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Verdugo Views: Local street names rich with history, family ties

Verdugo Views: Local street names rich with history, family ties
This map of Glendale, based on the original plat map of 1887, boasted that Glendale had one of the finest locations in Southern California and pure water in abundance. It also shows the later name changes. (Courtesy of Special Collections Room)

When Glendale was laid out in 1887, letters of the alphabet were given to streets running north and south. There were only a few streets: from A to O.

Numbers designated the east and west streets: First through Sixth, according to the “Glendale Area History” book.

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When L.C. Brand arrived, he acquired control of a huge swath of land, including N Street, with plans to bring the Pacific Electric railway to that street.

Brand was a prime force in our city’s growth. He had a hand in a bank, a country club as well as telephone, water and light companies. Through his influence, N Street was renamed Brand Boulevard.

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It wasn’t until 1918 that downtown streets were named as they are today. A Street became Adams and O Street became Orange Street and so on.

Numbered streets also received names: First became Lexington Drive, Second became California. Third became Wilson. Yes, Woodrow Wilson was president at the time. Fourth became Broadway. Fifth is now Harvard, and Sixth is Colorado.

Residential streets were named by their developers. Since Brand controlled so much land, he had a lot of sway.

According to a series of Glendale News-Press articles in 1975, Louise Street was a tribute to Brand’s wife, Louise, and Randolph, Dryden and Stocker streets were all named for his brothers-in-law.

M Street, also renamed by Brand, honored a flourishing romance. One of Brand’s tract managers had a daughter named Mary. She was engaged to a young man named Land.

Brand combined their two names and the street became Maryland Avenue.

The earliest residents in the area were acknowledged with a street named Osceola, according to the News-Press articles.

Many of the streets appeared on the earliest regional maps, reflecting the area’s Spanish heritage. They included Alameda Avenue, Canada Boulevard (as in the road to the old La Cañada rancho), Lomita Avenue, San Fernando Road and Sonora Avenue.

Newer streets with a Spanish connection are Coronado, Cortez and Naranja drives, along with Glorietta Avenue.

Don Jose Drive, and all the streets which begin with Verdugo, carry forward a long association with the Verdugos, who claimed this area for their own in the 1780s.

Native oaks are well recognized by streets such as Oak Circle, Oak Glen, Oak Knoll and Oakmont Drive.

Prominent residents often had streets named for them: Barnes Circle for a former mayor, Herman E. Barnes; Beaudry Boulevard, for Prudent Beaudry, who once owned 1,700 acres including the famed Eagle Rock; and Ross Street for state supreme court justice and landowner Erskine M. Ross.

Historic events were also recognized, such as when Crescent was changed to Victory Boulevard after World War I.

To conclude this brief overview of Glendale street names, let’s not forget Zinnia Lane, which originally carried off storm water.

When it was paved and turned into a street, city officials sought a name starting with a letter at the end of the alphabet. Someone mentioned zinnias and that’s what it became.

Many thanks to my friend Marilyn Chrisman who, several years ago, brought me a list of street names and their origins as taken from the 1975 News-Press series. It’s been a valuable resource.

Readers Write:

Nina Kelty mailed a letter regarding the June 2 Verdugo Views column about my husband’s family’s three years in the Poston relocation camp.

“I have a special interest as my daughter, Anita, is married to a member of the Shosuke Nitta family — who were also interned at Poston,” she wrote.

Kelty enclosed a story from the June 1974 Orange County Illustrated, profiling the Nitta family and Shosuke Nitta’s journey from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, to California in 1897.

He worked as a field hand, saved enough money to buy 15 acres and then married a young woman from Japan. They had three sons.

Nitta and his family went to Poston in August 1942. They returned in 1945 and took up farming operations once again, eventually owning a sizable acreage.

Nitta died in the late 1960s, but his sons continued his work.

Kelty added, “I was struck when I read that your husband was born in the Poston relocation camp. The two families surely must have known each other. Your stories are so important for the city of Glendale and I’m so pleased that the News-Press continues to publish them.’’

Nina, thank you for your letter and for your kind words. Yes, there are many parallels between my husband’s family and the Nitta family, including the fact that both of Glenn’s grandparents came from Yamaguchi Prefecture, worked as field hands, and saved their money to purchase farms.

They went to Poston at the same time and perhaps even lived in the same area.

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