In the morning of March 8, 1869, law partners Alfred B. Chapman and Andrew Glassell purchased Rancho San Rafael during a foreclosure auction at the county courthouse. The land was soon further divided in what became known as the Great Partition of 1871, resulting in the division of the rancho land into 31 sections split between 28 different parties. Chapman and Glassell retained 5,745 acres of the partition, roughly one sixth the size of the original Rancho. It was soon further divided and subdivided into pieces, some purchased by private developers, some taken by eminent domain.
Eventually they were left with lots of money, but much less land. So what happened to the once-prominent developers? They're remembered as the founders of the City of Orange, for one. But it turns out that many traces of their once-vast holdings remain around Los Angeles.
Alfred B. Chapman
Chapman's legacy evolved into a neat, incorporated community in the San Gabriel Valley. In 1879, he built a home near what is now the corner of California Boulevard and Ivydale Court where he planted citrus, walnut, avocado, and pecan trees that remain today. His properties there have now been divided into an incorporated community known as Chapman Woods, which includes residential homes, the San Pasqual bridge overlooking Eaton Canyon, as well as Wilson Junior High and Willard Elementary Schools.
Glassell on the other hand is now more closely linked to contemporary culture, from gang activity in Northeast L.A. to... the King of Pop. In 1889 he moved his family to the land granted to him via the great partition, and built a grand Victorian home they called "The Ranch House." Decades after his death in 1901, the city in 1936 took the family home by eminent domain for a price of $25,000, on which was built Washington Irving Junior High School.
What we know now as Glassell Park was the result of a series of subdivisions beginning in 1907, and the entire area being annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1916. Many of its streets are named after Glassell family members and friends: Toland Way, for example, was the maiden name of Glassell's first wife Lucie Toland. Andrita and Marguerite Streets are named for his daughter and daughter-in-law, respectively. Drew Street, named in honor of his grandson, is now more infamous for its strong connection to crime and gang activity than family affection. Weldon, Chapman, Roswell and Edward Streets allegedly were also named after family friends.
Following other small sells throughout the years, the family sold a 62-acre parcel of their land during the Great Depression, which would become Forest Lawn Cemetery -the final resting place of the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
To learn more about ranchos and land claims, see the links below:
- History of the Rancho San Rafael
- Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the transition of land from Mexico to the U.S.
- Explore the Casa de Adobe San Rafael with this field guide
- Learn about the "Ranchos and Politics of Land Claims" by Karen Clay and Werner Troesken.
- Watch this video of historian Charles Fisher, to learn more about the land grants and the transitions of Rancho San Rafael ownership:
- A Los Angeles Primer
- Arrival Stories
- Block by Block
- Engaging Spaces
- Green Justice
- I Am Los Angeles