Henry Arthur Westbrook was born in Pennsylvania in 1848. He started out working on a farm, but at 17, he began to learn the carpenter’s trade from his father. Het met Jane McDowell in Belle Plain, Iowa, the home of other early Riverside pioneers including the Shugarts and Lyman Waite. Henry and Jane married in 1870.
In 1871, Henry went to Chicago to help rebuild the city after the great fire. He developed lung problems and was eventually diagnosed with tuberculosis. His father-in-law, Robert McDowell, asked Henry to come to Riverside to help McDowell and his son, and Jane’s brother, William, finish the home they were building on Orange Street. Both McDowells also suffered from tuberculosis.
Henry’s health improved in the warm sunny climate and he sent for Jane and their daughter, Lucy Ada. A second daughter Lova Elda was born in 1885. Both McDowell men died from their lung problems and Henry and Jane took ownership of the house. Henry worked the 20 acres of citrus groves and vineyards behind the house at Orange and Poplar Streets.
Westbrook’s contracting business prospered and he built some of the city’s finest homes including the Ames-Westbrook (no relation) house, the M. J. Daniels House, the F. B. Devine House, the W. S. Sweatt House, the H. M. Streeter House, and the Evans Building in downtown Riverside.
Westbrook also worked with S. C. Evans as a banker, serving as vice president in the Riverside National Bank formed by Evans. He was also a director of the Riverside Water Company.
The Westbrook family loved the Orange Street home, and Henry and Jane lived there until they died, as did their married daughters. The home is considered the oldest wooden house in Riverside.