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SHERMAN OAKS HISTORY

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

“General Sherman was the one who had a house up – you opened the gate – on Sepulveda Boulevard and what is now Sepulveda Boulevard ended at General Sherman´s home. Sherman never came by, only maybe once every few years, but Mr. Lodge, who was the keeper of the home, farmed the alluvia…the house itself was made into a lodge. It was a redwood lodge, the home. It was like a mountain…redwood verandas, just like a mountain lodge.” – Ollie Reynolds (long-time resident of Van Nuys)

Ollie was describing the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards in Sherman Oaks at a time long before 16-year-old newlywed Marilyn Monroe moved nearby on Vista del Monte and Liberace built his piano-shaped pool complete with black keys on Valley Vista Boulevard; definitely before the 405 Freeway was built and long before even the first incarnation of the Sherman Oaks Galleria – “totally”!

Moses Hazeltine Sherman was born December 3, 1853 in Vermont (from one account his unusual first and middle names came “possibly” from a man his aunt married by the name of “Moses Hazeltine” – possibly!) A relative of William Tecumseh Sherman, Moses, or “M.H.” as he preferred being called later in life, marched around a bit, too, but with much more positive effect. He began as a teacher in Salem, New York and then Wisconsin and finally was called to Prescott, Arizona, a trek he took through Panama, to San Francisco, Los Angeles and on to Prescott.

Eventually, John C. Fremont, then Governor of Arizona, appointed Sherman State Superintendent. In 1883, he was named Arizona adjutant “general”, a moniker he adopted for the rest of his life. Sherman ended up in Phoenix where he worked in banking, canal and water services, and entered into his first railway project. During this period, he had visited Los Angeles several times and, in 1893, moved here with his wife and brother-in-law, Eli P. Clark. Clark and he founded the L.A. Consolidated Electric Railway, famously completing a leg to Pasadena in 1895. They also bought up property west of downtown out to the ocean and down to present-day Redondo, supplying transportation the whole way. In one section of the route along what is now Santa Monica Boulevard, Sherman built a railway substation and equipment sheds and named the area “Sherman” (we know it as West Hollywood). Sherman also got into the nearby oil fields of Hollywood and served on the Board of Water Commissioners from 1903-1910.

Town fathers appreciated General Sherman´s contributions. His colleagues at the LA Suburban Homes Co. (the folks who developed the southern Valley beginning with the town of Van Nuys) revered him, naming the famous $500,000 road project from Los Angeles to Owensmouth, “Sherman Way”. Close associates attested to his magnanimity reporting that one Christmas he gave gifts to as many as 2,000 employees and friends. Upon his death in 1932, he bequeathed ample funds to the University of Southern California, Pomona College and the California Institute of Technology (ironic, as he had limited technical know-how for all his achievements in that arena). The LA Times eulogized him: “…[he] prized his name and always kept his word.”

General Sherman loved oaks trees, so when it came time for him to select his 1,000 acre allotment as part of the Suburban Homes syndicate, he chose the southwest portion of what was the Lankershim/Van Nuys Kester Ranch and added to their stock. However, he resided little in his Valley home, preferring the downtown Westminster Hotel.

In 1927, Sherman subdivided the property selling the land for $780 an acre. The area grew slowly, but once the movie industry proliferated down the road, development arrived. The Glenaire Country Club and Golf Course, created by driver, Barney Oldfield, for nearby movie folk, left a legacy of wonderful jacaranda trees still to be seen along Stansbury Avenue south of Ventura Boulevard leading to the Club´s now enhanced site as the Buckley School (1964).

Another early development known as “Cahuenga Park” (Coldwater Canyon Avenue, Benedict Canyon Drive, Beverly Glen Boulevard, Dixie Canyon Avenue) brought chicken ranchers and “individualists”.

Sherman Oaks boasted LA Historic Cultural Monument #290 – The La Reina Theatre at 14626 Ventura Boulevard (now La Reina Fashion Plaza) which opened in 1938. It was designed by eminent Los Angeles architect S. Charles Lee. The 875-seat one-story Streamline Moderne building was fitted with acoustic panels and rear wall plaster minimizing sound distortion making it the most stylistically sophisticated theater ever built in the San Fernando Valley. In 1987, its interior was gutted for shops, but preservationists saved the facade. Its signature vertical marquee was, however, removed after the Northridge earthquake.

Before the Cyrus and Catherine Langford home (south of Valley Vista Boulevard and East of Beverly Glen Boulevard) was torn down, their daughter, Lynn, remembers playing in nearby streams, ruined by the creation of Longview Valley Road, Coy Drive and Camino de la Cumbre. She also remembers visiting the feed store on the corner of Moorpark Street and Woodman Avenue.

“My sisters and I used to go hiking in what is now Sherman Oaks, in those hills, and pick buckets of yellow violets. I´ve never seen a yellow violet in 75 years.” – Ollie Reynolds

 

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