One of Riverside’s unique features is the historic Victoria Avenue, which owes its existence to the vision of Mathew Gage, who developed the Gage Canal that made the vast acres of orange grove plantings which came to be known as Arlington Heights possible. To help promote land sales in Arlington Heights, Matthew Gage had developed a beautiful dual carriage way road, named for Britain’s Queen Victoria and modeled after Riverside’s landmark Magnolia Avenue. Victoria Avenue was designed with a wide median, separate travel lanes for east and westbound traffic, and spacious parkways on both sides.
As land use in Arlington Heights became more residential and groves began to disappear, citizens became concerned about preserving this unique avenue as a city amenity. On June 11, 1969, Victoria Avenue was declared Cultural Heritage Landmark #8 by the Riverside Cultural Heritage Board and in October 2000, Victoria Avenue was added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
Founded in 1990, an organization dedicated to the preservation and beautification of Victoria Avenue called Victoria Avenue Forever came together to help preserve, restore and beautify Historic Victoria Avenue through community volunteer efforts, education and advocacy. Victoria Avenue Forever is a public benefit nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that raises funds for trees and other plants, organizes tree-planting and tree-care activities, and informs the public about the history and value of the plantings on the avenue. The group has established an endowment fund with The Community Foundation called the “Victoria Avenue Historic Restoration Project” to help provide for the ongoing care of Victoria Avenue.
The organization recently demonstrated its commitment to beautifying Victoria Avenue with a $1.3 million donation from the Victoria Avenue Historic Restoration Project fund, that was approved by the City Council on September 18, 2012 to help fund a Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) project that will bury utility lines along Victoria Avenue between Maude and Washington streets. This donation will significantly reduce the cost for RPU to a little less than $601,000 of the total $1.9 million for the project. The Victoria Avenue Historic Restoration Project Fund has helped fund 4 similar projects from 1995 to 2009, with the greatest contribution amounting to about $1.5 million in 2004.
According to the Press Enterprise, “putting Victoria’s electric lines underground was spearheaded by Dan Hays, brother of the late Howard H “Tim” Hays, former owner, publisher and editor of The Press-Enterprise. The Hays family also has been a major donor to the restoration project, giving about $475,000.” The Hays family was honored at the City Council meeting for their contributions and dedication to the restoration of Victoria Avenue.
The work of Victoria Avenue Forever to promote one of Riverside unique and historic roots reflects the tremendous impact collaborations across sectors can have on our community. As a result of their commitment to restore the beauty and heritage of Victoria Avenue, Riversiders can enjoy the vast tree-lined parkway and beautiful multi-use trail year-round.
Read more about the donation in the September 17, 2012 Press Enterprise Article.
Learn more about Victoria Avenue Forever and how you can get involved on the organizations website.