In Southern California, there are majestic avenues like Imperial Highway or Victory Boulevard. There are also romantic roads like Sunset or Laurel Canyon. For every street, there's a history. This summer, KPCC's Kitty Felde has found some of the stories you can find right under your tires.
Are there Southland street names you're curious about? Let us know by leaving a comment on any entry below.
When the Streets Had No Names
The Long and Winding Roads of Southern California
(Photo: *Checco* on Flickr.com)
Table of Contents
Las Virgenes Road
Aliso Circle/Street, Los Alisos Boulevard
La Cienega Boulevard
La Tijera Boulevard
Tujunga Canyon Boulevard
Castle Knoll Road
Alta Canyada Road
Hall Canyon Drive
Angeles Crest Highway
Pickens Canyon Road
Briggs Avenue 2
Briggs Avenue 1
Rancho Los Alamitos
Mayall Street/Monogram Avenue
Hesby Street/Hartsook Street
Harding Avenue/Harding Street/Harps Street
Paxton Avenue, Pettit Avenue, Platt Avenue, Plummer Street
Sherman Way/Hazeltine Avenue
Otis Street/Chandler Boulevard
Porter Valley Drive/Porter Ranch Drive
De Celis Place
Paloma Place/Dove Lane/Monte Mar Vista/Oceanview Drive/Avenida Antigua/Pioneer Avenue
Mountain View Place/Rolling Hills Drive/Short Street
Johnston Knolls/Hutain Street
Santa Fe Avenue and Truslow Avenue
Nicolas Street/Nicolas Way/Euclid Street
Tomato Springs Toll Plaza
La Puente Road
La Habra Boulevard
North, South, East, and West Streets
Glassell Park & Glassell Street
Spurgeon Street/McFadden Avenue
Warner Avenue/Delhi Street
Cypress Street & Cypress Avenue
Magnolia Avenue and Magnolia Via
Chavez Ravine Place
Yorba Street, Lane, Etc.
Red Hill Avenue
Boysenberry Lane & Boysen Avenue
Chapman Avenue (Fullerton)
Chapman Avenue (Orange)
Santa Maria Road
San Lorenzo Street
Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Clara Avenue
Santa Rita Street
San Miguel Street
De La Osa Street
San Ysidro Drive
San Julian Street
St. Katherine's Drive
El Centro Avenue
Hedda Street (Lakewood)
Hardwick Street (Lakewood)
Grand View (Mar Vista)
McCune Avenue (Mar Vista)
Wilshire Boulevard - Disaster Central
Wilshire Boulevard - 1930s Bonds
Wilshire Boulevard - Bullock's Department Store
Wilshire Boulevard - Miracle Mile
Sarah Place (Fullerton)
San Fernando Boulevard
Dalton Avenue/Pico House
Pioneer and Whittier
Malden, Highland, Lawrence, and Spadra (Fullerton)
Las Pulgas Road
Mamie and Nixon (Lakewood)
Los Angeles Street
Ivar and Selma
Freckles Road (Lakewood)
Leonis Boulevard (Vernon)
Florence and Central
Romaine Street and Gower Avenue in Hollywood
Lakme Avenue in Wilmington
Canal Street/Avalon Boulevard/South Park
Canal Street/Avalon Boulevard
Temescal Canyon Road
29 May, 2009
If you dig deep enough into Southern California history, you'll strike water. Settlers had to find the wet stuff if they wanted to thrive in our dry landscape. One water story can be found on a local street sign – Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas.
It's a truncated version of the name of a Spanish rancho: El Rancho de Nuestra la Reina de Las Virgenes. That translates as "the ranch of our Lady of the Virgins."
Barbara Marinacci says, "it doesn't mean 'Virgin' apparently, but it means a source of pure water."
Marinacci wrote the book "California's Spanish Place Names." She says the earliest Spanish visitors wrote a lot about places with good water. Father Juan Crespi described the Calabasas-Agoura area as "a plain of considerable extent and much beauty, forested in all parts by live oaks and much pasture and water."
Those virgin springs are still quenching thirsts in Calabasas. For more than half a century, the city's been getting its water from the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District.
29 May, 2009
She was said to be one of the most beautiful women in California. And she married two of the region's richest men. But all most people know about her is the tiny street that shares her name.
Arcadia Street runs right next to the 101 freeway in downtown Los Angeles. Barbara Marinacci says it's named for a woman whose beauty was legendary in the mid-19th century.
"Maria Francisca Paola Arcadia Bandini."
Marinacci, who wrote "California Spanish Place Names," says, "Arcadia is sort of an almost Shangri-La type of place. And it actually existed and maybe still exists in the Peloponnesian area of Greece. Very pastoral and beautiful."
At the age of 14, the beautiful Arcadia married 43-year-old merchant Abel Stearns, the richest man in Southern California. He named his downtown L.A. office building and the street that ran alongside after his wife. But Arcadia was unlucky at love. She was widowed twice and died in 1912, childless, and without a will. Her estate was valued at $7 million.
22 May, 2009
One of the upsides to "discovering" a new place is that you get to name everything there. You even get to hand out the wrong name sometimes.
There's Aliso Circle in Laguna Beach, Aliso Street in Los Angeles, and Los Alisos Boulevard in Mission Viejo. Barbara Marinacci says, "'Aliso' I believe in Spanish means 'alder tree.'"
Marinacci wrote California's Spanish Place Names. There are native red alder trees in Southern California, but Marinacci says that isn't what the early settlers meant.
"When the Spanish came into this area, starting in 1769, they named things based on what they saw."
And what they saw were the huge trees that dominated Southern California's landscape, trees that shed their bark in sheets and often lean precariously to one side.
She says, "It really was the California sycamore they were talking about."
Apparently, there wasn't a sycamore in the Spanish-English dictionary. But for California's earliest settlers, an "aliso" by any other name smelled as sweet. And provided just as much shade.
22 May, 2009
In 1769, Captain Gaspar de Portola led an expedition of more than five dozen soldiers, plus a few settlers and priests, through Southern California. It was a difficult and thirsty journey. Years later, one of those soldiers, Ygnacio Machado, was given a retirement package. Instead of a pension, Barbara Marinacci says he got land.
"That would be Rancho Aquaje de Centinela."
Marinacci wrote California's Spanish Place Names. She says Machado named his ranch in memory of his days in the military, walking the dusty paths of Southern California. And Aguaje de Centinela?
"That would be 'sentry's water hole.'"
These days, California's water comes out of a pipe instead of a hole in the ground. The aquaje is gone. But there's still a Centinela Boulevard.
22 May, 2009
In 1843, the Mexican governor gave the mayor of Los Angeles a plot of grazing land for his cattle. Alcalde Vicente Sanchez called it Rancho Cienega O Paso de La Tijera.
Rancho Cienega means "Swamp Ranch," named for the marshes and wetlands that once lay at the foot of the Baldwin Hills. But Barbara Marinacci, who wrote California Spanish Place Names," says the Rancho – and now, La Cienega Boulevard – are misspelled.
"It's spelled properly with an 'a' instead of an 'e,' so instead of Cienega, it should be Cienaga."
The rancho was sold in 1875 to California businessman "Lucky" Baldwin for $60,000. Less than two decades later, oil was discovered in the rancho, now known as Baldwin Hills. Today, oil is still pumping in Baldwin Hills – and La Cienega is still misspelled.
22 May, 2009
There's a grammar problem on street signs in Los Angeles. It involves a busy Westchester street with a name that means "scissor." Not "scissors." Just "scissor."
La Tijera Boulevard will take you from the airport to the Baldwin Hills. But you need two "tijeras" to make a pair of scissors. Barbara Marinacci, who wrote the book California Spanish Place Names, says there are several theories about La Tijera.
"Well, it could be scissors, and it could be also like a water channel, I believe, or a blade, and it comes from the name of a rancho that existed right in that area: the Rancho Cienega O Paso de La Tijera."
The name translates roughly as "Swamp Ranch or Scissor Pass." Some say the two paths that crossed the Baldwin Hills looked to early Californians like a pair of open scissors – which still doesn't explain the grammar problem. Today, those paths through the hills are known as La Tijera and La Cienega boulevards.
11 May, 2009
There's a Sparr Boulevard in Glendale.
John Newcombe says, "William Sparr was one of the pioneers of fruit."
Filmmaker John Newcombe says Sparr grew lemons and other citrus all over Southern California in the early 1900s.
"As Los Angeles started to boom, he realized the land was a heck of a lot more valuable than the boxes of fruit he was selling, so he began dicing up the land."
Newcombe, maker of the documentary "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says Sparr opened up a huge real estate office in what is now north Glendale. He sold land and built the Oakmont Golf Course.
In 1922, Sparr donated a community building to the city of Glendale. At the time, it was the only building in the area. It was used for scout groups, birthday parties, and various meetings. Groups still use the building, with its mission-style facade, for similar events today.
11 May, 2009
Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. It placed Japanese citizens and Japanese-Americans in internment camps for the duration of the war. But John Newcombe says people who suffered from lung disease couldn't go to the camps.
"You know La Crescenta used to be known for sanitariums."
Newcombe, whose documentary is "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says there were more than two dozen sanitariums in town.
"And one of them was called the Hillcrest Sanitarium at the top of Lowell. And the government sent a lot of the Japanese interned who were suffering from lung disease to La Crescenta."
A retired Quaker missionary named Herbert Nicholson volunteered at the sanitarium as a language interpreter. He ended up delivering items from pillows to pianos to the people there. After the war, the former detainees invited Nicholson to their reunions.
6 May, 2009
The Verdugo Hills Golf Course runs along Tujunga Canyon Blvd. in Tujunga. Filmmaker John Newcombe says before the fairways, there was Camp Tuna, housing for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.
"It was originally a CCC camp, and then within 24 hours of Pearl Harbor, the government turned it into what was supposed to be a temporary internment camp for pretty much all the Japanese workers that, who worked in the San Pedro fisheries."
After the war, the camp became a juvenile detention center. And then in 1960, a golf course was built on the site. Today, community activists are fighting to turn the Verdugo Hills Golf Course into a regional park rather than a condo project.
6 May, 2009
In the 1930s, there was a Hindenberg Park in La Canada, just west of Dunsmore Avenue. It was owned by the German-American League. Every weekend, there was beer, German food, and polka bands. But filmmaker John Newcombe says an American Nazi group, the German American Bund, started crashing events at the park. They staged rallies and waved flags with swastikas.
"At one point, they had a torchlight parade with 2,000 attendees, and they used to fly over the Crescenta/Canada Valley and drop off these Nationalist Socialist pro-Nazi leaflets."
Newcombe, whose documentary is "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says the Bund didn't get a lot of support.
"A lot of locals really, really didn't appreciate them being there at all. So they took a cue from the Nazis and flew over that rally and dropped anti-Nazi leaflets on their rally."
Once the U.S. entered the war, the Bund disappeared. But German festivals continued in Hindenberg Park. Southern California's first Oktoberfest was celebrated there in 1956. The park still hosts more informal gatherings today. It's now known as Crescenta Valley Park.
24 April, 2009
Castle Knoll Road is named for a castle built almost a century ago in La Canada-Flintridge. Lieutenant Governor Albert Wallace built it, but quickly sold it to multimillionaire real estate developer Frank Strong. Documentary filmmaker John Newcombe says Strong had a wandering eye.
"He was a real philanderer and his wife got really mad at him when he went off to a convention in Chicago with some other women, and she painted the castle bright pink as revenge."
The Chicago convention Strong attended was the 1920 Republican National Convention. Strong's good friend, Ohio newspaperman-turned-politician Warren Harding, was nominated for president, and won the election.
It was a convention trip Strong would never forget. That bright pink castle was a daily reminder for the rest of his life – and beyond. It stayed that color for 70 years.
24 April, 2009
There's a Castle Road in La Canada. And yes, it really is named for a castle. Filmmaker John Newcombe says it was built on the estate of California political royalty.
"In 1911, the lieutenant governor of the state moved here. His name was Albert Wallace. He was a Methodist minister and he decided to build a castle here in La Canada."
Newcombe says it was patterned after the Scottish summer home built by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. But as stately as it was, Lieutenant Governor Wallace's wife hated living there. She detested the rural lifestyle of early La Canada and insisted on moving. Just three years after it was completed, Wallace sold his dream castle.
17 April, 2009
As you'd expect, there's a Montrose Avenue in Montrose. The name didn't come from the two men who developed the Crescenta Valley land. Filmmaker John Newcombe says their names were Walton and Holmes.
"I think only Walton ever came up here because Holmes was so allergic to poison oak that the first time he visited, his eyes shut or something, and so he fled and never came back. Only developed Montrose on paper."
Walton and Holmes didn't have a name for their city, so they sponsored a contest. The winner was a homesick lieutenant governor who named it after his hometown in Pennsylvania.
Newcombe, whose documentary is called "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says there is a rose in Montrose, though you can only see it from the air. The developers laid out the streets in circles to resemble the famous flower.
17 April, 2009
Earl Drive in La Canada/Flintridge is named after Edwin Earl. Filmmaker John Newcombe says Earl was a rich landowner and businessman in Southern California at the turn of the last century.
"He had made millions inventing or patenting the refrigerated rail car. He then went into the newspaper business."
Newcombe produced the documentary film "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now." He says at the start of the 20th century, Edwin Earl bought the Los Angeles Express newspaper. He later started a morning paper – the Los Angeles Tribune.
Earl and L.A. Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis got into a public tiff over a Times story about "a coterie of Long Beach men whose unnatural tendencies caused them to make advances to other men."
Thirty defendants paid fines to avoid publicity. One pled "not guilty" and went on trial. Edwin Earl thought publishing the story before any convictions was exploitative, saying his papers would "throw such matter in the wastebasket." The battle escalated to a libel suit that Earl won. But his newspapers lost the circulation war.
13 April, 2009
There's a badly-spelled street in La Canada called Alta Canyada Road. Filmmaker John Newcombe says that was the name of the Hall family's ranch.
Newcombe produced the documentary "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now." He says in the 1890s, brothers Tom and Sam Hall teamed up for the battle of La Canada. A group of students had begun using the schoolhouse for Saturday night dances.
"There was a split in La Canada where the town split in half over the issue of whether they were going to allow dancing in the schools. And this was the waltz, we're talking. But a lot of them considered it immoral."
Especially since the building where the dances were held also housed the town's only church. The Hall brothers were on the pro-dance side. Sam even provided some of the music. A vote would decide the issue.
Just before the polls closed, Tom pulled up in a wagon filled with his Mexican ranch hands. He insisted they be allowed to cast ballots – and they did. The waltz won, but the town split into La Canada and La Crescenta.
13 April, 2009
Hall Canyon Drive in La Canada is named after one of the town's earliest residents. Filmmaker John Newcombe says, "his name was Colonel Thomas Hall."
Newcombe, who produced the documentary "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says Colonel Hall came to California during the gold rush. A decade later, he fought for the Union in the Civil War.
He revered General George McClelland and named his son Tom McClelland Hall. But the boy suffered from a lung disease. So in 1872, his father brought him to Southern California for his health.
"But he was disheartened by the marine layer. He must have come in the spring or something and found that just as bad or worse. And then somebody told him you've got to go to this place called La Canada because the marine layer stops right before it gets to La Canada. Which is really true."
Young Tom thrived. He grew up to become the area's first sheriff, one of its first firefighters, and justice of the peace in one of the most contentious battles in La Canada: a war over the waltz that split the town in two.
3 April, 2009
There was an old growth forest in the San Gabriel Mountains, full of big cone Douglas Firs. One of the early settlers in the foothills below, Colonel Theodore Pickens, sold five square miles of it for logging. Chinese laborers were sent in to chop down the trees.
With the trees gone, the winter rains sent boulders and mudslides tumbling down the canyons. Filmmaker John Newcombe, whose documentary is called "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says folks below the Pickens property signed petitions to save the forest.
"The federal government under Benjamin Harrison declared the mountains off limits to logging. They created the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve. That's technically the nation's first national forest."
President Theodore Roosevelt later changed the name of that reserve to the Angeles National Forest. Angeles Crest Highway takes you up to that "timberland reserve."
3 April, 2009
There's a Pickens Canyon Road in La Crescenta. Filmmaker John Newcombe says there's a lot of things named for Colonel Theodore Pickens.
"Pickens Canyon, Pickens Wash, and there's a Mt. Pickens."
Pickens was born in Kentucky. But when the Civil War broke out, he spurned the South and joined the Union Army. It didn't work out. His southern-born wife divorced him and a gunshot to his wrist during basic training ended his military career.
Pickens moved to California for his health. He squatted on land in what's now La Crescenta, dammed up the river, and told real estate developer Jacob Lanterman he'd have to pay through the nose for the water. John Newcombe, whose documentary is called "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says Lanterman sent his wife to negotiate.
"She went up with a shotgun, put a shotgun to Pickens' head and said, 'You're going to sell me these water rights before I leave this cabin.'"
Mrs. Lanterman got the water. Pickens got $500 in gold – and a chance to live another day. Residents of La Crescenta still tap into water from Pickens Canyon.
27 March, 2009
Gould Avenue runs through La Canada. It marked the entrance to a 1,100 acre ranch once owned by attorney Will D. Gould. Gould's most famous case involved the two founders of the town of La Canada, Dr. Jacob Lanterman and Adolfus Williams. Filmmaker John Newcombe – who made the documentary "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now" – says Williams and Lanterman hoped to strike it rich in real estate.
"Williams was very incompetent at surveying the lots apparently, and so he started selling off Lanterman's land and so Lanterman said, 'You gotta stop doing this!' And he wouldn't listen. He just kept doing it. Finally he just took him to court. Well, Will D. Gould defended Williams."
Gould won the 1896 legal case, but Lanterman appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and won. Williams died of tuberculosis. Gould planted a row of eucalyptus trees in front of his ranch. You can still see many of them today on your way to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the hills above Pasadena.
27 March, 2009
There's a street near the 210 Freeway in the San Gabriel Valley called Foothill Boulevard. Filmmaker John Newcombe says it used to be called something else.
"Foothill in La Canada and La Crescenta was originally called Michigan."
Newcombe's documentary is called "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now." He says Dr. Jacob Lanterman, a dentist, and Civil War veteran Adolphus Williams came out west from Lansing, Michigan. They bought 5,800 acres of the old Rancho for $10,000 and hoped to make a fortune by selling off lots. Newcombe says they honored their home state with a street.
"It was renamed Foothill in 1936 when the state took over the road and they wanted to align it with all of that major road that goes through all of the foothills."
Michigan Street was gone – years after the friendship between Lanterman and Williams vanished.
16 March, 2009
Benjamin Briggs made a fortune growing fruit trees in central California. Some say he launched the state's citrus industry. It looked like he had it all – until his wife died of tuberculosis.
Filmmaker John Newcombe, whose documentary "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now" tells the tale of Briggs, says the farmer abandoned his trees and became a doctor.
"Briggs became obsessed with the idea of curing tuberculosis. He started to search for the perfect climate where he could build a sanitarium and heal tubercular patients."
Briggs found that climate in La Canada, where he built a sanitarium. He also built a house at the top of the street that now bears his name. And as he looked out over the trees fanned out like a crescent below, he named the area "La Crescenta."
Briggs' story has an unhappy ending. At the age of 66, he decided to undergo an operation to remove a bullet from an old wound he'd suffered long ago. Briggs had lived for decades with that bullet lodged near his spine. He did not live through the operation to take it out.
16 March, 2009
There's a Briggs Avenue in La Canada. Filmmaker John Newcombe knows it well.
"Briggs is named after Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs who came to California at the age of 22 for the gold rush."
Newcombe's documentary is called "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now." He says instead of gold, Benjamin Briggs discovered lead.
"While near Salt Lake City, he was accidentally shot through the lung and the bullet imbedded into his spine. And they bled him and they thought he was going to die. But when they arrived in California, he got up."
While his brothers looked for gold, Benjamin Briggs stared at the soil. A little study told him it would be good for citrus, so he persuaded his siblings to travel to South America for fruit stock. They planted orchards near the gold fields in the Sacramento Valley, and later moved south to Santa Paula.
Citrus paid off. Brother George became one of the state's first millionaires. Benjamin Briggs ended up in La Canada – but not to plant more orchards. Read on to find out the rest of the Street Story.
10 March, 2009
In our secular age, it's sometimes hard to remember that California's founding fathers were often very religious people. You can find one biblical reference on a Northridge street sign.
Zelzah Avenue is one of the most colorful street names in the San Fernando Valley. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says it's also one of the oldest streets.
"It was part of a 19th century wagon route from San Fernando to the old Hawk Ranch, which became the town of Zelzah, which is now Northridge."
Zelzah was a depot town for the Southern Pacific railroad. The name "Zelzah" comes from the Bible, but scholars disagree about its meaning.
Some say it's the place where Samuel told Saul to go meet a couple of guys who had news about some lost asses. Other scholars say the name simply means noon. Given the street's railroad roots, either translation would be appropriate.
10 March, 2009
Woodley Avenue is named for Frank Erwin Woodley. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says Woodley was many things, but was primarily known as a career politician.
"He was a county supervisor and state legislator."
Woodley came west from Wisconsin after finding the law and the cold Midwest winters were bad for his health. He settled in Riverside, then in Porterville to raise oranges. Frank Woodley dabbled in mining. He organized a water system for the area.
Eventually, Woodley headed off to Sacramento to serve in the state legislature. In 1914, California's progressive governor Hiram Johnson appointed him to fill out the term of a county supervisor in Los Angeles, where Woodley had never lived!
But his constituents didn't seem to mind his carpetbagger credentials. They re-elected Frank Woodley to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, where he continued to serve until 1926.
2 March, 2009
Just about every town in America has an Oak Street. Van Nuys used to have one. Take Whitsett Avenue in the San Fernando Valley. Bill Robertson says it was "named after William P. Whitsett. People refer to him as the father of Van Nuys."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. He says Whitsett "was a major land developer and water official in Los Angeles."
But before it was Whitsett, it was Encino Avenue. Robertson says "Encino" is Spanish for oak.
"When Portola and his group first crested the Sepulveda Pass and dropped into the Valley, that was one of the first things they noticed was the abundance of oak trees and tall grass."
Good thing they liked the oaks. If California's first Spanish visitors had been more impressed by the weeds, Whitsett Avenue might have been called Hierba Grande.
2 March, 2009
If you want to get a street named after you, you could be a land baron or a big wheel in business. Or you could be the postmaster. Bill Robertson says that explains Weddington Street in North Hollywood.
"The Weddingtons were a pioneer family in the town of Lankershim, of course now North Hollywood."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. He says in 1890, Wilson C. Weddington came out from Iowa to visit his sister. She lived in a rural area now known as North Hollywood. Weddington liked it there so much that he bought some property.
Three years later, he was appointed postmaster – a job he kept for 22 years. He also bought a general store – and called it Weddington Brothers.
In 1911, Postmaster Weddington helped drive the golden spike into the last set of tracks on the day the electric-powered Red Car rail line began service to the San Fernando Valley. Weddington was so respected in the community that when he died in 1923, the local business district shuts its doors for an hour in his honor.
20 February, 2009
In England, Runnymede was a meadow where Anglo-Saxon kings would meet. In the San Fernando Valley, Runnymede was a farm where chickens could roost. Bill Robertson says, "Runnymede Street was named after Runnymede Farms. Again, one of the poultry breeding colonies in Reseda and the Tarzana area."
And not just any breeding colony. Runnymede was owned by Charles Weeks, the man who spurned "free range" chicken farming. Weeks grew up on a farm in Indiana. Later, he owned restaurants in Chicago and New York.
One day, he dropped by a poultry show, and as one press story reported, "The cackles of the high grade fowls awakened memories of earlier days, and he decided to embark in poultry raising."
Weeks moved to California in 1904 to raise chickens on a mass scale. His book "Egg Farming in California" showed farmers with small plots of land how to raise lots of chickens that produce lots of eggs.
20 February, 2009
There's a Shoup Avenue in Canoga Park. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says it's named after Paul Shoup, "who was the vice president of the Southern Pacific Railroad and president of the Pacific Electric Railway Company."
Shoup was a California native, born in San Bernadino in 1874. He started out in the newspaper business, delivering papers and reporting local news while still in high school.
After graduation, Shoup began a 47 year career with the Southern Pacific Railroad, working his way up from ticket clerk to president of the company's electric railway system. He was head of an employers group organized to "fight racketeering in labor relations."
Along the way, Shoup kept writing, publishing numerous stories and articles. He wrote many of the earliest stories published in a promotional magazine put out by the railroad. That monthly is still around – it's "Sunset" magazine.
13 February, 2009
One of the oldest Spanish structures in southern California is an adobe in Long Beach. It was built in 1804 on a working ranch known as Rancho Los Alamitos.
Pamela Seager says, "Rancho Los Alamitos means Ranch of the Little Cottonwoods. And so it was named because of the cottonwoods that grow in the riparian areas because there was water."
Seager is executive director of the Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation. She says the cottonwoods were the only trees around. There wasn't extra lumber to put up corrals, so the adobe at the Rancho was used as a cattle pen and a bunkhouse for the vaqueros.
The main ranch house was about 20 miles to the north in what's now Whittier, too far away for the vaqueros to make back before the sun went down. So instead, the cowboys and the cows would spend the night in the adobe among the cottonwoods.
13 February, 2009
There's a Nieto Avenue in Long Beach. Pamela Seager says, "Nieto is named for Manual Nieto who was the first land grantee at the ranch under Spanish rule."
Seager is executive director of the Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation. She says Nieto was a corporal in the Spanish army more than two centuries ago. He traveled with the Portola expedition through California. Instead of a pension, he hit pay dirt.
She says, "In 1790, he received 300,000 acres of land. Essentially a land grantee was not given the land, but was holding it on behalf of the Native Americans until they were sufficiently acculturated supposedly to take over the land. That didn't happen."
Long Beach was Nieto's second choice, but not a bad one. There was plenty of water for crops and cattle. To settle land disputes, Nieto's son Juan sold off his share of the rancho in 1804 to the Mexican governor of California Jose Figueroa. The price? About 2 cents an acre.
13 February, 2009
The Cold War came to the San Fernando Valley in September of 1959 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev paid a visit to Southern California.
Rinaldi Street seems like an unlikely place to take the leader of the Communist world. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says it's an ordinary street.
"It was simply named after the ranch owner Karl R. Rinaldi. He was a citrus grower in the late 1890s up in that area, Granada Hills and Mission Hills."
Rinaldi Street's real fame came 50 years ago. In 1959, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev toured Southern California and wanted to go to Disneyland. But local police worried about security. Disneyland was a "nyet."
How about a trip to suburbia? Khrushchev was taken to the "magic kingdom" in the Valley – a new tract home in the 16,000 block of Rinaldi. The premier was not happy. It was a hot day. He simmered like a pot of borscht and never got out of the car.
He complained, "This development causes me bitter regret. I thought I could come here as a free man." And the Cold War continued for another 30 years.
13 February, 2009
Oxnard Street runs through North Hollywood. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says both the street and the city south of Santa Barbara honor the same man.
"Oxnard Street was named for Henry T. Oxnard. He was a sugar beet magnate in the Ventura County area. Name dates from about 1916 when the Valley was developing into a major beet producer itself."
Oxnard and his three brothers ran the American Beet Sugar Company, with half a dozen processing plants around the country, including Chino and Oxnard. The Southern Pacific Railroad laid tracks right to the factory door. That's why today Amtrak jogs to one side going through Oxnard.
But Henry Oxnard never lived in the town that carries his name. He didn't even want to call it Oxnard. He preferred the Greek word for "sugar."
Bureaucrats in Sacramento had to approve the new name, but the phone line was lousy. Oxnard got frustrated repeating the name over and over again. Finally, the story goes, he said: "Just name it after me."
6 February, 2009
Bill Robertson loves L.A. streets. He should. He's director of the city's Bureau of Street Services. He even loves the names.
"And this one is unusual – Orion Avenue. Named in 1917 for an encampment of the International Order of Odd Fellows."
But don't start picturing grassy meadows filled with tents and campfires. "Encampment" refers to a particular level within the fraternal organization.
Odd Fellows likely got their name in England, where working class men gathered for "fellowship and mutual help" – such a violation of trends of the era that they were thought peculiar. L.A.'s first Odd Fellow lodge was organized in 1854, the same year L.A.'s first Masonic lodge received its charter – and the same year that bull fighting was outlawed within city limits.
6 February, 2009
A hundred years ago, the San Fernando Valley was covered by farms – not freeways. But that farming legacy is remembered in one Valley street sign – there's a Moorpark Street in North Hollywood. Bill Robertson says, "It's actually named after an English variety of apricots."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services.
"And, of course, apricots is one of the main crops in early North Hollywood. And Moorpark got its name in 1917. It was originally Second Street."
The Moorpark resembles a small yellow peach – good for drying, but lousy for canned apricots. Its formal name is Prunus Armeniaca, which is a little bit long for a North Hollywood street sign.
23 January, 2009
You can trace the development of the San Fernando Valley by names on its streets. There's a Mayall near Chatsworth High School. Bill Robertson says, "Mayall Street was named in 1924 after the surveyor Robert Mayall."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. He says, "this one I find interesting 'cause it's one of the older name changes. Monogram Avenue was actually named for the Monogram homebuilders that were one of the major developers in the Valley boom right after World War II."
And what a boom it was. More than three-quarters of all the new subdivisions that sprang up across L.A. between 1945 and 1950 were located in the San Fernando Valley.
23 January, 2009
There's an avenue in Van Nuys that honors a dentist who came to Southern California from the Midwest. But his skill with a drill isn't why Langdon Avenue bears the dentist's name.
Bill Robertson says Langdon Avenue is "named after Dr. Frederick Langdon, who was a Los Angeles city councilman from 1911 to 1923."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. Wisconsin native Frederick Langdon started his dental practice in Iowa. Bad health forced him to move his young family to Los Angeles near the start of the 20th Century. But even in those days, L.A.'s air wasn't clean enough to keep the good doctor healthy.
He quit his practice and found another line of work: head of the Long Beach Salt Company. Dr. Langdon then turned to an indoor career: politics, where he found the air inside L.A. City Hall much more to his liking.
16 January, 2009
There isn't a person named "Hayvenhurst" – but there is a "Hay." Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says Hayvenhurst Avenue and Hayvenhurst mansion are named for the same man.
"Hayvenhurst was the estate of Encino subdivider William Hamilton Hay."
William Hamilton was better known as realtor "Billy Hay." He drew the streets and carved out the subdivisions in the early days of Encino. In the 1970s, a musical family moved from Gary, Indiana to Encino, bought a mansion on a five-acre lot, and called it Hayvenhurst.
The Jackson children, including Michael and Janet, grew up there. A replica of Michael's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is outside the front door. His parents still live in the house. Papa Joe Jackson has started a clothing company called Hayvenhurst, further spreading the fame of that early Encino real estate tycoon.
16 January, 2009
There's a Hesby Street in Studio City, close by where the 101 and 405 meet. Two blocks from Hesby, there's a Hartsook Street. And therein lies a love story.
Bill Robertson says, "Fred Hartsook was a photographer and rancher near the town of Lankershim."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. He says before Lankershim became North Hollywood and before Fred Hartsook became a rancher, he was an itinerant shutterbug. Hartsook wandered all over the state, his team of mules pulling a homemade darkroom.
Hartsook eventually had 30 photography studios in California. In San Francisco, he met the love of his life: Bess Hesby. In 1915, she was crowned the Queen of the Pan Pacific Exposition.
Their honeymoon cabin in the redwoods of Humboldt County became the Hartsook Inn, where Mary Pickford, Bing Crosby and other luminaries were among the visitors. But Fred and Bess spent much of their married life in the San Fernando Valley, not far from the streets that now carry their names: Hesby and Hartsook.
9 January, 2009
With only 24,000 inhabitants, San Fernando is one of the smallest cities in Southern California. It's also one of the oldest, founded in 1874. Two streets in San Fernando honor the men who built the city.
In those early days, you could get a lot in town for $10. Two years later when the railroad arrived, prices skyrocketed to an astounding 150 bucks. Of course, if you wanted to sell real estate, you had to get somebody to map the land. Bill Robertson says, "Henry Harding was the original surveyor for the original subdivision of San Fernando. So he got a street named after himself."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. The San Fernando surveyor actually got two streets named for him: Harding Avenue and Harding Street in San Fernando. Of course, once you have streets, you need the houses.
"And then we have Harps Street. Named for Jacob Harps. He was actually the first builder in San Fernando, the city of San Fernando."
San Fernando had something its neighboring Valley towns did not: its own water supply. That allowed San Fernando to remain independent from Los Angeles, unlike other Valley towns that traded their autonomy for the guarantee of water from the L.A. Aqueduct.
9 January, 2009
Everybody knows about Colonel Sanders. But do you know about Charles Weeks? The chickens sure do.
In 1920, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce invited a pioneering rancher from Northern California to come to the San Fernando Valley and try out his water-saving method of raising chickens. Charles Weeks is credited with doing away with free range chickens.
He confined his birds to coops, making it possible for farmers to raise chickens on small plots of land. The method caught on, and egg farms sprouted all over the Valley.
Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says the San Fernando Valley's chicken legacy is commemorated on a Northridge street sign.
"Fullerfarm Street was named after the Fuller Poultry Colony. It was just east of Zelzah Avenue and south of Devonshire back in the 1920s."
The Great Depression hit poultry farmers hard. Many went bankrupt. Charles Weeks gave up chickens and moved to Florida to raise papayas.
This past November, California voters rejected Charles Weeks' innovative way to boost egg production. They passed Proposition 2, which requires chicken farmers to give hens enough room to stretch their legs.
2 January, 2009
Corbin Avenue is one of the longest streets in the San Fernando Valley. You can drive it from just above Ventura Boulevard all the way north to Tarzana. Just as long is the history behind Corbin. Who was he?
Bill Robertson says, "W. H. Corbin was a Valley grain dealer."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. He says the street was originally called Pine, but that changed in 1917. Someone apparently spread some gold around at City Hall and Pine suddenly became Corbin.
"It's pretty tough to get a name changed on a street these days," he says. "It's a quite lengthy process. Well, back in those days, it was just contacting somebody at City Hall and say 'I need to change this name,' and if you had the influence, I'm sure it was a done deal and they got it through."
Back then, L.A.'s streets weren't paved with gold, but the street names were.
2 January, 2009
There's a Raymer Street in Northridge. Bill Robertson says,
"Raymer was originally the name of a train station which opened in 1898 on the Southern Pacific rail line across the Valley."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. He says the train was vital for the San Fernando Valley's farmers and miners.
"Back in those early days, they were hauling aggregate stone and certainly wheat, a lot of wheat. And then, of course, as the orchards were developed, the apricot and orange, I'm sure a lot of produce was going up and down the coast along that rail line."
Today, both freight trains and Metrolink travel those same tracks, just steps away from Raymer Street.
26 December, 2008
This street story is brought to you by the letter "P."
Pay close attention, if you please
To San Fernando Valley streets that start with Ps.
Valley planner Charles Maclay lived a charmed life.
"Paxton Avenue was actually named after his wife."
Bill Robertson runs street services L.A.
He says the Valley was farmland back in the day.
"Pettit Avenue. It was named for William J. Pettit. He was a farmer along the Los Angeles River in Encino."
So dry there, he'd been better off gambling in Reno.
"Platt Avenue. George E. Platt was a Los Angeles dairyman and he ran the Platt Ranch."
Name a street after yourself? These ranchers wouldn't blanch.
"Plummer Street. John Plumber just happened to own a ranch along a street near Sepulveda Blvd. And that's how Plummer got its name."
Plummer Park's farmers market is its claim to fame.
But enough of these street stories with verse a bit too free.
26 December, 2008
With Disney Hall and L.A. Live, there's finally something to Downtown Los Angeles. But it's taken more than a century to happen. The city father who preached the suburban vision of L.A. is remembered by a street in the San Fernando Valley.
The street is called Whitnall Highway. Gordon Whitnall was L.A.'s Planning Director in the early 20th century. Today, Bill Robertson is director of L.A.'s Department of Street Services.
He says, "It's a divided street. If you've ever been on Whitnall Highway, there's kind of a north and a south and in between there this big plot of land which we now have power lines going down. It was actually laid out to be like a beautiful parkway where people could utilize it. Unfortunately, the plan never happened."
From 1913 until the Great Depression, Gordon Whitnall carved out his vision for a decentralized L.A. But Robertson says he didn't live long enough to see his dream for Whitnall Highway come true.
"Finally, after years and years, we're finally utilizing some of that land for dog parks and other facilities that the community uses. So, ya know, almost a hundred years after they planned it, we're finally seeing some of the use that they had in mind."
Gordon Whitnall died in 1977.
(Airdate for this story: 12/27/08)
19 December, 2008
It's rare when a street truly reflects its legendary namesake. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says one street does.
Bill Robertson: "Mulholland Drive, of course, after the famous engineer William Mulholland."
Mulholland was born in Ireland, fought the Apache in Arizona, and then got a job as a ditch-cleaner for an L.A. water company. In eight years, the self-educated engineer was the water company's boss. He convinced city leaders that bringing water south from the far-away Owens Valley was vital to agriculture in the San Fernando Valley.
Robertson says, "And it's funny: Mulholland Boulevard still has dirt sections. There's still dirt when you get out in the far West Valley. There's folks out there that never want that street paved. It's just part of history."
But the Valley's rural roots became mostly that: history. William Mulholland's water, meant to grow crops, instead helped a population boom take root in the San Fernando Valley.
(Airdate for this story: 12/21/08)
19 December, 2008
When towns like Van Nuys and Lankershim became part of Los Angeles, some street names had to change so they didn’t conflict with L.A. roads. 7th changed its name to Leesdale to match up with a street out in the West Valley beet fields.
But a Valley booster group called the Leesdale Improvement Association had big plans. They envisioned Leesdale as an 80-foot-wide boulevard, and they asked the city to change its name.
Bill Robertson, director of L.A.’s Bureau of Street Services, says the name they chose was “Victory.”
Bill Robertson: “Victory Boulevard was named for the World War I veterans and the victory in that war, and that goes back to about 1924, is when Victory was named.”
Victory Boulevard wasn’t L.A.’s only tribute to the fighting men of the Great War. A week after the fighting stopped in November 1918, a downtown park was renamed in honor of General John “Black Jack” Pershing: Pershing Square.
(Airdate for this story: 12/20/08)
12 December, 2008
Ventura Boulevard was famous long before the band America called it a highway and sang about it in 1972. Bill Robertson says, "It is the oldest continuous use highway in Los Angeles."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services.
He says, "And naturally – and I'm talking about going back to the days of the Tongva Indians and the Chumash, the missions being settled, of course El Camino Real, the King's Highway, that was Ventura Boulevard. That was the main path highway leading up the coast into Ventura County."
The road led to Mission San Buenaventura, founded by Father Serra. The name means "good fortune" and it comes from St. Bonaventure, the 13th century Franciscan priest who ranks among the Catholic Church's great scholars and theologians.
12 December, 2008
Building your house out of whatever you can find close by made a lot of sense a hundred years ago. Take Sun Valley, for instance. It's near the foot of the Verdugo Mountains, where winter storms wash rocks and boulders down into the wash. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says there's a street in Sun Valley that explains it all:
"Stonehurst. Most of the homes were built out of stones because of the river rock that was available up there, so it just made sense. That's the road that leads to all the rock homes, so we'll just call it Stonehurst."
There are nearly a hundred homes in Sun Valley built mainly between 1923 and 1925 by Dan Montelongo, a local stonemason. The Stonehurst neighborhood boasts L.A.'s highest concentration of homes built mainly from local river rock. Their craftsman-like style has been dubbed "Stonemason Vernacular."
5 December, 2008
There's a Vanowen Street in the San Fernando Valley. Bill Robertson says he's always wondered himself about that name.
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. He says, "When you look at the history, you had pretty much two towns: there was Van Nuys, and then out in the far west valley was the town of Owensmouth. And so, Van Owen."
Owensmouth was founded in 1912. It got its name from "L.A. Times" owner Harrison Otis. He was counting on the nearby Owens River Aqueduct to help him sell real estate.
Owensmouth developers threw a big barbeque to help sell town lots, but a big dust storm put a damper on the day. Owensmouth survived, though today it's known as Canoga Park.
5 December, 2008
There's no Batman Boulevard or Superman Way in Southern California – but there is at least one big street named for an adventure hero: Tarzana.
The city of Tarzana used to have an equally poetic name: Mille Flores – a thousand flowers. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says that's the name newspaper boss and landowner Harrison Otis gave his San Fernando Valley ranch.
"He sold that little plot of land to a guy named Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan fame."
"Tarzan of the Apes" was first published in All-Story Magazine in 1912. Burroughs got $700 for it – and lots of rejections from book publishers. When the Tarzan story finally came out in hardback in 1914, it was a best seller.
A Tarzan movie – the first of dozens of Tarzan films – premiered four years later. A year after that, Edgar Rice Burroughs bought the Mille Flores ranch and started selling home sites. In 1930, the town got a post office and the locals voted on its name: Tarzana.
5 December, 2008
Some people call Brand Boulevard in Glendale the Boulevard of Cars for all the auto dealerships lined up there. But the man for whom the street is named made his money on an electric railway system – and spent some of his money on his own private airfield.
The head of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, Bill Robertson, says Brand Avenue is one of the better-known streets in Southern California.
"We all know Brand runs through Glendale and up into the San Fernando area of town. That was actually named after Leslie Brand. He was a street car magnate and developer who lived in the Glendale area."
Brand helped bring the electric railway to Glendale. In 1893, he visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and fell in love with the East Indian Pavilion, full of arches and domes and minarets. He returned to Glendale and, in 1904, built a version he called El Miradero. Today, that building houses the city's library.
5 December, 2008
There are actually two streets named for Moses Hazeltine Sherman: Sherman Way and Hazeltine Avenue. Bill Robertson says, "He was a big developer and a sub-divider of property that he owned." Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services.
He says Moses Sherman made his mark in more than real estate. Sherman – a onetime school teacher from Vermont – survived a dramatic shipwreck off Cuba, became superintendent of schools for the territory of Arizona, and then in 1890, invested in L.A.'s first electric railway.
His name turns up elsewhere around town: Sherman Oaks was named in his honor. And the city of West Hollywood was originally called Sherman.
19 November, 2008
These days, the LA Times is struggling to put out a newspaper. But a century ago, the owners of the paper had big plans for Los Angeles: expand its borders to the San Fernando Valley.
It's hard to imagine today, but Bill Robertson says, a hundred years ago, the San Fernando Valley was quiet farmland.
"In 1900, there was still less than 3,000 people in the whole valley."
Robertson directs L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services.
He says, "It wasn't until 1909 that we really start to see things take off in the Valley when the owner of the LA Times, Harrison Gray Otis, and his son-in-law, Harry Chandler – we have an Otis Street and we have of course Chandler Boulevard – they bought over 47,000 acres in the Valley. They were the first ones. They didn't plan to be farmers. They planned to sell lots and build towns."
The Valley's population today is nearly 1.8 million, larger than every other U.S. city except New York, Chicago, Houston, and of course, the rest of Los Angeles.
19 November, 2008
There are lots of ways to divide property. Sometimes a small creek serves as a natural dividing line. A fence can do the job, too. Bill Robertson at L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services says when the old San Fernando Mission lands were divided in 1869, a tractor and a plow made the line.
"There was a furrow cut along the Valley floor that stretched all across the Valley. And that was the dividing line between the ranches of Lankershim and De Celis. That furrow is now called Roscoe Boulevard. That was the dividing line for the valley."
Agriculture was king in the Valley until the 20th century when growing suburbs became more profitable than growing wheat.
19 November, 2008
In 1874, State Senator Charles Maclay purchased most of the San Fernando Valley. He bought it with railroad baron Leland Stanford's money. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says Maclay chose the eastern half of the Valley.
"And then there was two relatives that bought the western half of the Valley. And that of course was the Porter family – Benjamin Porter and then his cousin George Porter. They created the Porter Ranch, which of course we now know as the Porter Ranch, Northridge, Chatsworth area of the valley."
The Porters were farmers who grew wheat mostly. Maclay and the Porter brothers dissolved their partnership in 1888, with Benjamin Porter taking the land west of Aliso Canyon, George the center part, and Maclay keeping the eastern section, from San Fernando to Sun Valley. Today, there's a Porter Valley Drive and a Porter Ranch Drive.
19 November, 2008
Charles Maclay was a Methodist minister who made his first fortune in what we now know as the Silicon Valley. He had the gift of gab. In the 1860s, Maclay went into state politics – serving in the Assembly and the State Senate.
But he kept changing his party. First a Republican, then an Independent, then finally a Democrat. One newspaper opined: "there are kinks and quirks in human character that would bother a philoscopic angel to unravel."
Maclay went broke in Northern California, but saw opportunity down south in 1874 when land in the San Fernando Valley was put up for sale. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says:
"He was the founder for the city of San Fernando. Now what most folks don't understand is he was backed by another gentleman who loaned him the money named Leland Stanford."
That Stanford, the wealthy California railroad baron. Maclay had backed Stanford's bid to be governor. Despite his entrepreneurial and political activities, Maclay remained a spiritual man. He founded a theology school in the Valley which today is affiliated with the Claremont School of Theology.
19 November, 2008
Isaac Van Nuys started out as a sheep man. But soon he developed wheat as a cash crop in the San Fernando Valley. In 1880, he married the daughter of wheat magnate Isaac Lankershim, and became president of the Los Angeles Farming and Milling Company.
Van Nuys was busy. He also was vice president of Farmers and Merchants Bank, and director of the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company. The bricks came in handy. Bill Robertson, director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says Van Nuys used them to build a fancy hotel downtown.
"You drive by there today, look up over the doorway on Fourth Street and you see Van Nuys Hotel. It was actually one of the first major hotels in downtown Los Angeles."
Robertson says Van Nuys built a second, smaller hotel on the street that bears his name. It was primarily a boarding house, but it also hosted community meetings. Today, if you look up on the facade of the old building across from the post office, you'll see the name of the wheat farmer turned hotelier: "Van Nuys."
19 November, 2008
Lankershim Boulevard runs right past the Universal and Warner Brothers Studios. But the man the street is named for had nothing to do with the movie business.
Even after California became part of the United States, our first Californio governor, Pio Pico, still owned parts of the San Fernando Valley. But by 1869, Pico was short of cash. So Bill Roberson says he sold part of the Valley to a group of investors led by Isaac Lankershim.
"They were primarily interested in farming. And Isaac Lankershim created the world's largest wheat growing empire."
Robertson is director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services. He says there was one basic flaw with Lankershim's plan.
"At that time, they really had no irrigation; it was pretty much natural rainfall. When you had the rainfall, you had great crops. When you had the scorching droughts, and the heat we have in the Valley, they lost their shirts. But for a number of years they were very, very successful."
So successful, Lankershim even had a town named after him. These days, it's known as North Hollywood, where a number of the inhabitants prefer "wheat-free" diets.
29 October, 2008
If you want to know the history of the San Fernando Valley, read the street signs. Bill Robertson, Director of L.A.'s Bureau of Street Services, says that in 1831, when Pio Pico became the first Californio governor of Alta California, he pretty much took control of the entire Valley. Robertson says Pico leased the land to his brother Andres, who used it to graze longhorn cattle.
"And then with the potential for war with the U.S. in 1846, Pio Pico decided it was a good time to sell the Valley, fearing naturally that the U.S. government would just seize it if they won the war. Well, he sold it to a Spaniard living in Los Angeles whose name was De Celis. De Celis Place out in the Valley."
Not much is known about De Celis, whose family sold the property in 1874. But there's a new tract of homes in Van Nuys near Lake Balboa called De Celis Court.
29 October, 2008
Stern-Goodman Street in Fullerton was named for two of the city's earliest settlers: Jacob Stern and Joseph Goodman. Ginny King, who wrote, "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It...?", says the two men had the largest general store in the county.
"And then Stern later got into real estate. And he went to, moved to Los Angeles in 1904. And the Stern barn on his property at Hollywood and Vine was used as a set for the first full length motion picture filmed in Los Angeles – 'The Squaw Man' in 1913."
Stern's barn picked up its own Hollywood name: the Lasky-DeMille Barn. It's named for some of Hollywood's earliest legends: producer Jesse Lasky and director Cecil B. DeMille. The barn still stands. It was acquired by the Hollywood Heritage Museum in the early 1980s. It's right across the street from the Hollywood Bowl.
17 October, 2008
Saint Monica is the patron saint of mothers with wayward sons. There's a Santa Monica Boulevard on the Westside of town, but wayward sons also live across the Orange County line in Fullerton. Santa Monica Avenue borrowed the name from the city on the bay.
Ginny King, who wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It?", says the "Santa Monica" name may have come from a soldier who was part of Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola's expedition up the California coast in 1769.
"Legend says that a soldier noticed a small waterfall dropping into a shadow and compared it to tears shed by Saint Monica over her wayward son Augustine. But he turned out all right, too. Saint Augustine."
Father Juan Crespi, who also was on that Portola expedition, had a different name for the area. He called it "San Gregorio" or Saint Gregory, but that name didn't stick. "Santa Monica" did.
17 October, 2008
Southern California has been a bilingual place since the Spanish arrived more than 300 years ago. Ginny King, who wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It?" says you can see that in Fullerton's street signs. She says there are lots of streets in town with exactly the same name. One's in Spanish, the other's in English.
"We have a Paloma Place and we have a Dove Lane. And there are a Monte Mar Vista and Oceanview Drive. Oh, and Avenida Antigua, and we have Pioneer Avenue. "
Actually, the word "antigua" usually refers to someone old or something antique, or someone who lived a long, long time ago. So antigua could refer to a founding father... or a pioneer.
8 October, 2008
Fullerton has a Melody Lane and a Harmony Lane. But Ginny King, who wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It...?" says there's a much more popular musical street in town. Its name is Madonna Drive.
"I don't know who named it or why, but because of Madonna's popularity, every time they put the sign up, somebody would come along and rip it down, take it home, and hang it in their den or something. So they've had to just paint the curb with Madonna. There's no street sign for that."
King suspects the reason for calling it "Madonna" was more religious than musical. But will it take a miracle for a Madonna street sign to stay put?
King says, "I don't know. Maybe her popularity is waning enough where they could put one up now."
8 October, 2008
There are a number of streets around the Fullerton Golf Course named for more famous links around the world: Rivera Court, Inverness Court, Pebble Beach Place. But there's also a Murfield Court.
The only problem is that the famous golf course is called Muirfield. Ginny King wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It...?" She says Muirfield is the name of the Columbus, Ohio course designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus.
"The reason he called it that is because the Muirfield Golf Course in Scotland is one used in rotation for the Open championship, and he was a winner there. And he was so impressed with the course that that's when he came back to Columbus and laid out his course to be similar, and named it Muirfield."
And that was supposed to be the street name in Fullerton, but Fullerton city planners misspelled it on the maps. So today, Muirfield Court is known as Murfield.
8 October, 2008
Some Fullerton street names need no explanation. Mountain View Place, at least on days that aren't too smoggy, has a view of the mountains. Rolling Hills Drive describes the terrain of its neighborhood pretty accurately. And then there's Short Street.
Ginny King says, "Short Street is named Short Street because it's short."
King wrote "The Street Where you Live: Why Did They Name It...?" How short is short? In the case of lowly little Short Street, exactly one block long.
8 October, 2008
There are a lot of streets in southern California named after the men who built the town. But in Fullerton, there's a pair of streets that honor men who served Orange County one patient at a time.
There's a Johnston Knolls in Fullerton, right down the street from the St. Jude Medical Center. The street's named for Dr. Herbert A. Johnston, a longtime Orange County resident. But it's not likely Dr. Johnston ever practiced at St. Jude's. He was born in 1873. The hospital wasn't built until 85 years later.
But there's another street in Fullerton named after another doctor who does have an active connection to St. Jude's. Ginny King who wrote "The Street Where you Live: Why Did They Name It...?" says Hutain Street is named for Dr. Royce Hutain.
"The attending physician on St. Jude's services to the poor, and he was chosen Fullerton's Man of the Year in 1990."
Dr. Hutain graduated from the UCI medical school. He still practices family medicine in Fullerton, but not on the street that's named for him.
22 September, 2008
When you think of the Basque influence in California, you usually think of Santa Maria. But Basque sheepherders left their mark in Southern California as well.
Domingo Bastanchury was born in the French Pyrenees. He came to Orange County in the 1860s to raise sheep. It was good timing. Ginny King, who wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It...?" says the Civil War disrupted the south's cotton industry.
"The shortage of cotton created a high demand for wool, not only for Civil War uniforms, but for the reconstruction period that followed. And Bastanchury reaped a fortune in the sheep industry."
After a drought in 1877, Bastanchury switched to barley, oats, beans, and dairy cows. But he did better when oil and later artesian springs were discovered on his land. By 1915, the one-time sheepherder was selling water to the small community of Fullerton.
And Bastanchury's luck continued: his four sons turned to citrus, and introduced contoured planting on the hillsides. In 1920, they reportedly had the largest orange grove in world. The Depression wiped out the Bastanchury clan, but not Domingo's place in Orange County history. He's still known as "The Father of Fullerton."
22 September, 2008
There likely wouldn't be a Fullerton if the railroad hadn't agreed to stop there. The township was founded in 1887. The Santa Fe Railway arrived as promised, one year later. Ginny King, who wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It...?" says city fathers named streets in its honor.
"Santa Fe Avenue for the Santa Fe Railroad. Truslow Avenue was the surname of the first general passenger agent for the Santa Fe Railway."
In the early days, the railroad was a mixed blessing. The construction crews for the tracks were a bit wild, and gunfights, saloons, and brothels were common in what was then Fullerton Township. The city is still a busy railroad town. More than 50 Amtrak and Metrolink trains stop at the Santa Fe Depot every day.
22 September, 2008
There are more than a thousand streets in Fullerton. Ginny King, who wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It?," says one of them is called "Pomona."
"Pomona means the Roman goddess of fruit and fruit trees, so that takes care of the city and the street."
Thomas Bulfinch, who compiled the definitive guide to mythology in the 19th century, described Pomona as a wood nymph with a passion for fruit trees. She's usually pictured with an armful of fruit and a pruning knife in her hand.
Pomona was particularly good at irrigation, leading streams of water to her beloved trees, something California farmers would emulate. Pomona wasn't interested in romance until a fellow named Vertumnus, disguised as a woman, gave her some gardening advice and some romantic tips. The two reportedly lived happily and fruitfully ever after.
22 September, 2008
Pierre Nicolas was a Basque citrus farmer in Fullerton in the 1880s. The brothers who founded the town liked Pierre, and they named a street after him: Nicolas Avenue. But Ginny King, who wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It?" says the Nicolas name didn't stay on that street for long.
"Because there was already a Euclid going from east to west through all of these previous communities, it was changed to Euclid, and still is Euclid Avenue. And I guess it was originally named Euclid because somebody was a math professor and he remembered the mathematician that said the shortest distance between two is a straight line. 'Cause it is a straight shot."
A century later, Pierre Nicolas got his street back when new housing development was built in Orange County. Today, there's a Nicolas Street and a Nicolas Way in Fullerton.
9 September, 2008
Orange County is known for its citrus crops, so perhaps it's not surprising that there's a Lemon Street in Fullerton. But it used to have another, more prestigious name. A pair of brothers from Massachusetts founded Fullerton, and they named many of the streets after places they fondly remembered from back home.
One street was named for Harvard University. But Ginny King, who wrote "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It?" says there was a problem. In the 1940s, another Fullerton street changed its name to Harbor.
"But because of Harvard and Harbor, the police and the fire had problems. 'I've got a problem here on Harbor.' Harbor? Harvard? Which? So they switched and named Harvard Lemon. Lemon Street."
Oranges have long been top dog, or top citrus fruit, in Orange County. But a decade ago, lemons squeezed out oranges as the county's top citrus crop.
9 September, 2008
There's a Westminster Avenue in Costa Mesa, and a city named Westminster just to the north. Both are named for a particular religious doctrine. In the 1870s, many of the old California ranchos were broken up and sold off. A New Jersey émigré purchased 6,500 acres in what's now north Orange County. And he had a particular purpose in mind.
Phil Brigandi says, "Westminster was started by the Presbyterian minister from Anaheim. His name was Lemuel Webber." Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says Reverend Webber envisioned a temperance town. "And it's named Westminster, not Westminister, because the Westminster Confession is one of the big doctrinal statements of the Presbyterian church."
Reverend Webber died in 1874, just a couple of years after he founded Westminster. Brigandi says you can still see his tombstone in the old Anaheim cemetery. "The good he did will survive when this stone has turned to dust." Reverend Webber's dream of a dry city didn't last. Today, there are more than a dozen liquor stores within the city limits.
1 September, 2008
There's a Tomato Springs Toll Plaza on the 241 toll road in Orange County. Phil Brigandi says, "Tomato Springs is, was, a spring on the Irvine Ranch. Tomatoes grew wild there in the early days." Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says Tomato Springs has a more sinister association.
"In 1912, a man – and there were always debates over his actual identity. He may have been the son of a very prominent family from up north who didn't want him identified. He was always called the Tomato Springs Bandit. But if you read the newspaper accounts from the time, what he really was was an attempted rapist."
The man was accused of attacking a little girl in Irvine. Brigandi says a manhunt tracked him down.
"And he holed up at Tomato Springs and managed to hold off a much larger number of people. And there was quite a bit of gunfire and always some debate exactly how he got shot, as will happen in these things. And whether he was shot by one of the posse out chasing him or took his own life at the end. But the bottom line was the Tomato Springs Bandit was no more, but the story passed on almost into legend."
And onto a toll plaza on the 241.
31 August, 2008
There's a politically incorrect street in Irvine. Officially it's known as Culver Drive. Oldtimers remember it as Culver's Corner, the ranch off the state highway with the big windmill. Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says that old corner got its name from the Culver brothers.
"Fred had a turned shoulder or some kind of defect, so he's called 'Humpy' Culver, and then his brother who lived down in what was then Irvine, what we call old Irvine today, he got shot during the manhunt for the Tomato Springs Bandit in 1912. So after that, he was always 'Gimpy' Culver."
And the Tomato Springs Bandit? That's another Street Story.
30 August, 2008
It's not all that unusual to find real estate success stories memorialized in local street names. But a real estate failure also left his legacy on an Orange County street.
Phil Brigandi says there are two Culvers in Orange County. "Everyone knows the one in Irvine, I imagine. But there's also a Culver Avenue in Orange." Brigandi wrote "Orange County Places Names A-Z." He says the other Culver might have a lot in common with some folks today. He lost his shirt in a real estate bust long ago.
"Charles Culver was one of the early real estate developers in Orange, quite a 'boomer' as we would say back in the 1880s. Built one of the big hotels during the big real estate boom when the railroad got here in the 1880s, and so of course, suffered the most when the boom went bust a couple of years later, and ended up skipping town for Mexico and was never seen again."
Culver was long gone, but his name stayed behind on street signs in Orange.
25 August, 2008
Much of Orange County's history can be told through agriculture – and its street names. Here's a sweet Street Story that sprinkles a little of both.
There's a Dyer Road in Santa Ana. That's D-Y-E-R. Phil Brigandi says, "Dyer is named for a man from Northern California named Ebeneezer Dyer." Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z."
"And his contribution to Orange County history is he developed the factories that convert sugar beets into table sugar. And this was a major industry in Orange County. We had five big beet sugar plants in Orange County. The town of Los Alamitos only was founded to go with the sugar plant there. And Anaheim had one, and Huntington Beach, and Santa Ana had several. In fact, the last of them still operating in Orange County on into the 1970s was on Dyer Road."
Brigandi says the inland areas of Orange County were better for tree crops like walnuts and oranges than the west county areas where row crops like sugar beets and lima beans were king. Today, the only place in Orange County where you can find beet sugar is at the grocery store.
25 August, 2008
You always remember the street you grew up on. Phil Brigandi says, "I grew up in a part of Orange that people talk about as the Presidential Streets." Brigandi wrote "Orange County Street Names A-Z."
"And there's Adams and Coolidge, and a number of names. But not all them, Hoover's another one, not all of them are presidential names. But I happened to grow up on a little cul-de-sac called Hamilton. And more than once, I would meet people, and asked where I lived. 'Out on Hamilton.' 'Oh, that's one of the presidential streets.' No, might be one of the Secretary of the Treasury streets."
Alexander Hamilton, who wasn't a president, was an aide de camp to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He was a lawyer, a member of the Continental Congress, and the founder of the "New York Post" newspaper. But he's best known for his duel with rival Aaron Burr, the duel that cost him his life.
15 August, 2008
There's a Jeffrey Road in Irvine – and it's not named for the oversized giraffe in those toy store commercials. And Jeffrey wasn't the man's first name. Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says it was his surname.
"Jeffrey, George Jeffrey, was a farmer down on the Irvine Ranch in the early 1900s and also served for a number of years in the 1920s and 1930s on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. One of his pet projects was, in fact, the Ortega Highway."
Jeffrey and a fellow supervisor in Riverside County provided the political muscle to build the highway. Their efforts were boosted by a free barbeque and rodeo held on the planned road. A real estate developer paid for the back-country bash – and they got out the word by dropping pamphlets from a World War I biplane. Ortega Highway finally opened 75 years ago.
15 August, 2008
There's a Bolsa Avenue in Huntington Beach. Phil Brigandi says, "Bolsa is a name that goes back to the old Mexican Rancho days."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z."
"We had the Rancho Las Bolsas, and the Bolsas are the little pockets, or the little bays. It's all those wetlands along the coast there. And later a piece of the larger Bolsas Rancho is carved out, and so the little one becomes the Bolsa Chica, which is a name we also hear a great deal these days. The little pockets, the little Bolsas."
Today, that "little Bolsa" is experiencing a rebirth with scallops, halibut, and tiny sharks thriving in the water and least terns, snowy plovers, and other birds building nests nearby. That rebirth came with a price tag. It cost almost $150 million to restore wetlands at Bolsa Chica.
8 August, 2008
There's a Valencia Drive in the city of Orange. Valencia is the variety of fruit that made Orange County famous. Oranges weren't the first crop grown in Orange County. Grapes, wheat, walnuts, and apricots came first. Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says when farmers switched to oranges, they tried a lot of different varieties.
"Some of them we know, like the navels that were so popular out in Riverside. But there's other varieties that– who knows what a Mediterranean Sweet is anymore, or a St. Michael's. But the varieties that worked well here, grew well in this climate, became the big ones. And the major one in Orange County was the Valencia."
The Valencia was named for a city in Spain. It was developed by a Santa Ana agronomist named William Wolfskill. The Valencia is a summer fruit used primarily for orange juice. By the 1930s, one in six oranges worldwide was grown in Orange County.
8 August, 2008
Orange County was named for its favorite fruit, but Phil Brigandi says it might have been called Grape County.
"In the early days, grapes were actually the big cash crop before oranges, and more specifically, before the railroad, when you could dry the grapes as raisins, or make wine from the grapes. In Orange, and areas like that, grapes were a big crop. So we had a Grape Street in downtown Orange."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z."
"Unfortunately, in the late 1880s, we had a blight come through, a phylloxera as we know now, though they did not know at the time what it was. All they knew was that the grapevines just, almost all of them died in the space of about a single year, in 1886-87. And not long after that, Orange decided they didn't need a street called Grape anymore and it's Grand."
The phylloxera insect, which feeds on grape roots, is native to the eastern United States. It was inadvertently exported to Europe, and by the 20th century, had wiped out two-thirds of all the vineyards on the continent.
1 August, 2008
There's a Laguna Avenue and a Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach. So where's the lagoon? Phil Brigandi says, "Oh, my. How many Lagunas are there?" Brigandi should know. He wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z."
"The names all begin, though, with two actual lakes. Lagunas, in Spanish, which were at the upper end of Laguna Canyon. And of course, natural lakes are a rarity in this part of Southern California, so they were a landmark. And by mission times, you see that name Laguna or Lagunas for the two lakes being used. And from there it just spread naturally."
Today, the larger laguna is known as Barbara's Lake, named for Barbara Rabinowitsh, a local conservationist who fought development of the area. The smaller lake is called Bubble's Pond, named for the hippopotamus that escaped Lion Country Safari in 1978 and hid out in the "lagunita."
1 August, 2008
Don't you just hate it when you go on a trip and you leave something behind? It happened to California's earliest European visitors.
When Gaspar de Portola led his expedition through Southern California in 1769, the soldiers camped along a river now known as Trabuco Creek. Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says the creek was the site of a foolish incident that's memorialized to this day.
"One of the soldiers, one of the Spanish soldiers, lost his gun, his blunderbuss, which in Spanish is a 'trabuco.' And obviously, a soldier losing his weapon, particularly when you're out on the raw frontier, that's a major happening."
So the creek was named blunderbuss, or Trabuco Creek. The soldier's mistake became immortalized all over southern Orange County. There's a Trabuco Canyon, a Trabuco Road in Mission Viejo, even a Trabuco Mesa. That Spanish soldier is probably relieved that they finally changed the name of the town on the mesa to Rancho Santa Margarita.
25 July, 2008
Imagine stumbling across California during a "La Niña" year. You'd assume the Golden State was always a lush green paradise. Phil Brigandi says that's what happened to the Portola expedition when it marched through Southern California in 1769.
"Even though they came through this area in the summer, in July, they found all the creeks and the Santa Ana River flowing very high. It was a very wet year when the missionaries first got here."
Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says Portola had to build a bridge over San Jose Creek. And the Spanish word for bridge is "puente." Today, you can see a modernized version of the bridge on La Puente's city seal.
25 July, 2008
When the Portola expedition marched through Orange County in 1769, explorers were looking for a pass through the foothills. They found it just north of the town now known as La Habra. Phil Brigandi, author of "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says the Spanish word for pass is "abra."
"And so you get La Abra – when you get the La and the Abra, you put an H in there as kind of a placeholder, so it's La Habra."
In 1839, Don Mariano Reyes Roldan named his 7,000 acre cattle ranch "Rancho Cañada de la Habra." A quarter of a century later, Abel Stearns bought the property. Soon after, heavy flooding followed by a terrible drought wiped out cattle ranches all over Southern California. But La Habra bounced back... eventually. By 1928, it grew more avocados than anywhere else in California. But the city hasn't forgotten its early roots. Today, there's a Portola Park just two blocks from La Habra Boulevard.
18 July, 2008
He's the patron saint of Spain, but if you count up the streets named after him, he might also be the patron saint of Orange County. There's a Santiago Street in Santa Ana, a Santiago Boulevard in Orange, even a Santiago Way in Anaheim.
Phil Brigandi says, "There's lots of different uses of the Santiago name because it's one of the oldest names in Orange County."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says, "It
was actually applied in 1769 by the first Spanish overland expedition under Portola. And one of their campsites was along the creek, what they named Santiago Creek in Orange."
Santiago, or Saint Iago, is Saint James, the apostle who wanted to sit at the right hand of Jesus, a request that was politely ignored. James was assigned to convert Spain to Christianity, but legend has it he only baptized half-dozen new Christians. His bad luck continued when he returned to the Holy Land and was beheaded. His body was returned to Spain, where pilgrims from all over the world visit even today.
18 July, 2008
California history is tied to water. Phil Brigandi says that's certainly true in the city of Orange, where one twisty street satisfied the thirst of an entire town.
"One of my favorite streets in Orange, where I grew up, is Canal Street, which is behind the mall of Orange there."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z."
"And I always say, if you know that street, Canal Street sort of winds around for no apparent reason. Except there is a reason. Back in the 1870s when the original irrigation ditch was built to bring water from the Santa Ana River into downtown Orange, it followed along that path. And the ditch of course follows the contours of the land and so it winds along to keep a level drop as it's flowing down towards the center of town there."
A pipeline eventually replaced the canal. But Orange hasn't pumped water through the pipeline since 1974. In fact, the city is paid not to pump for fear the aquifer under much of Orange County will fill with seawater.
10 July, 2008
You might think the official drink of Anaheim is beer... to honor the fans that crowd into Angel Stadium and the German immigrants who settled in central Orange County. But historian and author Phil Brigandi says those settlers came to Anaheim to produce a different alcoholic brew.
"Anaheim was started by a group of German immigrants living in San Francisco who decided they were going to go in together in a cooperative effort to start a town to grow grapes and make wine."
Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says the German winemakers sent a manager down south in 1857 to put in the irrigation ditch and lay out the town.
"And it's very easy to spot the original town site because the streets that surrounded the original Anaheim are named North, South, East, and West Street."
Actually, the streets are tilted a bit to the west, just like the original irrigation ditch that brought the water to town.
10 July, 2008
There was a lot of renaming of streets in Orange County in the 1960s. But Orange refused to allow Taft Avenue to become Ball Road. But Phil Brigandi says some folks wondered why keep the name?
"Why do we need another street named for President Taft?"
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Street Names, A-Z." He says, "by that time we had a historical society in Orange who could step forward and say no, Charles Parkman Taft, one of the most prominent horticulturalists, as we said, in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. Developed a number of varieties we still grow. He did more semi-tropicals. So they grow Taft loquats to this day and I think he did an avocado variety and grew lots of other things. And his ranch was there where Taft runs into Tustin in Orange."
The 27th President did get an elementary school in Riverside and a high school in Woodland Hills named after him.
4 July, 2008
Huntington Drive links metropolitan Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley. It's named for the man who connected most of Southern California with a thousand mile commuter rail system.
If there was one thing land baron and railroad king Henry Huntington understood, it was mass transit. For the first half of the 20th century, Huntington's Pacific Electric trolleys, including the old Red Cars, connected Los Angeles to the suburbs and beach towns. Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says the number of riders began to fall during the Depression, and the Red Car system was gone by the 1960s. But wasn't it nice while it lasted?
"The first line, 1902, was from L.A. to Long Beach. And the last line to go out of service, passenger service, 1962, 60 years later, L.A./Long Beach. And of course, what's the first inter-urban line we rebuilt? The Blue Line. L.A./Long Beach. There's your answer right there. Huntington and his associates understood the traffic patterns a hundred years ago."
These days, the Blue Line isn't the busiest light rail route. The Gold Line holds that distinction, followed by the Red Line. The Long Beach to L.A. route comes in third.
4 July, 2008
There's a Huntington Street in Huntington Beach. But Phil Brigandi says that wasn't the original name.
"Sometimes people imported names from other areas. Sometimes they just played off them."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Street Names A-Z."
He says, "when the town of Huntington Beach was started in 1901, it was originally known as Pacific City, which is a turn on Atlantic City on the east coast."
Pacific City's promoters had visions of a resort town that would rival Atlantic City. But transportation was a problem. Developers approached Henry Huntington, who owned the electric railway company, and offered him a sweetheart deal. In exchange for bringing his rail line to town, Huntington was offered oceanfront property, stock in the real estate company, and naming rights for the new town. Pacific City lasted just two years. Huntington Beach lives on.
27 June, 2008
There's a neighborhood in Glendale called Glassell Park and a street in Orange called Glassell Street. They're both named for an L.A. lawyer who specialized in real estate.
Andrew Glassell may be best known as one of the founders of the city of Orange. But Glassell lived and worked near downtown Los Angeles. Phil Brigandi, author of "Orange County Place Names, A-Z," says Glassell viewed Orange as an investment.
"Andrew Glassell was an attorney in Los Angeles who had worked when he first came to California with the federal land commission that reviewed all the old Mexican Rancho grants and so he was very well versed in title land law which next to being an expert in water law was about the best thing you could be in Southern California."
Glassell was the first president of the L.A. Bar Association. He died in his L.A. home in 1901.
27 June, 2008
There's a Glassell Street in the city of Orange, named for a pair of brothers who created the town. One of those brothers played a role in maritime history.
It was L.A. lawyer Andrew Glassell who bought the property that would become the City of Orange. But Phil Brigandi, author of "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says it was the lawyer's brother, Captain William T. Glassell, who surveyed the land and built the irrigation ditch.
"Captain Glassell, incidentally, a Civil War vet, Confederate, was involved in some of the early experiments for creating not true submarines, but submersibles, or torpedo boats as they used to call them. His was called the David, a little Biblical allusion there, and blew a pretty hole in the side of the new Ironsides in Charleston Harbor in the fall of 1863, which unfortunately then was swamped and Glassell was captured."
Captain Glassell's letters from his POW days in that northern prison camp were recently found in a shoebox. They are now stored at the Orange Public Library and History Center.
23 June, 2008
There's a Spurgeon Street and a McFadden Avenue in Santa Ana. The streets are named for the two men most responsible for the creation of Orange County.
Politicians and business leaders had tried to carve a new county out of south L.A. County since 1871. Fifteen years of struggle in Sacramento had led to nothing. Phil Brigandi, writer of "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says bipartisanship got the job done.
"Mr. McFadden was in the hardware business in Santa Ana. Was very successful. Was in the 1880s one of, if not the most, prominent Republicans in this area. And joined with certainly the most prominent Democrat in this area who was William Spurgeon, who'd founded Santa Ana. Mr. McFadden and "Uncle Billy" Spurgeon got together and decided to finally put this drive over this top to create an Orange County."
James McFadden's money greased the wheels in Sacramento. In 1889, Orange County was officially recognized, with Santa Ana the county seat. And Uncle Billy Spurgeon became the first chairman of the OC Board of Supervisors.
23 June, 2008
In the 1860s, James McFadden bought several thousand acres of the old Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, and started to develop it. Phil Brigandi says he named the main street after his hometown.
"He originally came from a town in New York called Delhi."
Brigandi should know. He wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says, "it's spelled 'D-e-l-h-i' and so some people see that and say "Delhi." No, that's a town in India. In New York, I called them recently to confirm this, it is Delhi (dell-high), New York."
There was a Delhi school district and a Delhi neighborhood in south Santa Ana. Today, there's even a social service organization called the Delhi Center that offers everything from HIV testing to mariachi classes. But Delhi Street has disappeared. These days, it's known as Warner Avenue.
13 June, 2008
Lots of Southern California places were named by immigrants who longed to be back home. But Newport Beach and Newport Boulevard were not named for that famed summer retreat for the wealthy in Rhode Island.
Newport Boulevard runs from the 405 to the Newport Pier. Phil Brigandi says the name is no mystery.
"It was originally the 'new' port between Los Angeles and San Diego."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says, "the first commercial ship into the inner bay was in 1870. Captain S.S. Dunnells showed you could get over the bar."
The sandbar at the mouth of the harbor was difficult to navigate and downright dangerous. So Newport became a "lighter" port.
Brigandi says that's "where the ships could not enter the port except ones with very shallow draft, like Dunnel's little steamer. And so they would anchor off the coast and transfer the loads into little boats which are called 'lighters.'"
Finally, in 1889, a wharf was built on the ocean side, connecting ships with the railroad. But San Pedro to the north quickly became the "go to" port for shipping. Newport Pier was left behind for the tourists.
13 June, 2008
There's a Eucalyptus Lane and a Eucalyptus Street in Brea, a Eucalyptus Place in Fullerton, even a Eucalyptus Hill Road in Yorba Linda. They're all named for a tree that's become as familiar to the California landscape as the Hollywood sign.
California writer Lawrence Clark Powell said "No tree is more beautiful in the wind or against the sky, and none provides better nesting for the soft-voiced mourning dove."
Phil Brigandi says the eucalyptus tree is an Australian import. Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says Californians were mad for the eucalyptus tree, starting in the late 1800s.
"Though it turned out not to be as useful as they'd hoped for lumber, because it tends to grow with a very twisted grain. But does make pretty good windbreaks for the orange groves, which is why you'll often see lines of eucalyptus trees along some of the old highways."
In recent years, the eucalyptus – or as the Australians call them, "gum trees" – have fallen out of favor because they're not native to Southern California... and because the bark and leaves they shed provide an oily fuel to brush fires.
9 June, 2008
There's both a Cypress Street and a Cypress Avenue in the Orange County city of... Cypress. Historian Phil Brigandi says, "Cypress was a little community out along the Pacific Electric tracks out in that area in the early 1900s and eventually became a fairly popular dairy area. Well, in the 1950s as houses were coming in, it was clear that you could have dairies or you could have residential, but the two did not go well together."
So the dairy farmers fought back, forming their own agricultural cities with names like Dairy City, Dairy Valley, and Dairyland. But the region's need for housing trumped its need for milk and cheese. Dairy City became Cypress. Dairy Valley became Artesia and Cerritos. Dairyland held out the longest... until 1965 when it became the city of La Palma.
30 May, 2008
Everything seemed to grow well in the fertile soil of Orange County... including the Magnolia tree. Phil Brigandi says the name was borrowed in 1894 by Anaheim's early civic leaders.
"Magnolia was originally a little school district. It wasn't a town really, but when you got enough families, you could have a school district."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says if you didn't live in a town, your neighborhood identified with its local school district.
"Sixty years ago, 70 years ago in Orange County, if someone asked you where you lived, Magnolia or the Magnolia District would be an answer they would understand. 'Oh, yeah, I live out in Magnolia.' And even though there was no town, no post office, there was a school, and so everyone knew there was a community."
There's still a Magnolia School District, serving Anaheim and Stanton. Two of its campuses were honored this year as California Distinguished Schools.
30 May, 2008
There's a Chavez Ravine Place outside of Dodger Stadium, named after Julian Chavez, a native of New Mexico. Chavez was on the wrong side of a rebellion and escaped to Los Angeles in the 1830s. He received a land grant near what were the banks of the L.A. River. Historian Charlotte Negrete-White says Chavez became a career politician.
"And I think part of the reason that gave him social standing at time when it was really hard for Mexicans to maintain their holdings, he was very active in the city government. He was 'juez de aquas' – Judge of the Waters."
He was also "juez del campos" – Judge of the Plains, settling cattle disputes. He was deputy mayor, a member of the Board of Equalization, he served three terms as county supervisor, and spent many years on the city council. He finally ran out of speeches and died of a heart attack at the age of 70.
23 May, 2008
These days, community groups usually fight road expansion. But in the early days of automobiles, the opposite was true. One particularly persistent Southern California group had a dream for a road that ran from the desert to the sea.
The idea for Imperial Highway began in 1929 with the founding of the Imperial Highway Association. Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says this was a private group.
"There were lots of these in those days, that was formed not to build the highway, but to promote it with the different agencies and cities and state and everybody to get a continuous highway built to connect the Los Angeles ports with the rich new farmlands of the Imperial Valley. That's why it's the Imperial Highway."
The road followed part of the old Butterfield Stage Coach route. But it took until 1961 for the last stretch to be paved. And although the road continues into the Imperial Valley, the name "Imperial Highway" doesn't. It stops in Anaheim Hills.
23 May, 2008
Ortega Highway runs from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore. It took five years to build and opened in 1934. Phil Brigandi says it got its name from a local priest.
"Father Saint John O'Sullivan, who was the pastor at Mission San Juan Capistrano, had been for years, it was Father O'Sullivan who suggested naming it after Jose Francisco Ortega."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says, "Ortega was one of the scouts on the first Spanish overland expedition under Portola that came through this area in 1769. And where the main body of the expedition moved along, Ortega and a couple of the other scouts were half a day or so ahead of them, looking for the route, figuring out where they were going to go, where the water holes were, where the campsites were, and he led the way through this area. So he would have been very likely the first of the Spanish explorers to actually set foot in Orange County."
Ortega didn't stick around, though. He settled in Santa Barbara.
16 May, 2008
As long as there's been a California, there have been men convinced they could strike it rich in real estate. Many did just that. But just like the current real estate bubble, there are plenty who went bust.
Columbus Tustin was a carriage maker from Petaluma who bought 1,300 acres of the old Yorba rancho. From that land, he created "Tustin City." But Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says Tustin had competition from two other new towns: Orange and Santa Ana.
"Orange had better water, Santa Ana had the better location. They had kind of the transportation hub. First the stagecoaches, then the railroad came to Santa Ana."
Brigandi says Tustin tried everything to grow his community.
"He would give you land in Tustin City as long as you would build on it."
With his town still struggling, a disappointed Columbus Tustin died in 1883. But today, Tustin, now home to 70,000 people, is the busy city Columbus hoped for. Tustin Avenue, Columbus Tustin Middle School, and appropriately enough, a new real estate development called The Villages of Columbus all pay tribute to the unlucky real estate developer.
16 May, 2008
There was a famous horse race here in Southern California more than a hundred-fifty years ago. The horses didn't run on a track, but on a dirt road that later became known as Alamitos Avenue in Long Beach. The race became something of a local legend.
We don't know all the details, but it happened sometime in the 1840s, when southern California was still part of Mexico. There were two magnificent horses, owned by Abel Stearns and John Temple, the patrons of two neighboring ranchos: Los Alamitos and Los Cerritos.
Theresa Barbee, docent coordinator at present day Rancho Los Alamitos, says, "Alamitos Avenue was the dividing line between the two ranchos."
She says those two horses ran down Alamitos to Signal Hill and back again. There was more than pride at stake. The wager was 1,000 head of cattle. Singer/songwriter Ken Graydon describes the contest:
"With a loud cry of 'vaya' they started. Like shadows, they sped on their way. The dust from their hooves marked their passage toward the pool on the sands of the bay. Becerrero, he dances like lightning. Becerrero, he flies like the clouds. Becerrero, the bay horse of Juan Temple. Becerrero, the champion so proud."
Becerrero's name means "one who tends the young cattle," so it's likely he was a working horse, not just a fancy racing pony. We don't know the name of Abel Stearn's horse. But we do know who won the race, thanks to Ken Graydon's song.
"In a moment, I saw them returning. My heart seemed to swell like the sun. For in the lead was Becerrero, the bay horse of Juan Temple had won. There followed a grand celebration, with an ox roasted all the next day. Juan Temple invited both ranchos, so great was his pride in the bay. Becerrero, he dances like lightning. Becerrero, he flies like the clouds. Becerrero, the bay horse of Juan Temple. Becerrero, the champion so proud."
It's not likely you'll see many horses racing on Alamitos Avenue these days... though the quarter horses still run at Los Alamitos Racetrack.
9 May, 2008
There are a lot of Yorbas in Orange County. There's a Yorba Street in Orange and Santa Ana, and a Yorba Lane in Yorba Linda.
Phil Brigandi says, "Jose Antonio Yorba was one of the original Spanish soldiers here in California."
Brigandi wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z." In 1784, he says Yorba was given land for his military service and became a cattle rancher. After his father-in-law died, he and a nephew petitioned the governor to use that land.
"They were given a concession to use all the land from the Santa Ana River, all the way down to the bay at Newport. So it's 75 thousand acres."
The next generation of Yorbas expanded their land holdings even more, so that by 1850, Brigandi says, "they could ride from he edge of what is Riverside today all the way to Newport Beach and always be on family property the whole way."
In 1868, the main rancho was broken up and sold off to the developers who would later create the cities of Orange, Santa Ana, and Tustin.
9 May, 2008
Red Hill Avenue may be the most obvious name for a street that runs through Tustin and Santa Ana. There's a hill and the soil is red. But the original names were much more colorful.
Red Hill's first name came from the Native Americans who lived in the area. They called it "Katuktu," meaning a hill of prominence, or place of refuge. Indian legends told of a great flood that forced families to find safety up on that hill. Archeologists have found artifacts proving that early people did spend time on the slopes of Red Hill.
The Spanish gave Red Hill its second name. Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says the new name was inspired by what was at the bottom of the hill.
Down below was a very marshy area that was full of frogs, which was the Cienega de Las Ranas, the frog swamp. So the hill was called Los Cerritos de Las Ranas - the little hills of the frogs. Later, the gringos called it Rattlesnake Hill, for obvious reasons. It became Red Hill in the 1880's, when the cinnabar which gives the soil its trademark color, was recognized as a source of mercury. The mining on Red Hill continued into the 20th century, finally petering out by the Second World War.
2 May, 2008
The area around UC Irvine is filled with condominiums and commercial businesses. But some UCI alumni are old enough to remember the herds of cattle grazing across the street from campus. But before the cattle, there was another animal grazing in the grass in Irvine.
There's a Bison Avenue in Irvine that runs from Jamboree into UCI. It's a reminder of the Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch.
Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says, "if you lived in Orange County in the 1950s, everybody knew the Buffalo Ranch. A guy named Gene Clark came in, rented some land from the Irvine Company, trucked in a lot of buffaloes, and opened this little local tourist attraction with barns and Indian teepees, and you could buy buffalo burgers."
There was an Indian trading post, miniature tractor rides for the kids, and the herd of 72 buffaloes trucked in from Kansas.
Brigandi says, "it was just such a great novelty to go out there and see buffalo grazing on the hills, not too far from where UC Irvine is today.
In the 1960s, when UCI was being planned, architect William Pereira used the old Buffalo Ranch barn as his office. There he designed the UCI campus, and the very suburban cities of Irvine and Newport Beach.
25 April, 2008
Knott's Berry Farm has been described as America's first theme park. The amusement park and Knott Avenue are named for that plucky farm family that turned boysenberries and fried chicken into an empire.
Walter and Cordelia Knott were always trying to find the next big thing. They started their berry farm in 1920, planting varieties from all over the world. Phil Brigandi, who wrote "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says during the depression, the Knotts tried a berry cultivated by a fellow in Anaheim named Boysen.
"The same year that they introduced this new berry, in 1934, is also the year that, to make a little more money, Cordelia Knott started serving fried chicken dinners on her wedding china in their little stand there on Grand Avenue in Buena Park. That's 1934 when we get both the boysenberry and Mrs. Knott's fried chicken."
The chicken side of the business was a hit. By 1940, Cordelia was serving more than 4,000 chicken dinners every Sunday. The Knotts added attractions like their son's fluorescent rock collection to keep folks amused while they waited for a table. Today, Knott's Berry Farm ranks Number 12 in amusement park attendance in the United States.
25 April, 2008
There's a Boysenberry Lane in Placentia and a Boysen Avenue in Anaheim. Both are named for the man who cultivated the fruit that still bears his name. Rudolph Boysen began propagating berries up in Napa County. When he moved to Orange County, he brought with him what was described as "the sensation berry of the 20th Century."
Phil Brigandi describes the boysenberry as, "a three-way cross between a loganberry, a raspberry, and a blackberry."
Brigandi wrote the book "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says the boysenberry was huge and juicy, and it shipped well. But Boysen abandoned his crop after breaking his back in an accident. Years later, Brigandi says a fellow grower named Walter Knott heard about this legendary berry and tracked down Boysen.
"And he took them down to his in-laws former orange grove. They didn't even own the property anymore. And down by the irrigation ditch, in the weeds, were three or four straggly little berry plants that he'd transplanted there years before."
Knott made the boysenberry famous. Rudy Boysen found another career as Anaheim's park superintendent, a post he held for 20 years.
18 April, 2008
There are two Chapman Avenues in Orange County, named for two different people. Phil Brigandi says, "they both have off-ramps off the 57 freeway, which causes no end of confusion!"
Brigandi wrote the book "Orange County Place Names A-Z." He says Chapman in Orange was named for an L.A. lawyer.
"But then up in Fullerton, there's a Chapman Avenue, named for C.C. Chapman, for Charles Chapman, one of the famous early Valencia orange growers here."
He was so successful, he became known as the "Orange King of California." Chapman made his big money in real estate and became even wealthier when he struck oil in 1919. His wells in Placentia pumped over 5,000 barrels a day. The "Orange King" became Fullerton's first mayor and the principal benefactor of the college that bears his name: Chapman University. Charles Chapman's autobiography was called "The Career of a Creative Californian."
18 April, 2008
There are two Chapman Avenues in Orange County. And that confuses people.
Phil Brigandi, who wrote the book "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says, "there's Chapman Avenue in Orange, which is named for one of the founders of the town, Alfred Beck Chapman, an attorney from up in Los Angeles."
Alfred Beck Chapman was a West Point graduate. The Army sent him to California in the 1850s. He married the daughter of a lawyer, went into law himself, and worked as both L.A. City Attorney and L.A. County District Attorney. In private practice, Chapman began accepting land in lieu of cash for his legal services. By 1870, he and his partner, Andrew Glassell, owned more than 5,000 acres in Orange County. They wanted to call it "Richland," but there was already a Richland in Northern California. So they had a poker game to decide what the name would be. It's not clear who won the right to name the town, but today Orange has streets that honor both Glassell and his partner Alfred Chapman.
14 April, 2008
Oranges became the big cash crop in Southern California in the 1870s. Civic leaders rushed to name cities, school districts, even the county after the popular fruit. But what about Orangethorpe? Phil Brigandi says, "Thorp is an English word that means a village."
Brigandi wrote the book "Orange County Place Names A-Z."
He says, "In the early 1920s, the city of Orangethorpe incorporated between Anaheim and Fullerton because Fullerton wanted to put their – well, what we called a sewer farm in those days, out there in the ranchlands in Orangethorpe. And by incorporating, they could keep the sewer farm out. And once that project had passed, after two or three years, they disincorporated and the city went away."
And that sewer? Brigandi says the sewer got put someplace else.
Orangethorpe the city is gone, but the street remains.
14 April, 2008
Streets and buildings are often named after politicians, so you might think Mission Viejo's Antonio Parkway is named after the mayor of Los Angeles. It's not. In fact, this particular Antonio isn't even Latino. So who's the Antonio in the Antonio Parkway? Phil Brigandi knows. He wrote the book "Orange County Place Names A-Z."
"There are a whole series of names in south Orange County that are, how would you say the word? Hispanicized?"
There's an unwritten rule in real estate: if you develop it, you get to name it. In 1964, a grandson of the O'Neill family, Tony Moiso, co-founded the Mission Viejo Company and began carving out the ten thousand acre community called Mission Viejo. Phil Brigandi says several streets are named after the O'Neill family... with a Spanish twist.
"Like Tony Moiso from the Mission Viejo Company becomes Antonio Parkway down there."
Tony Moiso does have a legitimate tie to California's early days: he's head of the preservation foundation for the Mission in San Juan Capistrano.
4 April, 2008
In 1935, the Boy Scouts of America decided to celebrate their 25th anniversary by holding a national gathering of scouts in Washington, D.C. called a Jamboree. It was postponed for two years because of the polio epidemic. The second Jamboree was held in 1950 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. But then, local historian Phil Brigandi says, the Scouts looked west.
"In 1953, the Boy Scouts had their national Jamboree in Orange County in the hills above Newport Beach."
Fifty-five-thousand Scouts created a tent city, complete with its own fire company, bank, theatre, hospital, post office, even a zoo.
Brigandi, who wrote the book "Orange County Place Names A-Z," says his father actually attended that Jamboree. "He was from Garden Grove, so he was with Jamboree Troop 1 at the 1953 Jamboree."
The Scout tents are gone, replaced by the Fashion Island shopping center... but Jamboree Road remains.
4 April, 2008
You might think Katella Avenue in Anaheim refers to some exotic spreadable nut mixture favored by European backpackers. Not quite. But Phil Brigandi says walnuts do figure in the story.
"There was an early rancher in Anaheim named John Rea and he had two daughters named Kate and Ella."
Local historian Phil Brigandi wrote the book "Orange County Place Names A-Z." It was 1896 when John Rea purchased his property.
"And he named his ranch where he grew walnuts – it was over by Disneyland – he named it the Katella Ranch. Kate and Ella, for his daughters."
The road that went by the ranch was also called Katella and for a time, there was even a Katella school district. The sisters lived long and apparently happy lives in Anaheim. Kate taught at Anaheim High School in the early 1900's. Ella became the first chairwoman of the Library board.
Portrait of Kate and Ella Rea
28 March, 2008
There's a tiny street in Topanga Canyon that ends in a dirt road called Santa Maria Road. Artist J. Michael Walker researched Santa Maria for his exhibition "All the Saints of the City of the Angels," now on display at the Autry Museum. Walker says Santa Maria is named for a real person, Jesus Santa Maria, who moved to Topanga in 1875.
"He and his wife Maria Elena made a living by chopping down manzanita and other firewood trees."
Unfortunately, their customers were all in el pueblo de Los Angeles, where most of the trees had already been chopped down.
Walker says, "he was able to make a living by carting it with his mule up to what's now Ventura Boulevard, El Camino Real, and taking it 30 miles into downtown Los Angeles."
Walker says the name Santa Maria indicates they were descendants of the "conversos" – Jews given ultra Catholic names, before they were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition in 1492.
28 March, 2008
Much of what we think of as remnants of California history are just a re-creation. Think of Disney's California Adventure or Knott's Berry Farm. San Lorenzo Street in Santa Monica Canyon gets its name from a local historian's attempt to recreate California's Rancho days.
Rancho La Boca de Santa Monica was a day's ride from the nearest Catholic cemetery, so when the Marquez family died, they were buried on the property. Nearly a hundred years later, in 1926, the land was sold to build homes. But Dorothy Lummis, the daughter of the developer, convinced her father to preserve the remains of the adobe and the graveyard. She commissioned an architect to build an adobe wall around it, one with a niche. Artist J. Michael Walker says that's where Dorothy put the statue of a saint, in the style of the Spanish era.
"As it happens, the saint she chose is St. Lawrence. Nobody really knows why that is, there's no record of why she chose San Lorenzo, but that's the reason the street out front has his name as well."
The 4th century Saint Lawrence met a rather grisly end: he was grilled to death. Peasants called the Perseid meteor shower "the tears of St. Lawrence."
21 March, 2008
They say Los Angeles is a small town separated by freeways. But there's one street that links the westside with the eastside.
Santa Monica Boulevard got its name from the Spanish Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica. J. Michael Walker says St. Monica is best known as the mother of St. Augustine.
"People in college in philosophy class read his books, but when he was a teenager, he was every mother's worst nightmare: a rabblerouser and a carouser."
Artist Walker tells Monica's story in his new exhibit "All the Saints of the City of the Angels," currently on display at the Autry Museum. Walker says Monica spent the better part of 20 years praying that her son would straighten out his life. She became the patron saint of mothers of at-risk youth.
He says, "When I began working on the project, I learned of a group of mothers who meet each month on the east side in Boyle Heights. They're mothers with sons in prison."
The name of this group? Las Madres de Santa Monica: the mothers of St. Monica.
21 March, 2008
When we talk about segregation, we usually think about the American south... not Venice, California.
When Abbot Kinney was carving out his Italian fantasyland, he hired one of the young men working on the boardwalk as his chauffeur. Over the years, Irving Tabor drove Kinney all over the U.S. In the south, when the African-American Tabor was refused admission to a hotel, he and Kinney spent the night in the car. After his death, Abbott Kinney left his Venice home to Irving Tabor. Unfortunately, the other residents of Grand Canal Street refused to let the Tabor family occupy the house.
Artist J. Michael Walker says, "Irving Tabor exercised the wisdom of Solomon, and sawed his house in two, hitched it up to his mules, and drove it home across the same canals he'd helped build several decades before to its present location at 6th and Santa Clara Avenue."
Santa Clara – or St. Clare – was famous for holding up the Blessed Sacrament to repel invaders at her convent. In this case, Walker says, Santa Clara was holding up a beacon to welcome the Tabor family.
14 March, 2008
The diamond district in downtown Los Angeles is called the St. Vincent Jewelry Center. Before the jewelry mart, the neighborhood was home to St. Vincent's College. The city's first university was originally built near Olvera Street in the 1860s, but it quickly outgrew the two story adobe. The real estate boom of the 1880s caused St. Vincent's College to move again. But artist J. Michael Walker says two tiny streets remain downtown: St. Vincent Court and St. Vincent Place, both named for the French priest St. Vincent de Paul.
"St. Vincent had always said that he felt that the poor and impoverished were our proper masters in this life, so it's particularly fitting that all that's left in a way are these very anonymous bits of asphalt. And actually on St. Vincent's Place, he gets to serve the poor in the way he particularly wanted because the homeless gather there each night."
Today, St. Vincent's College has a new location – and a new name: Loyola Marymount University in Westchester. J Michael Walker's exhibit "All the Saints of the City of the Angels" is currently on display at the Autry Museum.
14 March, 2008
Santa Rita Street runs through Woodland Hills and Encino. Artist J. Michael Walker says, "Santa Rita de Cascia is the patron saint of those people with difficult or impossible causes."
Walker's new book is called "All the Saints of the City of the Angels: Seeking the Soul of L.A. on its Streets." He says there was another Rita, the widow of the land grabbing Vicente de la Ossa. Rita de la Ossa inherited Rancho Los Encinos, but didn't know how to deal with the property taxes. So she deeded the land to her American son-in-law, the former sheriff and tax collector for Los Angeles, James Thompson. Unfortunately, a year later, Walker says Rita's daughter and two granddaughters died of pneumonia.
"While Rita de la Ossa was grieving over this triple loss, James Thompson found comfort in arms of another."
Thompson evicted Rita from her land, even suing her in court. J Michael Walker says it's too bad St. Rita wasn't canonized until 1900: too late to help Rita de la Ossa.
7 March, 2008
There's an intersection in Woodland Hills where De La Osa Street meets San Miguel Street.
San Miguel Curves around Woodland Hills' first elementary school. Artist J. Michael Walker says the street is named for Saint Michael the archangel.
"He's someone you've probably seen in Renaissance paintings. He's the angel wearing armor who's standing in the middle of last judgment paintings holding these scales so he can weigh souls of the dead, to decide whether they're going someplace nice or someplace not so nice."
In an earlier Street Story, we told you about Vicente de la Ossa, an L.A. City Councilman in the 1830s who conned a pair of illiterate women out of the 4,400 Rancho Los Encinos for $120. At the intersection of De La Osa Street and San Miguel, where the con artist and the archangel meet, Walker says the street signs stretch out like an angel's wings.
"It's interesting to kind of contemplate what's going to happen as St. Michael is weighing his soul to decide where he's going to go."
J. Michael Walker's new book is called "All the Saints of the City of the Angels: Seeking the Soul of L.A. on its Streets."
7 March, 2008
There's a small street in Woodland Hills called De La Osa. It refers to Vicente de la Ossa, an L.A. City Councilman in the 1830s who parlayed political power into real estate. He was the first owner of Rancho La Providencia, which today is Burbank. Artist J. Michael Walker says de la Ossa was greedy. He sold his rancho and started eyeing Rancho Los Encinos, owned by an absent landlord and two illiterate widows.
"The widow and daughter of the native men who had inherited Rancho Los Encinos probably didn't know they owed property tax, or if they did, they didn't know how to deal with it. And Vicente de la Ossa stepped in, paid a hundred dollars in property tax, and took away a third of their land."
Within three years, de la Ossa had acquired all 4,400 acres for $120. Today, De La Osa Street is all that remains of greedy Vicente de la Ossa. You can see an exhibit of J. Michael Walker's "All the Saints of the City of the Angels" at the Autry Museum.
29 February, 2008
A number of local land developers looked to California's romantic Spanish past for inspiration for street names. Back in the 1920s, Alfonso Bell developed the exclusive neighborhood north of Sunset known as Bel Air. J. Michael Walker says one of those Bel Air streets is called San Ysidro.
"It's named for 13th century saint San Ysidro Labrador who hired out to work in the lands of wealthy in order to support his family as a farmer and a worker of the land. If you go driving down San Ysidro Drive today in Bel Air, the only people you see on the street are not residents. But they're largely Mexican, certainly Latino, gardeners are living the life of present day San Ysidros."
J. Michael Walker's new book is called "All the Saints of the City of the Angels: Seeking the Soul of L.A. on Its Streets." An exhibition of his work just opened at the Autry Museum.
29 February, 2008
In the 1880's, San Julian Street was the heart of L.A.'s commercial district. A hundred years later, the street was home to Gorky's, a funky restaurant that became the heart of the newly blossoming arts community. Today, San Julian is better known as the street address for much of L.A.'s homeless population.
Painter J. Michael Walker says San Julian is one of many streets in Southern California named after Catholic saints.
"Saint Julian one of the most popular saints of the middle ages. He's the patron saint of wanderers and those who give refuge to wanderers."
Walker has been researching L.A.'s holier street names. His new exhibit at the Autry Museum is called "All the Saints of the City of the Angels." Walker says there's a connection between the street and the Saint Julian.
"His story's like a Greek legend or something out of Shakespeare. There was a curse that was thrust upon him and he wandered around for many years until he settled down and decided that he would start offering his home as a refuge to other wanderers."
Today, San Julian is home to the Los Angeles Men's Project, or L.A.M.P., a shelter for the mentally ill. Walker says it's appropriate that many of the staffers at L.A.M.P. used to be homeless themselves and just like Saint Julian, they refer to clients as their "guests."
25 February, 2008
Almost 80 years ago, banker and politician Frank Flint named streets after two of the most important women in his life: his mistress and his daughter. You can read the tragic story of his mistress Beulah in an earlier Street Story. This is the story of his daughter Katherine.
Frank Flint had been a successful banker. He'd served in the U.S. Senate, and he'd developed the new community he named after himself: Flintridge. In the 1920s, Flint tried his luck at the hotel business. Filmmaker John Newcombe says Flint built his masterpiece on top of a hill in Flintridge, and named the street after Katherine, his daughter. But the hotel was so far away and the rooms were so expensive, nobody came. And then Flint and his brother Motley became ensnared in a financial scandal. Motley fled the country.
Newcombe says, "Frank Flint had a massive nervous breakdown, and his doctor put him on an ocean cruise, which in those days was considered to be the cure, the magic cure for shattered nerves. He went off in the Pacific with his wife and had a massive heart attack and died."
Newcombe, whose documentary is called "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says the hotel was sold to the Biltmores, who also couldn't make it work. Eight months after Flint died, the stock market crashed. The Catholic Church bought the hotel for $150,000. Today, Sacred Heart Academy for Girls sits on the site on St. Katherine's Drive.
25 February, 2008
You're far more likely to get a street named after you if you're a land developer than a politician. But if you're both, you're in like Flint... or at least, Flintridge.
Frank Flint became a millionaire in the 1880s land boom in Southern California. He was a banker whose biggest client was the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1897, those railroad interests had him appointed U.S. Senator. But the election of Theodore Roosevelt ushered in a progressive era that required Flint to run for his seat. Instead, filmmaker John Newcombe says Flint got out of politics and into real estate.
"Somewhere around 1912, he became obsessed with [the] developing wealthy suburb of Pasadena, one of the most fashionable addresses in the country. He purchased 1,700 acres of La Canada and named it after himself, much to the chagrin of most residents of La Canada."
John Newcombe, who produced the documentary "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now," says Flint hired the best architects in the country to build mansions all over Flintridge. Frank Flint died in 1929, but his name lives on both in La Canada-Flintridge and Flintridge Avenue.
(Airdate for this story: 2/23/08)
15 February, 2008
El Centro Avenue in Hollywood isn't very big, or very important. At least, not today. But Greg Williams, author of "The Story of Hollywood" says when it came to figuring out who owned what under the old Spanish land grant system, El Centro was crucial.
"It is the center part of the two tracts that were the original of Hollywood: the Spanish tracts. You had Los Feliz and you had La Brea and the dividing line pretty much went along El Centro."
As you probably have figured out, El Centro, the dividing line, is Spanish for "the center."
(Airdate for this story: 2/17/08)
15 February, 2008
You might not think of Fullerton as the center of a rock revolution. But that's where Leo Fender figured out how to merge a guitar with an amplifier. Ginny King, author of "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It...?" says Fender's tinkering turned him into the father of the modern electric guitar.
"He made his first prototype in a shed behind his radio repair shop in 1945 and by 2001, Fender Guitars were the largest guitar company in America."
Fenders were the guitar of choice for Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings and Jimi Hendrix. Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, and Merle Haggard still play them. Leo Fender's shop was located near the Santa Fe Railroad in Fullerton. And that's where you can find Fender Avenue today.
(Airdate for this story: 2/16/08)
8 February, 2008
One of the many Lincoln Boulevards in Southern California runs from Santa Monica to Westchester. It's one of the oldest streets on the Westside and it owes its route to a court case.
When the heirs to Rancho La Ballona sold 20 square miles of their Spanish land grant to outsiders, there was one problem: the land wasn't divided. In 1868, the new owners John Young and George Sanford took the issue to court. The judge decided the fairest way to divide the land was to give each owner a portion of the most valuable and the least valuable farmland. The judge decided the most valuable land was along Ballona Creek. It had water. Next was farmland that could be irrigated, and then pasture. Glen Howell, cofounder of the Mar Vista Historical Society, says the least desirable was the land that ran along the beach.
"Lincoln Boulevard traces its origin back to the dividing line according to the court between the pasture land and the beach land, the sand dunes and so forth. That's Lincoln, how it came about, Lincoln Boulevard."
Mar Vista has two famous presidents commemorated on city streets: Lincoln and Washington.
(Airdate for this story: 2/9/08)
8 February, 2008
In 1857, when L.A.'s first mayor Benjamin Wilson foreclosed on a $1,500 loan, he received title to a quarter of Rancho La Ballona. The only problem was the land was undivided. Wilson sold his share to George Sanford and John Young, and they took the other owners to court to claim their part of the land.
In 1868, a judge decided which portions of Rancho La Ballona were the most valuable. Water was the deciding factor. Glen Howell, cofounder of the Mar Vista Historical Society, says the closer you were to Ballona Creek, the more valuable the land.
"So there was a line drawn by the court in which they decided how to separate pasture land from land that could be irrigated. And that line is Washington Boulevard."
Farmland was on the south side of Washington, the less valuable pasture land was on the north side. And because Ballona Creek wasn't a straight line, that's the reason Washington Boulevard jigs and jogs through Mar Vista today.
(Airdate for this story: 2/10/08)
1 February, 2008
Filmmaker John Newcombe says, "probably the most interesting story behind a street is Beulah in la Canada Flintridge."
Newcombe should know. His documentary is called "Rancho La Canada: Then and Now." He says Walter and Beulah Overall were millionaire socialites who settled in Flintridge in the early part of the 20th century.
"Senator Flint, in a very rare move, actually named a street after her. Rumor was that he was having an affair with her."
The Overall marriage survived, at least until after the Second World War.
Then, Newcome says, "In 1947, Walter and Beulah were murdered. Bludgeoned to death on their boat down in Newport Beach, on a yacht. And then the murderers tried to blow the boat up. Four days later, they arrested their only child, Beulah Louise, a U.S.C. student, and her boyfriend."
In what was then the longest murder trial in American history, the jury let them go. The boyfriend became a homeless drifter, then a college professor. The daughter drank herself to death and died at age 36.
(Airdate for this story: 2/2/08)
1 February, 2008
There's still a Ballona Creek in Mar Vista, though these days it runs along a concrete channel to the sea. In the early days, Ballona Creek was the thing that made the land around it extremely valuable. Farmers depended on the creek for their crops. But Glen Howell, co-founder of the Mar Vista Historical Society, says even if you didn't live right on the creek, you could always run an irrigation ditch.
"In Spanish, an irrigation ditch is a zanja. Well, there's a street in Mar Vista called Zanja and it is an extension of Washington Boulevard and clearly it was an irrigation ditch."
These days, folks who live on Zanja Street get their water out of the tap, not out of the ditch.
(Airdate for this story: 2/3/08)
25 January, 2008
Slauson Boulevard runs from Whittier to the beach. It's one of the oldest streets in southern California. Matt Roths says, "Slauson Boulevard was named for J.S. Slauson, who was one of the empire builders of late 19th, early 20th century Los Angeles."
Roth is historian for the Automobile Club of Southern California. He says the Santa Fe Railroad built tracks along Slauson leading to Redondo Beach.
"Now why were they sending the railroad to Redondo Beach? There was an oil terminal there and there was a lot of money to be made shipping oil."
The railroad also attracted the Goodyear Tire Company, which built its plant in 1919 near Slauson and Central. The railroad even renamed its station at that corner "Wingfoot" after the Goodyear logo, eagerly anticipating the money that would be made from all the tires it would ship from that manufacturing plant.
25 January, 2008
Before the Internet, before TV, the medium of choice for most Americans was radio. D.J. Waldie, author of "California Romantica," says you can find some of the stars of radio on Lakewood's street signs. Waldie says a small portion of Lakewood, developed during the Second World War was called Radio Park.
"Because so many of the streets had connections to radio personalities. There's an Autry Avenue..."
As in Gene Autry. The singing cowboy from Texas starred in almost a hundred movie westerns. But from 1940 to 1956, the Autry was host of a national radio show: "Melody Ranch." In later years, Autry left his mark in Southern California broadcasting, owning KMPC, KTLA, and the Angels baseball team.
(Airdate for this story: 1/26/08)
18 January, 2008
Corporal Jose Maria Verdugo was head of the guards stationed at Mission San Gabriel. In 1785, he headed off a plot to murder the mission's two padres. He captured ten renegade Indians inside the mission walls without firing a shot. Filmmaker John Newcombe, whose documentary is called "Rancho La Cañada," says Verdugo cashed in on Spain's version of a pension for retiring soldiers. He got a grant for 36,000 acres of grazing land.
"All the way from Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Burbank, portions of Pasadena, the Crescenta/Cañada Valley, all the way to Sun Valley, he was given all of that land by the Spanish government."
Unfortunately for Verdugo's heirs, the Mexican revolution took California away from Spain. A new survey declared much of their land "unoccupied and unused." But their name still remains on local street signs: Verdugo Road.
(Airdate for this story: 1/19/08)
18 January, 2008
The flags of three different countries have flown over Southern California: Spain, Mexico, and eventually, the United States of America. Those changes in government played havoc with real estate ownership.
Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. But it was another two decades before bureaucrats got around to surveying Spanish land grants in Southern California. John Newcombe documents this history in his film "Rancho La Cañada." He says in 1843, a portion of the old Verdugo rancho was given to a local schoolteacher and former soldier named Ignacio Coronel.
"He was due a lot of back pay, and this was their way of paying him, they gave him this. He's the one who named it La Cañada, meaning a glen between mountain ranges."
The land was dry and rocky and full of rattlesnakes. Coronel preferred living down the hill near what's now Glendale College. After just four years, Coronel was chased off the land by outlaws during the chaos surrounding the war between Mexico and the U.S. Today, no streets are named for Coronel, but his description "La Cañada" remains for both a city and a major boulevard.
(Airdate for this story: 1/20/08)
11 January, 2008
There have been gossip reporters almost as long as there's been a Hollywood. There's a street in Lakewood that honors one of the most famous celebrity scribes in the business.
You have to remember that Lakewood was created almost entirely in the early 1950s. D.J. Waldie, author of "California Romantica," says the L.A. suburb gave a nod to some of those who were famous at the time.
"There are many streets in Lakewood that are named after semi-obscure characters from Hollywood. There's Hedda Street, named after Hedda Hopper."
Hopper began her career as a silent movie actress, working in more than a hundred films. But by the 1950s, she was best known for her second career as a gossip columnist. Hopper was powerful. She dubbed her fancy home "the house that fear built." She outed alleged Hollywood Communists during the McCarthy era.
Hopper was born Elda Furry. The story is she paid a numerologist ten bucks to come up with a new name. Good thing, or those folks on Hedda Street could be living on Elda Avenue.
(Airdate for this story: 1/13/08)
11 January, 2008
Lakewood's resident historian D.J. Waldie says it may not be as distinctive as the sidewalk outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre, but Hollywood left its footprint on his hometown.
"There's Hardwick Street, named after Sir Cedric Hardwicke," he says.
Cedric Hardwicke made his career playing character roles in "The Ten Commandments," "Around the World in 80 Days," and the 1945 drama "The Keys of the Kingdom," where he played a disapproving Monsignor. In the film, he scolds Fr. Gregory Peck, saying, "when Mrs. Glendenning, one of your best parishioners, who naturally cannot help but extreme stoutness, came to you for spiritual guidance, you looked at her and said, 'Eat less. The gates of paradise are narrow'."
George Bernard Shaw called Hardwicke his fifth favorite actor, after the four Marx brothers. Hardwicke died in 1964. He was 71.
(Airdate for this story: 1/12/08)
4 January, 2008
There's a 200-foot-high hill in Mar Vista with majestic streets named Grand View, Ocean View, and Mountain View. Back in the 1920s, the head of the local Mormon community, George McCune, thought it would be the perfect place for a new Mormon temple in Los Angeles. So he donated the land. But Glen Howell, co-founder of the Mar Vista Historical Society, says McCune's gift got short shrift.
"The leaders in Salt Lake City, who were familiar with Mar Vista, decided it was too far off the beaten track, and they wanted it on a main road, so they picked Route 66."
The Westwood temple was built on land owned by the silent film actor Harold Lloyd. When it was dedicated in 1956, it was the largest Mormon temple. But Glen Howell says, "I think Mar Vistans are glad that it's not on top of our hill. The top of our hill now is a little league field and community gardens. And we like to keep it that way."
That Mormon temple in Westwood is now the second largest. Expansion of the Salt Lake City temple made it the largest operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
(Airdate for this story: 1/6/08)
4 January, 2008
The West L.A. neighborhood of Mar Vista was home to many of Southern California’s earliest Mormon settlers. It was Mormon community leaders who changed the area's name from Ocean Park Heights to Mar Vista. Glen Howell, co-founder of the Mar Vista Historical Society, says they established the chamber of commerce and ran most of the businesses.
"The first church that was built, they called it the Little White Chapel on the Hill, was built in 1928. And it was a community effort. The lumber was donated, the organ was donated, the people, whether they were Mormon or not, all donated labor, and they built the church in a short period of time."
The head of the local Mormon community was an investment manager named George McCune. McCune Avenue in Mar Vista is named for him.
(Airdate for this story: 1/5/08)
28 December, 2007
The news is full of stories of Southern Californians losing their homes due to ballooning interest rates. Unfortunately, it's a story as old as California.
Back in 1819, Felipe Talamantes and his son Tomas, along with some partners, acquired grazing rights in what is now Culver City. Unfortunately, the younger Talamantes ran short on cash and took out a $1500 loan, using his share of the property as collateral. Glen Howell, co-founder of the Mar Vista Historical Society, says the man who made the loan was L.A.'s first mayor, Benjamin Wilson.
"The interest rates were terrible at that time, one to two percent a month was common, and that's how many of these original grantees, the Spanish Rancho owners, lost their land."
And that's what happened. Tomas Talamantes couldn't make the payments. On December 31, 1857, his share of the property, about 20 square miles in all, was auctioned off, and Benjamin Wilson became part owner. Two years later, Wilson sold his share to several buyers, including George Sanford. There's no Talamantes Street in Culver City, no Wilson Road. But there is a Sanford Street.
(Airdate for this story: 12/30/07)
28 December, 2007
They tore down the Studio Drive-In movie theatre in Culver City ten years ago and replaced it with more than 50 homes. One of the streets in that housing tract, Machado Lane, is named for a family that lived in the area almost two centuries ago.
Jose Manuel Machado was one of the "soldado de cuera" or "leather jacket" soldiers who escorted the original settlers of Los Angeles and their mules to Southern California. Glen Howell, co-founder of the Mar Vista Historical Society, says Machado's service to the King of Spain paid off. In 1819, his two sons Augustín and Ygnacio acquired grazing rights with another family on 14,000 acres.
"Typically it was a soldier, a Spanish soldier, who was retiring from one of the presidios, and in lieu of a pension, was given the use of California land."
The Machados' first home was washed out when the Ballona Creek flooded. Augustín rebuilt on what is now Overland Avenue, not far from West L.A. College. The house is gone, but there is an Augustin Lane in Culver City. You can still visit Ygnacio's home. It's the Centinela Adobe in Inglewood. Ygnacio didn't live there long. In 1849, he swapped the Centinela Adobe for a house in Downtown L.A. To sweeten the deal, he had to throw in two barrels of brandy.
(Airdate for this story: 12/29/07)
21 December, 2007
In a city that loves to sell itself, Wilshire Boulevard might have been the most heavily promoted street. Matt Roth says, "Promotion is designed to kind of soothe anger and worry and to minimize conflict. And I think artists are attracted to promotion as something to negate."
Roth, who is historian for the Automobile Club of Southern California, says the same artists who flocked to Los Angeles didn't take long to fashion a dark, dystopian vision of the place.
"It starts out with the noir fiction of Raymond Chandler; he has all kinds of real cutting put-downs of Wilshire Boulevard. He calls it a neon lighted slum. The art of David Hockney, he has a painting called Wilshire Boulevard which is this blank wall with bright sun hitting it and a stringy palm tree, and these alienated stick figures kind of lost in this sun-struck landscape."
It wasn't the sun that struck Wilshire Boulevard in a 1974 disaster film starring Charlton Heston. It was a 9.9 magnitude earthquake. In "Earthquake," a massive aftershock destroyed the graceful Wilshire Colonnade – then known as the Ahmanson Center, near Western Avenue.
Roth says, "There was this great underground film called 'Miracle Mile', which was this post nuclear fantasy which, through rather crude effects, shows this blown up Wilshire Boulevard."
Earthquakes and nuclear war, Roth says, were only the beginning.
"There's the Tommy Lee Jones movie "Volcano," which treats moviegoers to lava flows destroying the Wilshire streetscape."
So why have so many artists portrayed a catastrophe-prone Wilshire Boulevard? One prone to massive destruction on a regular basis?
Roth thinks, "It's precisely a reaction to the promotion of the kind of sunny environment where we can travel and shop in safety and freedom."
Of course, people with a long view of history might say Wilshire's connection with death and disaster dates way back. Wilshire, after all, is home to the La Brea tar pits, where prehistoric wooly mammoths and sabertooth cats met a sticky and untimely end. And 9,000 years ago, someone murdered a young woman and dumped her body in those same tar pits on what's now Wilshire Boulevard.
(Airdate for this story: 12/25/07)
21 December, 2007
During the housing boom of the last few years, homeowners liked to brag about how much their property increased in value. Matt Roth, the historian for the Automobile Club of Southern California, says you should have heard the property owners on Wilshire Boulevard back in the Roaring Twenties.
"The lots on Wilshire were appreciating in value by a thousand percent a year through the late 1920s. In the worst years of depression, 1931, the property owners association on Wilshire Boulevard gets together to sell bonds in the bond market in order to raise capital, to improve the street, and the bonds sell overnight with no discounting in a very, very difficult environment."
Roth says in many ways, that sums up what makes L.A. distinctive in the 20th century: Its ability to attract money and investments from elsewhere, even places where the economy has hit the skids.
(Airdate for this story: 12/23/07)
21 December, 2007
It was 1929 when the prestigious Bullock's department store opened its doors on Wilshire Boulevard. Property owners wanted to attract other classy shopping establishments. They decided their target audience was ladies who shopped. Matt Roth, historian with the Automobile Club of Southern California, says property owners set about making Wilshire "female friendly."
"They contribute money for special lamp posts, for trees, they're effectively making it into a kind of refined park-like atmosphere. Which is specifically geared to women shoppers. This is a gendered environment. And they actually take, consciously take elements of park design, as it evolved in the 19th century, which was able to kind of stipulate areas for middle class women, white women, by the kinds of plantings and carriage roads – as opposed the areas set aside for the noisier pursuits of middle class park uses. So they create refined areas as a procession of consumption."
Today, the only thing consumed at the Bullocks Wilshire building is legal knowledge. What used to be L.A.'s most elegant department store is now the law library at the Southwestern School of Law.
(Airdate for this story: 12/22/07)
21 December, 2007
The part of Wilshire Boulevard near the L.A. County Museum of Art is known as the "Miracle Mile." How it got that nickname is another Street Story. In the mid- to late-1920s, property owners along Wilshire Boulevard wanted to "brand" the street so it would stand out in the public's mind.
Matt Roth, historian for the Automobile Club of Southern California, says, "First they call it the 'Great White Way of Los Angeles' which refers, of course, to Broadway in New York. Then they call it the Champs Elysee of Los Angeles, referring to the famous shopping street in Paris. Another set of publicity materials refer to it as the Fifth Avenue of the west. The thing is, none of these comparisons actually have anything to do with Wilshire Boulevard, except that those other streets are, in fact, celebrated."
In 1929, the prestigious Bullock's department store moved to Wilshire and an associate of real estate magnate A.W. Ross came up with the name "Miracle Mile."
(Airdate for this story: 12/16/07)
21 December, 2007
Almost as soon as there were cars, there was traffic on Wilshire Boulevard. Matt Roth, historian for the Automobile Club of Southern California, says there was an elaborate plan to ease congestion west of MacArthur Park.
"In the early 1920s, a group of civic leaders, including Harry Chandler of the L.A. Times, William O'Melveny of the law firm O'Melveny and Myers, they wanted to rebuild Wilshire Boulevard into this eight- or nine-lane parkway, as they called it, that would go from the Park to the sea."
The Wilshire Parkway would have commemorative fountains and lavish landscaping. But property owners wanted Wilshire to be a fancy shopping street and they wanted the street extended through MacArthur Park all the way to downtown L.A. The battle ended up, as most political battles in California do, on the ballot. The property owners won, and traffic pokes along Wilshire Boulevard to this day.
(Airdate for this story: 12/15/07)
30 November, 2007
There are Placentia Avenues in Brea, Fullerton, and the city of Placentia. Ginny King says, "The name Placentia was given by one of our pioneers, a Mrs. Sarah McFadden, 1876." King is author of the book "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It?"
Placentia is Latin for "a pleasant place to live." There used to be a Placentia in Italy. But these days, its Italian name is used: Piacenza, a town founded by the Romans on the banks of the Po River.
Here in California, Union Oil christened one of its largest tanker ships "La Placentia" in 1921 and nearly everyone in the town of Placentia contributed toward a silver tea service for the captain's table. The ship was scrapped the year World War II ended. But in Orange County, Placentia Avenue lives on.
(Airdate for this story: 12/2/07)
30 November, 2007
Alfonso Bell is best known as the man who developed Bel Air. But he also had a hand in the creation of Pacific Palisades. Randy Young, who wrote the book "Street Names of Pacific Palisades", says a European vacation inspired Bell.
"When he purchased the land, he had just taken a trip to the Amalfi coast and he loved it. And he thought really this area was the Amalfi coast before it was developed. And so he demanded that all of his subdivision have basically Italian and French and Riviera names."
That means you, too, can tour the Riviera: Amalfi, Capri, Corsica, Monaco, Sorrento, and Naples – actually, Napoli – just by cruising the streets of Pacific Palisades.
(Airdate for this story: 12/1/07)
23 November, 2007
Sometimes, losing your job can be the best thing that ever happened to you. At least it was for Harvey Firestone. Firestone Boulevard runs though Downey, Norwalk, South Gate, and Watts. Local historian Wally Shidler says the street owes its name to the man behind the tire.
"Firestone Boulevard was named for Harvey Firestone, who built the Firestone plant there in South Gate in the late '20s."
Harvey Firestone was an Ohio salesman for the Columbus Buggy Company. The company went bankrupt, and Firestone lost his job. But it gave him time to work on his dream of making buggy rides a bit smoother. He imagined replacing steel-rimmed buggy wheels with rubber tires. When the horseless buggy became big, Firestone became even bigger. The Firestone plant in South Gate was a major regional employer until it closed its doors in 1981.
(Airdate for this story: 11/25/07)
23 November, 2007
Sometimes, getting a street named for you is a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Take Sarah Place in Fullerton, one of the older street names in that north Orange County town. Ginny King is working on a book about Fullerton street names called "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It?"
King says, "The information on file says 'named by someone at the Pacific Electric office for a girl at the office'."
It was big news when the Pacific Electric trolley cars began running in 1918, linking Fullerton with Los Angeles. Local headlines read "All Aboard Tomorrow!" The trolley's tomorrow ended in 1948. Today, Metrolink trains stop at Fullerton, the busiest station in Orange County.
(Airdate for this story: 11/24/07)
16 November, 2007
There's a Cudahy Street in Huntington Park. Local historian Wally Shidler says it's named for Irishman Michael Cudahy.
"Michael Cudahy was the meatpacking impresario. Cudahy Packing Company; it was around here. It doesn't exist anymore."
Cudahy and his brother Patrick established the Armour-Cudahy meat packing plant in Nebraska. But Michael sold his share of the company in 1908 and invested in Southern California's booming real estate market. His one-acre lots were incorporated in 1960 as the city of Cudahy. Today, the 24,000 people who live in Cudahy are packed like sausages into one square mile, making the tiny town one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S.
(Airdate for this story: 11/18/07)
16 November, 2007
The street's original name was either Vine or Wine Street, for the grapes that used to grow there. But, Frank Damon says, "In 1877 it was changed to Olvera Steet after the first county judge of Los Angeles, Augustin Olvera."
Damon heads Las Angelitas del Pueblo, the docents who lead walking tours of old Los Angeles. He says Judge Olvera was both wealthy and well respected. He came to California in 1834 during the Mexican period as a justice of the peace. He signed the treaty that ended the war between the U.S. and Mexico.
"And he had a house right on the corner of Vine Street and the Plaza, where the Methodist Church stands today."
After the war, Judge Olvera continued to rule from the bench, using U.S. law. But because he spoke no English, he had to rely on a bilingual sheriff to translate court proceedings. And until L.A. County built a courthouse, Judge Olvera's courtroom was inside his house. He died in 1876. Wine Street became Olvera Street one year later.
(Airdate for this story: 11/17/07)
9 November, 2007
There's a Los Angeles street that leads from Chinatown to Dodger Stadium called Bishop's Road. Alicia Brown, founder of the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council, says the story behind the name is simple.
"It was the road that was traveled when the Bishop came to visit from San Gabriel to the church in Los Angeles or vice versa. And so you just called it: The Bishop went that way. So that's the Bishop's road. You know, there weren't too many tendencies of putting up a sign. They point in that direction."
You can still find a Catholic Bishop on Bishop's Road from time to time. The street has been the longtime home of Cathedral High School.
(Airdate for this story: 11/11/07)
9 November, 2007
The city of Lakewood was built all at once between 1950 and 1953 – the same years as the Korean War. That conflict left its mark on the city in one particular street name: Bomberry.
DJ Waldie is public information officer for city of Lakewood and author of "California Romantica." He says, "Bomberry in Lakewood is named after Robbie Bomberry, who was a prisoner of war of the North Koreans."
Waldie says Bomberry's story was headline news at the time. He was a Native American from Oklahoma with just one year of high school. He moved to California and enlisted in the Army. In the first weeks of the Korean War, Bomberry's artillery unit was overrun by North Korean tanks. Eighty percent of his unit was slaughtered. Robbie Bomberry was captured. DJ Waldie says Bomberry was a POW for several months.
"He escaped a massacre of prisoners and eventually made his way to friendly lines and was rescued."
Robbie Bomberry lived another four decades. He died in 1992. Bomberry Street in Lakewood is located not far from All Souls Cemetery.
(Airdate for this story: 11/10/07)
2 November, 2007
It sounds like a bad joke: A priest and three psychics were walking outside the San Fernando Mission on San Fernando Boulevard. Michael J. Kouri, author of "Haunted Houses of Pasadena," says they were investigating claims that a trio of headless monks were haunting the place.
"We felt this icy cold blast of air. It was 104 degrees that day, it was in the summertime. And all of a sudden, one of the monks appeared. And his head was on, and when he bent down to greet us, his head rolled off and landed, of course, on the cement.
Now of course, he was a spirit and he was transparent, so we couldn't pick up his head and give it back to him. Not that we wanted to anyway. But we just felt he was doing this as a prank, to sort of startle us. And we just started laughing. And when we laughed, he had this look of utter disgust on his face and he dematerialized right in front of our eyes."
California fourth graders still have to build a mission as part of their state history class. No reports on whether extra credit is given for adding headless monks.
(Airdate for this story: 11/4/07)
2 November, 2007
Silent film legend Rudolph Valentino used to live in a charming Mission style home in the Hollywood neighborhood of Whitley Heights ... until the Hollywood Freeway was built and the house was knocked down. But Michael J. Kouri, author of "Haunted Houses of Pasadena," says Valentino's often in the neighborhood.
"His ghost is often seen wearing a derby hat, spats, a grey pinstripe suit. He was quite the snappy dresser. He was a clothes horse in every sense of the word."
Kouri says Valentino loved his whippets and his collection of exotic cars.
"He's often seen in his roadster coming down off the hill, down on Whitley, and he stops and he waves to his fans. And when the light turns green, he rides away, but he gets halfway through the intersection and he totally disappears."
Valentino had bad luck with houses. His home in Benedict Canyon, Falcon Lair, was torn down to the floorboards in 2003. There are no reports of Valentino's ghost at that location.
(Airdate for this story: 11/3/07)
31 October, 2007
Dalton Avenue in Azusa is named for Henry Dalton, an Englishman who made his money shipping goods from Peru to Wilmington. He bought a Mexican rancho, renamed Azusa Rancho de Dalton, planted a vineyard and built a flour mill. Michael J. Kouri says he was the wealthiest man in the San Gabriel Valley until California joined the Union in 1846.
Kouri is the author of "True Hauntings of the San Gabriel Valley." After the Mexican American war, homesteaders (or as Kouri calls them, "squatters") started moving in on Dalton's vast holdings. His land covered what's now Azusa, Glendora, La Verne, and Pomona. Dalton spent the rest of his life and his fortune fighting the U.S. government over land and water rights. He died penniless in the Pico House hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Michael J. Kouri says the Dalton family still haunts Pico House.
"And you hear a woman saying, 'Alisa, Alisa, come, come baby, come.' Well, Alisa was their third child. And when she was about 4 years old, she was running around the Azusa Rancho and fell into what's called a tanning pit, which is a hole in the ground that's filled with acid."
The family was so heartbroken, they saved scraps of the child's hair and eyelashes and pasted them onto a doll that they dressed in Alisa's baptismal dress. The doll joined the Daltons at family gatherings for years, even after they moved to Pico House. Today, that same doll is in the possession of Michael J. Kouri.
(Airdate for this story: 10/31/07. Boo!)
29 October, 2007
Pio Pico was the last man to govern California under Mexican rule. His house "El Ranchito" is located at the corner of Pioneer and Whittier in the city of Whittier. Pico was a wealthy man, and apparently, he liked to party. Michael J. Kouri, author of "True Hauntings of the San Gabriel Valley," says he still does.
"Pio has been seen there many times. Sometimes they hear the sound of the clinking of glasses in the dining room, as if he's having a party. He was quite the entertainer; he loved to have lots of people over, and it's just a very creepy place. But it's really cool."
You can visit El Ranchito at Pio Pico State Historic Park, at the corner of Pioneer and Whittier. No promises that you'll see the ghost of Pio Pico, though.
(Airdate for this story: 10/27/07)
29 October, 2007
Pico Boulevard is named for Pio Pico, the last Governor of California when it still belonged to Mexico. Michael J. Kouri, author of "Haunted Houses of Pasadena," says the area of Pico between La Brea and Robertson is full of ghosts.
"Not haunted by Pio Pico himself, but by winos and a lot street people who died tragically in 1932, when Los Angeles was very, very cold. It actually snowed in Pasadena that year, and a lot of them froze to death."
Kouri says there are at least 60 spirits haunting that stretch of Pico Blvd. No telling whether the proposal to make Pico a one way street will confuse the ghostly inhabitants.
(Airdate for this story: 10/28/07)
19 October, 2007
Long before the red line or the gold line or even the blue line, Southern California had a rail system that connected communities from the mountains to the sea. A street in Huntington Park is named after the so-called architect of the Pacific Electric Railway system.
Randolph Street runs right along the Southern Pacific railroad tracks in Huntington Park. Local historian Wally Shidler remembers the trolley known as the Red Car that used to run on those tracks.
"You could go from Huntington Park to Los Angeles in 12 minutes on the Pacific Electric for ten cents or five cents."
Shidler says Epes Randolph was the chief engineer for the trolley system. He only lasted three years. Tuberculosis forced him to retire and move to Arizona in 1904. The Red Cars lasted quite a while longer. The last car was retired in 1961. Only Randolph Street remains.
(Airdate for this story: 10/21/07)
19 October, 2007
Mar Vista has always had a reputation for being a healthy place, especially for those with respiratory problems. Glen Howell, cofounder of the Mar Vista Historical Society, says at one point, Mar Vista boasted of five sanitariums.
"One of those sanitariums, which was on Venice Boulevard, was called Casa del Mar: House by the Sea."
When the town was annexed by the city of Los Angeles in 1927, Mar Vista had to give up a street name already claimed by L.A. Inspiration came from the sanitarium across the way. So Howell says West Street became Marcasel.
"So if you drop a couple letters and switch some things around, you can switch Casa del Mar to Marcasel. So actually some people think the 'house by the sea' became 'sea castle.'"
Today, Marcasel is the street address for homes pretty enough in their own way to be called sea castles.
(Airdate for this story: 10/20/07)
17 October, 2007
Fullerton was founded by a pair of homesick brothers from Massachusetts, George and Edward Amerige. Ginny King is working on a book about the street names of Fullerton called "The Street Where You Live: Why Did They Name It?" She says the brothers brought a little bit of home out west by giving Fullerton streets familiar names.
"Malden Avenue is the town in Massachusetts where the Amerige brothers were born. Highland Avenue is a street in Malden, where their residence was located. Lawrence Avenue was named by the brothers for the town of Lawrence, Massachusetts."
The Amerige brothers even let a pal name a street for his hometown in Arkansas, Spadra Bluffs. Spadra Road disappeared when the street was rechristened with a more utilitarian name: Harbor Boulevard.
(Airdate for this story: 10/13/07)
17 October, 2007
There are several theories about how Solano Avenue near Dodger Stadium got its name. Alicia Brown, founder of the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council, says a family named Solano once lived in hills where the street is now. But Solano Avenue is also near the spot where, in 1769, Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola took a break on his trek through California.
"In Spanish, in Castilian Spanish, it's supposed to mean a shady place where you can rest; a place to rest."
There's another explanation: One of Portola's traveling companions was a Franciscan friar. Just prior to the exploration of California, another Franciscan missionary, Francisco Solano, was canonized for his work in South America. He had a gift for languages, and Father Solano was rumored to have another gift: The ability to predict earthquakes.
(Airdate for this story: 10/14/07)
5 October, 2007
The Ford Fairlane was a beautiful car sold in the '50s and '60s. It was named after Henry Ford's Michigan estate, called Fair Lane. But what about Ford Lane in Huntington Park?
Ford Lane is a tiny street behind Huntington Park City Hall. But local historian Wally Shidler says it was named for a very big man in the city: William "Uncle Billy" Ford.
"He was the first Huntington Park town marshal and he was elected April 15, 1908 and he served until 1910 when he became disabled. Then he retired. But he later served as street superintendent, tax and license collector, tree warden, and fire chief."
Maybe he didn't have time to find a more important street to name after himself. Wally Shidler says Ford Lane had absolutely nothing to do with the Ford Motor Company or the Ford Fairlane automobile.
(Airdate for this story: 10/7/07)
5 October, 2007
It's the street that leads you to the Hollywood Bowl: Highland. But before the Bowl, before the street, there were two neighbor ladies, Mary Moll and a Mrs. Highland Price. They were good friends, but then in 1901, Highland Price passed away.
Greg Williams says, "She was the first person buried in the Hollywood cemetery."
Williams is the author of "The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History." About the time of Price's death, city planners were trying to build a road that would run through Mary Moll's property. Williams says Moll agreed to the road on one condition: she wanted to name it. The city agreed, and that's why we have Highland Avenue.
"I think she did that in honor of her friend that lived down the street," Williams says.
Mary Moll's strawberry farm is long gone. But something sweeter grew up across the street: the new home of the Oscars, the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Highland.
(Airdate for this story: 10/6/07)
26 September, 2007
Casanova was the infamous Venetian lothario who's been immortalized in song and story. But apparently, not in Los Angeles cartography. There is a street near downtown Los Angeles, just north of Broadway, called Casanova. Alicia Brown, founder of the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council, says Casanova owes its name to the European immigrants in the neighborhood.
"There were Italians, Croatians, Italians, so there were different groups. Irish, Germans, some Mexican people. And this was their new home. So at that time, the street was just like an alley, more like a little gully, actually, so they decided to name it their new house. Therefore, 'Casa Nova' &ndash 'new house.'"
You might still find romance on Casanova. It's practically across the street from Elysian Park.
(Airdate for this story: 9/23/07)
26 September, 2007
Long before flea baths and flea collars, native Californians had a foolproof way of getting rid of tiny, pesky, maddening fleas.
"And many times they would have a village and it would get so full of fleas, they would just move and burn the village down," says Randy Young, author of "Street Names of Pacific Palisades." The Palisades is a fancy neighborhood now ... but perhaps not back then. Young says one of those crude exterminations didn't work. The fleas stuck around.
"Obviously this was a village that hadn't been properly burned out, and so it was called 'the fleas.'"
Or, in Spanish, "las pulgas." No word on whether there's still a flea problem on that street in Pacific Palisades ... but they're still in the name: Las Pulgas Road.
(Airdate for this story: 9/22/07)
14 September, 2007
There are streets all over Southern California named for U.S. Presidents. L.A. has Washington, Adams, and Jefferson Boulevards. And there's a Gerald Ford Drive in Rancho Mirage. Even Lakewood got into the act.
Lakewood was an instant city, created in three short years in the early 1950s.
According to DJ Waldie, the public information officer for the city of Lakewood and author of "Holyland: A Suburban Memoir:" "In that era, developers were given pretty much free hand to name the streets as they saw fit. There were some restrictions imposed by the county engineers office, and there were some post office regulations."
Lakewood developer Louis Boyer wanted to honor the current First Family and Vice President, but the post office said both Dwight and Eisenhower were out because other cities had already claimed the names.
"But he was allowed to name a street Mamie," says Waldie, "and allowed to name a street Nixon. He wanted to name a street after Adlai Stevenson, but Stevenson lost so heavily in the 1952 election that he dropped that idea."
Stevenson lost again by a landslide in 1956. So there's no Stevenson Street in Lakewood.
(Airdate for this story: 9/15/07)
7 September, 2007
It was the most notorious street in Southern California. If you were looking for gambling, prostitution, or a stiff drink, Los Angeles Street was the place to go. Its original name was Calle de los Negros – street of the blacks. Frank Damon says at the time, "negroes" was a derogatory term for Mexicans, but the street itself was infamous for a massacre of local Chinese.
Damon heads Las Angelitas del Pueblo, the docents who lead walking tours of old L.A. He says in October of 1871, a fight broke out between two gangs over a woman. An Anglo man tried to intervene and was shot and killed. "Within a couple of hours," he says "nineteen Chinese were brutally killed by the Anglos. Men, women, and children. They were both shot and they were hung."
The murders were reported around the world. But it wasn't the first time L.A. was labeled a dangerous city. In the 1850s, there was, on average, one murder a day. That means about 20 percent of the city's population met an untimely death.
(Airdate for this story: 9/8/07)
7 September, 2007
Hollywood began its glamorous career as a farming community. Then in the 1880s, real estate magnate Harvey Wilcox and his wife Daeida began subdividing more than 150 acres of their property. Greg Williams, author of "The Story of Hollywood," says the Wilcoxes had to come up with enough names for all the new streets they were carving out of the old fig orchards.
"When they were grading the streets, they would sit down by their fig barn and figure out the names. There were these two little kids who lived in Holly Canyon. They would walk their way to Cahuenga, past their school which is on Sunset and Gordon, and they would walk past the Wilcoxes. And their names were Ivar and Selma."
Today, produce reigns once again – at least once a week at the corner of Ivar and Selma. That's the site of the Hollywood Farmers Market, every Sunday from 8 to 1.
(Airdate for this story: 9/9/07)
24 August, 2007
It's hard to say "Freckles Road" without a giggle. Even local historian DJ Waldie admits it's laugh provoking. Waldie says, "Names of streets have all sorts of commemorative possibilities. Probably this is the most unusual commemoration in Lakewood."
Waldie is the public information officer for the city of Lakewood and author of "Holyland: A Suburban Memoir." He says Lakewood was the largest planned suburb in the country right after World War II. It was designed as the perfect place to raise a young family ... and their pets.
"Freckles Road was named by the original developers of Lakewood, actually named by the energetic son of Louis Boyer, and he named Freckles Road after a dead Cocker Spaniel."
The cat lobby is still a bit miffed that there's no Puff Place or Socks Street in Lakewood.
(Airdate for this story: 9/1/07)
24 August, 2007
When you think of Vernon, you likely think of Farmer John, or the industrial town's many other factories. But at one time, Vernon was "fun city."
Leonis Boulevard in Vernon is named for real-estate mogul Jean Baptiste Leonis, an émigré from the Basque region of France. In 1905, he co-founded Vernon as an industrial hub, conveniently located at the crossroads of three major railroads. But Leonis didn't wait around for the industry boom. Local historian Wally Shidler says Leonis marketed the city as a "sporting" town. "You know, Vernon had a boxing arena and a baseball stadium with the Vernon Tigers."
Next door to the stadium was what was billed as the "longest bar in the world" – a hundred feet long, with 37 bartenders. Shidler says, "They had boxing and gambling and everything else. Everybody came to Vernon."
The bar was a local hot spot for years ... until it closed on June 30, 1919. Over a thousand people swigged down their last drink before the start of Prohibition. Today, the Vernon Chamber of Commerce occupies the spot where the "longest bar" once stood.
(Airdate for this story: 9/2/07)
24 August, 2007
It's the street that gives rookie traffic reporters fits: Cahuenga. "Originally it was Cabuegna, and that was the name of the Indian village," says Greg Williams, author of "The Story of Hollywood."
"The Indian village Cabuegna was actually where Universal City is – the studios – and the Franciscan fathers who trooped through the Cahuenga Pass, they wouldn't pronounce the Indian's names, the village names. So they came up with 'Cahuenga.' That was their kind of bastardization of Cabuegna."
So the next time you get stuck in traffic on the 101, you can amuse your fellow passengers by pointing out you're actually driving through the "Cabuegna Pass."
(Airdate for this story: 8/26/07)
24 August, 2007
The intersection of Florence and Central was "ground zero" for what became one of the largest industrial districts in the United States. According to Matt Roth, historian for the Automobile Club of Southern California, "The Goodyear Tire plant was built there, groundbreaking was in 1919. And this is what turned South Los Angeles into this vast industrial site."
Goodyear employed tens of thousands during the second World War. It also financed many of the neighborhood's bungalows for its workforce. And Roth says small businesses began cropping up.
"One of them was a hot dog and hamburger stand that ended up being Carl's Jr."
Over on Florence, just east of Central, was Benny Hardy's motorcycle shop. Matt Roth says, "Benny Hardy was one of the few, if not the only, African Americans who was an authorized Harley Davidson dealer." Hardy's customized bikes inspired the chopper, the long bike, and the entire "pimp my ride" craze.
(Airdate for this story: 8/25/07)
17 August, 2007
There are lots of Southern California streets named after historical heroes. One street honors a man who was a human rights activist 500 years ago. Randy Young knows the stories behind the "Street Names of Pacific Palisades." That's the name of his book. He says, "One of the streets we were kind of fooled on. It was Las Casas and we thought 'the houses.'"
But the street was actually named after a priest, Father Bartolome Las Casas, who was on the second voyage of Christopher Columbus. Young says he was the first European to recognize that Indians had rights.
Las Casas owned large estates in Cuba, but became appalled at the treatment of the native population. "He freed all of his slaves," Young says, "and then came back to Europe and wrote these marvelous treatises about how Indians were people too, and should be treated as such. And so here's a street that looked like just a mundane Spanish translation of houses, and suddenly became a marvelous story about a hero."
Las Casas spent the rest of his life fighting for Indian rights.
(Airdate for this story: 8/18/07)
17 August, 2007
There's a Nadeau Street in Walnut Park. Wally Shidler, a local historian, knows the street's story. He says it "was named for Remi Nadeau, who was a French Canadian that arrived in Los Angeles in 1861."
Nadeau borrowed $600 and bought a wagon and six mules to haul ore and supplies for mining camps. His business grew to 80 teams and more than a thousand mules. He tried his hand at farming sugar beets, barley, and wine grapes. And like most successful Angelenos, Wally Shidler says Nadeau invested in real estate. He "built the Nadeau Hotel, which was the first four-story structure in downtown Los Angeles."
The hotel boasted of the first passenger elevator in L.A. The project was labeled "Nadeau's Folly." But Nadeau had the last laugh. From the time the hotel opened, it was the place to be for Angelenos. Today, the Los Angeles Times building occupies that piece of real estate.
(Airdate for this story: 8/19/07)
10 August, 2007
It's almost a given that if you hold public office in California, someone will name something after you. For one former governor, the "something" is a street in Huntington Park.
The street used to be called Irvington Avenue, and then Baker. Eventually it was rechristened Gage Avenue. Local historian and archivist Wally Shidler says it's named after Henry T. Gage. "He was a Republican elected Governor of California and he was inaugurated on January 4th, 1899, and he served from that time until January 7th, 1903, and then he was appointed minister to Portugal."
There's also a middle school in Huntington Park named after Governor Gage. But before it was a middle school, Shidler says it was the Los Angeles Jewish Orphans home. Shidler has a letter from the home's principal asking the city's permission for the kids to play sports on Sunday, since Saturday was their Sabbath day. The orphan's home was sold to the local public school district in 1923.
(Airdate for this story: 8/12/07)
10 August, 2007
Broadway is one of the busiest streets in downtown Los Angeles, but it's had a series of different identities over the years. Originally it was called "Calle de La Eternidad." Alicia Brown says that's because there used to be a cemetery in the same spot now occupied by Cathedral High School.
Brown is founder of L.A.'s Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council. She says, "There was a path that went up into the hills, this area where I live. And so you took the coffin and you had your funerals and you went up the hills and they called it 'you were going to eternity.'"
But some Angelenos didn't want that daily reminder of their finite time on earth. Brown says, "As the city grew, not everybody wanted to tell people that they lived close to that street, so changes came."
The street became Buena Vista, or "beautiful view." And eventually, the cemetery was relocated. A new immigration surge from back East changed the name of the street once again. It's now called Broadway.
(Airdate for this story: 8/11/07)
3 August, 2007
They once grew peas and chiles in Hollywood. There were lemon trees. Greg Williams says some of Hollywood's streets salute that produce. "Romaine was because of romaine lettuce, because it was all horticulture. So a lot of horticulture names."
Williams is author of "The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History." He says the original roads in Hollywood were really following the farm and ranch tracks. And the name of the streets often referred to the owner of the ranch.
"So the reason we have Gower, it was on the edge of John Gower's wheat farm. He was an Englishman who came here by way of Hawaii, and back in like 1885 he started growing wheat all along that whole section. And that's why it's called Gower. It's named after him."
They don't grow much wheat anymore. But there's still plenty of bread being made in Hollywood.
(Airdate for this story: 8/5/07)
3 August, 2007
If you're a city's founding father, you can name streets after just about anything you want. Phineas Banning was the father of Wilmington. He built the wharf and helped bring the railroad from the harbor to downtown L.A. He named the city after his hometown in Delaware. Susan Ogle, Director of the Drum Barracks Museum in Wilmington, says Banning also named many of the streets, including Lakme.
"This was a French opera that was a favorite of Phineas Banning. When the streets were being named around here, he named one of the most beautiful ones near his home Lakme Avenue."
Banning was hit by a streetcar when he was on a business trip in San Francisco. He died of his injuries at the age of 55. But his name – and his streets – live on.
(Airdate for this story: 8/4/07)
27 July, 2007
Perhaps the most famous city in California isn't a city at all anymore. Hollywood was annexed to Los Angeles in 1910 because of a lack of water. The movie business arrived in town the very next year. But when did Hollywood Boulevard arrive?
Greg Williams is the author of "The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History." He says, "Hollywood Boulevard was originally called Prospect Avenue, and you still have the name Prospect Avenue; when you go east of Vermont, you can see there's Prospect. And that was what it was called."
In the early days, Prospect Avenue was a classy street of fancy residences – Queen Annes, Victorians, even a few Mission Revival style homes.
Williams says, "It was sort of after Hollywood was a city. They kind of said, 'since we're the city of Hollywood, let's have the main street called Hollywood Boulevard.'"
Those homes were replaced by other fancy palaces – movie palaces like the Egyptian, the El Capitan, and Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
(Airdate for this story: 7/29/07)
27 July, 2007
Sometimes the obvious explanation for a street's name isn't the right one.
If you drive east on the 10 freeway and get off at University Avenue, you end up at the University of Redlands. But Daniel Lewis of the Huntington Library says it's not what you think.
"It was not named University Avenue because of the University of Redlands, but because of Stanford University. The land was owned by J.D.B. Stillman, who was Leland Stanford's personal physician. And when Stanford gave him the land in the 1890s, he was so grateful and delighted that he named the new street leading to his land in honor of Stanford's new fledging university up in Northern California. So really a kind of geographic disconnect, but a naming reason nonetheless; a naming reason, you might say."
Stanford did not return the favor. There's no Stillman street in Palo Alto.
(Airdate for this story: 7/28/07)
20 July, 2007
Wilcox Avenue isn't one of the main streets of Hollywood. But Daeida and Harvey Wilcox were responsible for most of the street names in town.
Greg Williams, author of "The Story of Hollywood," says the Wilcoxes first started developing property near USC. "And then they kind of got tired of Los Angeles and looked around for some place nicer, and they found Hollywood. They thought this would be a lovely suburb for wealthy people coming from the Midwest looking for winter homes. They set it all up, and they graded the streets and started naming them."
Daeida and Harvey Wilcox are still in Hollywood – buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, about six blocks east of the street that bears their name: Wilcox Avenue.
(Airdate for this story: 7/22/07)
20 July, 2007
A number of streets in Southern California have Native American roots. A road near the Pacific Ocean has an Algonquin name... even though that tribe lived 3,000 miles away.
Chautauqua Boulevard in Pacific Palisades shares the name with a town in upstate New York. Randy Young, author of "Street Names of Pacific Palisades," says, "It's on a lake, and they think it could be Algonquin for bag tied in the middle, or the mists that settle there."
Chautauqua was also a religious and educational movement founded in the late 1870s by a Methodist minister. The phenomenon swept the country. In 1922, a West Coast center was founded in Pacific Palisades. "This was a Methodist Chautauqua site," Young says, "but it was also affiliated with UCLA and they had very famous speakers. And they had an orchestra."
The property was purchased by the Presbyterians in 1943 as a private retreat center. It became public land in 1994 when the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy bought the land. But the name remains... Chautauqua Blvd.
(Airdate for this story: 7/21/07)
13 July, 2007
The north-south route between downtown Los Angeles and the Harbor roughly follows what is now Avalon Boulevard. Near the harbor in Wilmington, it was called "Canal Street," but just south of L.A., the street was known as South Park.
Matt Roth, historian for the Automobile Club of Southern California, says there was a park, the city's first, at the corner of what is now 51st and Avalon.
"And it was a leisure ground. It had trees. It was an area that was advertised as the lungs of the city. It would be a place of respite and leisure as the city's growth moved south."
South Park the street is gone. But the park remains. It was built with money from an 1890s bond measure and remodeled after World War II by the noted architect Paul Williams.
Meanwhile, the name South Park has been appropriated for the new development near Staples Center.
(Airdate for this story: 7/15/07)
13 July, 2007
In the 1850s, businessman and entrepreneur Phineas Banning built a landing in what was called "New San Pedro" to bring people and supplies to Southern California. The town later changed its named to Wilmington. Susan Ogle, Director of the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington, says that wasn't the only name change.
"Wilmington streets have all been renamed. Well, not all, but almost all of them have been renamed. And Canal Street is the most obvious. Because Canal Street was literally a canal. The buildings were built up high, they were on stilts because this was a mud flat and it flooded all the time. So they ended up filling in the street so that when you look at it now, the buildings that are there, some of the old buildings, the first floors are now the basements."
Canal Street is gone. It's now known as Avalon Boulevard.
(Airdate for this story: 7/14/07)
5 July, 2007
It's not a particularly big or well known street. But Daniel Lewis of the Huntington Library says one street in Montclair has a good story to tell.
"There's all sorts of strange tidbits about nomenclature when it comes to streets in Southern California. One of my favorites is the name Coalinga. There's a Coalinga Street in Montclair. But Coalinga, actually, although it sounds vaguely Spanish, was 'coaling station A' for the Southern Pacific."
Over the years, the name got mushed together into "Coalinga." And Coalinga Avenue in Montclair ends about 6 blocks from the Southern Pacific railroad tracks.
(Airdate for this story: 7/7/07)
5 July, 2007
If you want to know the history of the "Street Names of Pacific Palisades," you should talk to the man who wrote the book. Randy Young says that Temescal Canyon Road in Pacific Palisades "probably came from 'temecal,' which is an Aztec word. But it's been simplified or anglified."
And for those of us who can't remember a single vocabulary word from high school Aztec class? Young says "temecal" means "sweat house." "They were kind of health addicts even way back in Native American times."
Sweat houses, fine. But it still took a few years before that Aztec health food store moved into the neighborhood. You know – Gelson's.
(Airdate for this story: 7/8/07)