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Monrovia is rooted in nature and in family

Monrovia is a mix of muckraker and Mayberry. It was once home to exposé-writing Upton Sinclair. Today, older neighborhoods of moderately priced homes on tree-lined streets attract families. Called the "Gem City of the Foothills," it is bounded by the Angeles National Forest to the north, Bradbury and Duarte on the east and Arcadia to the south and west.

Drawing card

The range of housing styles and types includes California ranchers, Victorians, bungalows and contemporaries, along with condominium complexes and apartments. California classic bungalows from 1917 and earlier are a particular lure for buyers, according to Kay Erb, owner of Monrovia-based Distinctive Properties. Median prices for Monrovia in April — $327,000 for homes and $225,000 for condos — are near Los Angeles County medians for the month, reported DataQuick Information Services.

Wow factor

With the national forest as a backdrop, the city aims to keep space open for people to enjoy through its Hillside Wilderness Preserve. Development has been banned on nearly 10,700 acres of a planned goal of 11,000.

With the forest so close, there's plenty of wildlife around. Black bears in particular seem attracted to Monrovia. The Monrovia Police Department, citing the state Department of Fish and Game, said bear sightings are more frequent in Monrovia than in any other Los Angeles County city. One bear, Samson, became famous in 1994 for his penchant for lounging in backyard hot tubs. The city has made it illegal to feed the bears.

Early yearsOnce part of Azusa de Duarte and Santa Anita ranchos, Monrovia was founded in 1886 when William N. Monroe, J.D. Bicknell, J.F. Crank and E.F. Spence agreed to establish a town on their holdings. It was named for Monroe, a former Midwest railroad builder, teacher and Army officer during the Civil War.

Sinclair, whose novel "The Jungle" exposed the meatpacking industry and who ran several times for governor, bought a Spanish Colonial Revival-style home in the early 1940s. He lived there for 24 years, completing the novel "Dragon's Teeth," for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1943. His three-bedroom, 2,380-square-foot house has been designated a National Historic Landmark. It sold last year to a couple, who are preservationists, for $725,000.

Hot spots

Old Town's restaurants, tearooms, antiques stores and movie complex attract shoppers and browsers. Last year, the city established a free trolley service that links Old Town with the hotels and high-tech corridor along Huntington Drive.

Every Friday, Old Town hosts the Family Festival and Farmers Market. Produce is available, and craftspeople set out their wares. The city's annual Arts Festival as well as the Monrovia Days Parade and accompanying soapbox derby further the Mayberry atmosphere throughout the year.

Report card

Public schools are part of the Monrovia Unified School District. The 2002 Academic Performance Index scores at the five elementary schools ranged from 785 to 660 out of 1,000. Clifton Middle School scored 683, while Santa Fe Middle School scored 624. Monrovia High School scored 631.

Historical valuesSingle-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price1990...$205,000

1995...$175,000

2000...$228,500

2002...$305,000

2003*...$358,000

*year to date


Sources: DataQuick Information Services, Greatschools.com; city of Monrovia; Monrovia Chamber of Commerce.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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