Verdugo Views: Created to age gracefully

Back in 1924, when Alexander Nibley and his partners began planning a new development, they targeted people who were, even then, seeking to leave the increasingly crowded city for a place with more greenery and less noise and congestion.

An early Nibley brochure read, "Rossmoyne is within a matter of minutes from Los Angeles, yet it might be in another world," as noted in an article "An Historic Neighborhood" included in the Rossmoyne Historic District application.

The new residential development was to be on land previously owned by Erskine Mayo Ross. He had purchased the 1,100 acre ranch from his uncle, Captain Cameron E. Thom, around 1870. Ross' property was bordered on one side by Verdugo Road and on the other by the village of Casa Verdugo.

Ross immediately planted trees, including orange, deciduous fruit and olive trees, and built a mill for making olive oil. The trees were still bearing fruit when the development began. Many were torn out, but residents say a few of the old trees still dot the landscape. (For more on Ross, see Verdugo Views Nov 15, 2003)

Ross was a reluctant seller. He didn't want the area's natural beauty destroyed and it is possible his views had some influence on Nibley's development, according to the Rossmoyne history article. "The setting couldn't have been more ideal, magnificent, untouched mountains provided a majestic backdrop. Homes were nestled in the foothills, with dramatic views of Glendale and downtown Los Angeles."

Nibley, the son of lumber baron Charles Nibley of Portland, Oregon, brought his family to this area right around 1921. He teamed up with Lon J. Haddock, a former college professor from Utah.

Their company, Haddock-Nibley, also developed the Glendale Heights neighborhood around the intersection of Adams and Palmer. An ad that ran in the Los Angeles Times in 1922 described Glendale Heights as "the wonder tract" and boasted that it was "an ideal residence property for men and women of modest means who care."

With the Rossmoyne tract, however, Nibley wanted to attract the upper middle class, those of "independent means and comfortable circumstances," noted the January 16, 1926 Glendale Evening News.

Rossmoyne was created to age gracefully and to be passed down from one generation to another, so Nibley planned accordingly. There were restrictions on how high up the hill the houses could be built, restrictions on the number of through streets so that the neighborhood would be safe for children, and restrictions on architectural styles. Each plan had to be approved; the styles included Spanish Colonial, Tudor and Norman, with Spanish Colonial Revival the clear favorite because of its link to this city's early Spanish heritage, the history article noted.

Nibley's efforts to create a serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city have survived to this day. Driving the narrow, winding streets, one can appreciate the effort that went into creating this neighborhood. And thanks to the residents who achieved a historic district designation in 2012, the neighborhood will remain much the same for years to come.

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Readers Write:

Your article on the starting of Webb's Department Store brought back a flood of memories, as a child whose every Christmas and Easter ensemble came from there during my youth. My parents seemed to know the head of every department in the store, sometimes even being able to order a wedding gift over the phone. My dad settled in Glendale in 1926, and soon after, his parents and siblings also came here.

My grandfather, a German immigrant who owned a cheese factory in Wisconsin, had few skills to offer a big city like Glendale. However, he soon found a job operating the customer elevator in the back of Webb's, and mastered that cumbersome up-and-down steering wheel and tried to level the elevator with the floor so people wouldn't trip while getting off. He didn't speak much English, but all the customers loved that "little German man" named Otto, who always greeted them with a smile.

Regards, Peter Rusch

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If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o News-Press, 202 W. 1st St., 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.

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