Bend City (No. 299 California Historical Landmark)
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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Bend City was one of the first mining towns to be established in the Eastern Sierra. It was also the site of the first bridge in Inyo County to span the Owens River. Today, all that remains of Bend City is piles of melted adobe bricks that served as building materials for the homes and businesses of its residents. Visitors will see large scattered stones, glass fragments and heavy nails and bars forged from iron.
Kearsarge is one of the nearest present day towns, providing a glimpse into the past of the Bend City landscape.
During its prime, Bend City and neighboring towns joined together to establish a new California county, named “Coso.” The county was never formally recognized due to late filing of legal paperwork. The people of Bend City began leaving town, seeking the more fertile land on the west side of the Owens Valley. Pauite Indian disturbances, the loss of their opportunity to create a separately identified government, and finally the devastation caused by the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake led to Bend City vanishing from the landscape.
Damage from the quake was so severe, it changed the course of the Owens River, creating no further need for the bridge crossing. The Adobe brick homes toppled during the earthquake. Harsh, dry conditions, little water and ongoing Indian hostilities, provided little incentive for anyone to keep the town alive.
The Bend City No. 299 California Historical Landmark is located along Masourka Canyon Road, 4.6 miles outside of Independence.
Inyo means “dwelling place of great spirit” in Paiute Native American language. Inyo County has many “greats.” Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States and Death Valley, the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere, are both within Inyo’s boundaries. Great earthquakes have left their mark in recent history, changing the course of the Owens River and exposing ancient sedimentary rock.
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