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A person living in Burbank at the...

A person living in Burbank at the beginning of the 20th century would

hardly recognize the massive residential and business sprawl the city

has become. A rural town of farms, ranches and small businesses has

transformed itself into a successful contemporary city, dropping most


of its rural ways. The business community of Burbank’s early years

laid the foundation for the growth that Burbank has experienced.

The heart of Burbank’s oldest business district was at the corner

of San Fernando Road and Olive Avenue. Burbank’s first brick building


was constructed there in 1887 to satisfy the small population’s

commercial needs. The Burbank Villa (now the site of the Olive Avenue

Post Office) was also constructed in 1887 at a cost of $30,000. The

Providencia Land, Water and Development Company was heavily promoting

the area to real-estate speculators and new residents. Its efforts

had limited success and were subjected to the ups and downs of the

nation’s unstable economy of the time.

Burbank’s business community was well on its feet by the early


1900s, though. Although Burbank’s population was fewer than 500 in

1908, several businesses were well established and enjoying financial

success. The Randisi Winery, at 701 Eaton Drive, was prospering and

employed many Burbankers. Burbank State Bank, the city’s first bank,

opened April 1, 1908, at the corner of Olive Avenue and San Fernando

Road. It received deposits of $30,000 on the first day! The Burbank

Daily Review made its debut July 9, 1908 -- the first time Burbank

had a local newspaper since 1889. By 1911, the year Burbank was


incorporated as a city, its business district consisted of a hardware

store, livery stable, dry-goods store, general store, bank and a

bicycle repair store, as well as several real-estate offices.

Evidence of Burbank’s transformation from rural town to city was

evident in Burbank’s business district by 1916. San Fernando Road,

near Angeleno Avenue, supported several businesses, including a

Goodrich Tires and the construction of Elizabeth Hotel, which is now

the site of Gordon Biersch. Both businesses reflect the increased

mobility of society of that time. The business district enjoyed

moderate success through most of the decade, but surged in the 1920s.

Burbank had 2,913 people living in 830 homes in 1920. By 1924, the

business district of Burbank was expanding on the west side of San

Fernando Road and stretched from Verdugo to Cypress avenues, and on

the east side to Palm Avenue. Once again, developers took advantage

of the good economic times and began to heavily promote California to

the people of the rest of the nation as a place of perfect weather

and healthy living. The 1920s saw incredible economic growth in the

country, and Burbank benefited from it. In the 1920s, Burbank’s business community expanded to new industries and corporations,

including First National Studio (now Warner Bros. Studios), Libby

McNeil Cannery, Cooper Underwear, Burbank Furniture, Empire China Co.

and the Andrew Jergens Co.

The 1920s were especially significant to Burbank’s transformation

from a rural town to a city. A growing population created the demand

for commerce and goods, and Burbank’s business community met that

demand. Ranches and farms gave way to small businesses and larger

companies that decided to make Burbank their home. The city also

played its part by having the infrastructure transformed to meet

changing demands. Regular garbage pick-up began, and outhouses were

banned in 1922. In 1923, Burbank’s village mail-delivery

classification was changed to city.

Burbank’s business community has played a leading role in the

transformation of Burbank from a rural town to a modern city. Like

the business community of the early 20th century, the business

community of today is an engine of economic change for the city of

Burbank and its residents. The rural town we once were is lost

forever to the city we have become. We can take comfort, however,

that we have a small-town feel with a modern city appearance.

* CRAIG BULLOCK is the chairman of the Burbank Heritage

Commission. Reach him at