Ready to go, moving the house was only one piece of the preservation puzzle. The Ranch house underwent extensive engineering, planning, permitting and construction to be relocated.
With only inches to spare, master housemovers maneuvered through light standards and traffic signals to traverse tangles of Corona streets before morning traffic began.
Finally hovering over its final resting spot, the whole trip took only 2 hours, 17 minutes, to be positioned on temporary cribbing, so a permanent foundation could be built underneath.
Photo shows the northwest corner of the house where it originally was built in 1904. Before relocation to Corona Heritage Park, it sat where the CVS Pharmacy now resides on the corner of Ontario and California.
The Story Behind the
Call Ranch House
by Nita Grantham
“Times change, but man never does” is someone’s quote I uncovered years ago, but do not remember who said it. I would tell this to my history students regularly as we would delve into the history textbooks. None, other than me, really cared much about doing that. So, I would weave the stories from history for them through the lives of the people who seemed so far removed from their lives. As I researched this history of the Call Ranch House, which is now located at the Corona Heritage Park in our Lemon Grove, I found an article in the Corona Messenger newspaper printed Thursday afternoon, November 26, 1908. The headline read, “A.F. Call Makes Strong Plea: Appears before Tariff Committee—Gives reasons why Tariff on Citrus Fruits Should Be Increased.” Seems to me Tariffs are a big topic today and mentioned on the news daily. Opinions vary now as they did then. These opinions are divided by personal interest of those advocating and those opposing—then as now.
Asa Frank Call (1856-1913), was born in Algona, Iowa, a small town in the northwestern part of the state. At the age of 20, he received an appointment to West Point Military Academy. After only a year, he returned home and pursued a career in law. He maintained a thriving law practice in Algona from 1878-1881. He moved to other towns in Iowa and other law firms. In 1899, he moved to Sioux City, Iowa, where he became a member of the law firm of Joy, Hudson, Call and Joy. Then later joined the firm of Wright, Hall, and Hubbard, a firm which handled legal matters of the Great Northern Railroad, the Burlington and Great Northern Railroads. From his obituary in the Corona Independent, April 10, 1913, we can find much about his early life that led to the impact he had with Corona Citrus. It is through this where he “gained insight into the methods of transportation of the several railroads, which greatly enabled him to win large cases he has won for the citrus fruit growers of Southern California.”
What were his arguments for a tariff on fruit from foreign countries? From his speech before the Congressional Committee he said, “ The freight rate on foreign fruit is 24 cents and that is by boat from Italy and Sicily to the seaboard points of the United States. They have an advantage over us of 60 cents on transportation. That does not include the cost of refrigeration. We have to pay about 20 cents a box for refrigeration on about one-half of the product, making an average of 10 cents for refrigeration on top of the freight rate which I have given you. They do not have any deserts to cross. It is cool and they do not need refrigeration on shipboard...they can produce lemons for about half what we can produce...”
Notable crate labels used for Call Ranch citrus products
I have to admit; I don’t know how the tariff rate turned out.
In the latter part of the nineties Mr. Call came to Corona. According to the Daily Independent, Thursday, April 10, 1913, “At that time much difficulty was being experienced in getting water for the young groves which had been set out here. Call overcame all of these difficulties which no one else had been able to do, and in the summer of 1901, he personally sold the bonds here which resulted in the hurrying of Corona’s present water system.”
A.F. Call had purchased 240 acres of land known as Orange Heights Trust before he left his successful law practice in Sioux City, Iowa (the same town where one of Corona’s founders, A.S. Garretson, called home) to come west and become a citrus farmer. The Call Ranch properties extended between Lester and Compton Streets below and above Ontario Street. According to Stan Reynolds and Fred Eldridge’s Corona Commentaries, early ranches had their own support systems. The stables and blacksmith shops for the Call Ranch were located where the old Corona Theater, now the Covenant Church, is located on 6th Street.
Called a “Magnificent Property” in Corona The Queen Colony, 1902, the writer had the following to say: “The largest orchards in Corona, and among the largest in the state owned by an individual, are the properties of A. F. Call. They comprise 240 acres of oranges and lemons, all in heavy bearing and finest condition. With a view of preserving the uniform grade of his fruit, Mr. Call erected a large and thoroughly modern packing house with lemon curing rooms, orange and lemon packing room, box factory and all up-to-date conveniences, from which he packs only his fruit, under his own brands, thus insuring to the buyer a reliable standard.” The Call Fruit Company Packing House was located in the same area where we now have the Metro Station. All our wonderful Packing Houses have disappeared. Whata shame we did not preserve any of them! They were what made Corona “The Lemon Capital of the World,” our claim to fame as they say.
The successful lawyer, citrus grower, and well-respected citizen of Corona, died on April 1, 1913. From the Corona Independent, “A.F. Call, millionaire fruit grower of Corona, and well known all over the state as the attorney for the Citrus Protective League, was instantly killed here Tuesday morning within a few feet of his packing house when Santa Fe passenger train Number Seven westbound crushed into the auto Mr. Call was driving, instantly killing the occupant and demolishing the machine.” He was leaving his packing house to go see how the new separators were working at the Corona Lemon Company Packing House. The train engineer had failed to blow the whistle as was required when coming through a crossing.
Another article from the Corona Independent, dated April 10, 1913, entitled “250 Fruit Men Pay Respect to A. F. Call Monday” tells the story of respect so many had for him. They gathered at his home at then 177, now 1122, Grand Boulevard where he had lived with his widowed daughter-in-law (his son Merrill Asa Call died in 1904) and his granddaughter Mary, to pay tribute to a man they deeply respected. G. Harold Powell, general manager of the California Fruit Growers Exchange, offered the following: “Greatly loved, strong personality, loved to walk through his lemon and orange groves which were the finest to be found in California, prepared the brief on this tariff question presented to the Ways and Means Committee of Congress, acted as attorney for both Citrus Protective League and the California Fruit Growers Exchange, greatest work was his connections with the cooperative movement in the citrus business.”
Another speaker, C.C. Teague of Santa Paula, Manager of Limoniera Fruit Company, mentioned that he was “simply honest, had many friends, and left a document of orchard management which will be of immense value to the citrus industry.” Ethan Allen Chase, President of National Orange Company of Riverside, said of Mr. Call, “He had been the chief guide and advisor of the largest industries of the country.” The memorial ended with the song “Abide With Me” sung by Frank Collier.
On the day of the accident, Mr. Call was driving to the Call Packing House. His foreman, Allen Davis, accompanied him, but had stepped out of the car shortly before the oncoming train hit the car Mr. Call was driving. This leads to the story of the Call Ranch House. For many years, it served as the home for the foreman of the A. F. Call groves. The land was slowly sold and in more recent times became part of the Foothill Properties. Its new home at the Corona Heritage Park is quite fitting.
The Call Ranch House was built in 1904, and therefore, quite a few families have lived there, each having different and yet the same stories to tell about the Ranch House. Through the years many young people have grown up playing and working in the groves around the house. Their stories also bring meaning to the legacy of the citrus industry to the growth and spirit of Corona.
Robert Gaddie grew up in the Call Ranch House. In 1947, his father took the job as foreman for the Call Ranch and worked there until 1966. In the 19 years his family lived there, it was remodeled four times. On the ground floor only the dining room was untouched. With the exception of the sleeping porch the second floor was unchanged. He commented in his letter that Foothill Ranch was not known for paying high salaries, but they did provide excellent housing for their employees.
He mentions that it was the gardens around the house that made the place exceptional. Previous residents had brought in a number of unusual trees and shrubs. His mother, being an avid gardener, developed flowerbeds under the trees and shrubs. The gardens were the site of many church socials, barbeques, and even a wedding reception was on the grounds when he lived there.
Mr. Gaddie said growing up in the house was best described as a Tom Sawyer experience. “The house was surrounded by citrus groves. The barns north of the house provided unlimited opportunities for fun.
The immense eucalyptus trees surrounding the property were the sites of a number of tree houses. We would spend days in the summer wandering the hills east of the house.”
Traveling far across town from where it was originally built in 1904, it remains another one of many unforgotten treasures at Corona Heritage Park and Museum.
The house was soon supplied with a firm foundation thanks from a gift to the Corona Heritage Park arranged by former City Councilman Steve Nolan.
The Call Ranch House as it appears in 2020. Restoration is taking place a little at a time, and it resides in a lemon grove as it was intended a century before.
If you have photos or memories shared from your parents or grandparents, the Corona Heritage Foundation is a collector of those stories if you would want to share.
We have heard about the apple tree that bore so many apples that in season it was always overloaded. Mrs. Gaddie believed it was a Gravenstein tree and had been planted long before they moved in in the 1940s. Mr. Gaddie mentioned the tree produced much more fruit than they could use. It was available to anyone who lived on the ranch. There also was a plum, a fig and two persimmon trees.
Debbie Pitts Pederson, wrote that they moved into the Call Ranch House in 1966-67. Her dad Johnnie Pitts, was the night foremen until he retired in 1993 or 94. She remembers the grounds had to be well taken care of. “There were seven different lawns and lots of gardens and many fruit trees. The bamboo section was amazing. The house was beautiful and my mom took great pride in it. We did a lot of polishing. There were three of us girls, so we were always cleaning something or working in the yards.”
Photo of the barn at the Call Ranch back in the day.