The bulldozer came today for that circa-1911 model home built to help sell the new town of Van Nuys. In those days, Van Nuys and two other farm towns — Marian and Owensmouth — were being laid out on the former Lankershim wheat ranch that sprawled across almost the entire southern half of the San Fernando Valley floor. Van Nuys opened first, on Feb 22, 1913, with the bungalow on Sylvan Street one of the inducements that developer William P. Whitsett used to get people to make the train ride out from Los Angeles. It was a hard sell: the town site was surrounded by wheat stubble, sand and rattlesnakes, and the town fathers stubbornly built it in the flood path of Pacoima Wash. Last-minute efforts by some historically aware Valley residents couldn't save the bungalow from today's demolition to make way for condos.
After the jump: what Marian and Owensmouth are called today.
Photo: John McCoy/Daily News
Marian, originally named for the daughter of Los Angeles Times patriarch Harrison Gray Otis, became the community of Reseda.
Owensmouth, a name meant to evoke images of the Owens River water that would irrigate the Valley, became Canoga Park (part of which later split off as West Hills.)
Both towns were built along Sherman Way, an early highway that extended west from Van Nuys through the abandoned wheat fields. Lines of shrubbery and exotic trees were planted to hide the view of the fields and cut down on blowing dust. Beside the Sherman Way blacktop was a secondary roadway and Pacific Electric Railway tracks — residents of Owensmouth could, and did, ride the street cars into Hollywood and Los Angeles twenty miles away. In 1915, most of the Valley was annexed into the city of Los Angeles.
Sherman Way, named for developer Moses Sherman, actually began at the North Hollywood town line east of Van Nuys — but did not follow the route seen on maps today. It followed what is known today as Chandler Boulevard, then curved north onto what became Van Nuys Boulevard. At today's Sherman Way, the highway and PE tracks turned west.
There's more than most would ever want to know about this in my book, The San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb, and at The Valley Observed.
Flooding on Sherman Way in Canoga Park, 1938: San Fernando Valley History Digital Library