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California Genealogy and History Archives

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San Bernardino County and Riverside County

 

THE ITALIAN VINEYARD COMPANY. The world's largest vineyard is in San Bernardino County, situated at Guasti Station, three miles east of Ontario. It is a splendid example of daring enterprise and skillful executive management, and is an institution that has reflected benefits in countless ways on the county. In the first place, the vineyard occupies land that was long considered worthless desert, and is, therefore, a redemption from the wilderness. As an industry it affords employment to a great amount of capital and labor, and in every sense it is a productive and creative enterprise.

This unique institution owes its existence to Secondo Guasti. Mr. Guasti was born in Italy in 1859, was reared and educated there, and about 1881 left his native land, first going to Panama, then to Guaymas, Mexico, and finally to Los Angeles, where in 1883 he established and conducted a wholesale and retail wine business. He was in that business with his individual capital, his place being at the corner of Third and Alameda streets. As a Los Angeles business man he bought extensive quantities of grapes from growers, and had dealings with the pioneer vineyardists around Cucamonga, including Milliken and Haven. These transactions gave Mr. Guasti the original idea of organizing capital, buying and developing a large acreage, and promoting a huge vineyard and winery.

The plans after being carefully formulated in Mr. Guasti's mind for a time were put into execution in 1900 by the organization of The Italian Vineyard Company. It was incorporated with a hundred thousand dollars stock. The first purchase included fifteen hundred acres of land known as the Cucamonga Desert. A more unpromising scene for productive horticulture could hardly be conceived. The land was covered with sage brush and sand dunes, and inhabited only by the horned toad, jack-rabbit and rattlesnake. Mr. Guasti as head of the company had this tract cleared and graded and set to vines. It is on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railway, surrounding the desert station of South Cucamonga. The lands included in the great vineyard were purchased at from twenty-five to thirty dollars an acre. In 1901 the capital stock was raised to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and still later to five hundred thousand dollars. Successive land purchases were made and developed to vineyard. In 1904 the first stone and iron winery was constructed on these lands. The company now owns over four thousand acres, nearly all of it devoted to grape culture. The capacity of the winery was increased until it reached five million gallons, and was crushing from fifteen to twenty-five thousand tons of grapes each vintage. The wines produced by this company were sold throughout the United States, with branch houses at New York City, Chicago, New Orleans and Seattle, and in former years also had an immense export trade to foreign lands. The winery is known as the best equipped in California, and the company still does a modified business in the manufacture of wines for sacramental, medicinal and manufacturing purposes, and the company also makes huge quantities of pure grape syrup marketed under their special brand.

It is an industry employing all the year around a hundred and fifty men, while during the vintage season from four hundred to four hundred and fifty are on the pay roll. Much of the labor is expert and skilled. The company has developed an ample water supply for irrigation purposes, the source of the supply being five large wells equipped with Pomona deep well pumps and Layne and Bowler pumps. Each well has a capacity of from ninety to a hundred and fifty miner's inches. From the wells the water is pumped to a number of cement reservoirs, one of which has a capacity of thirteen million gallons. From these reservoirs the water is distributed by concrete pipe lines, from eight to eighteen inches in diameter, and the system is such as to afford complete regulation and ample supply for every part of the vineyard.

While this vineyard is a remarkable tribute to the push and energy and foresight of Mr. Guasti and his associates, it also serves as an object lesson to indicate the wonderful potential resources of San Bernardino and other sections of Southern California, which may awake the genius of similar men to respond with enormous additions of productive wealth for the world. The main offices of the Italian Vineyard Company areat 1234 Palmetto Street in Los Angeles. The secretary of the company is J. A. Barlotti.

 

Source:
History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011