If ever a neighborhood suffered an identity crisis, it is Winnetka. With the opening of the Canoga Park Post Office in the 1950s, Winnetka’s community status was lost in the mail as the postmaster insisted that Canoga Park be used for all mail delivered to area residents. The matter was finally resolved in 1989 when the postmaster of Canoga Park issued a formal acknowledgment of Winnetka’s status as an independent area of the San Fernando Valley.
But reminders of the identity crisis are still visible in local business names, such as Canoga Park Bowl, which really is in Winnetka, and Christ Community Church, which also resides in Winnetka, but is listed in the phone book as being in Canoga Park.
Longtime area residents don’t mind though. They know where they live and are proud of their chicken farm-turned-suburban locale. Winnetka’s five-mile area stretches from Nordhoff Street on the north to Victory Boulevard on the south and from DeSoto Avenue on the west to Corbin Avenue on the east.
This bedroom community of almost 40,000 residents has few industrial interests. Many of the businesses are mom-and-pop shops that have operated in the area for decades.
The oldest is the West Valley Cycle Shop, opened in 1950 by Jay and Ruth Richter, who still own and operate the business. Ruth Richter is the current president of the Winnetka Chamber of Commerce.
The Canoga Park Bowl, a 32-lane bowling alley, celebrated its 40th birthday last month.
Winnetka lays claim to two parks, Runnymede Park popular with youth soccer and baseball leagues and Winnetka Recreation Center, which opened in 1957 and has 17 acres with outdoor fields, an indoor gym and auditorium.
The Chamber of Commerce, established in 1932 and headquartered since at the office of whoever is president, adopted Los Angeles Fire Station 104 last summer. We noticed that there wasn’t a lot of community support for the fire stations and we wanted to help, said Richter. It is the first station to be adopted in the Valley area, according to Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson. Events will soon be held to raise $5,000 for a new diesel exhaust fan system. According to Fire Capt. Patrick Klein, diesel fumes from the engines are potential health hazards for the staff, and the city does not have the money to retrofit the station. Under construction on the site of the old Canoga Park Hospital on Sherman Way is the Center for a Healthy Community. Expected to open in January, the 30,000-square-foot facility will offer 24-hour on-call services and emphasize primary care and obstetrics.
Browns Creek, whose channel walls were damaged during the 1994 earthquake, is slated for repairs soon. The project is expected to cost between $115,000 and $140,000.
I have a dream of a community of garden homes made as beautiful as the mind of man can make it, wherein dwell musicians, artists and literary people.
Charles Weeks arrived in the San Fernando Valley in 1920 armed with a vision and enough money to buy a small tract of land. A Utopian who was influenced by Henry David Thoreau, Weeks dreamed of developing one-acre land plots into thriving vegetable and poultry farms. He wanted to prove that people could be self-sufficient and earn a living. Dividing his land into 41 carefully designed farms, he quickly sold them for $1,250 each and promptly bought more land. The area became known as the Weeks Colony.
The community grew to more than 500 families. In the late 1920s, Weeks named the area Winnetka Avenue, a Potawatomi Indian word for beautiful place.
Winnetka Elementary School, built on five acres donated to the city by Weeks, opened in 1925. It has been added to over the years, but is still on the original site. Christ Community Church on Winnetka Avenue opened in 1929 and services are still held there.
By the 1930s, the Great Depression had reached the Weeks Colony. Weeks, who found himself broke after many investments fell through, left the area in 1934.
Although most of the original structures from the Weeks Colony have been razed to make way for modern housing on smaller lots, a couple of the original chicken farms remain.
Source: Leonard Holden, Winnetka Chamber of Commerce. Researched by JAKE FINCH Special to the Times
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Number of households: 13,695
Persons per household: 2.9
Owner-occupied housing units: 44%
Population below poverty level: 8%
Population over 18 with bachelor’s degree or higher: 19%
Average household income is slightly below the citywide average.
Citywide average: $45,701
Northeast Valley: $44,444
Southeast Valley: $48,182
Northwest Valley: $56,427
Southwest Valley: $61,722