Author Archives: hriinc

About hriinc

Founded in 1986, Historical Resources, Inc. is a management firm specializing in the operation of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum by contract with the City of Industry. The company also does consulting and specialized project work with historical organizations and sites in the greater Los Angeles area.

López Adobe Movie Night: A Different Experience

 

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Andrea Brooks Rynders, a great-great-granddaughter of the Lopez Adobe’s long-time owners, Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, gives a tour to visitors at last evening’s movie night.

Last night was another movie night presentation at the López Adobe, this time with the screening of the 1941 classic Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  The program was part of a series sponsored by the City of San Fernando’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The inflatable screen and projector were set up on the north end of the property near the storage and restroom building, while tours of the Adobe were offered for about two hours prior.

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The location of the screening of the 1941 classic film, Casablanca, in an open area on the north end of the López Adobe property.  The city’s parks and recreation department put on this great series and council member Jaime Soto introduced and discussed the movie with guests.

Visitors to the house had the great experience of touring the early 1880s landmark with Andrea Brooks Rynders, great-great-granddaughter of Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, the home’s owners for nearly four decades.

It’s one thing to hear the story of a family and house, but another matter entirely to get that from a descendant.  It’s something that people don’t get to do all that often and Andrea is carrying on the knowledge of her family and the house passed on through her father, the late John Brooks, who, sadly, passed away just before the López Adobe’s reopening in March 2015.

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The López Adobe takes on different visual qualities when photographed at dusk with the lighting and the colors in the sky adding to the scene.

It was also another type of experience to be in the López Adobe at night, especially when the evening is cooler after a warm day, the building is lit up, and downtown San Fernando activity quieter.

As some of the photos here show, the Adobe takes on a really luminous quality when photographed at night (even from obviously amateur images like these!)  That’s why the movie night is such a great idea.  Not only do visitors get to see interesting films with commentary by city council member Jaime Soto, but they can see and experience the house in a different way.

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With palm, orange and pomegranate trees in silhouette and exterior lighting on the house, the López Adobe looks pretty awesome at night.

The next opportunity for vistors to see the Adobe won’t be at night, but come out and take a tour and learn about the interesting history of the López family, their long-time home and the area on Sunday, 23 October from 1 to 4 p.m.

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Categories: California History, Catalina Lopez, Downtown San Fernando, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, San Fernando buildings, San Fernando History, San Fernando photographs | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Movie Night at Lopez Adobe on 22 July!

The City of San Fernando is hosting a movie night at the Lopez Adobe a week from tomorrow, on Friday, 22 July.

The event includes free guided tours of the early 1880s adobe landmark at 6 p.m. with the film presentation of 1939’s Juarez, starring Oscar winners Paul Muni and Bette Davis in this tale based on the French occupation of México during the 1860s.

Muni played Benito Juarez, the Mexican president who was ousted by the French and established his exiled government on the American border at Ciudad Juarez.  Claude Rains, another great actor, played French emperor Napoleon III, Brian Aherne, a fine character actor, performed as the puppet Emperor Maximilian and Davis playing the Belgian-born Empress Carlota.

Lopez Adobe Movie Flyer.7.2016

The cast also includes the great John Garfield as Porfirio Diaz and such veteran performers as Donald Crisp, Gale Sondergaard, and the only Mexican among the main cast, Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso, a native of, ironically, Ciudad Juarez, who went by the stage name of Gilbert Roland and who was a silent star before he emerged later as an excellent character actor.

San Fernando City Council member Jaime Soto will discuss the film as part of the event, which is free, so plan on coming out to enjoy the Lopez Adobe and the movie.

For more information, call 818.898.1290.

Categories: California History, Downtown San Fernando, Lopez Adobe, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pioneer Society of San Fernando

In April 1913, just shy of forty years since San Fernando’s founding, a group of citizens in the recently incorporated city (1911) gathered to create The Pioneer Society of San Fernando.

A scrapbook in the Lopez Adobe collection contains the handwritten constitution and meeting minutes for the organization, which seems to have existed in the 1930s, but only met infrequently, if the book is the only record of its meetings.

SF Pioneer Society Constitution 1

As was the case with so many of these historical societies that sprung up with increasing frequency in the United States, especially after the American centennial was celebrated in 1876, the object of the Pioneer Society was typical:

to cement the bonds of friendship among the older and former residents of this Valley, to enable them to renew acquaintanceship and to promote that fraternal spirit which should permeate those who have long resided in the same community.

Unlike other similar organizations, however, there was no mention of specific activities or projects, such as saving or marking historic landmarks (although the town was less than four decades old), having regular meetings, publishing historical material, presenting lectures, or having events.

Perhaps this is why the existing record of meetings is spotty!

SF Pioneer Society 1st Mtg Minutes 26Apr13

Among the surnames of those mentioned in the early days of the society were Hubbard, Jenifer, Wright, Maclay, Van Winkle, Webster, and Barclay–all representatives of early families of prominent merchants, farmers and others in town.

Quite a few early members came from the large López family, especially the many daughters of Gerónimo and Catarina.  These include their son-in-law, John T. Wilson, who married Grace López and who was chairperson of the first annual meeting of the society, held at his home on what, funnily enough, was dated as “Sept. 31, 1913.”  Also included were Catarina Millen and her husband William; Ramona Shaug and her husband Charles; Erlinda Alexander and her husband Joseph; and J.C. Villegas, a grandson through the Lopez’s daughter María.

There was a meeting on 30 October 1913 with little business of note conducted and then not again until the end of September 1914, which was equally uneventful.   A gathering of 10 October 1914, though, did feature the election of Catarina López as honorary president of the society and her son-in-law Wilson as 1st vice-president.  Again, though, the agenda was on the light side.

SF Pioneer Society Annual Mtg 31Sep13

The first evidence of an event held by the organization came at the May 1915 meeting, at which a picnic to be held at “Griffith’s park” on 12 June was discussed and committees appointed for “conveyances”, food and refreshments, and a “programme” of toasts and speakers, among other elements.

At the end of September 1916, the next gathering was held, at which the honorary president, presumably Catarina López, was retained, as were the officers.  There was some vague business about tin cups, with no explanation of what they were for, but a “cooperative dinner” was scheduled for late October.

SFPS 10Oct14

Then, it was a few years before any new activity arose, when a meeting of 17 April 1920  was held to arrange for the annual picnic, with committees formed and members appointed, and the date, a holiday preferred, to be selected subsequently.

The organization, as noted above, continued into the 1930s, but with not much happening.  There was a list compiled, sometime in 1930, of society members with names and, in many cases, the date when persons settled in town.  Among the early residents listed were:

Mary Proctor, 1870

John T. Wilson, April 1871

J.C. Maclay, April 1874

C.J. Shaug, July 1874

H.C. Hubbard, March 1875

F.M. Wright, September 1875

SFPS signatures 3Aug30

Of course, Gerónimo and Catarina López were on the list (noted as deceased, having passed away in 1921 and 1918, respectively), but no date of their arrival was given.  The newly married couple did settle at Mission San Fernando, though, in the early 1850s and later established Lopez Station, where today’s Van Norman Reservoir is located.

One of the later pages of the book is dated 3 August 1930 and contains several dozen signatures, perhaps those attending a society picnic.  Names include the Lopez-affiliated John and Grace Wilson; Luisa López McAlohan, who extensively remodeled the López Adobe in the mid-1920s; Catarina (Kate) and William Millen, whose wife Catarina must’ve been there, as she was the last López to live in the adobe up until 1961; Ramona Shaug; and the Brookses, descended through the Villegas line; as well as such surnames as Maclay, Hubbard, Fraisher, Webster, Wright, Van Winkle, Folger and more.

SFPS member list ca 1930 2

The organization eventually died off, as so many do, but a later group, the Friends of the López Adobe, emerged a few decades later, in the 1960s, to save the historic structure and which is still around today, keeping up the spirit of its predecessor.

 

Categories: Catarina Lopez, Catarina Lopez de Millen, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Louisa Lopez de McAlohan, Pioneer Society of San Fernando, Ramona Lopez de Shaug, San Fernando founders, San Fernando History, San Fernando people | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

An 1866 Map from the Lopez Adobe Collection

It’s in pretty sorry shape overall, but a scrapbook repurposed to hold an atlas from Augustus Mitchell’s collection of maps from 1866 included one of California, a detail of which is reproduced here, is in the Lopez Adobe collection.

The map shows the Los Angeles region at a crucial time.  The Civil War had just ended and the area was poised to undergo its first boom, as migrants came in larger numbers than before.

It was an opportune time because heavy flooding in 1861-62 (El Niño) followed by two years of severe drought (La Niña–ring a bell?) ravaged the cattle industry and drove land prices down.

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The boom really took off in 1867, the year after the appearance of the map, and continued until 1875 when it went bust in a big way.  Of course, San Fernando was created at the end of that period as a railroad town along the line of the Southern Pacific being built north from Los Angeles.

Among the interesting features of the map, which was hand-colored in each printed copy, are that the local counties included Santa Barbara (blue), San Bernardino (pink), Los Angeles (yellow) and San Diego (blue).  Ventura, Riverside and Orange counties were off in the future.

Note, too, that the San Gabriel Mountains are referred to here as the San Bernardinos (now the chain east of Cajon Pass; the San Gabriels were often referred to in this era as the Sierra Madre range).

The dotted lines represent the two main roads in the region.  East from Los Angeles through San Gabriel and San Bernardino was the road leading out towards Arizona.  From the rudimentary harbor at San Pedro to Los Angeles was roughly today’s Interstate 110.  Then from Los Angeles north was San Fernando Road leading up to the San Fernando Mission and then up San Fernando (Newhall) Pas and towards Tejon Pass and the Central Valley.

It’s also interesting to see the San Gabriel River terminating at the Los Angeles River.  This is the channel of what is now the Rio Hondo.  In the winter of 1867-68, which featured torrential rainfall, the San Gabriel changed to its present course.

Most of the Channel Islands, the San Juan Capistrano and San Gabriel missions, Elizabeth Lake and Thompson’s stage stop near it, Santa Susana Pass, Point Fermin and Point Dume, Cajon Pass, and two unfamiliar names to most–“Las Yerbas,” meaning the Yorba Ranch near modern Corona, and Las Flores, or where Camp Pendleton is now–are notable locales.

The Lopez Adobe collection has a great many interesting items and this map is one example!

Categories: California History, Lopez Adobe, Los Angeles maps, Mission San Fernando, Newhall Pass, San Fernando History, San Fernando Pass, San Fernando Road | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lopez Adobe Photos and The Kester Ranch in Van Nuys

Wong Kester Ranch 1896

Another very interesting recent find in the Lopez Adobe photo collection is the above cabinet card portrait taken in 1896 by Los Angeles photographer Elkanah P. Tresslar.  It shows a young Chinese man standing next to a small side table covered by a patterned throw with tasseled ends and on which is a small vase with flowers.

The man wears traditional Chinese clothing, including a large long-sleeved tunic, trousers and slippers.  Yet, he also wears a smart, contemporary Western-style hat, holds an unbrella in his left hand and, in his right hand, resting on the edge of the table, is a cigar.  The combination of the new and old, Chinese and American, is striking and certainly deliberate.

Wong & 2 Chinese boys

At the bottom over the Tresslar’s stamped name and address is an inscription that reads “Wong / Chinese cook at Kester Ranch / (Now Van Nuys)  1896.”  The photo is mounted on a photo album page which also has two pasted-down snapshots of Chinese boys, one appearing to be about eight or nine years old and the other perhaps a couple of years older than the other.

Chinese boy in street

The younger of the two stands in the middle of a wide, dirt street and wears similar clothing to Wong, a dark-colored tunic and trousers, though he wears Western shoes.  Held in both hands in front of him is a woven basket, almost as if he was carrying a lunch in it.  In the distance is an intersection with portions of buildings, one of which has a “Fontella Cigars” ad on the side.

Chinese boy by pole

The older stands next to a wooden power pole and wears a traditional Chinese tunic and skullcap, though his trousers appear to be Western and he also sports lace-up boots.  In his right hand he holds a foot-long or so piece of string at the end of which is an oval object, perhaps a piece of food or a stone.  Behind him is a small side street and part of a brick building.  In fact, the pole and building might even be the one in the distance in the other photo of the younger boy.

More than likely these two snapshots were taken at Los Angeles’s Chinatown, which was on the site of today’s Union Station.  The original Chinese neighborhood, from the 1860s to the 1880s, was the infamous Calle de los Negros, a narrow, adobe-lined street to the southeast of the Plaza and which was where the horrific massacre of nineteen Chinese men (one a teenage boy) took place in 1871.  When the calle was rerouted into Los Angeles Street, the Chinese moved east across Alameda Street to a new area.

The photo with the younger boy could well be on the west side of Alameda looking northeast towards the Chinese enclave.  As Union Station was in the planning and construction stages, Chinatown moved to its current location to the north and west.

What is unknown is what relation the two boys might have had to Wong, the Kester Ranch cook, or how the album page came to the Lopez Adobe collection.  As to the Kester Ranch, here is some information about it.

John Hamilton Kester was born in Boston, New York, southeast of Buffalo in 1828.  He remained there until at least the mid-1850s, when he migrated to northern California and settled in Napa County, specifically in Yountville in the heart of today’s famed wine-making area.  Kester became a wheat farmer and miller and lived later in Tehama County near Red Bluff and in Orland at Colusa County, both in the upper Central Valley.  At the end of his life he resided in San Francisco.

Apparently, one of his friends from New York was Isaac N. Van Nuys, who was born in 1836 and who hailed from West Sparta, about fifty miles west of Kester’s hometown of Boston.  When Van Nuys left New York and came to California in 1865, he settled at Yountville, where Kester still lived.

Within a few years, however, Van Nuys visited Los Angeles and took a liking to the area, buying an interest in the recently established San Fernando Farm Homestead Association, which, in July 1869, acquired 60,000 acres of Rancho ex-Mission San Fernando (the $115,000 was used by former governor Pío Pico to build his three-story Pico House hotel on the Plaza in Los Angeles).  The principal figure in the association was Isaac Lankershim, who was joined by Van Nuys.  Their relationship was cemented when Van Nuys married Lankershim’s daughter, Susan.

The Lankershim-Van Nuys partnership initially focused heavily on the raising of sheep, but drought conditions led them to pull back on that emphasis and they sold their stock of 25,000 animals in 1882.  Instead, the impetus moved towards large-scale wheat farming operations through the Los Angeles Farm and Milling Association, which comprised thousands of acres of fertile land that generally produced high yields.  Lankershim also built a flour mill in downtown Los Angeles and the enterprise flourished.

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Kester appears to have been given an option to acquire some 13,000 acres about 1878 and began work on his new ranch.  But, as reported in the Los Angeles Herald, in September of that year, a massive brush fire of up to 3,000 acres, suspected as an arson fire, broke out at Tujunga and spead to the lower part of the San Fernando Valley and the ranches of Lankershim and Kester, devouring wheat fields.  Kester and fifty men saved a good deal of property from destruction by burning and plowing a circle around grain, machinery and livestock.

Still, in June 1879, a Herald article in the form of a “Letter from San Fernando” observed that expectations for a good season in wheat farming could be seen by the work underway at Kester’s ranch, described as “over seven thousand acres of wheat and six thousand acres of barley.”  Meanwhile, “the adjoining ranch of Van Nuys contains five thousand acres of wheat and a large patch of barley.”   Another was the ranch of “Paten & Smith.” likely the attorneys George H. Smith and George S. Patton, Sr., whose son was the famed World War II general.

Kester registered to vote in the San Fernando township in 1879, listing himself as a farmer.  But, by the time the 1880 federal census was conducted, he was residing in Tehama County.  Still, an August 1881 Herald notice stated that “Mr. Kester, of the San Fernando valley, finished threshing his wheat on Wednesday, the crop yielding in the neighborhood of 30,000 sacks,” indicating he may have been owner of the ranch while not residing on it.

It also appears the size of the property dropped down to 7,000 acres, based on a May 1883 article describing the ranch, based on information provided by its superintendent, but the Herald referred to the property as the “Kester” ranch.  In September, the paper stated

A contemporary speaks in the superlative degree of the Kester Ranch in San Fernando with its crop of 40,000 sacks.  As Kester never had a ranch here, and has not been in the county since 1879 a reference to him appears a little antiquated to say the least.

Obviously, Kester did have some interest in the property, as noted in the 1878-1881 references above, but he clearly distanced himself from the ranch not long afterward.  Just what happened when is not clear, but, in 1890, a boiler explosion on the property made note of the location as “the Kester ranch of I.N. Van Nuys.”  This makes it appear as if Kester sold his interest to Van Nuys sometime after summer 1881.  When the photo of Wong, the ranch cook, was taken in 1896, it is obvious he was serving in that capacity for ranch workers.

San Fernando Farm Homestead Map Leonis Adobe Plummer House CSUN University Library SFV History Digital Library

A portion of a map of the lands held by the San Fernando Farm Homestead Association, recorded in 1888.  From the Leonis Adobe and Plummer House and part of the San Fernando Valley History Digital Library project of the California State University, Northridge University Library.

As to the fate of the Kester Ranch, it and the several other distinct properties within the Lankershim-Van Nuys empire were sold in September 1909 to the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company, a syndicate led by Los Angeles Times publisher and real estate titan, Harry Chandler and comprised of such capitalists as Van Nuys, Moses H. Sherman, Chandler’s father-in-law and Times owner Harrison Gray Otis, Henry Huntington, and others.

Not surprisingly, these wealthy and well-connected men were well aware of the coming of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which would transform the San Fernando Valley and other areas of the region with unbounded (well, until recently) supplies of water from the Owens Valley of eastern California.

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In 1910, the firm announced the “Sale of the Century” (which was saying something, given that the 20th century was still in its childhood) and the above ad from the Herald indicated part of a massive auction was to be held at the Kester Ranch in early November, at which 2000 horses and mules and much more were to be sold.

The development of the several ranches of the Lankershim-Van Nuys holdings for towns, smaller farm and orchard sites and other elments was on and the Kester Ranch became part of the community of Van Nuys.

Categories: Isaac Lankershim, Isaac Van Nuys, John H. Kester, Kester Ranch, Lopez Adobe, Los Angeles Farm and Milling Association, Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company, San Fernando Farm Homestead Association, San Fernando History, Van Nuys | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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