The patch of land beside Ventura Boulevard that is arguably the most historic spot in the San Fernando Valley — and thus one of the most historically significant in Los Angeles — might remain open to the public due to an anonymous gift. The $150,000 donation from a family that wishes to remain anonymous, according to news reports, should be enough to take Los Encinos State Historic Park off the state's closure list for a year. The donors apparently value the park for recreation; for that it's a nice spot, with several acres of lawns, a lake with ducks and geese, pepper trees and cactus.
History buffs in the know revere it as the spot where the Portola expedition, the first European land explorers in the region, left the riverbank that later became Los Angeles and came upon a Tongva camp (called Siutcanga by some accounts) beside a spring in a wide, grass-covered valley in August 1769. The Spanish shared the natives' camp overnight before heading north. In the mission era the Tongva spring watered a Mexican rancho with an adobe roadhouse, and after California became a state the location turned into a prominent sheep-breeding ranch that passed through several families (French primarily) and remained in family hands well into the 20th century. The spring remains, as do restorations of the roadhouse and the limestone farmhouse built by the Garnier family, and the Garnier pond.
Undated photo of the Garnier house, showing the hill that used to rise east of today's park. Los Angeles Public Library.
A hill shown on early maps beside the Tongva village, just east of the spring, has been completely obliterated. Any Tongva relics and remains still in the ground, and the site of a saloon for the Basque ranchers at Encino, have long been buried under the commercial buildings along Ventura Boulevard east of Balboa.
Rancho los Encinos has been threatened before. After World War II a real estate sign went up announcing a suburban development — the Walter H. Leimert Co. even set up its temporary office in the de Osa adobe — but Encino residents rallied to get about five acres designated a state park. Encino residents again rose up in recent months to solicit donations to privately fund the park. It appears they have succeeded.
An interview that John Rabe of KPCC did with me at Rancho los Encinos a couple of years ago will re-air on Saturday's Off-Ramp, late in the noon hour on 89.3 FM. Rabe snapped the pic of me outside the de Osa adobe.
Top photo of the park, middle photo of the Garnier house: LA Observed. Encino ranchhands, undated photo, Los Angeles Public Library. Bottom photo of Kevin Roderick: John Rabe.