I’ll bet you didn’t know that Claremont has a Russian Village. To tell you the truth, when I first moved here, I didn’t know it either. And when I first heard of it, I assumed it was something like “Little Tokyo” or “Korea Town”. Boy was I mistaken!
Russian Village is a small section of Claremont that is comprised of a mere 15 homes on the 300 block of South Mills Avenue. It was built during the Great Depression almost entirely by hand and almost entirely out of recycled materials like rocks (known as Claremont Potato’s around here) dug straight from the earth, discarded building materials and things found in wrecking yards.
The funny thing about Russian Village is not the way the homes look, because dispite their roughhewn appearance, most are quite charming. It is that it should probably never have been named Russian Village at all.
The original owner, creator and for the most part, builder of the site was a Polish, not Russian, immigrant named Konstanty Stys. Though these buildings have stood the test of time (and a few earthquakes) there is no evidence that Stys had any architectural, designing or building training. He was just a hardworking man who wanted to help his friends achieve some of the American Dream.
He not only helped them find the materials, design and build their homes, he sold them the land inexpensively to help them get a foothold on their future.
Now here we are, some 70+ years after the first building was constructed and Russian Village is on the National Register of Historic Places as a prime example of Folk Architecture. Still standing, still unique and still being called home by Claremont families.
For more information about Russian Village and many of the other unique and historic homes and places in and about Claremont get in touch with the Claremont Heritage (909) 621-0848 or www.ClaremontHeritage.org. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM. Pick up a copy of the Self-Guided Tour of Claremont Historic Sites or Judy Wright’s book “Claremont – A Pictorial History” (where I got a lot of the background information presented above). Oh, and be sure to tell them that you heard about them here on Route66Living.com
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