San Fernando Valley History

San Fernando Valley History

The San Fernando Valley developed predominately over a 200-year period, marked by a number of booms and busts. These periods of growth and decline helped shape the Valley into what would become one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The San Fernando Valley was originally home to a number of Native American tribes over a period of about 8,000 years before the Spanish arrived and colonized the area in 1797 with the founding of the Mission San Fernando. The mission was well-positioned to take advantage of the abundant water supply in the Valley and grazing and farming lands were developed around it. Mexican independence from Spain in 1821 resulted in skirmishes over the desirable land, which fell under Mexican rule until their defeat in 1848, when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed following the Mexican-American War and California was ceded to the United States.

As part of American soil, the San Fernando Valley became a key player during the cattle boom that resulted from the 1849 Gold Rush. A number of Ranchos were developed by the remaining Mexican Dons who still owned land and supplied beef to the markets serving the gold fields. In the 1850’s, major developments occurred as rights of way through the Valley, including through the Cahuenga Pass and the San Fernando Pass, were developed and improved, increasing accessibility and attracting residents. Civil War, a flood and then draught plagued the region from 1861 to 1864, and over the course of the following decade, much of the ownership changed hands and the city names we recognize today, like Burbank and Van Nuys began to appear, as landowners by those names bought up and developed the land.

By the late 1800’s the connection of the San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles and San Francisco by rail aided in significant expansion and areas such at North Hollywood and Chatsworth were settled. By the early 1900’s, the Valley was beginning to be viewed as a viable suburban community for the ever-growing Los Angeles metropolis. The Los Angeles city planners had a vision to create a sprawling city that wouldn’t suffer from the overcrowding and sanitation problems of many other industrial cities. The Valley became an expansion of this design to create a city made up of smaller communities. In the 1930’s much of the growth in the Valley was a result of the movie business, as farmlands were converted into film studios like Warner Brothers and Disney, and people began to flock to the area.

The Valley experienced a major growth boom in the years following World War II, quintupling in size between 1944 and 1960. The land became far too valuable to use for ranching and farming activities. More tract homes and neighborhoods began to spring up. The San Fernando Valley became the iconic American suburb, as depicted in the classic show, The Brady Bunch. A sprawling residential community, with close ties to an urban metropolis. The Valley is currently made up of both incorporated cities and organized communities.

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