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Garvanza: The First Town of Northeast Los Angeles

Once upon a time, Garvanza, the first town founded in Northeast Los Angeles, was a major entry point to Southern California via a station on the Santa Fe Railway. Originally Garvanza was one of the many sectioned plots of the Rancho San Rafael and was mainly a collection of garbanzo bean fields—hence its original name "Garbanzo." Later, as the railway brought more and more people to Southern California, the town became attractive to bohemians eager to take advantage of the Arroyo's unique natural setting, close proximity to Los Angeles, and inexpensive properties. These elements helped contribute to the development of the first artist colony in Los Angeles, with leading lights like William Lees Judson making the area their home and establishing studio space there.

After it was annexed to Los Angeles in 1899, Garvanza lost much of its identity as a separate neighborhood, but this unique neighborhood is being resurrected today by the Highland Park Heritage Trust. The collection of historic homes and the close proximity to the natural resources of the Arroyo remains attractive now as it was a decade ago. Today, Garvanza neighborhood signs welcome residents and visitors alike.

 

Origin of Development
Nicole Possert on how Garvanza was seen as a place where people came to rediscover and recreate themselves.

 

Retreat to Garvanza
David Judson describes how William Lees Judson left Ontario and settled in Garvanza, where he thrives in a community of artists along the Arroyo Seco.

 

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In 1883 Scottish immigrant Alexander Campbell-Johnston bought a portion of land known as San Rafael Heights from future Los Angeles mayor Prudent Beaudry. The area, originally a part of the 36,000 acre Rancho San Rafael, soon became known as Garvanza. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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Herds of grazing sheep was a common sight near the Church of Angels, where the Campbell-Johnston ranch was located on Mountain Avenue, now known as Avenue 64. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library
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The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Railroad began its service through Garvanza in 1885. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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In 1886, Texan brothers Ralph and Edward Rogers bought the land that was to become another part of Garvanza from Andrew Glassell and Alfred Chapman, subdividing the area for their Garvanza Land Company. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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The Garvanza Villa Hotel under construction at the corner of what are now Avenue 63 and York Blvd. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public LIbrary
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The Garvanza Villa Hotel (also known as Garvanza Park Hotel), was built in 1886 to lure potential residents after the initial subdivision of the land. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library
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View of Pasadena Avenue (now York Blvd.) as it looked in 1886, across from the Villa Hotel. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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An advertisement from the L.A. Times in 1886 promises health benefits to those who choose to live in Garvanza. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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Some parcels in Garvanza (sometimes called Garvanzo) were sold at an auction. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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View of Garvanza looking north over the Arroyo Seco, 1887. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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The rapid growth of Garvanza prompted the buliding of their first school in 1888. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library
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Church of the Angels was built in 1889 by Mrs. Alexander Campbell-Johnston, widow of the owner of the ranch that occupied a large part of Garvanza. The church was made to resemble the churches from her native Scotland. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library
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Garvanza quickly outgrew its original structure, and a new larger structure was built the following decade. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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The San Rafael block was built to house a butcher shop for the Campbell-Johnson family. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public LIbrary
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In 1892, six years into the establishment of Garvanza, its population stood at 411. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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There was abundant land for farming in Garvanza; Mrs. Etta Kadish was on of many farmers in the area, ca. 1893. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library
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College of Fine Arts, founded by William Lees Judson in Garvanza, later became affliliated with USC. He was one of the main figures to be associated with the Arts & Crafts movement centered around the area. | Image courtesy of D. Judson