History Lessons on Lankershim, South of Riverside
What is Old Lankershim Village? It is one of the most historic communities in Los Angeles that was, until recently, lost to history. In 2005, believing there was great potential for growth and improvement for an ignored commercial corridor, the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce brought together local businesses and the residential community to collectively envision a re-development plan for the region. The community group decided they wanted to “rediscover” the rich history of their community as the foundation for growth in the future.
Cos Altobelli, long-time business and property owner on Lankershim Blvd., got involved because “Riverside Drive south to the Campo De Cahuenga had no representation. NoHo had redevelopment funds, and Toluca Lake had the village but this corridor along Lankershim, which has significant property owners, was fading, and had no collective identity.”
Richard Bogy, then Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce President and local historian, explains that in the late 19th Century, the Lankershim and Van Nuys family owned much of the east San Fernando Valley (previously owned by Andres Pico, signer of the Treaty of Cahuenga). By 1880, wheat was being farmed in the area, and Isaac Lankershim commanded the largest wheat-growing empire in the world—right down this corridor. In fact, the very first wheat ever exported to Europe from the United States came from the Lankershim ranch. In 1882, James Lankershim subdivided 12,000 acres of his ranch, and brought the railroad to his newly named town of Lankershim. That same year, General Charles Forman applied for the first regional post office in what he named “Toluca” (now Toluca Lake). Thanks to the convergence of the Los Angeles, Tujunga and Pacoima Rivers at what is now Weddington Park, the area had rich alluvia soils, and a shallow water table. By 1890, the Bakman, Weddington and other founding families had transformed the region into one of the greatest fruit farming areas of the world. The Bakman family developed the modern cling peach here. Also grown were plums, walnuts and giant “Moorpark” apricots (yes, that’s where the street name comes from). Lankershim boasted the “world’s largest apricot tree.”
By 1923, commercial growth had moved towards present day North Hollywood, and a new affluent “bedroom” community was being developed around the shores of Toluca Lake by the Toluca Lake Company. Hoping to encourage studios to relocate in the area, the northern part of Lankershim was renamed “North Hollywood,” and the southern part was enjoined to Toluca Lake.
Kelly Altobelli, Committee Chair, said that local businesses along Lankershim with a loyal customer base and reputation of service such as Mayberry Lincoln Mercury, Altobelli Jewelers, Dr. Cleaners, Robert Evans Photo Studio, Bungalow 3, Graffiti Palace Tattoo, Robert Bachelor Salon, as well as the TL Chamber, GTLNC, Campo de Cahuenga (a national historic site) along with Councilman Tom LaBonge, contributed funds to build a community monument at the southern community gateway, along with a custom bench monument at the northern gateway.
As the community, residents, businesses and property owners have collectively worked to define and rediscover this great historic community, all share a commitment to working with city leaders, planners, developers and property owners in not only envisioning a great community of the future but making the promise of success a reality.
Please join us on November 9th at 11:45am at the intersections of Lankershim and Cahuenga as we dedicate the Old Lankershim Village gateway.