The Verdugo Family
José María Verdugo, a private at the first Spanish fort in Alta California, rose to the rank of corporal. In 1784, he received from the first Spanish Governor of California, a land grant of 36,403 acres. The land is located north of Pueblo Los Angeles and José María named it, La Zanja (the ditch most likely meaning water gully).
By 1817, Don Jose Maria had amassed 1,900 cattle, 670 horses and 70 mules. He farmed Rancho San Rafael and produced vegetables and fruit, including wine grapes until he became too ill to work. In 1828 and in poor health Don Jose drew up a will leaving Rancho San Rafael to his son, Julio and daughter Catalina. In 1831 Don José passed at the age of 80 years old. Julio, like his father, became a landed don and worked the Rancho vigorously while Catalina, who went blind after an attack with smallpox in 1863, needed looking after by her relatives.
Rancho San Rafael Becomes Part of the United States
In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain. Soon after, Mexico and the United States fought over the California territory until the end of the Mexican American War, which ended in 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Treaty of Guadalupe Articles VIII and IX granted existing property rights of Mexican citizens living in the transferred territories, which included the Verdugo family’s Rancho San Rafael property.
Rancho San Rafael Starts Getting Divided
Don Julio and his family were rich in land and what they could produce on the land but not rich in cash and most often paid for any needed services though barter of livestock or farm produce. As the population grew in Los Angeles, new arrivals who established businesses wanted to be paid in cash and were not satisfied with the Verdugo family’s time-honored bartering ways. The Verdugo’s, often short of cash, started selling land and borrowing money, securing the loans with land as collateral. However, property taxes also needed to be paid in cash. Living lavishly on their land for many years, the Verdugo’s were not accustomed to exchanging currency and fell victim to and were taken advantage of by this new hard money society.
Dissolution of San Rafael, the La Canada Ranchos and The Great Partition
The first recorded land sales by Julio and Catalina began in 1855 and consisted of the area known today as Atwater. Additional sales and transfers started to take place with regularity and included transfers between Julio’s sons and other Verdugo family members as well as sales to outsiders involving the lands of present-day Burbank and La Canada Flintridge.
As more sales of the San Rafael and La Canada ranchos lands took place, boundary lines, verbal sales and disputed transfers started to come into question and lawsuits arose. Even the boundaries between what Julio owned versus what area’s Catalina owned were unclear. Lawsuits with outsiders over the land previously owned by Julio and Catalina coupled with loans that contained usurious rates of interest over 40 percent per annum quickly escalated; along with Julio and Catalina’s lawyer fees.
By 1870, with many of the Verdugo family land transactions being legally challenged and the confusion of many unclear boundaries and transfers, a group of 36 defendants litigated against the Verdugo’s. The plaintiffs asked, “All open and valid claims be determined, and all void and invalid claims be dissolved and rejected, and that a full and complete partition of the land be made according to the rights and interests of the parties entitled to the same”. This case became known as the “Great Partition of 1870” and is one of the most famous land cases in California history.
The Great Partition case and the clarification of land titles took a full year and would divide up 31 areas of the two ranchos between 28 different persons. Some of the land awards granted were of significant acreage to certain individuals who would later become some of the prime movers paving the way for the founding of Glendale 15 years later.
The Birth and Growth of Glendale
California’s population began in Northern California during the Gold Rush (1848-55) and continued throughout the remainder of the century. In the years 1860-1890, advertisements showing Southern California’s great weather, combined with competition between the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads, caused the Los Angeles population and real estate sales to boom. In the early 1880’s, families began settling in and around what is known today as downtown Glendale. In 1883, early residents in the town of Glen Dale met at a schoolhouse on lower Verdugo Road and adopted the name Glen Dale as the official town name. In 1887, six early Glen Dale landowners recorded their properties with the country recorder, making the first ever plat map of the official Town of Glendale.
Many homes were now being built and more businesses opening in the downtown area near Glendale Avenue and Third Street (now Wilson Avenue). Burgeoning pride in what Glendale was becoming led Mr. Edgar. D. Goode (arguably the real “Father of Glendale”) and the Glendale Improvement Association to become successful with their petitions to incorporate the town of Glendale and in 1906 the town became the incorporated City of Glendale.
Glendale flourished during the early 1900’s. It formed its first school district, created a newspaper, The Glendale Encinal, and was a stop on the Los Angeles railway system. The famous restaurant “Casa Verdugo, named after the historical family, opened in 1904. Glendale’s conservative and religious roots showed through in 1914, when, after several attempts were made to open saloons in the town were unsuccessful, the town became known for being “dry.”
Leslie Coombs Brand (1859-1925)
Leslie C. Brand was born in Florissant, Missouri. By the age of 20 he formed a real estate company in Moberly, Missouri. In 1886, after the death of his first wife, Brand brought his real estate experience to Los Angeles.
Brand combined his past real estate knowledge with that of the fast-growing Los Angeles real estate market and started a real estate title insurance company in 1887. Unfortunately, the real estate boom Brand had anticipated, now headed into a recession. By 1890, Brand sold his interest in the company and traveled.
Brand met his second wife, Mary Louise Dean, in Galveston, Texas in 1891. They married in Monterey, Mexico and return to Los Angeles shortly after. In 1895 Leslie Brand restarted the title insurance business and formed the Title Guarantee and Trust Company in Los Angeles.
At Title Guarantee and Trust Company, Brand became business partners with Henry E. Huntington, who owned the Los Angeles Railway and the Pacific Electric Railway (also known as the Red Car system) to form the San Fernando Valley Land and Development Company.
Brand and Huntington strategically purchased tracts of land west of the still-developing downtown Glendale. The lots purchased by Brand and Huntington were along a strip of land intended for the location of an interurban railroad.
The Glendale land acquisitions of Brand and Huntington paid off handsomely. For the sum of ten thousand dollars paid to the city, Brand secured the right of way along a narrow strip of land for the new railroad. Under the terms of the agreement, the new name for this piece of land was Brand Boulevard. Brand Boulevard became Glendale’s new Main Street. Unfortunately, not all of Glendale’s early founders were pleased.
By 1904, the Pacific Electric Glendale Line pioneered by Brand with partners Henry Huntington and Edgar D. Goode— also a Glendale founder was starting to transport people to Glendale and up and down Brand Boulevard in numbers previously never seen.
In addition to the development of Glendale’s downtown area, Brand accomplished a vast number of real estate transactions, created much of early Glendale’s infrastructure and amassed over 1,000 acres of land in the city. Leslie C. Brand passed away in 1925 and donated his mansion, which resembles the East Indian Pavilion from the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 called “El Miradero”, to the City of Glendale. Brand’s former home is now the Brand Library and Art Center.
Glendale Growth and Annexations
Following its incorporation in 1906, Glendale has grown to become the fifth largest city by area and third largest by population in Los Angeles County. Glendale’s success as a city is partially due to the mutually beneficial absorption of many surrounding “districts” and territories”. Sometimes residents in the annexed areas would feel a sense of loss of neighborhood identity but some would welcome the benefits of Glendale’s utility and water infrastructure and city government. As Glendale grew in size the city would gain increased property and sales taxes and more utility customers..
Glendale’s land area started to grow not long after incorporation in 1911, with the West Glendale District becoming annexed to Glendale. In 1912, the largest district with over 3,700 acres, known as the Verdugo Canyon District, was annexed to Glendale.
Tropico, the area south of Glendale, was also experiencing growth in residential housing, farming, and commerce in the early 1900s. Like Glendale, but with a separate identity, this growth coincided with real estate development and growth.
Tropico’s residences, farms and businesses grew to include a school, church, bank and newspaper, along with the formation of local organizations and a city government. With growth came the need for expanded public services, and in January 1918 Tropico was voted part of Glendale.
In the years 1951-52 the districts known as the La Crescenta Valley and Chevy Chase Canyon territories were annexed. These areas included the: Pennsylvania Avenue District, Honolulu Avenue District, New York Avenue District and the Chevy Chase Avenue District.
Since 1906 the City of Glendale has enjoyed over 60 property annexations.
Early Glendale Developments for Glendale’s Future
During the early 1900’s Glendale’s development was heavily promoted, and real estate was big business. City planning was now more structured than in the founding period and with help from Brand, public works and telephone service were provided throughout the city. Glendale’s own independent post office began service in 1922 and housing tracts began to replace vineyards and orchards.
In 1924 the new Glendale High School, The Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital, now Adventist Health Glendale (Hospital) and in 1926, The Physicians and Surgeons Hospital now Dignity Health, Glendale Memorial Hospital all opened.
In 1927, as more residents started moving into the northwest section of the city, a new high school, Hoover High, was developed and that same year the Glendale Junior College District was established. One of the biggest early developments to put Glendale on the map nationally was the, Grand Central Air Terminal which, in 1929, would serve as Southern California’s first transcontinental airport.
The Grand Central Air Terminal was once Glendale’s largest employer. During WWII the Air Terminal was closed to public use and became a training ground for plane mechanics and pilots during WWII and the Korean War.
During the 1950’s, Glendale witnessed significant developments: The Golden State Freeway and Glendale Freeways were built, the annexation of La Crescenta was completed and development began for the 180-acre Grand Central Industrial Park in west Glendale.
The 1960’s saw the completion of the Glendale section of the Ventura Freeway and development started for the new Interstate 210 freeway through the Crescenta Valley (completed in the early 1970’s). An apartment building boom added more residents, but the new freeways allowed them to travel easily to other cities to shop and this led to a decline in retail shopping. The stores along Brand Boulevard suffered. The Verdugo Mountains were carved up for new Glendale hillside developments, and in 1966 the new floating municipal services building at Glendale Avenue and East Broadway was completed.
In the 1970’s Glendale experienced a stall in growth, so the city leaders formed the Glendale Redevelopment Agency. The city’s first project, which was completed in 1976, was the Glendale Galleria.
The 70’s and 80’s saw more office building construction on Brand Boulevard and new high-rise buildings towards the 134 Ventura Freeway. More hillside residential development and apartment construction continued, and the success of the Glendale Galleria prompted a new adjacent Galleria II building.
Modernization, Culture and Big Business
Living and working in downtown Los Angeles in the late 1800’s, Leslie C. Brand saw huge potential benefits to investing in Glendale. The proximity to downtown Los Angeles as well as many other benefits that Brand saw still exist today. Many of Glendale’s original founders objected to Leslie’s Brand albeit smart strategic takeover of relocating what was to be the center of Glendale’s business district from Glendale Avenue to Brand Boulevard but Brand’s vision turned out to be quite successful. In the book, “History of Glendale and Vicinity” by John Calvin Sherer written in 1922, barely a mention of Leslie C. Brand can be found (Brand was excluded from over 100 names in the Biographical Index). Many in early Glendale most likely objected to Brand’s flamboyant personality, parties and real estate prowess. As we look back at Glendale’s history previous generations have always objected to the city’s growth and change and no doubt future generations will do the same.
Since its inception, Glendale has been a pro-growth vibrant, beautiful, cosmopolitan city. In addition, Glendale’s business sector continues to grow, represented in thriving automotive, retail, office, professional, industrial, and entertainment industries. Complimenting Glendale’s business success are Glendale’s residential and public parks. The city hosts over 40 distinct neighborhoods and almost 50 public parks. Glendale is committed to its designation as one of the “Safest Cities in America.” Close freeway access makes Glendale a convenient place to live and work, and the abundant arts and culture programs enrich the lives of residents and visitors.
When Jose Verdugo first set eyes on the land that would become the present-day city of Glendale, he couldn’t have imagined the vibrant, inviting, desirable to live in city it would become.
With its varied architecture, rich history and cultural programs, picturesque scenery, pristine parks, freeway access, and vibrant business environment, Glendale is the city you want to come home to.