Bell Gardens is notable for being one of the only five cities in Los Angeles County to permit casino gambling (the others being Inglewood, Gardena, Commerce and Hawaiian Gardens). Dice games and slot machines are forbidden.
Bell Gardens is located at GR1(33.968181, -118.156039).
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 44,054 people, 9,466 households, and 8,509 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,831.1/km² (17,721.3/mi²). There were 9,788 housing units at an average density of 1,517.7/km² (3,937.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 48.08% White, 0.97% Black or African American, 1.66% Native American, 0.61% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 43.88% from other races, and 4.70% from two or more races. 93.37% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 9,466 households out of which 67.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.1% were married couples living together, 19.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 10.1% were non-families. 7.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 2.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.61 and the average family size was 4.69.
In the city the population was spread out with 39.5% under the age of 18, 12.9% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 12.2% from 45 to 64, and 3.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 102.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,597, and the median income for a family was $30,419. Males had a median income of $21,151 versus $16,461 for females. The per capita income for the city was $8,415. About 25.3% of families and 27.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.5% of those under age 18 and 21.4% of those age 65 or over.
The City of Bell Gardens has a rich native Indian history dating back thousands of years. In the late 1700’s, when the area was associated with a large amount of land situated along the lower basin of the Rio Hondo area in Los Angeles County, Bell Gardens was once a bustling agricultural center for Californios during the Spanish Empire, 1509 - 1823, the Mexican government, 1823 - 1848, and the United States, after the Mexican-American war concluded in 1848. Among those early Spanish settlers was one of California’s first families, the Lugos.
In 1771 Antonio Lugo was a 35-year-old corporal in the Spanish army and was given a land grant of more than 29,514 acres, which today is known as the cities of Bell Gardens, Maywood, Vernon, Huntington Park, Walnut Park, Cudahy, South Gate, Lynwood and Commerce. The land grant was given as reward for his military service during the establishment of the Franciscan Missions in California while being the attendant of colonization for the area.
While stationed at San Antonio de Padua Mission near Salinas, California, Antonio Lugo’s son Don Antonio Maria Lugo was born in 1783. Later as a young man, Don Antonio, using this large amount of undeveloped territory given to his father, Lugo built one of the largest ranches in the history of the state of California. Don Antonio then built an adobe home on the ranch, which he named Rancho San Antonio. There, Lugo raised cattle and became one of the most respected members of the community, so much that he was given a term as Mayor of Los Angeles. He built several adobe homes within the boundaries of the grant. One of the adobe houses, built in 1795, is the oldest house in Los Angeles County and is still standing at 7000 Gage Ave.
By the time Don Antonio was in his sixties, he had amassed thousands of acres of property. Although he sold some of the land, the majority of it was lost when California became a part of the union in 1850.
One of his nine children, Vicente, married and built a two-story adobe home in 1850, located at 6360 Gage Ave. A daughter of Don Antonio Maria married Stephen C. Foster, Mayor of Los Angeles in 1854 and lived in an adobe house just east of 6820 Foster Bridge Road, now marked by a parking lot. A granddaughter of Antonio Maria Lugo married Wallace Woodworth, an early-day merchant and civic leader in Los Angeles. Their eldest son, Joseph, built a two-story colonial style house at 6820 Foster Bridge Road in 1924.
The land’s original adobe dwelling was built in 1795 and named Casa de Rancho San Antonio by Lugo. When Gage occupied the residence, he added two wings and redwood siding, installed bronze fireplaces, and imported expensive fabric wallpaper from France to serve as background for the Gage coat of arms, which enjoys a place of prominence in every room.
The Bell Garden’s school system began in 1867 when the San Antonio School was built where Bell Gardens Elementary stands today. Area farmers sent their children to the San Antonio School, which was one of the earliest educational institutions in the County of Los Angeles.
Because of the rich soil and abundant land, many Japanese immigrants are part of Bell Gardens’ early history. Japanese Gardeners leased land and farmed to produce quality vegetables for the marketplace. Rice fields also mushroomed within the city limits of Bell Gardens. With some of the richest agricultural land in the country, Bell Gardens remained a farming community until the 1930’s.
In 1927 Firestone Tire Company bought some of the land at $7,000 an acre. By 1900, Bell Gardens was divided into tracts of 40 to 100 acres. The land adjoining the city of Bell became known as Bell Gardens. In 1930, O.C. Beck purchased property and begins to build affordable homes for those suffering through the depression era.
World War I and World War II brought defense plants to the area that helped build the economic stability and the population, which led to construction of new homes, more schools, and a prosperous business climate.
Bell Gardens is a relatively young city. Since its incorporation in 1961, Bell Gardens has grown from a population of approximately 4,000 to nearly 45,000. The median age is 23.8. There are six elementary schools, two intermediate schools, one high school and two adult schools. It is 93.4 percent Hispanic, 4.7% White, 0.6% Asian, 1.7% American Indian and Alaska Native and 1.1% African American.
Today, only a 2.4 square mile city, Bell Gardens maintains only a small portion of the original Lugo land grant, which is located at the site of the Casa Mobile home Park at 7000 Gage Ave. In 1991 the park’s tenants, who own the land as well as Lugo’s original dwelling, were successful in their efforts to have Casa de San Antonio named State Historical Monument No. 984. Their effort ensures that Don Antonio Maria Lugo’s name and his historic home will be preserved for future generations of Bell Gardens residents and Californians.1
The oldest remaining house in Los Angeles is the Avila Adobe located on Olvera Street (built 1818). It is not, however, the oldest remaining house in Los Angeles County. Shane Kimbler, a Bell Gardens history enthusiast, wrote to point out that early colonist Francisco Salvador Lugo and son Antonio María Lugo began construction in 1795 on what is now known as Casa de Rancho San Antonio or the Henry Gage Mansion. The house is located at 7000 East Gage Avenue in Bell Gardens. It was built to qualify the younger Lugo, a former Spanish colonial soldier, for a land grant from the Spanish crown. In 1810, Antonio María Lugo completed the house and received the grant, naming his new grant Rancho San Antonio. The ranch eventually grew to encompass 29,513 acres, including what are now the cities of Bell Gardens, Commerce, and parts of Bell, Cudahy, Lynwood, Montebello, South Gate, Vernon and East Los Angeles. When California became part of the U.S. in 1850, Lugo, as did all recipients of Spanish/Mexican land grants, began losing portions of his land to the growing population of Anglo newcomers. The ranch adobe, however, continued to be owned and used by the Lugo family.
Don Antonio María Lugo died at the age of 85 in 1860. According to Dr. Roy Whitehead in his book Lugo, "Don Antonio Maria Lugo…rode around Los Angeles and his Rancho San Antonio in great splendor. He never adopted American dress, culture or language and still spoke only Spanish. He rode magnificent horses, sitting in his $1,500 silver trimmed saddle erect and stately, with his sword strapped to the saddle beneath his left leg…People knew him far and wide, and even the Indians sometimes named their children after him, as he was one Spanish Don that they admired."
By 1865, most of the Lugo ranch, divided among five sons and three daughters, had been sold off for as little as a dollar per acre. The original adobe ranch home, however, remained in the family. In 1880, attorney Henry Tifft Gage, a transplant from Michigan, married one of Lugo’s great granddaughters, Francis "Fanny" Rains. The original adobe ranch home was gifted to Gage as a wedding dowry and it became known as the Gage Mansion. When Gage acquired the mansion he worked very extensively to restore the heritage farmhouse of early Los Angeles. In 1898, Gage was elected to become the 20th governor of California. He served in that office from 1899 to 1903. In 1910, he was appointed by President William Howard Taft to serve as U.S. Minister to Portugal. He resigned after only one year due to his wife’s health problems. Gage lived in the abode ranch house until his death in 1924.
A century later, the Gage Mansion was all that remained of the once great Rancho San Antonio. In 1983, the Casa Mobile Home Park, a cooperative of mobile home owners renting lots on the property, purchased the land and the house from their ailing landlord. Although they were aware of the historical significance of the old house, they had no means of maintaining it. In 1987, then Bell Gardens City Councilwoman Letha Wiles began working to get the house listed on the state historical registry, making it eligible for maintenance grants. It is now listed as California Historical Site Number 984.
A small area is served by Downey Unified School District.
Fire protection in Bell Gardens is provided by the Los Angeles County Fire Department with ambulance transport by Care Ambulance Service. The LACFD operates Station #39 in Bell Gardens as a part of Battalion 3 .
The Bell Gardens Police Department provides law enforcement.
The Bicycle Casino is a large gambling establishment located in Bell Gardens. the Bicycle Casino has been the venue for several major poker tournaments including the Legends of Poker tournament and Winnin' of the Green. Considered one of the largest poker casinos in the world after expansion in the 1990s, some major players who have won tournaments here are Randy Holland and Brett Jungblut. A major facilities modernization was carried out in the mid 1990s, involving a highly credentialed design team.