13, and R +10 respectively and are represented by Democrats Grace Napolitano and Linda Sánchez and Republican Gary Miller respectively.


Whittier's Redevelopment Agency has numerous projects underway to revitalize the community. This includes a $7 million dollar project near historic Hoover Hotel.

The Whittwood Town Center (formerly the Whittwood Mall) anchored by JC Penney, Target, Sears, Vons, and Mervyn's has made way for Red Robin and Black Angus. The city still waits to attract more well known businesses and open new residential town homes with the revival of its Uptown district.

In addition, the agency is working on developing a project area near Whittier Blvd. The master plan was adopted in June 2005 by the City Council.

Nelles Land Controversy

In 2006, the City Council lost a bid for the now-closed Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility. The city and the state disagreed on the price of the Nelles property and the state put it up for bid, eventually selecting Meruelo Maddux Properties of Los Angeles. However, before the company could purchase the property, the State of California unlisted the property and it was designated as one of a handful of potential sites for a new men's prison. Plans for this were part of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's master plan to build more prisons across California. State correction officials recently have said they will abide with the wishes of Whittier in regard to Nelles. However, Robert Sillen, the federal receiver in charge of prison health care, has placed Nelles on a list of seven sites that could be used for a new regional or mental health prison hospital. Currently the location is used as a backlot for television and motion picture filming. Due to a federal court ruling, the federal government has taken over the issue of whether a prison will be built at Nelles. It has yet to make a decision. The federal government is considering whether to construct an inmate medical facility on the site of Nelles due to the inadequate healthcare provided to prison inmates in California.

Whittwood Mall

Built in 1960 as competition to The Quad at Whittier. The mall was originally an open-air plaza, a design favored by customers of the mid-20th century.

A J.C. Penney was added to the east end of the center in 1972. Then, in early 1979, Whittwood Mall was given a complete overhaul. Largely because of growing public favor toward outdoor shopping "communities," the mall faced a downhill struggle during the mid-1990s. The mall remodeled the exterior in early 1991. Krikorian Theatres built a 10-screen premium movie theatre on the back lot in the late '80s. This was sold a few years later to Regal Cinemas, who closed the theatre by the late '90s.

In 1996, The Broadway was bought out by Federated Department Stores. It was closed and immediately sold to Sears in 1996.

In 2004, the original Whittwood Mall closed, although the center's department stores remained open. With the exception of the major stores, the mall's buildings were torn down. The mall was replaced by "big box" retailers, most notably a Target. Today the site has been re-named the Whittwood Town Center.


There are a variety of bus routes operating within the city with Foothill Transit, Montebello Bus Lines and the Norwalk Transit being the leading bus lines used within the city. Other bus routes operating in the city include the Metro,The Sunshine Shuttle starting at Beaty Ave all the way through The Whitwood Town Center, Line 121 Whitwood starting at Aviation Station (Metrorail Green Line) and ending at the Whittwood Town Center. The city also has a variety of freeways with the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605) running right along the northern end of the city. State Route 72 runs via Whittier Boulevard and forms part of El Camino Real.


The city of Whittier is served by the Whittier Union High School District, East Whittier City School District, Whittier City School District, Lowell Joint School District and the Fullerton Joint Union High School District.

Five high schools, California High School, La Serna High School, Pioneer High School, Santa Fe High School, and Whittier High School comprise the Whittier Union High School District. There is one alternative continuation high school Whittier Adult School, formerly known as Sierra Vista High School, and Frontier High School. Whittier Adult School belongs to the Whittier Union High School District. Rio Hondo College, which lies just outside the city serves Whittier. The city also has three Catholic elementary schools K-8

  • St. Bruno's Parish School
  • St. Mary of the Assumption School
  • St. Gregory the Great School

All three schools are operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles with one (St. Mary of the Assumption School) being one of the largest Catholic elementary schools in Los Angeles County.


The local newspaper is the Whittier Daily News. Other area papers include the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, a sister paper of the Whittier Daily News, Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register.

Historical landmarks & entertainment locations


Whittier Museum - 6755 Newlin Ave, Whittier 90601. Open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. and is free of charge

  • Whittier is the home to the following places listed in the National Register of Historic Places:
    • Pio Pico House, 6003 Pioneer Blvd.
    • Hoover Hotel, 7035 Greenleaf Ave.
    • National Bank of Whittier Bldg., 13002 E. Philadelphia
    • Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, 7333 Greenleaf Ave.
    • Standard Oil Building, 7257 Bright Ave.
    • Jonathan Bailey House, 13421 E. Camilla St.
    • Orin Jordan House, 8310 S. Comstock Ave.

Film and television locations

  • Various movies and television shows have been filmed in the city including:

Back to the Future/Back to the Future Part II - Films starring Michael J. Fox. Whittier High School was used as the setting for Hill Valley High School.
Hocus Pocus - Film starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thora Birch and Vinessa Shaw. Parts were filmed in Uptown Whittier.
Father of the Bride Part II - Film starring Steve Martin. Parts were filmed in uptown Whittier.
The Wonder Years - Television series starring Fred Savage. The parade scene in the last episode was filmed in uptown Whittier.
The Next Best Thing- Film starring Madonna and Rupert Everett was filmed in the Whittier Hills.
Matilda - Film starring Danny DeVito was filmed in East Whittier.
Bringing Down the House- Film starring Queen Latifah and Steve Martin was filmed at the Friendly Hills Country Club, in East Whittier.
Terminator 3 (2003) - Film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Various parts were shot in Whittier including in Rose Hills Memorial Park.
Blow - Film starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. Scenes were filmed at the Fred C. Nelles boys' correctional facility and in a residential neighborhood.
Masters of the Universe - Film starring Dolph Lundgren. Most of the movie was filmed in Whittier.
Walk, Don't Run - Film Directed by Henry Winkler. All of this movie was filmed at Whittier High School in 1980.
Ali - directed by Michael Mann, portions of which were filmed at a residence in the historic neighborhood near the uptown village.
South of Nowhere - filmed Whittier Adult School, formerly known as Sierra Vista High School, and Frontier High School.
The Oh in Ohio - Film starring Parker Posey and Paul Rudd. Various scenes were shot in the city.
Big Fat Liar (2002)- Film starring Frankie Muniz, Amanda Bynes, and Paul Giamatti. One major scene was shot at a house on Greenleaf Ave in Uptown Whittier.
Disturbia (film) (2007)- Film starring Shia LaBeouf, Carrie Anne Moss, and Amanda Walsh. Was shot on Painter Ave, the deli scenes were filmed at "Our Cleaners" on Comstock Ave. in uptown Whittier.
Moonlight - Television series starring Alex O'Loughlin and Sophia Myles. Exteriors of a state execution facility were filmed at the Fred C. Nelles correctional facility, the facility name being clearly shown in multiple shots.
What Just Happened? (2008) - Film starring Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn. Scenes were filmed in Rose Hills Memorial Park.

John Greenleaf Whittier's dedication poem

Although John Greenleaf Whittier never visited the city, he did write a poem in honor of it:

"My Name I Give To Thee"
Dear Town, for whom the flowers are born,
Stars shine, and happy songbirds sing,
What can my evening give to thy morn,
My Winter to Thy Spring?
A life not void of pure intent
With small desert of praise or blame;
The Love I felt, the Good I meant,
I leave Thee with My Name.

Notable residents






See also


External links

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