California Fool’s Gold — A Verdugos Primer


The Crescenta Valley and Verdugos communities

The Verdugos region of Los Angeles County lies between the San Gabriel Mountains, the Verdugo Mountains (or Verdugo Hills) and the San Rafael Hills. The residents mostly live in the Crescenta Valley and the less-developed ranges that surround it. It includes the communities of (parts of) Glendale, La Cañada-Flintridge, La Crescenta-Montrose, La Tuna Canyon, (parts of) Pasadena, Sunland and Tujunga. It’s surrounded by the San Fernando Valley to the west, the San Gabriel Valley to the east, Northeast Los Angeles to the south, the Mideast Side to the southwest and the Angeles Forest to the north. The inhabitants of the region are approximately 50% white, 23% Latino, 13% Asian and 8% black.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the VerdugosPendersleigh & Sons‘ Official Map of the Verdugos

At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Verdugos were part of the Tongvas‘ homeland. After the Spanish took over, the Verdugo Wash supported Rancho Tujunga, Rancho San Rafael and Rancho La Cañada during the Rancho Era. The first American settler was Theodore Pickens, who settled at the top of today’sBriggs Avenue in 1871 and named the area Crescenta. The “La” was added to distinguish it from Crescent City. The Verdugos were named for José María Verdugo, holder of the Rancho San Rafael land grant beginning in 1784 which became known as Rancho Verdugo (as well as “La Zanja”).



Much of Glendale is located in the Verdugo foothills. José María Verdugo‘s son built the Catalina Verdugo Adobe, the oldest home in the city, the third largest city in Los Angeles County. In the 1920s and 1970s, large waves of Armenians moved to the city. Today the population is 54% white (mostly Armenian, Persian, and Arab), 20% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 16% Asian (mostly Filipino and Korean). It’s the birthplace of musicians Captain Beefheart, Elvin Bishop, Armen Chakmakian, John C. Debney, Scott Gorham, Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn, W.A.S.P’s Chris Holmes, Ed King, The Offspring’s Greg Kriesel and Sam Phillips. Movies filmed in Glendale include Double Indemnity, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Good Girl, Trees Lounge, Rock Star, How Stella Got her Groove Back, The Trouble with Angels, Big Fat Liar, and Vacation. To read more about Glendale, click here.



La Cañada-Flintridge
holds three distinctions in the Verdugos: it’s the least racially diverse, the oldest, and has the wealthiest population. That’s not to say it’s completely homogenous; after all, it’s 71% white (mostly English and Persian), 20% Asian (mostly Korean) and 5% Latino (mostly Mexican). It’s also home to Descanso Gardens and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Prior to the city’s incorporation in 1976, the area consisted of two distinct communities called (drumroll please) La Cañada and Flintridge.


The La Tuna Canyon neighborhood is sometimes considered to be part of Shadow Hills, although that small group of hills is separated from the Verdugos in which La Tuna Canyon Park and Verdugo Mountain Parkare located. Below the Verdugos it’s primarily residential although it also includes Woodbury University andVinedale Elementary School.



Significant development of Montrose began with the opening of the Montrose subdivision in 1913. It’s 66% white (mostly German and Persian), 20% Asian (mostly Korean) and 10% Latino (mostly Mexican). It’s known locally for the St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church, Le Mesnager Barn, The La Crescenta Woman’s Club clubhouse and other historic buildings.



began life as Monte Vista in 1885, when 8.9 km2 of the Tejunga [sic] Park tract were divided into lots and settled. One tract was planted with olive groves and it was, at the time, the largest in the county. In 1906, Monte Vista became Sunland. Its population is 65% white (mostly German), 22% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 7% Asian (mostly Filipino). Though a separate community, Sunland’s residents share many of their city services with Tujunga to the south. Though born in China, Sunland is the home of noted artist and Eric’s Blog subject Tyrus Wong.



In 1907, social philosopher William Ellsworth Smythe and real estate speculator Marshall V. Hartranft founded a settlement they envisioned as a utopia called Little Lands. Later Tujunga settlers led by California Poet Laureate John Steven McGroarty and his followers wanted the their town to be known as Verdugo Hills. Nonetheless, it was incorporated in 1925 as Tujunga. It is the birthplace of egomaniacal actor Shia LaBeouf. The current population of Tujunga is approximately 65% white (mostly German), 22% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 7% Asian (mostly Filipino).

If you’d like to to vote for any of the communities of the Verdugos or any other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Verdugo neighborhoods of LA or any other Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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74 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — A Verdugos Primer

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