Few people know that Tarzana is one of the oldest
communities in the Valley. In 1769 when Gaspar de Portola became the first
white man to visit the Valley, the Tarzana area was the second community
he passed through. Soon after that, the Franciscan Friars came to found
the San Fernando Mission, and what is now Tarzana became part of the Mission
lands and later part of the 116,000 acre Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando.
The only ones to visit the Tarzana area were a few Franciscan missionaries
and travelers on the El Camino Real (The King's Highway), now Ventura Boulevard.
Since the advent of the Ventura Freeway, there has been some talk of changing
the name of Ventura Boulevard back to El Camino Real.
In the 1870's the southern half of the Valley
was sold to the Los Angeles Farm Homestead Association. Main stockholders
in the association were Isaac Lankershim and I.N. Van Nuys. During the
1880's, a new organization, the Los Angeles Farm and Milling Company, succeeded
the Homestead Association, and the Tarzana area, together with the rest
of the Valley, became a huge wheat field. In 1909, the Farm and Milling
Co. sold out to the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company. This paved the
way for the Tarzana of today.
In 1911, one of the promoters of the Suburban
Homes Co., General Harrison Gray Otis, purchased 550 acres of what is now
the heart of Tarzana. General Otis was the founder and publisher of the
Los Angeles Times. He took a very active part in the development of the
In 1915, water to the Valley was provided through
the Owens River Aqueduct and the Valley was annexed to the City of Los
Angeles. This secured the Valley's growth.
In 1919, Edgar Rice Burroughs purchased the Otis
Ranch, built his home there and named it Tarzana Ranch.
In 1922, Charles L. Daniels purchased a 320 acre
tract of land on Reseda Boulevard between the Southern Pacific railroad
tracks and Ventura Boulevard and bordering Tarzana Ranch. Here he founded
a town, Runnymede. Runnymede consisted of 1 acre plots for poultry ranches,
berry and truck farms. Soon there were 15 farms there. Although it met
with irrigation and climate problems, these were soon solved and the little
town prospered. By 1928 there were 10 square miles in the town, which included
Burroughs' Tarzana Ranch.
In 1923, Burroughs subdivided a portion of his
land for homes. This was known as the Tarzana Tract. A promotional brochure
of the era said of Tarzana Tract: "Chosen by Edgar Rice Burroughs, author
of the Tarzan Stories and
The Girl from Hollywood, Tarzana
is the pride of the beautiful San Fernando Valley. Tarzana will enjoy everything
that makes for ideal home life. High elevation, water, gas, electricity,
paved streets, etc.... Tarzana offers you homey, spacious acres, with cool,
liveable surroundings. Here amidst nature's own, on a subdivision in which
the price includes all improvements, with convenient schools, churches
and theatres, is the place to live. Do you know that you can buy one of
these full acres for $1500, the price of a city lot in the poor district?
Why hesitate? Come out into the open and see Tarzana."
The Runnymede Poultry and Berry Association, a
forerunner of the Tarzana Chamber of Commerce, was formed in 1923. The
Women's Auxiliary later became the Tarzana Women's Club.
In 1927, the residents petitioned for their own
post office. It was at this time that it became necessary to find a new
name for the community since there was already a Runnymede in California.
A contest was held and the name Tarzana was accepted. On December 12, 1930,
the Tarzana Post Office (fourth class) opened in a store on Ventura Blvd.
The population of Tarzana at the time was about 300.
During the 1930's, Tarzana was known as the "Heart
of Ventura Blvd." A drug store, a grocery and a few other small stores
were grouped together on Ventura Boulevard at Reseda Boulevard, surrounded
by many acres of small farms.
Tarzana grew slowly during the late '30s and early
'40s, but after the war, a postwar boom brought prosperity to the little
town. Soon many subdivisions began to appear in the hills and in the Valley
itself. It soon became one of Los Angeles' "bedroom communities." Today,
Tarzana's 24,000 residents enjoy living in "The Home of Tarzan." Instead
of a few small shops, today a wide variety of goods and services are offered
to the shopper. Instead of farms, modern Tarzana consists mainly of single
family homes. A few apartment houses are located north of Ventura Boulevard.
While the days of the chicken ranches and berry farms and sprawling ranches
are gone, residents continue to enjoy the gracious living ina a tranquil
atmosphere established by their predecessors. In addition to the facilities
of the 1920s, modern Tarzana now has a park, a library, a freeway, banking
facilities, ice skating and bowling centers, medical buildings, country
clubs, and an extremely bright future.