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So you want to live in a city that has character?

Whittier, which stretches east-west between the 605 freeway and La Habra and lies just south of the Puente Hills, has plenty of character.

But here’s another question to consider first: What kind of character do you want? Whittier has many different kinds.

The city gets more urbanized and developed the closer you move to the 605 freeway; but if you're traveling along Greenleaf Avenue and adjacent streets (generally known as “uptown”), there's a hip, cultural atmosphere  thanks to the area’s small businesses and restaurants.

But that's not all. In the historic neighborhoods of Whittier College, there’s a small-town flavor (complete with beautiful Craftsman-style homes). In East Whittier, residents enjoy a quiet, suburban experience while other developments, like Starlite Estates and Friendly Hills, offer something far more gentrified and exclusive.

In Whittier’s case, then, it seems that a city can be all things to all people.

But that’s a far cry from what the city was like more than a century ago.

Once owned by Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California (his adobe house still sits on a small state historic park site on the city’s western edge), the land that became Whittier was settled by Quakers and became a thriving citrus community in the late 1800s.

Those early settlers paid tribute to the simplicity of their religious beliefs by naming the city after John Greenleaf Whittier, a celebrated Quaker poet who was deeply touched by this honor and even wrote a poem about it  … though he never traveled west to visit the city.

Another important figure associated with Whittier—and one who, unlike the city’s namesake, spent some time there—was the young future president Richard Nixon. Born in nearby Yorba Linda, Nixon played football at Whittier High School and attended Whittier College before launching his political career as a congressman.

According to a 2009 census, the estimated median Whittier household income of $66,000 was above the state average; the same is true of the city’s housing values, which were estimated at $430,000.

The city has its own newspaper (the long-running Whittier Daily News), and a large number of public school districts (Whittier City, East Whittier, Whittier Union High School, to name a few) and private schools (several Catholic and nondenominational Christian schools are located in the city). Higher education is offered locally by Whittier College as well as Rio Hondo Community College.

Whittier is a place with a rich, diverse heritage—something the community prides itself on, taking efforts to preserve the past even as it caters to the 85,000 people who call it home today.

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