Friday, November 8, 2013

88 Suburbs In Search Of Their Names

Los Angeles County is quite a county. With a population of about 10 million, it's not only the most populous county in the United States, but it has more people than the entire nation of Sweden. It's home of America's aerospace and entertainment industries. It's home to the two largest ports in the U.S.. Los Angeles County has got it all: Mountains, beaches, deserts, even two islands and 88 incorporated cities.

Eighty-eight cities with eighty-eight distinct names (Okay, some of the names are similar). And what's in a name? A glimpse of the town's history, that's what. Many of the cities are named after the original Mexican-era ranchos, or even invented (i.e. gringo) Spanish. One is even in French. Some are named after the native Tongva or Chumash. Another is named after a Native American language from the Midwest. Some are named after saints. Others are named after the town's founders, or their native hometowns.  And a few are named after lofty, idyllic visions of what their founders wanted their city to eventually be.

So after much Militant research, here it is, the etymology of Los Angeles county's 88 cities, in alphabetical order:

Agoura Hills – Misspelling of French Basque settler Pierre Agourre.

Alhambra –Washington Irving’s book, “Tales of the Alhambra.”

Arcadia – Named by founder Lucky Baldwin, meaning “utopia” or “paradise,” which originated from the Greek region of Arcadia.

Artesia – The artesian wells found in the city.

Avalon – Referenced in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Idylls of the King;” meant “Bright gem of the ocean” or “Beautiful isle of the blest.”

Azusa – Derived from the Tongva village Asuksagna (“Place of the water”).

Baldwin Park – Founded by Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin.

Bell – Founded by James George Bell.

Bell Gardens – Nearby Bell and the farms developed by Japanese gardeners.

Bellflower – Anglicized version of the Bellefleur apples that grew in local orchards.

Beverly Hills – After Beverly Farms, Massachusetts and the Santa Monica Mountain foothills.

Bradbury – Founded by Louis Leonard Bradbury (Yep, that Bradbury).

Burbank – Founded by dentist and land developer Dr. David Burbank.

Calabasas – From Spanish word “Calabaza” (pumpkin).

CarsonJohn Manuel Carson, developer and head of Dominguez Water Corporation, grandson of Don Manuel Dominguez.

Cerritos – Nearby Rancho Los Cerritos (Spanish for “Little Hills”).

Claremont – Name arbitrarily given by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway for a train station

Commerce – Chosen in the late 1940s by community leaders to encourage...well...commerce (If they only knew there would be gambling casinos...).

Compton – Land pioneer Griffith Dickenson Compton, who donated much of his land to incorporate city.

Covina – Named by engineer Fred Eaton (who eventually became Los Angeles Mayor and conceptualized the Los Angeles Aqueduct) after the San Gabriel Mountain valleys, which formed a natural “COVE” around the local “VINE”yards.

Cudahy – Founded by Irish immigrant and meat packer Michael Cudahy.

Culver City – Founded by real estate developer Harry H. Culver.

Diamond Bar – Named by ranch owner Frederick E. Lewis for the "Diamond-Over-A-Bar" cattle branding iron design, which he registered in 1918.

Downey – Founded by former California governor John Gately Downey, a land developer.

Duarte – After Mexican rancho grantee Corporal Andres Duarte.

El Monte – Old Spanish name for “meadow” or “marsh.”

El Segundo – Invented Spanish for “The second” Standard Oil refinery on the West Coast.

Gardena – Invented Spanish reference for area’s reputation as the only dry-season garden/green spot found between Los Angeles and the sea.

Glendale – Named by local residents, meaning “valley valley.”

Glendora – Founder George Whitcomb combined the “glen” (valley) where he lived, with the name of his wife Leadora.

Hawaiian Gardens – Named in reference to a bamboo shack refreshment stand that opened in 1927 on Carson and Norwalk boulevards, that was decorated to resemble a Hawaiian garden.

Hawthorne – Named by the daughter of town’s co-founder Benjamin Harding; she shared the same birthday with author Nathaniel Hawthorne (OMG, really?!).

Hermosa Beach – Spanish for “beautiful.”

Hidden Hills – Named by developer A.E. Hanson, who also developed Rolling Hills; location is “hidden” between the San Fernando and Simi valleys.

Huntington Park – Founded by Pacific Electric Railway's Henry Huntington.

Industry – Named by city boosters to promote industry; incorporated to avoid being annexed by neighboring cities for tax revenue.

Inglewood – Named after founder Daniel Freeman’s hometown of Inglewood, Ontario, Canada.

Irwindale – A Mr. Irwin who used the town’s first gas-powered water pump to bring a water supply to the community. His daughter’s name was Dale.

La Cañada Flintridge – From Mexican-era Rancho La Cañada, and Flintridge, named after developer and former U.S. Senator Frank P. Flint.

La Habra Heights – From Mexican-era Rancho La Habra (mountain pass).

La Mirada – Invented Spanish – “The Look.”

La Puente – After Rancho La Puente - Old Spanish for “The Bridge” (The Gaspar de Portola Expedition built a bridge over San Jose Creek).

La Verne – French for “growing green” or “spring-like.”

Lakewood – Named after the Lakewood Country Club, established 21 years before the city’s incorporation.

Lancaster – After Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Lawndale – Named by landowner Charles B. Hopper after Lawndale, Illinois.

Lomita – Spanish for “little hill.”

Long Beach - Named after the “Long Beach Land & Water Company” who bought land and incorporated the name “Long Beach,” a double-reference to the beach's length and Long Beach, New York.

Los Angeles - Oh come on, you should know this one already.

Lynwood – Named after Lynne Wood Sessions, wife of dairyman and major land owner Charles H. Sessions.

Malibu – Derived from Chumash village Humaliwo (“The surf sounds loudly”).

Manhattan Beach – Named in 1902 by land developer Stewart Merrill after his hometown of Manhattan, New York; “Beach” was added 25 years later.

Maywood – Named after May Wood, woman who worked for the real estate company that owned much of city’s land.

Monrovia – Named after founder and rancher, William Norton Monroe.

Montebello – Spanish for “Beautiful mountain;” named by William Mulholland who also engineered that city’s water system.

Monterey Park – Named after the nearby Monterey Hills, which were named after Pennsylvania’s Monterey Pass, site of a major Civil War battle.

Norwalk – Named after the “North Walk” path the Anaheim Branch Railroad crossed. The railroad named their station “Norwalk.”

Palmdale - Originally named Palmenthal (“palm valley”) by Swiss/German Lutheran settlers who mistook Joshua trees for palms.

Palos Verdes Estates – From Mexican-era Rancho de los Palos Verdes (“Ranch of the green sticks” – with “sticks” referring to trees).

Paramount – Named after Paramount Boulevard, meaning “important.”

Pasadena – Chippewa Native American for “Crown Of The Valley,” suggested by settler Dr. Thomas Elliot, who was recommended the name from a missionary friend from the Midwest who worked with Native American tribes.

Pico Rivera – Named after Mexican California governor Pio Pico, and the local confluence of the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel rivers.

Pomona – Named by horticulturist Solomon Gate, who won a contest to name the town. Named after the Roman goddess of fruit.

Rancho Palos Verdes – See Palos Verdes Estates.

Redondo Beach – Named after Mexican-era Rancho Sausal Redondo (“Round Willow Grove Ranch”), a reference to the round shape of the original rancho property.

Rolling Hills – After the rolling Palos Verdes Hills.

Rolling Hills Estates – See Rolling Hills.

Rosemead – Named by town pioneer Leonard J. Rose, who named his horse ranch, “Rose Meadow,” which later became “Rosemeade.”

San Dimas – Spanish for St. Dismas, the Biblical figure who was the repentant criminal that was crucified alongside Christ.

San Fernando – Named after Mission San Fernando Rey de España (“St. Ferdinand, King of Spain”).

San Gabriel – Named after Mission San Gabriel Archangel (“St. Gabriel the Archangel”).

San Marino – Named by founder James DeBarth Shorb after his grandfather’s plantation in Maryland, which was named after the small European republic of San Marino, which was named after Saint Marinus, a 4th-century monk.

Santa Clarita – Invented Spanish for “Little Santa Clara.” Named after the nearby Santa Clara River, but intentionally differentiated from the northern California city of Santa Clara.

Santa Fe Springs – Named after the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway which ran through town, and the local artesian springs.

Santa Monica – Named by Father Juan Crespi, who, upon arriving at Kuruvugna Springs (at modern-day University High School’s campus), thought the waters reminded him of the tears of Saint Monica.

Sierra Madre – Spanish for “mother mountain range,” the original name of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Signal Hill – Named after the hill that was traditionally used by the Tongva for smoke signal communication with the island village of Pimugna (Catalina Island).

South El Monte – See El Monte.

South Gate – Originally named “South Gate Gardens” - a reference to its location on the old Cudahy Ranch.

South Pasadena – See Pasadena.

Temple City – Founded by land owner Walter P. Temple. Originally named “Temple,” but U.S. Postmaster General wanted to avoid confusion (in the pre-ZIP code era) with Tempe, Arizona.

Torrance – Founded by land developer Jared Sydney Torrance.

Vernon – Named after Vernon Avenue, which was named after the French town of Vernon.

Walnut – Named after Rancho Los Nogales (“Walnut Ranch”).

West Covina – See Covina.

West HollywoodOriginally named “Sherman” after local electric railway tycoon Moses Sherman, who later called it “West Hollywood” to closely associate it with nearby Hollywood.

Westlake Village – Named after Westlake Lake, the westernmost lake (well, reservoir, really) in Los Angeles county (Their city government must have a Department of Redundancy Department).

Whittier – Founded by Quaker settlers who named it after their homeboy, poet John Greenleaf Whittier.


frazgo said...

great post. Urban legend here says that the city was originally known simply as monroe, with the railroad it was always "Monroe via Pasadena" and it became commonly known as Monrovia and that was the name given when we incorporated.
Too good to not share with all of LA.

mrhead said...

I have been trying to locate the DUTCH VILLAGE neighborhood. My mother always referred to us
having lived there in the late 50's. I believe that
we were in the San Pedro area and the area was
hilly with large tree roots and cracked sidewalks
or possibly in the Palos Verde area?

tovangar2 said...

"Calabasas" may come from the Chumash word for "Where the wild geese fly" (see etc)

"Santa Monica" Father Crispi named Kuruvungna Springs "San Gregorio". "Santa Monica" came a bit later (see etc)

Darla said...

I'd heard that Azusa was A to Z in the USA.

Anonymous said...

MONTE mean Mountain- yo

Anonymous said...

Good summary. How did you find all these names? I imagine most are spot on, but I did have some clarifications. South gate was named as such because it was the southern gate of the Lugo Ranch (not the Cudahy ranch). The Lugo ranch encompassed Bell, Vernon, HP, SG, MyWd, CDY, ELos.

Also, with respect to HP. It was originally known as La Park. But to entice Henry Huntington and his growing rail empire, civic leaders changed the name to convince him to send rail down their way (it worked).
Either way, good job.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. Your research is really appreciated. Learned a few new things today :)

Sandaloo said...

This is terrific and I can imagine how much research was involved. Bravo and thanks for sharing.

Militant Angeleno said...

mrhead: Facebook user Mary Breier McCawley wanted to offer this reply to you:

"Can't seem to sign up to post a reply to the city names. Tell the guy looking for Dutch Village it was off Lakewood Boulevard and Carson Street, a diagonal there. There was a Dutch Boy paint shop in there and it was called Dutch Village. Near Long Beach City College."

Steve Devol said...

Well done! I now eagerly await a follow-up post on the etymology of SF Valley/L.A. neighborhoods. Along with the usual suspects of land developers, ranchos, etc. there may be some surprises.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that's the origin of the name, but a fun saying that was made up for an old time radio show that referenced Azusa and other local cities.

eo said...

the los angeles public library has the following texts to answer these questions, held at many local library branches

Orange County place names, A to Z (2006)
By Brigandi, Phil
910.3 B854

California's Spanish place names : what they mean and the history they reveal
by Marinacci, Barbara
979.4 M337 2005

Durham's place names of Greater Los Angeles : includes Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties
by Durham, David L.

1500 California place names : their origin and meaning
by Bright, William
910.3 B855 1998

California place names : the origin and etymology of current geographical names
by Gudde, Erwin Gustav
x 910 G922 1998

Also, the Central Branch downtown has a ridiculous map and history department!

-your librarian

Unknown said...

Interesting post!
And thanks for doing two in one week!

Anonymous said...

Also means grasslands

Anonymous said...

BTW: While angeleno is acceptable in the American vernacular, the correct word in Spanish is 'angelino'. Please consult the RAE (Real Academia Española).

Militant Angeleno said...

Anonymous: ACTUALLY, "Angelino" came about when there was a considerable Italian American influence in Los Angeles' hence the "Angelino Heights" district which is adjacent to what once was Los Angeles' Little Italy.

"Angeleno" is actually the Spanish variant, and "Angeleño" is the more accurate Spanish version.

Anonymous said...

Great post Mr. Militant Angeleno. However, the explanation for the city of Pico Rivera is incorrect. The city was actually the merger of two cities, which originally were formed by the boundaries of two family ranches. One was the Pio Pico ranch (his home is on Whittier Blvd. right off the 605 frwy) and the Rivera ranch. The two cities existed independently, until January 7, 1958 when the cities voted to incorporate together.

Anonymous said...

Good Job Militant!

L.A. County City of La Habra Heights, is of course named after Orange County City of La Habra. La Habra means "The Pass" meaning the pass through the hills. Literally meaning Hacienda Road, the only pass through the Puente Hills from the San Gabriel Valley to Orange county.

Anonymous said...

What about places in the Valley? Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Northridge, Van Nuys, Encino, Toluca Lake, Chatsworth, etc?

Militant Angeleno said...

Anonymous: Those places in the Valley you listed are communities of Los Angeles -- they are not independent cities (at least not anymore). The Militant only listed the 88 incorporated cities of Los Angeles County. He may or may not take on the Los Angeles community names in a future post.

Anonymous said...

Mary Breier McCawley is mistaken; Dutch Village was a shopping center at Woodruff Avenue and South Street in Lakewood. It's Disneyesque architecture featured a windmill towering over Woodruff Ave. There was a TV repair shop and a Van DeKamps bakery there as I recall. Dutch Village was torn down in stages between 1988 and 1993 to make way for a Pavilions and non-Dutch looking strip malls.

Brent said...

Palos Verdes makes more sense as "green sticks" if one recalls that it was basically an island surrounded by marsh. The green sticks were the reeds that grew locally. The Palo Verde tree is not native to the area.

Michael said...

Todays Atwater Village is named after an early pioneer of the area. Harriet Atwater Paramore husband bought a large tract of land from W.C.B Richardson back in 1912. The village was added back in the early 90's. Inspiration was taken from a sign that stood for years on Glendale Blvd saying " Atwater a village with-in a city."