L.A.’s Lost Valley: When Hollywood Was ‘the Pride of the Cahuenga Valley’
Panoramic view of Hollywood showing Orchard Street and Orange Drive, circa 1905. Courtesy of the USC Libraries – California Historical Society Collection. [source]
The Santa Monica Mountains loom large in L.A.’s cultural topography, dividing the city into “the Valley” to their north and a sprawling coastal plain to their south.
Residents of the coastal plain in Hollywood or Beverly Hills would never mistake their homes as valley communities.
A century ago, however, they were.
From the early 1880s through the 1910s, the broad drainage basin of the Ballona Creek between the Santa Monica Mountains and Baldwin Hills was commonly known as the Cahuenga Valley.
Likely invented by area boosters, the Cahuenga Valley name first entered the regional lexicon when farmers discovered a frost-free belt along the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. Soon, Cahuenga Valley became renowned as a horticultural wonderland where bananas ripened, lemons glowed, and delicate vegetables were harvested early in winter for frostbitten markets in Denver and Boston.
Later, after the real estate boom of the 1880s deposited townsites like Hollywood, Colegrove, and Sherman in the area, “Cahuenga Valley” became shorthand for a suburban subregion, an equal of the San Fernando, San Gabriel, and Pomona valleys. As with these other valleys, agricultural riches inspired the boosters’ suburban dreams.