While the streets of Toluca Lake aren’t numerous, their names reflect the diverse history and geography of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Some honor longtime residents or even crops grown in the area, as many streets throughout the metropolis do. These names all reveal the fascinating development of a prosperous neighborhood.
The Toluca Lake area originally served as hunting grounds for the nomadic Tongva Indian tribe before becoming part of Spain’s Alta California mission system, providing crops and grazing land to the Mission de San Fernando Rey de España. Pio Pico eventually became owner of 60,000 acres in the southern half of the San Fernando Valley.
Isaac Lankershim and his San Fernando Farm Homestead Association, later succeeded by the Los Angeles Farming and Milling Co., purchased Pico’s property in 1869 and obtained Eulogio de Celis’ land two years later, thereby owning virtually the entire portion of the southern Valley. Lankershim’s son James and others formed the Lankershim Ranch Land and Water Company to purchase 12,000 acres in 1888, subdividing the property throughout the tract into gentleman farms of 100 to 500 acres each, near a small town they named Toluca, which translated into English means “fertile” or “beautiful.” Financier and board member Charles Forman purchased a tract in 1889 that he named the Forman Subdivision, creating a large, flourishing ranch near a lake he called Laguna Toluca.
Real estate syndicate Heffron-McCray-St. John purchased 151 acres of the former Forman ranch from his heirs for $300,000 in 1924, naming their upscale subdivision Toluca Lake Park in honor of the ranch and its lake. While they would create names for several of the streets in their tract, others retained monikers already in common use. Some of these, as historian Bernice Kimball describes in her informative 1988 book Street Names of Los Angeles, retained the names of former farmers or ranchers.
STREETS THAT EXISTED BEFORE TOLUCA LAKE
Arcola Avenue honors three different Arcolas: the 1792 battle between France and Italy near the Italian village of Arcola; the city of Arcola, Illinois; and the 1901 Arcola oil well in Kern County. Originally laid out in 1915 north of Glenoaks Boulevard, it reached Toluca Lake in 1926.
Blix Street, named in 1912, acknowledges immigrant Swedish farmer Carl Anton Gustav Blix, who with his family worked a fruit farm in Lankershim near Cahuenga and Magnolia Boulevard for almost 20 years.
Cahuenga Boulevard salutes Native American history with a name deriving from the Spanish name of the Tongva Indian village Kawenga, meaning “place of the mountain,” at the top of the pass. The Battle of Cahuenga occurred at the location, before Colonel John C. Fremont and General Andreas Pico signed the Treaty of Capitulation on January 13, 1847, at the Campo de Cahuenga, giving all land west of the Rocky Mountains, south of Oregon and north of Mexico to the United States.
Kling Street honors Edwin C. Kling, a farmer who lived on Kling near Camarillo. The street received its name in 1920.
Lankershim Boulevard originally carried the name San Fernando Avenue, as the major highway leading from the Mission San Fernando, which gave the Valley its name, toward Hollywood. In 1917, the thoroughfare was renamed Lankershim to pay tribute to Isaac Lankershim, who first began the process of subdividing the area. A small community around what is now the North Hollywood Post Office and train station, originally called Toluca, was also renamed in Lankershim’s honor in 1896. In 1927, local leaders rechristened the community North Hollywood, playing off the name of its famous neighbor to the south.
Moorpark Street, named in 1917, honors a popular variety of English apricot native to China, which proliferated in the area. Admiral Lord Anson introduced these apricots to England in 1688 when he planted them at his Hertfordshire estate, Moor Park.
Riverside Drive acknowledges the street’s location adjacent to the Los Angeles River near downtown Los Angeles. First named in 1921, within a few years it extended all the way to Toluca Lake.
Satsuma Avenue salutes a dark red Japanese plum originally grown at a Japanese settlement at the north end of the San Fernando Valley. The street was named in 1916 and finally extended to the Toluca Lake area by the 1920s.
Strohm Avenue honors Thomas Strohm, a German immigrant who was elected Los Angeles fire chief in 1887 and then again in 1889, helped organize the Los Angeles Athletic Club and later was elected to the Los Angeles City Council.
Weddington Street recognizes San Fernando Valley pioneer W.C. Weddington, whom President Grover Cleveland named as the first postmaster of Toluca (now North Hollywood). Weddington drove the first spike as the Pacific Electric Railway began construction on the line connecting Toluca/Lankershim to Hollywood. He gave the Southern Pacific the right of way through his property as it extended its line from Burbank to Chatsworth, donating land on which the Lankershim Depot now stands. The street gained its name in 1910.
Whipple Street, named in 1917, salutes Willis H. Whipple, a farmer in the San Fernando Valley who lived near Lankershim Boulevard.
STREETS NAMED BY TOLUCA LAKE DEVELOPERS
Forman Avenue acknowledges original land owner General Charles Forman, replacing the former street name, Laguna Avenue.
Navajo Street salutes the Native American Indian tribe found in the Southwest United States.
Ponca Avenue recognizes the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, which was part of the Omaha Tribe, separated from the larger group by the time Lewis and Clark came upon them in 1804. They were primarily horticulturists and situated along Ponca Creek in Knox County, Nebraska.
Sancola Avenue acknowledges Captain Dolores Sancola, one of three Yaqui chiefs who signed the peace agreement with Mexico in 1909.
Talofa Avenue recognizes the Native American Muskogee tribe of the Creek nation, taking its name from the term for a small outlying village.
Toluca Lake Avenue honors the lake that gives the community its name.
Valley Spring Lane recognizes the natural springs from the Los Angeles River and aquifers that helped create Toluca Lake.
Woodbridge Street salutes a district in Suffolk, England.
A few street name changes erupted into contentious debate over the years.
Barham Boulevard honors Frank Forrest Barham, publisher of the Los Angeles Herald Express. It was so named by the Los Angeles City Council in 1932, but had originally been called Dark Canyon Road, after a Native American trail from the Cahuenga Pass to the Los Angeles River. The Ramona Chapter of the Native Sons of the Golden West determined that name had been in use for 150 years, even on maps, and many local residents protested the change to Barham, but to no avail.
Forest Lawn Drive salutes Forest Lawn Cemetery, which opened in the Hollywood Hills in 1948. In 1950, the current name replaced Hollingsworth Drive, which referred to original owner W.I. Hollingsworth, a prominent Los Angeles real estate developer who had purchased 500 acres south of the Los Angeles River abutting Griffith Park in the early 1910s. He leased parts of his large tract in the 1910s and 1920s to Universal Studios, Famous Players Lasky and Mack Sennett for location ranches before the cemetery acquired the land.
During your next drive through Toluca Lake, visualize the area as it would have been more than 100 years ago, wide open and full of farms and fields, and remember all the native inhabitants, early settlers and ranchers who helped shape the area as we know it today.