A History of Granada Hills (1881-1949)
The following article was furnished courtesy of Della Carroll of the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce. It was copied from an article appearing in the Friday, July 15, 1949 issue of a Granada Hills newspaper (name as yet unknown). Office on 17645 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills, Publisher, Richard Stewart. The newspaper was borrowed from Walter S. Smith.
The area now known as Granada Hills was acquired in about 1881 by George K. Porter, a pioneer of the north San Fernando Valley and one of the founders of the city of San Fernando. The land was used principally for farming, beans and wheat being among the usual crops.
In 1917 the land between Balboa and Zelzah Avenues, north from San Jose Street into the hills was bought by J.H. Moshier, a wealthy oil man from Oklahoma. Mr. Moshier built a large house, dairy barns, silos and other buildings at the foot of the hills and named his property the Sunshine Ranch. Most of the ranch buildings still remain, and several had been converted into residences. Between 1917 and 1924 over 2,000 acres of the ranch were planted with citrus of various kinds. In 1925 however, Mr. Moshier tired of his project, and the Sunshine Ranch was offered for sale.
It was bought by Suburban Estates, Inc. which was a holding company organized by Edwards and Wildey Company, prominent subdividers of that time, who already subdivided the town of Eagle Rock, part of Glendale, and several large districts in Los Angeles.
The lower section of the ranch was subdivided into large lots as tract 9317 in 1926. The lots varied in size up to 7 acres, and the tract office was built at 17645 Chatsworth St which has been used continually as a tract and real estate office ever since. Since 1927 it has been the office of Thurlow S. Culley. No, it never was a residence as many assume from its appearance.
The large lots did not sell as anticipated, so in 1927 about half of the original tract was subdivided into smaller residence and business lots as they exist today, and the present streets were laid out. A large pavilion was built just east of the tract office, and people by the bus load were given free trips from Los Angeles, complete with lunch, so that they might see and hear about the great opportunities that existed in Granada. As an added inducement Granada was promoted as a rabbit raising colony, and most of the eighty houses that were built for the first Granada residents in 1927 had barns suitable for rabbitries.
First House in Granada
The first house in Granada Hills was built by Captain and Mrs. J.L. Miller on the corner of Kingsbury St. and White Oak Ave. Prior to coming to Granada, Capt. Butler was chief of Police in Los Angeles under Mayor Woodman. His house is at present the home of Mr. & Mrs. Walter Smith. The home of Mr. & Mrs. Klissner, next door to that of Capt. Butler, was coming along so slowly that they feared the baby would arrive before the house was finished. Mr. Wildey came to the rescue, however, and transferred workmen from the other houses so that the Klissner home could be finished in time. When the little girl arrived she was named Granada Klissner and was presented with $25 worth of stock in the Granada Mortgage Co. as a reward for being the first child born in Granada.
Granada Business District
Having already built the service station at the corner of Chatsworth and Shoshone, the subdividers decided, in the fall of 1927, that it was time to launch the Granada business district. To start the ball rolling, they built a two story Spanish style store building on the corner of Chatsworth and White Oak in the hope that others would soon follow. (Others did follow – in 1946). Riddle’s Market was immediately opened in the store now occupied by Nesbit’s Feed Store and was soon over-expanded to include the middle store also, with the result that a few months later Granada Hills had no market.
In 1927 the Granada Women’s Club was organized largely through the efforts of Mrs. Butler. During the same year the Los Angeles Board of Education bought a five and one half acre school site for $11,000. Three bungalows were built, and the school opened in the fall of 1928.
Granada Chamber of Commerce
On March 4, 1928 the Granada Chamber of Commerce was organized with W.G. Nelson as president, C.F. Condon as vice-president, and Thurlow S. Culley as secretary-treasurer. One of the first successful projects of the Chamber of Commerce was the securing of street lights for the community- the ones which still serve us.
The Granada pavilion served as a meeting place for the Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Club and the Granada Rabbit Association, the organization for publicizing the “Granada Rabbit”, which soon became recognized for its excellent meat. Almost immediately after it was organized the Granada Chamber of Commerce joined the West Valley Associated Chambers of Commerce in which it has held a membership ever since.
1929 – Tough Times
By 1929 the picture of Granada had begun to change somewhat from the optimistic outlook of 1927. Mr. Edwards had died in the meantime, and many of the residents did not like Mr. Wildey’s management of the subdivision. Others found rabbit raising not nearly as profitable as they had anticipated. Furthermore, many people considered it too far to drive to work in Los Angeles since the much sought after transportation had not materialized.
The subdividers realized that they were pioneering in territory beyond their experience, but they put up a bold front and continued intermittently with street and utility improvements through 1931. When they were finished they had laid over fourteen miles of paved streets with curbs and sidewalks. Water, gas and power lines were in. Today we can thank them for one of the best paved subdivisions in the San Fernando Valley, and it was built at the expense of the
Suburban Estates, Inc., went into receivership in 1932 and was taken over by the California Trust Co., which had furnished much of the money for the development of the community. This company set up offices in the corner store of the Granada Building, operating there until all the lots were sold in 1940.
In 1931 the residents were giving serious consideration to changing the name to something other than Granada. There was confusion with a town of Grenada in Northern California. Furthermore, the residents were dissatisfied with the mail service from the San Fernando Post Office. They wanted mail delivery from North Los Angeles (now Northridge). The two Chambers of Commerce even considered merging the two communities and calling the entire area North Los Angeles. Before any definite action was taken, however, the Granada tract was taken over by the California Trust Co. Edward and Wildey went into bankruptcy, and the San Fernando Post Office improved the mail service. A “wait and see” attitude was adopted by the residents which caused the whole idea to die a natural death.
The Granada school closed in 1932, and the children were transported by bus to the O’Melveny School in San Fernando. After the earthquake of 1933, the school bungalows were moved to Long Beach and Venice to replace school buildings destroyed there.
Although two markets had failed in the Granada Building, Mr. A.G. Rowlands built a market on the corner of Devonshire and Zelzah early in 1933. This grocery store has changed hands several times, but has been in continuous operation since its opening.
Deodors and Eucalyptus Trees Planted
In 1933 eucalyptus trees were planted on the south side of each east and west street to serve as a windbreak for the orange trees. The planting was recommended by Mr. superintendent of the Sunshine Ranch and representative of the California Trust Co. Today these trees, towering above the orange orchard, are one of the most distinctive features of Granada Hills.
The deodors on White Oak Ave., Granada Hills Christmas Tree Lane, were planted by John Orcutt who preceded Mr. Crumrine as superintendent of the Sunshine Ranch.
Few additional homes were built in Granada until the late 1930’s. Various businesses were tried in the Granada building including a coffee shop and another market but most of these were short-lived, with the result that there was usually a store vacant which could be used as a community hall. The Granada pavilion, having fallen into disrepair, was torn down, and orange trees replaced when the California Trust Co. took over. Chamber of Commerce meetings were attended by nearly everyone — men, women and children. Refreshments were usually served after every meeting. Other social activities included community Halloween and Christmas parties, which were attended by most of the residents. The store-building hall was used also by the Women’s Club, the Recreation Club, and for Sunday School and Church services.
Granada Hills Market Opens
In June, 1939, Mrs. Roy Miller, the present president of the Granada Women’s Club, opened a grocery store in the Granada Building which she operated but four years. Mrs. Miller was also the first postmaster of Granada Hills.
In May, 1942 the name of the community was changed to Granada Hills, so as not to conflict with Grenada, California,
and the Granada Hills branch post office was opened. Mrs. Miller later sold the store to Cecil Russell, present president of the Chamber of Commerce who added a meat market. He later sold the business to Emerson Bates, who at present operates the Granada Hills Market.
The business district from 1927 until 1946 consisted of the Granada Building, Culleys real estate office, the Shell service station and the market at Devonshire and Zelzah, built in 1933. In 1946, Mr. Bates built his market, which was followed a few months later by the Granada Radio Co. building and the Russell Building. All of the other business buildings have been built in the last two years.
The Granada Hills school was reopened in February, 1948 in four bungalows which were moved onto the old school property. A new bungalow was built to serve the increased enrollment in September, 1948 and plans are now being made for a large permanent building. A large and active PTA is serving the new school and the community.
Granada Hills Presbyterian Organized
The Granada Hills Memorial Church (Community Presbyterian) was organized in 1947 and named in honor of the late Henry West, who was very active in the founding of the church. Work is scheduled to begin in a few weeks on the Church building on Zelzah Avenue between San Jose and Devonshire, which will also serve as a community building until such a time as the Women’s Club is able to build on its lot on White Oak and Tribune.
Of the residents who came to Granada in 1927, five reside here today. One of the first was Charles S. Tilton of 17xxx Horace St. Mr. Tilton built one of the first and largest rabbitries in the area at 17xxx Mission Blvd. The buildings are today used as a chicken ranch. Mr. Tilton was very active in the Chamber of Commerce and other community
organizations in those early days.
H.H. Bury, at present a landscape gardener, still lives in the house built for him at 17xxx Kingsbury St. in 1927. Mrs. Helen F. Woolsey of 10xxx White Oak Ave. and her late husband built their home at 17xxx Mission Blvd. It is today the residence of Mr. & Mrs. E. Thamert.
Intersection of Chatsworth and Zelzah
Mr. & Mrs. Thurlow Culley
Mr. & Mrs. Thurlow S. Culley of 17xxx Mission Blvd. live in the home that was built for them in 1927. They have remained active in community affairs through all the years and have done more probably for the development of the community than any other residents. Mr. Culley came to Granada as a salesman for the Edwards and Wildey Co. in March, 1927 immediately after the tract was re-subdivided into small lots. He eventually became the acceptedarbiter and go-between for transactions, disputes, etc. among the Edwards and Wildey Co., Suburban Estates Inc. the Granada Mortgage Co. and the citizens of the tract. When the subdividers went into bankruptcy, he remained in the same office and continued with the work he had been doing. During the depression most of his business consisted of rentals, the management of abandoned property and, as always, whatever services he could render the residents of the community. Mr. Culley was secretary of the Chamber of Commerce during its first three years of existence, followed by two terms as president. He was usually one of the Granada representatives to the West Valley Associated Chambers of Commerce, serving 15 years as secretary for that organization and two years 1946-47 as president. He is a past president of the San Fernando Rotary Club and was chiefly responsible for the organization of the Granada Hills Rotary Club last year. He just finished his term as its first president.
He has earned the respect and gratitude of the citizens of Granada Hills for his untiring efforts on their behalf and his skilful handling of the multitude of community problems which have arisen throughout the years. Since 1937 he has been ably assisted in this work by J.F. Irwin, who shares his office.
The future of Granada Hills is assured because of its location 1,000 feet above sea level and the prevailing air currents which make it one of the few smog free and virtually frost-free communities in this area.
The Cascades, opened on November 5, 1913, brought water from Owens Valley.
More than 40,000 witnessed the event.
Actor James Cagney owned the “Cagney Ranch” in the 1940s, nestled in the hills north of Rinaldi, west of Balboa.
Lopez Station, built of adobe in 1864, was the stage coach stop, first English-speaking school and first Post Office.
1933 Parked at Zelzah and S.F.Mission Blvd., the highest point in Old Granada, the first firetruck rolled downhill to start its engine, then was often pushed back uphill by the locals.
Devonshire Downs at Zelzah and Devonshire race track in 1943. Harness racing began in 1946. Later it became a venue for concerts and other events.
Historical photos courtesy of the San Fernando Valley Historical Association, and Ruth & Gil Benjamin.