The history of the area of the City of Glendale dates back to the late 18th century. Previously an area known as Rancho San Rafael, Glendale was owned by Jose Maria Verdugo, a corporal in the Spanish army. The area, which is delineated by the Sierra Madre Foothills, the Los Angeles River, and the Arroyo Seco caught the attention of the corporal. The sweeping 36,400 acres of woodland, chaparral and grassland that were inhabited by the Gabrileno Native Americans seemed a perfect place to settle a ranch in 1784. Upon his death, he passed the land that he had been farming for several decades down to his children, and it wasn’t until 1860 that the Verdugo children began to divide the land between them and to sell off parcels, some of which are included in the present-day Atwater Village, Eagle Rock, and Highland Park neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
In 1871, a court decision known as the “Great Partition” was made, which completely dissolved the original Rancho San Rafael. As the land continued to be divided, several individuals combined their land, and in 1887, the Town of Glendale was formed, and thus began the history of the city. The City of Glendale, incorporated in 1906, is separated into 34 neighborhoods which are demarcated by streets, mountain ridges, and washes. Each neighborhood has a distinctive history and character and as these neighborhoods urbanized, they combined to form the City of Glendale as we know it today.
The city has long had an association with the transportation industries as well as cultural diversity, which were rooted in the beliefs and interests of some of its founders. Leslie Coombs Brand, a civic booster of the time period, built an estate in 1904, the same year that the Pacific Electric Railroad brought streetcar service to the city, named El Miradero. Still in existence today, the unique mansion features the traits of Spanish, Indian and Moorish architecture styles. Though it is now the Brand Library, by mandate of Brand himself, the mansion still embodies the spirit of the era during which Glendale was formed. Brand was an aviation enthusiast, as were many of the founders of Los Angeles, and his love for flight helped to establish the Grand Central Airport, which is no longer in operation. Today one of the major streets in the City of Glendale, Brand Boulevard, serves a reminder of one of the founders of the city. During the 1910s and 1920s, Brand Boulevard blossomed into a vivacious, contemporary commercial and entertainment street. Banks, department stores, cinemas and car showrooms sprouted.
With the population rising from 13,756 in 1920 to 62,736 in 1930, Glendale called itself “The Fastest Growing City in America”. Citrus orchards and vineyards in and around main Glendale, which had been established in some of the earlier surrounding land parcels from the “Great Partition” were further subdivided, creating space for homes built in the popular California Bungalow and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. Grand Central Airport and the Southern Pacific train depot connected Glendale to other communities and to the budding film and aviation industries.
Glendale’s growth soon slowed, as the city upheld its reputation as a pleasant suburb of Los Angeles. However, the 1970s brought a sudden, rush of development which made Glendale a bustling center of business and trade once again. The Glendale Galleria shopping mall was built; Brand Boulevard and adjacent streets were remodeled with large office buildings instead of many small shops, and the 134 Freeway was constructed through the city.
During the last decades of the 20th century, Glendale’s population increased significantly with the influx of many thousands of immigrants, especially from Armenia, the Middle East, Korea, Mexico, and the Philippines. Big and small entertainment companies played an expanding role in Glendale’s culture and business. In 1994, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen formed DreamWorks SKG, a diversified entertainment company. The company’s animation division is located in the city’s Grand Central Business Park. The Walt Disney Company also has a large site located in the Grand Central Business Park that includes the head office for its Imagineering division, and also owns what’s left of Grand Central Terminal. The newly restored Alex Theatre, 234 N. Brand Boulevard, and numerous international style restaurants made downtown Glendale a cultural destination. In May 2008, developer Rick Caruso’s Americana at Brand was opened to the public. A 15.5 acre outdoor shopping and residential community consisting of 75 shops and restaurants, 238 apartments, 100 condominiums, and a cinema complex which seats 3000 people, it is fashioned after Caruso’s The Grove at Farmers Market. The Americana has helped to restore much character and business in Glendale.
Today Glendale continues to enjoy a revival of liveliness and cultural, as well as artistic, appreciation. Traditional neighborhood centers such as Montrose, Kenneth Village, and Adams Square are also flourishing. Although it is very modern, Glendale maintains much of its historic small-town feeling and natural beauty.
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