Jose Antonio Machado Would Be Pleased : Old Name Proposed for Harbor Lake

Times Staff Writer

It was nothing more than a twist of fate that led Jose Antonio Machado, a Mexican wagon team driver, to marry the widow of his boss, land baron Jose Dolores Sepulveda, in 1825.

Sepulveda had been killed by Indians on a trip from Monterey to his hacienda on the shore of what is now Harbor Lake in Harbor City. Historians suspect that the subsequent union of Machado and Sepulveda’s widow came about so she would have a husband to protect the Sepulveda family’s claim to the land and the lake, which later bore Machado’s name.

Name Change Proposed

Machado did just that. And now, 128 years after his death, he is about to be honored for it.


Today, the Los Angeles Board of Recreation and Parks commissioners will consider a proposal to switch the name of Harbor Lake back to Machado Lake. The proposal is likely to pass without opposition, according to city officials. The park around the lake--Harbor Regional Park--will retain its name.

The park is bounded roughly by Pacific Coast Highway, Vermont and Normandie avenues, Anaheim Street and the Harbor Freeway. The 45-acre lake curves like the letter C on the west side of the park. The city of Los Angeles purchased the lake and the park in the 1950s and named the lake Harbor Lake in 1971, when the park was dedicated.

The name change was proposed about a year ago by Ken Malloy, a San Pedro environmentalist who is so involved with the park that he has been dubbed its unofficial supervisor.

“I saw no reason why we shouldn’t retain the old name, which is so necessary in these times when things are changing so and we’re just plowing under our history,” Malloy said. “The lake area has been pretty much passed by in recorded history.”

The proposal has also generated support among community leaders in Harbor City, according to Niki Tennant, deputy to Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents the area. Tennant said the members of the Harbor Community Coordinating Council, as well as the Flores’ Citizens Advisory Council, have endorsed the name change.

In addition, the staff at the Department of Recreation and Parks has given its approval to the plan, and park Supervisor Roger Williams said he intends to request that the 231-acre park, which includes a golf course and camping grounds, be declared a historic site by the City Council.

“The Machado Rancho years and years ago sat up on top of where the golf course is, right over there across the lake,” Williams said. “The campground back in that area was the site of an old Indian reservation.”

According to Recreation and Parks Department literature, Harbor Regional Park was originally the site of two of the largest Indian villages in Southern California. The Sepulveda family moved onto the land in the 1700s.

The lake apparently was named for Machado after he moved onto the property in the 1800s, and it was called Machado Lake for about a century, Malloy said.

Incorrect Name?

During the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, the lake was also known as Bixby Slough, after two brothers who eventually bought the land. But Malloy said that name was incorrect--Bixby Slough referred to a body of water farther north.

But Rudecinda LoBuglio, who is a descendant of the Machados and Sepulvedas, said, “We always called it Machado Lake, regardless of whether they called it Bixby Slough or some other slough or Harbor Lake.”

LoBuglio, a former San Pedro resident who lives in Janesville, Calif., said her grandmother was born near Machado Lake in 1883. She said she would like to see the lake called by its original name.

“There are hundreds of Machado descendants in the Wilmington area and the San Pedro area,” she said, “and I think they will all be delighted.”