Duarte Historical Society & Museum
Duarte Historical Society & Museum

Current News

Check back here regularly to find out what's going on in and round the Rancho de Duarte Community.

Duarte Museum to Honor Larry Walls at Black History Month Celebration

Larry Walls literally fought his way to success.  His childhood in Duarte's Rock Town was rife with bloody noses, black eyes and worse.  While he was often a victim, he was much of the time a perpetrator.  He kept this in mind when he wrote the following in his autobiography:


"Here I am on a hot day in the Compton Superior Court waiting on the jury verdict in a double murder and triple attempted murder trial."  Walls could have been a defendant in the above trial.  But, no, he was the Deputy District Attorney.  How could this happen?


Celebrating Black History Month, the Duarte Historical Museum will honor Walls on January 13, 4-7 p.m. at 777 Encanto Parkway, Duarte.  Walls will talk about life in Duarte during the volatile 1950s through the 1980s and how Duarte moved forward to the town it is today.  He will sign and sell his book entitled Hurdles; Struggles of a Black Man in the Land of Milk and Honey.


Admission is free.  For more information call (626) 358-0329.

Castle Tour

Michael Rubel had a dream, one that members of the Duarte Historical Society recently visited!


He willed his castle located in Glendora to the Glendora Historical Society and tours take visitors to unbelievable sites such as the windmill, a  bottle house, a tree house and box factory.  The tour went through the clock tower, the tractor barn, a sixteen ton bird bath, and a variety of antique cars and trucks.


The castle is nestled behind a rock wall and features nooks and crannies, all hiding treasures galore.


To arrange a tour, log on to the Glendora Historical Society website.

Beloved “Hanging Tree” Mysteriously Collapsed

On October 8th, 2014, Duarte lost one of its cherished icons.  In the wee hours of the morning, the beloved “hanging tree” mysteriously collapsed, causing some damage to the surrounding building.  It had been a familiar site on the south side of Huntington Drive just east of Highland where it is rumored to have stood since the 1800s.  Whether fact or myth, its reputation of a “hanging tree” conjured up images of Duarte’s wild west days when it is said circuit judges ordered it to be employed for swift justice.

The tree was witness to the emerging growth of Duarte’s main drag, and saw the rise and fall of the famed Route 66.  It was once surrounded by the old Oakleigh Motel and Motor Court which sprung up to serve Route 66 travelers.  We shall miss its graceful limbs which stood watch for so many years.  Pieces of the tree will be plaqued and on sale at the Duarte Museum starting in March. 

                Jim Parrillo, 53, traces his local family roots to the 1950s, only a few seconds in time compared to the roots of Duarte’s so-called “hanging tree” which, after collapsing recently, was sawed up and hauled off before the tear-filled eyes of local residents.


Duarteans first heard of the 50 foot tree’s collapse which occurred about 2:00 a.m. on October 8 when they tuned in to the morning news, recognizing the oak’s familiar branches at first glance. It is said that the tree may have begun its stately watch over what eventually Route 66 more than 200 years ago. Where it got its reputation as a tree employed to execute swift justice during this town’s wild west days is unknown, but widely accepted.


           Parrillo covets many memories of local interest, not the least of which is that old tree. Long before the present townhouses were built, the tree graced the Oakleigh Motel, an establishment on Route 66 which reportedly sported a sorted reputation. He recalls looking out at the tree when he and his siblings often ate breakfast there. “It had chains embedded in it and a metal plate which I pictured as where the rope went through when it was a hanging tree,” says Jim.


            Jim remembers that the motel rooms were very small and that in the 1970s there was a fire and it was demolished. The tree, however, persevered. He said the myths about that tree were hushed because “there are those who believe that ghosts reside in the branches of old trees.”


            Pat Sleeter, Jim’s mother, worked as a nurse at Santa Teresita for forty-four years and was familiar with the Oakleigh Motel because an extended family member managed it for a time in the 1960s. “Although it was just word of mouth,” says Pat, “it was a common belief that this was where justice on the Rancho Duarte was dealt by Circuit Judges.”


            Long-time resident Everett Adams recalls that after the motel was gone, there was an establishment near the site called The Crystal Tea Room which sold crystal vases and glassware. He said the Post Office at that time was located on Huntington just east of the tree, and was later moved to its present location.

During WWII, Bruce Staller’s family lived in a rooming house which offered kitchen privileges for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. Thus, his mom would take Bruce and his brother on the streetcar from Monrovia to Duarte to “eat out.” He recalls a small French restaurant called “The Ives” located just west of the hanging tree.

A piece of the hanging tree has been salvaged and will remain on exhibit at the Duarte Historical Museum. “For history-sake, we will display this small chunk of the stately oak as a reminder of Duarte’s wild days during the 1800s,” says Sheri Uhlig, Vice President of the Historical Society. “We’ll miss those graceful branches which stood sentinel over our town for so many years. But now we can visit the salvaged piece and reflect on our history while paying our respects to that old oak.”

Own a small piece of Duarte History.


Contact Us Today!

Duarte Historical Society & Museum

777 Encanto Parkway

Duarte, CA 91010

Phone: (626) 357-9419

Email: info@RanchoDeDuarte.org

Send Mail to: P.O. Box 263, Duarte, CA 91009

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