The 137-year-old Hay Tree is Paramount’s only reminder of the city’s agricultural past. From 1930 to 1960, Paramount was known as the “Hay Capitol” of the world, producing, “enough hay to build the Washington Monument,” according to a once-popular saying.
Planted in 1883, the Hay Tree predates the city of Paramount. It was planted in the town of Hynes, which was later combined with the neighboring town of Clearwater to become Paramount. Back then, the LA area was largely rural, and dairy was a booming industry. There were more than 25,000 cows in the two towns and a slew of hay farms to feed the cattle.
So large and influential was the Hynes-Clearwater market that each morning, representatives from the hay lots would gather beneath the Hay Tree to compare prices and negotiate a median price for hay. This price was printed in major newspapers as the standard for the world.
“Paramount truly was the hay center of America and the world,” said Bob Feenstra, the former Executive Director of the California Milk Producers Council, and a farmer who ran one of the city’s last diaries.
From a glance at Paramount today, you would never know it was an agricultural hub of Southern California. Paramount Mayor Tom Hansen, who has lived in the city since 1949, said, “Change and growth here were inevitable, and having a sense of the past completes an understanding of the present.”
The only reminder of Paramount’s agricultural past is the Hay Tree. It’s large, shady canopy was once a favorite gathering spot for farmers, merchants, and truckers to trade, eat, and play cards.
In 2004, the Paramount Hay Tree was designated as a state historical landmark. Next time you’re in the area, you can visit the Hay Tree on Paramount Boulevard to learn more about our local history.