Chapter 1 The Highlands

From the Tongva people to the Spaniards, we explore the shifts of power over land in the areas that became Highland Park.

Arroyo Seco - The Spine Of Civilization
Gaspar de Portola
Rancho San Rafael
Arroyo Water Rights
Transportation - Between Two Cities
The First Suburb
Casa de Adobe

The Highlands Mural
Once upon a time, in what is now Highland Park, a band of Tongva people called the Hahamog'na fished now-extinct steelhead trout on the banks of a dry, dusty stream. Years later the Spaniards, under the guidance of Gaspar de Portola, camped beside that stream while searching for Monterey Bay and gave it the name we now use for it: Arroyo Seco.

Between 1667 and 1770 a dramatic process of evangelization began: the Hahamog’na were re-named, re-religioned and re-settled by the Spanish explorers into one of the 21 missions created along the coast. The Hahamog'na’s land changed hands and the Spanish crown dispersed it among its criollo elite, creating—among other things—the Rancho San Rafael.

After the end of the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, California became a territory of the new Republic of Mexico. The newly appointed—but broke and inexperienced—Mexican government could not manage the flood of Anglos being lured west by the gold rush and expansionist fervor. After the two-year Mexican-American War, California was ceded to the U.S.

The Rancho San Rafael was then bought and subdivided by two men named Chapman and Glassell (yes, from Glassell Park), among a few other entrepreneurial transplants, and Highland Park, as we know it, was born.