Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando Carved Up
Let the Boom Begin

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

390. [MAP]. WHITSETT, W[illiam] P[aul] (real estate developer) & V.J. Rowan (Surveyor). Van Nuys-Lankershim 47000-Acre Subdivision [at upper right] Suburban Los Angeles Homes...Rancho Ex Mission de San Fernando Los Angeles County California—V.J. Rowan Surveyor Nov. 1910 [along lower margin] Bdwy. 3525 Phones Home F 2369. W.P. Whitsett, Wholesale Sales Manager Van Nuys Headquarters 319 So. Hill St., Los Angeles, Cal. Los Angeles, 1910. Lithograph map with numbered lots and named streets (circled lot numbers indicating lots sold), overall sheet size: 61 x 97 cm. Creased where folded, upper edge lightly chipped, small void at right blank margin (not affecting image); overall fine, especially in light of the fragile format. Contemporary pencil note at upper left: “$20,000 at 7% 1 yr any time home...A.N. Damon....” Rare.

     Three versions of the basic map are known to exist. They are identified by the presence of the developer’s name, in our case, W.P. Whitsett. Two other versions bear the names of developer J.M. Johnson and the Janss Investment Company (Huntington holds a copy of the latter, with a projected date of 1912). For more on Whitsett (1875-1965), see Merle Armitage, Success is No Accident: The Biography of William Paul Whitsett (Manzanita Press, 1959), and John E. Bauer, “William Paul Whitsett: A Biographical Sketch” in Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 76, No. 1, Spring 1994, pp. 5-12. The subdivision shown was from the lands of Rancho Ex-San Fernando. The grant derived its name from the secularized Mission San Fernando Rey de España, but was called ex-Mission because of the division of the lands held in the name of the Mission, the church retaining the grounds immediately around the church, and all of the lands outside of this designated ex-Mission lands. The grant encompassed a great deal of present-day San Fernando Valley.

     The San Fernando Valley was a series of booms and busts from the time it was explored in 1769 by the Portola expedition until it was annexed by the city of Los Angeles in 1915. The present map documents the final transition of the area before it became part of the city. The factors that spurred development were increased regional transportation, the promise of availability of water from Owens Valley, and real estate development ventures, as documented in the present map. The Van Nuys-Lankershim subdivision grew out of the original purchase in 1869 by Los Angeles pioneer stockman, grain farmer, and land baron Isaac Lankershim (1818-1882) of part of the Andres Pico title to the Ex-Mission Rancho San Fernando land. His partner in this venture was his son, James Boon Lankershim (1850-1931). Later they formed a partnership with Lankershim’s son-in-law, Isaac Newton Van Nuys (1836-1912).

     Eventually the business enterprise evolved to be the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company Subdivision of the Ex-Mission of San Fernando of Los Angeles County. It was part of the biggest land transaction recorded in Los Angeles County up to that time, which was known as “Tract 1000,” the remaining 47,500 acres of the southern half of the former Mission lands becoming the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company Subdivision. Whitsett was added to the “Big Five” who divided up the Valley lands. He purchased a half interest in the Van Nuys town site and took over its sales and promotion. The subdivision consisted of everything west of the Lankershim town limits and south of the old furrow (present day Roscoe Boulevard) excluding Rancho Los Encinos and Rancho El Escorpión. Shown on the map are the plans for the towns of Van Nuys, Marion (now Reseda), and Owensmouth (now Canoga Park and West Hills), and a system of transportation. Owensmouth is a reference to obtaining water from the Owens River. Once the city of Los Angeles authorized building William Mulholland’s Los Angeles Aqueduct to the city and San Fernando Valley, the boom began in earnest. In the “Sale of the Century” in November 1910 the remaining livestock and non-land assets of the Lankershim Farming and Milling Company were sold at auction. The Los Angeles Times called the auction “the beginning of a new empire and a new era in the Southland”. On February 22, 1911, lot sales began at the new town of Van Nuys, California. For a photograph of developer Whitsett’s real estate office at the time, see> and here.


Sold. Hammer: $1,900.00; Price Realized: $2,327.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: