Advertisement
Filters

Neighborhood

Filter

Other

Sort by

Showing Places
Share
Filters
Map
List
(Jim Cooke / Los Angeles Times; photo via Gettyimages)

The surprising stories behind some of L.A.’s most famous landmark names

Surely you’ve seen some name or another blazoned on a local landmark and wondered to yourself, who are those guys? (In many cases, they are guys, yes. But not all!) There’s Griffith Park, named for the fascinating and dastardly Griffith J. Griffith; or Dockweiler Beach, named for the lawyer and politician Isidore Bernard Dockweiler; or the Bradbury Building downtown, named not for science fiction luminary Ray Bradbury but for real estate tycoon Lewis L. Bradbury. And the list goes on (see below).

So here are origin stories of some (but by no means all) of L.A.'s landmarks and legends — the rich, famous, unknown and sometimes infamous names behind L.A.’s most interesting parks, beaches, buildings, mountain peaks and Valley streets.

Showing Places
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Bradbury Building

Downtown L.A. Historical landmark
The man who envisioned and paid for this — I’d call it “Victorian futurist” — building was the silver-mine and real estate tycoon Lewis L. Bradbury, whose name adorns a town in the San Gabriel Valley. Bradbury’s wife, Simoneta, finished the building after he died. Opened: 1893.

Read more >>
More Info

Oviatt Building

Downtown L.A. Historical landmark
James Oviatt is the man behind this Art Deco masterpiece, home to his high-end haberdashery and a jewel-box penthouse apartment. Today, there’s dinner and dancing in the ground-floor Cicada restaurant and lounge. Opened: 1927.

Read more >>
More Info
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Getty Center

Brentwood Museum
Two Los Angeles-area museums bear the name of the oilman J. Paul Getty — this hilltop haven for paintings, statuary and photographs, as well as the Getty Villa in Malibu, which was originally built when its namesake ran out of room to keep all his stuff. Opened: 1997.

Read more >>
More Info
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Skirball Cultural Center

Museum
Jack H. Skirball may have been the world’s only rabbi/developer/philanthropist. The meeting and exhibit space named after him describes itself as “guided by the Jewish tradition of welcoming the stranger and inspired by the American democratic ideals of freedom and equality.” Founded: 1996

Read more >>
More Info
Advertisement
(John Antczak / Associated Press )

Norton Simon Museum

Pasadena Museum
Founded as Pasadena’s art museum, it was facing ruin in 1974 when it agreed to Norton Simon taking it over, paying its bills and installing his own enormous and top-notch collection there. Simon was a sharp-elbowed businessman who leveraged railroads and canned tomatoes and other enterprises into a fortune. And he spent a lot of it on Old Masters, Impressionists, Asian treasures — 12,000 works in all. Founded: 1922.

Read more >>
More Info
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens

San Marino Museum
It’s a legendary name from California history, but it was not the uncle, Gold Rush tycoon Collis P. Huntington, who founded the place, but his nephew Henry, who made his fortune in L.A. real estate and married his uncle’s 63-year-old widow, Arabella. Founded: 1919

Read more >>
More Info
Advertisement

Chateau Marmont

Hotel
The lounge-around hangout of the beautiful people — and anyone else who can afford the price of a room, or at least a cocktail — is named for the street it sits on, Marmont Lane. But where did “Marmont” come from? Most likely from a virtually forgotten silent-film leading man, the English-born Percy Marmont. In dozens of films and on the stage, he played the stoically romantic hero whose characters were usually Lord or Sir or Colonel something. Opened: 1929

Read more >>
More Info

Margaret Herrick Library

Library
This research resource entirely about movies — with many thousands of papers: production notes and screenplays, clippings, promotional materials, photographs, musical scores — is named for an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences librarian and executive director, Margaret Herrick. It is Herrick who in all likelihood gave the saucy name “Oscar” to the academy’s award of merit. Established: 1928

Read more >>
More Info

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Other
With its companion Museum of Tolerance, the institution supports Holocaust research and campaigns for human rights for Jews the world over. It’s named for Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary Holocaust survivor and investigator whose work brought some 1,000 Nazi war criminals to justice. Established: 1977

Read more >>
More Info

A.C. Bilbrew Library

Willowbrook Library
The South L.A. civic leader Madame A.C. Bilbrew was said to be the first African American to have her own radio show. Her name appears with some frequency in The Times’ stories from the 1920s to the 1950s, like one in 1957 noting her “new show” on radio station KPOP. Opened: 1974

Read more >>
More Info
Advertisement

Alma Reaves Woods-Watts Branch Library

Watts Library
Alma Reaves Woods, the woman locals knew as “the lady who built the library,” worked for decades to build a library in Watts, buying cheap books and handing them out to kids, lugging books from a faraway library to a housing project where she had once lived, and campaigning door to door for a bond issue to build the branch library that now bears her name. Current building opened: 1996

Read more >>
More Info

Masao W. Satow Library

Alondra Park Library
L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn presided over the library’s dedication in 1977, calling Masao W. Satow “one of America’s most distinguished civic leaders.” In the weeks after Pearl Harbor, Satow addressed a Lawyers Club audience on the topic “We too are Americans.” In February 1942 — before he and his wife were sent off to a relocation camp in Colorado — he presented to county supervisors a parchment with the signatures of hundreds of Japanese Americans pledging “absolute allegiance” to the U.S. He organized YMCA groups in his detention camp and in 1946 came back to California to head the Japanese American Citizens League and, later, to serve on the state’s advisory committee on civil rights.

Read more >>
More Info
(Courtesy of Patt Morrison)

Ávila Adobe

Historical landmark
It’s the oldest house left standing in the city of L.A. Its builder and first resident was the rich pioneer rancher Francisco José Ávila, the city’s mayor in 1810. It was almost lost twice: when the city condemned it in the 1920s, and the “mother” of the re-created Olvera Street, Christine Sterling, undertook to save it; and again in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. The adobe was restored as an example of L.A. life in the 1840s. Built: 1818

Read more >>
More Info
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Gamble House

Pasadena Historical landmark
This is the flagship of Craftsman houses, built in 1909 by the Greene and Greene architectural firm for the Gamble family, of the Procter & Gamble fortune. The Gamble family heirs gave it to Pasadena in 1966; 11 years later, it was declared a national historic landmark. Built: 1909

Read more >>
More Info
Advertisement
(Perry C. Riddle / Los Angeles Times)

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

Hollywood Movie Theater
Showman Sid Grauman’s over-the-top theater opened in May 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s epic “The King of Kings.” Its equally famous forecourt is paved with cement squares into which stars have embedded handprints, footprints and signatures. The theater was sold in 1973 to the Mann chain, which tried without great success to get Angelenos to start calling it “Mann’s Chinese Theatre.” Ditto the Chinese company that bought naming rights in 2013 and rechristened it “TCL Chinese Theatre.” Opened: 1927

Read more >>
More Info
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Griffith Park

Park
It was not, as some believe, named for D.W. Griffith, the silent-film director. No. It was named for the man who gave it to L.A., the Welsh immigrant and mining magnate Col. Griffith Jenkins Griffith. Griffith was one of those self-mythologizing frontier characters, a self-promoter of choleric temper and roller-coaster fortunes. At Christmas 1896 he presented the city with thousands of acres around what we now call Los Feliz. But in 1903, Griffith badly blotted his copybook when he shot his wife in a fury of what the sentencing judge would call “revolting, gross, unmanly and degrading” behavior.

Once he was out of prison, Griffith sought to buy his way back into civic favor with the gift of money to build a planetarium and theater. The city balked. Not until Griffith’s will made the gift posthumously was it accepted.

More about Griffith Park >>
More Info
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Ernest E. Debs Regional Park

Montecito Heights Park
Los Angeles acquired the land in a complex series of deals that involved the feds and land swaps for what would become Dodger Stadium. The neighbors, led by a former Sierra Club president called Nathan Clark, kept developers at bay, and by the late 1960s, county Supervisor Ernest E. Debs managed to get the land dedicated for a county park. In 1974, as he retired, his colleagues voted unanimously to name the park for him.

More about Debs Park >>
More Info
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Runyon Canyon Park

Park
The precise geography is hazy, but in the 1860s, the government deeded about 160 acres, likely including Runyon Canyon, to the man known to history as “Greek George.” His is a long story, but the canyon was bought in 1919 by coal millionaire Carman Runyon. An Irish tenor named John McCormack bought the land in 1929. When McCormack was on tour, his estate became a high-end place to stay for movie folk. In later years, Errol Flynn moved into the estate’s poolhouse at the invitation of his host and the next owner, Huntington Hartford, heir to grocery store millions.

In the 1960s, Hartford offered the land as a flat-out gift to the city, but for some reason, Mayor Sam Yorty turned him down. In 1984, the city was finally able to buy the land. Somehow, of all of the landowners, it was the name “Runyon” that stuck.

More about Runyon Canyon >>
More Info
Advertisement

Jack Dunster Marine Biological Reserve

Long Beach Park
The Jack Dunster Marine Biological Reserve honors the work of the local man who cobbled together a working expertise in engineering technology and marine life to create a flourishing ecosystem on the Los Cerritos Channel.
More Info

Jaime Beth Slavin Park

Sun Valley Park
In North Hollywood, the first city park created with privately raised money was built in memory of Jaime Beth Slavin, a 16-year-old Woodland Hills girl who died in 1983 of Reye’s syndrome.
More Info

Seily Rodriguez Park

Park
Seily Rodriguez Park in Hollywood was renamed for an 8-year-old girl killed by a car in 2005 as she walked to school.
More Info
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area and Nature Center

Agua Dulce Park
Tiburcio Vasquez was the swashbuckling bandit chief who defended his crimes as a simple justice for his people against the Yankee invaders. The spectacular Vasquez Rocks — hundreds of acres with fabled, other-worldly sandstone formations in Agua Dulce — were his onetime hideout.

More about Vasquez Rocks >>
More Info
Advertisement

Amelia Mayberry Park

Park
Whittier’s Amelia Mayberry Park is named for a librarian-newswoman-PTA leader who made free lunches for local schoolkids, and when that got to be too big a task, persuaded L.A. to open one of the state’s first school cafeterias.
More Info

Maggie Hathaway Golf Course

Gramercy Park Golf Course
In one of her life’s incarnations, Hathaway was a stand-in for Lena Horne in “Stormy Weather.” But her name is on the golf course because she held the very white game of golf to account.

She took her first swing at a golf ball in 1955 on the Griffith Park course, where she had gone to give Black boxing champ Joe Louis a piece of her mind for playing in a pro-am tournament when “truly excellent Black golfers” were barred from pro golf. She found him on the eighth hole, and as he hit the ball onto the green, she scoffed, “Anybody could do that.” Louis bet Hathaway a set of golf clubs that she couldn’t. She did — her first-ever golf swing — and battled for Black golfing ever after.

More about Maggie Hathaway >>
More Info

Eugene A. Obregón Park

East Los Angeles Park
The name of a teenaged war hero from East L.A. appears on several memorials around L.A., and on a park close to home. Marine PFC Eugene A. Obregón was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions in Seoul, Korea, in September 1950.

More about Eugene Obregón >>
More Info

Virginia Robinson Gardens

Beverly Hills Park
More Info
Advertisement
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Pershing Square

Downtown L.A. Park
“Pershing” is General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who pursued Pancho Villa’s forces along the U.S.-Mexico border a few years before going on to the “big show,” World War I. He led the American Expeditionary Forces on Europe’s Western Front in 1917 and 1918. In a patriotic mood, the city renamed the park for him in November 1918, one week after the armistice ended the war.

More about Pershing Square >>
More Info
(Associated Press)

Bette Davis Picnic Area

Park
Yes, Bette Davis worked nearby, at Warner Brothers; yes, she lived not far away and rode her horse along the bridle paths; and yes, she’s buried up the hill in Forest Lawn. But the dissonance of “Bette Davis” and “picnic”? A more urban actress I can’t conjure.

More about Bette Davis Picnic Area >>
More Info
Brand Boulevard in Glendale is named for promoter and philanthropist Leslie C. Brand.

Brand Boulevard

Glendale Street
Glendale’s Brand Boulevard could be no other than Leslie C. Brand, the 5-foot-tall landowner, promoter and philanthropist who quite truly put Glendale on the map.
More Info

Balboa Boulevard

Street
Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first European to lay peepers on the Pacific Ocean — from what is now Panama.
More Info
Advertisement

Marbro Drive

Encino Street
Marbro Drive in Encino is named after the Marx Brothers for reasons that pass understanding, unless it’s because up in Northridge, Zeppo Marx and his wife, actress Barbara Stanwyck, bought a horse-breeding ranch they called “Marwyck.”
More Info

Tarzana Street

Encino Street
Yes, Tarzana Street in Encino is named for the wild-child apeman created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
More Info

Edward Everett Horton Lane

Encino Street
The very abbreviated Edward Everett Horton Lane abutting the Ventura Freeway in Encino was named for the comic character actor who bought his Valley acres in 1925.
More Info

Sepulveda Boulevard

Sherman Oaks Street
The longest street in L.A. County is Sepulveda Boulevard, 40 miles from Mission Hills to Long Beach, named for Francisco Xavier Sepulveda, the propertied pioneer rancher and paterfamilias to the influential founding family.

More about Sepulveda and the ranchos >>
More Info
Advertisement

Sherman Way

Van Nuys Street
Moses H. Sherman was one of those digit-in-every-dealing businessmen: law, mining, water, railways, and real estate. Sherman Way is named him, not for the Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. (Sherman also double-dipped: Hazeltine, his middle name and the name of his daughter, is also up there on a street sign.)
More Info

Lankershim Boulevard

Universal City Street
If you have reason to hate the 405 Freeway, put it down to Isaac Lankershim, who made a wagon road through the pass to get his wheat to export ships, and then, when the railroad came to the Valley, converted his wagon path into a toll road. Lankershim was a Bavarian-born farmer who came south from Sacramento and joined up with other Jewish immigrants to buy scores of square miles across the southern stretch of the Valley from Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California.
More Info

Van Nuys Boulevard

Van Nuys Street
As a two-fer Valley pair, Isaac Lankershim was the elder, and his son-in-law, Isaac Newton Van Nuys, the junior. They had the same first name, as well as an eagerness to own and cultivate a whole lot of land, and they turned tens of thousands of acres first to sheep ranching and then to growing wheat and barley that was sold around the world. The son-in-law gets the bonus of a neighborhood with his name on it.
More Info

Otis Avenue

Tarzana Street
Harrison Gray Otis, The Times’ owner-publisher, was a master operator who licked his chops when he laid eyes on Southern California, “the fattest place I ever was in.” He owned tracts in the Valley and helped to engineer the aqueduct taking Owens Valley water to make those tracts even more valuable. His name remains on Otis Avenue.
More Info
Advertisement
(Photographer unknown. From the Los Angeles Times History Center)

Chandler Boulevard

Street
Harrison Gray Otis’ son-in-law was the savvy Harry Chandler, of Chandler Boulevard, who succeeded his father-in-law and, if anything, thought even bigger, joining a syndicate that bought up almost 75 square miles of Valley land, and naming the group for exactly what the Valley became: the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company.
More Info

De Celis Place

Van Nuys Street
The Valley’s enormous northern half belonged to the de Celis family. The lands of the San Fernando Mission had gone up for grabs when the missions were secularized. Pico kept it in friendly hands when he sold it to the de Celises right before the treaty of Cahuenga made California an American possession. De Celis Place parallels Hayvenhurst Avenue north of the Sepulveda Basin. The de Celises were hard up when they sold their property in the 1870s to a man named Charles Maclay. (Maclay has his own street — not a boulevard or avenue, though — not far from the county’s San Fernando courthouse.)
More Info
Topanga Canyon Road descends into the San Fernando Valley on a vintage postcard from Patt Morrison’s collection.

Topanga Canyon Boulevard

Canoga Park Street
Topanga comes from the Tongvan word “Topaa’nga,” but the English meaning is unclear. It’s the name of the enchanting canyon and the road that runs through it, which is on the books as State Route 27, from the Pacific Ocean in Malibu to the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Chatsworth. I can’t think of anyone who would call it State Route 27, except maybe the bossy recorded voice on your GPS.
More Info

Tujunga Avenue

North Hollywood Street
Tujunga is a tidy avenue from Universal City to Sun Valley, its name altered from the Tongvan language “tuhuunga,” meaning “place of the old woman.” This was per UCLA’s emeritus linguistics prof and Native American languages whiz Pamela Munro. A Times story of three decades ago says the word was thought to mean “big thunder” in the Tataviam language of a tribe of Valley Native Americans.
More Info
Advertisement

Canoga Avenue

Canoga Park Street
“Canoga,” according to a 1905 place-name explainer from the U.S. Geological Survey, is very likely a Native American name — but not a California one. Its origin is probably the Cayuga people and the onetime Iroquois village of “Ganogeh” near the Finger Lakes of New York.
More Info
(Courtesy of University of Southern California Libraries / California Historical Society)

Mulholland Drive

Street
Its name is owed to William Mulholland, who changed the character of the Valley and of L.A. with the immense water project that stuck an engineered siphon into a lake 233 miles away and brought its water south to the city of thirsting angels.
More Info

Burbank Boulevard

Street
The city and the boulevard were named for a dentist! David Emory Burbank’s principal Valley pursuit was grazing sheep, not teeth. Nonetheless, there are, fittingly, dental offices here and there along the length of Burbank Boulevard.
More Info
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Cabrillo Beach

San Pedro Beach
Cabrillo Beach in the harbor neighborhood of San Pedro is named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to visit California, 480 years ago, and where he also took up eternal residence after he died on Catalina Island, a few months after sailing into the waters of San Pedro and Santa Monica.
More Info
Advertisement
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Point Dume and Zuma Beach

Malibu Beach
Point Dume and Zuma Beach are names possiblygarbled from back in time. In 1793, the British explorer George Vancouver found a generous welcome at the San Buenaventura mission, in the persons of the Franciscan padres Vicente Santa Maria and Francisco Dumetz, whom he referred to as “Vincente” and “Dume” in his account of the journey.

There being no Venmo equivalent at the time, Vancouver thanked his hosts by naming the point of land after Dumetz. (He named a San Pedro promontory Point Vicente after the other missionary). An 1870 plat map for Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit, in the Huntington Library archives, shows the spot as “Point Zuma or Duma.”
More Info

Nicholas Canyon Beach

Malibu Beach
Nicholas beach is up the road from Zuma/Duma/Zume, and a place-name of almost as long a memory, per a county lifeguard service history. It bears the name of an 1840s bandit who made a living holding up passing locals and hiding out in the canyon. When a Mexican government posse cornered him, he jumped from a cliff there and died.
More Info
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Will Rogers State Beach

Pacific Palisades Beach
Will Rogers, the down-home Oklahoma humorist and actor, whose popularity and paychecks were enormous, held the title of honorary mayor of Beverly Hills. But it was the hundreds of acres he bought along Santa Monica Bay, in Pacific Palisades, that became a state park, a gift from his family after his death in a plane crash, and a state beach run by L.A. County.
More Info

Dan Blocker Beach

Malibu Beach
Dan Blocker Beach was a gift to the state by the “Bonanza” TV series star’s fellow actors Lorne Greene and Michael Landon, in Blocker’s memory.
More Info
Advertisement
Actor Leo Carrillo hosts Thanksgiving dinner for children in 1937.
(Los Angeles Times)

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Malibu Beach
Leo Carrillo was an actor and a descendant of the renowned family that is among the founders of Spanish Southern California. He was also a committed conservationist who served on the state beach and parks commission for nearly 20 years. He was instrumental in the state laying hold of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Hearst Castle. Gov. Pat Brown once called him “Mr. California.”
More Info
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Dockweiler State Beach

Playa del Rey Beach
Isidore Dockweiler was a Los Angeles native, born in 1867 at First and Broadway in downtown L.A., a leading lawyer and Democratic politician and confidant of President Woodrow Wilson. He sat on the state park commission, which named the beach for him after he died.
More Info

Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach

Malibu Beach
The Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach is really three cliff-and-cove pocket packs — El Matador, El Pescador, and La Piedra, the bullfighter (or killer), the fisherman, and the rock. Meyer was one of that breed of vigorously effective civil servants, a popular deputy director of the state’s parks and recreation department who helped the state to acquire lands and estates that might otherwise have been built up or even paved over.
More Info
(Postcard from Patt Morrison’s collection)

Haggerty's beach

Palos Verdes Estates Beach
J.J. Haggarty was an English-born merchant who opened his clothing store in downtown L.A. in about 1905. The business prospered to a dozen stores, and closed in 1970. In the late 1920s, Haggarty built a 32-room summer villa on the peninsula. A church group bought the place in 1950 and has been holding services on the site ever since, but as far as the Beach Boys and locals are concerned, it remained, misspelling and all, Haggerty’s.
More Info
Advertisement
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Bruce's Beach

Manhattan Beach Beach
One bit of history was brought back to life last year when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law undoing a nearly 100-year-old-wrong. Bruce’s Beach, in Manhattan Beach, is being returned to the descendants of the Black entrepreneurs who owned the land and ran a resort there. They were threatened and harassed, their property torched. The city raised up barriers that forced Black people to walk a long, indirect route to get there. When that didn’t dislodge the resort owners, their property and several others belonging to both white and Black residents was taken by eminent domain for a park that was never built.
More Info
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Rosie's Dog Beach

Long Beach Beach
In Long Beach, the county’s only off-leash dog park has a canine namesake. About 10 years after its 2001 opening, it was renamed for Rosie, an English bulldog whose family petitioned for the name change. Rosie’s Facebook page says that she “loved rides in her red flyer wagon and spending lazy days napping on her chair in the living room.”
More Info
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Mt. Baldy

Mountain
Mt. San Antonio, the tippy-topmost peak in the San Gabriels, might be the only mountain that registers on your retinas from pretty much anywhere around Los Angeles. But you wouldn’t be calling it by that name. You know it as Mt. Baldy. But the official federal list of geographical features strictly uses Mt. San Antonio. St. Anthony of Padua, San Antonio, was a Franciscan, as were most of the padres of the series of California missions, so that’s where you’ll find the smart money for the origins of the mountain’s name. “Baldy” signifies the bare expanses of rock on the face of the summit.
More Info
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Mt. Lee

Hollywood Mountain
You’d think the Hollywood sign would logically be found on the slopes of Mt. Hollywood, but no. The Hollywood sign is on Mt. Lee, named for Don Lee, who rose from running a bike shop on Main Street in downtown L.A. to making a tidy sum selling Cadillac LaSalles. He then turned to broadcast — first a radio network then a venture in TV. His transmitters stood atop the urban mountain that carries both his name and the Hollywood sign.
More Info
Advertisement
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Mt. Lowe

Mountain
In a land of promoters and dreamers, Thaddeus Lowe was a standout visionary, a scientific autodidact who came to California more than 20 years after his service as creator and chief aeronaut of the Union Army balloon corps. He wanted to give paying customers the same rush that high-flying balloons gave him. His thrill ride was a three-stage, seven-mile trip from Altadena to the summit of Echo Mountain in the San Gabriels.

It opened in 1893. For a $5 fare, passengers took an increasingly daunting trolley ride up from Altadena, transferred to a cable car, then back to a small trolley car, taking so many hairpin turns to the mountaintop that even now, just looking at hundred-year-old postcards of it makes me queasy — Toonerville trolleys edging around a supposed 127 curves in 3½ miles. If visitors’ hearts were still beating, they could enjoy their destination: a mountaintop resort of hotel, tavern, riding trails, dance hall and vistas to the sea.

The aerial railway carried its last rider in 1937. By then, buildings had burned down or slid away off the mountain, and in March 1938, the epochal rainfall that disastrously flooded the L.A. River many miles downhill also washed away Lowe’s great enterprise.
More Info
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Mt. Wilson

Mountain
The “Wilson” of Mt. Wilson is Benjamin Wilson — called “Don Benito,” after the fashion of ambitious Yankees who took on a Spanish name as a business and marital emollient in Mexican Southern California. The mountain took his name some time after Wilson, in 1864, cleared a trail up its flank to clear timber for his myriad business interests. Over the course of his years here, he ranched, sold and bought land, politicked (as L.A. mayor, county supervisor and state senator), and wrote a study of contemporary local Native Americans.

You may not have heard of him, but you’ve surely heard of his grandson, who spent some of his free time in the family’s San Marino home: Gen. George S. Patton.
More Info
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Waterman Mountain

Angeles Crest Mountain
In the spring of 1889 an ardent forester and outdoorsman named Robert B. Waterman, his wife, Liz, a California native, and a friend who went by the splendid name of Commodore Perry Switzer (as in the future Switzer Falls, a beauty spot in the San Gabriels), spent about three weeks going there and back over the mountains from La Canada into the Antelope Valley, climbing right along with the bighorn sheep.

Because Frau Waterman was evidentlythe first non-native woman to scale those heights, her husband decided that the peak should bear her name. He didn’t name it Liz, or Elizabeth, but “Lady Waterman’s Peak.” They even built a monument of rocks at the summit to mark the event. Well, as the official U.S. Geological Survey maps got drawn, somehow, somewhy, the “Lady” part disappeared from the map.
More Info

Mt. Lukens

Tujunga Mountain
Mt. Lukens is nearly a mile high, the tallest peak within L.A. city limits.

Theodore Parker Lukens gave up his post as president of a Pasadena bank to take up the work of conservation and reforestation in the burned-over mountains and canyons of the San Gabriels in the early 1900s. His half-dozen years working with the federal government created a template for replanting and restoration programs. We’re talking tens of thousands of, maybe even a hundred thousand, trees. Lukens started a tree nursery at Henninger Flats, experimenting with species that could withstand heat, drought and fire.
More Info
Advertisement
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Mt. San Jacinto

Mountain
“Jacinto” translates to “hyacinth.” St. Hyacinth is beloved in Poland, and is the patron saint of Lithuania. Hyacinth was a well-educated and well-traveled 13th century Polish priest who is, among other credits, the patron saint of weightlifters.
More Info

Mt. San Gorgonio

Mountain
Who was the saint in San Gorgonio? There were several martyred Gorgoniuses in the Catholic lists; the likeliest candidate for ours is St. Gorgonius of Nicomedia. He worked for the Roman emperor Diocletian, and he more or less outed himself as a Christian when he protested the torture of another Christian on the household staff. In consequence, he shared that man’s fate — flayed, trampled, burned at the stake, grilled on a gridiron.
More Info