Many Glendale hillsides still look as they did before European settlement, when the Tongva Tribe inhabited the area.

Tinted postcard of the Teodoro Verdugo Adobe, from about 1916. Courtesy of the Glendale Public Library Special Collections Department.

WCB Richardson - early rancher known as "First Citizen of Tropico".

Brand Boulevard in 1915

The Pacific Electric Depot Railway Depot on Brand Boulevard spurred rapid growth in the Brand business district in the early 20th century.

Leslie Combs Brand (with his wife Louise) was the leading early developer of business and banking in Glendale.
His "Brand Castle" is now the Brand Library & Art Center.

Demolition to make way for the Glendale Galleria in 1974.
A two-decade teardown trend in the '70s and '80s marked the end of central Glendale's historic residential neighborhoods.
(Photo source: The Glendale Ledger)

Glendale History - A Brief Look

Woodland, Chaparral, and Grassland
The City of Glendale fills a major portion of the geographical triangle formed by the Sierra Madre Foothills, the Los Angeles River, and the Arroyo Seco. Thie region of 36,400 acres of woodland, chaparral and grassland was inhabited by native American peoples, known variously as Tongva, Kizh, Gabrielino. The term Gabrielino, or Gabrieleno, derives from the early settlers tendancy to name native tribes after the nearest Mission - in this case Mission San Gabriel. It was the proximity of the San Gabriel Mission and the beauty of the surrounding area that attracted the attention of Corporal Jose Maria Verdugo of the San Diego Company of the Spanish army.
The Era of The Verdugos and Rancho San Rafael
In 1784 Corporal Verdugo, a native of Loreto, Baja California, received permission from his army commander Governor Pedro Fages to settle and graze this land. In 1798 he retired from the army to become a full-time rancher, and title was established. His ranch, called Rancho San Rafael, supported herds of cattle, horses, sheep, mules, watermelons, corn, beans, peppers, and fruit. Senor Verdugo's route to and from Los Angeles, via San Fernando Road at his property's southern edge, came to be known as Verdugo Road.

California became Mexican territory in 1822. Nine years later Verdugo died, leaving his vast property to his son Julio and daughter Catalina.
The Great Partition of 1871 - the Rancho is divided up
The next half-century brought many changes, with California being ceded to the United States in 1848 and being admitted as a state in 1850. Railroads were built to link Glendale to Los Angeles and points beyond. The fortunes of the Verdugo family declined, causing them to sell or mortgage parts of their Rancho San Rafael. There was great confusion due to differences between Mexican and American title laws until finally in "The Great Partition of 1871" the courts delinieated the specific areas owned by twenty-eight different people, including members of the Verdugo family. In 1871 Catalina Verdugo died, followed by her brother in 1876. Of the Verdugo residences, one, built by Julio's son Teodoro in about 1860, survived and the Verdugo Adobe (also called the Catalina Adobe) became honored as an important local landmark in Glendale. The home and grounds were purchased in 1989 by the City of Glendale and became a public park.
The Great Partition opened the way for more American settlers. They cleared the cactus and sagebrush, usually to establish fruit orchards. Sections of the former Rancho San Rafael began to develop individual identities. Residents of the central area gathered in a school house in 1884 to choose a name for their community, with "Glendale" being chosen. In 1887 residents in the southwestern part organized themselves as a separate town, "Tropico". This fertile area, for several years owned by W. C. B. Richardson as Santa Eulalia Ranch, produced barley, nuts, fruits, poultry, and dairy products and became famous for its strawberries, "Tropico Beauties". The southeastern portions of the former Rancho were developing separate identies, and would later become Eagle Rock and Highland Park. The extreme southern edge became Atwater Village.
How Glendale Got Its Name
In the early 1880s town names such as Etheldean, Minneapolis, Portosuelo, Riverdale, San Rafael, and Verdugo were proposed for the area. Following Thanksgiving dinner in 1883, settlers met at the schoolhouse (which also served as the community church) on lower Verdugo Road to discuss the possible names for the town. Ultimately, a young woman painter from Chicago offered the two word name "Glen Dale" and it was approved. Although there is no documented rationale for this choice, "Glendale" means "Valley" in Scottish or Gaelic, and many of the early settlers of the region had emigrated from the British Isles. The two-part name was simplified to one word, however mail continued to be addressed to "Verdugo". It took eight years to persuade the Post Office to adopt the name "Glendale".
It's Official: Glendale becomes a Town

By 1887, Glendale , having an established name and being at about 150 acres, was surveyed and recorded officially as a town. By the turn of the century Glendale was rapidly becoming urbanized. In 1902 the Glendale Improvement Society, under the leadership of Mr. Edgar D. Goode and Dr. D.W. Hunt, embarked on a campaign to advertise Glendale, to develop new business, to attract residents, and above all to bring the Los Angeles Interurban railroad to Glendale from Los Angeles. The tracks were laid in 1904 through a strip of land owned by Leslie C. Brand -- a location well to the west of the then main thoroughfare, Glendale Avenue. The railway (by then called the Pacific Electric) eventually helped shift the business center of Glendale to Brand Boulevard, and also sparked the desired population growth. Glendale was officially incorporated in 1906. A roster of registered voters in 1896 is an interesting slice of Glendale inhabitants of the early days (click here to view).

Leslie Coombs Brand Leaves His Mark

Leslie Coombs Brand (1859-1925), is Glendale's most legendary early booster. He developed businesses and banking, and had a lasting impact on the settlement and economic growth of the Glendale area. Brand was adventuresome, spirited, and willing to do things differently; his home, designed as a small replica of the East Indian Pavillion at the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago, was known as Brand Castle and is stands todayas an ARt and Music Library in the Glendale Public Library system, as one of our region's most unique architectural landmarks. Brand made a fortune in utilities, transportation, and real estate and he built the area's first airfield on his property and even held "fly-in" parties. He partnered with Henry E. Huntington to bring the Pacific Electric Railway, or the "Red Cars," to the area and right down what became Brand Boulevard. He bequeathed his estate to the City of Glendale, and upon his his wife's death in 1945 the estate was converted to a library and park for the use of all Glendale residents. In 2008, the Los Angeles Times' published an article essentially validating the story of Leslie Brand's "second family", his secret marriage to Birdie Gordon and their two sons. Cherie Gordon, the grandaughter of L.C. and Birdie (her father was L.C.'s son Lee) also came forward in 2008. L.C. Brand's life story keeps evolving and revealing itself - even today.

The Fastest Growing City in America - and newly incorporated
In 1906 Glendale incorporated as a city, and in 1918 Tropico was annexed to it. During the 'teens and 'twenties Brand boulevard grew into a lively, modern commercial and entertainment street. Banks, department stores, movie theaters and automobile showrooms appeared.

Citrus orchards and vineyards were further subdivided, giving way to 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 growing film and aviation industries. Churches and civic and fraternal organizations thrived. With population increasing from 13,756 in 1920 to 62,736 in 1930. Glendale called itself "The Fastest Growing City in America". A map (in large pdf format) of the 66 GLENDALE ANNEXATIONS leading to the current city of 30.5 square miles can be viewed by clicking here.
Glendale Becomes a Regional Center and Development Surges
Glendale's growth soon stabilized, as the city maintained its reputation as a pleasant, even sleepy, suburb of Los Angeles. However, the 1970s brought a sudden, planned development surge which resulted in Glendale's a bustling regional center of business and commerce. However, it also sparked a strong and lasting grassroots historic preservation movement as old residential neighborhoods in central Glendale were demolished and replaced with inexpensive multi-family housing. The saving of the beloved "Doctors house" from the wrecking ball in 1979 sparked the formation of The Glendale Historical Society, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2009. The Glendale Galleria shopping mall was built; Brand Boulevard and adjacent streets were "redeveloped", with large office buildings replacing many small shops. The construction of the 134 Freeway across the center of the city created a "Golden Triangle" of freeways that echoed the geographic triangle of Jose Maria Verdugo's Rancho San Rafael.
New Cultures Blend with the Old

During the 1980s and 1990s Glendale's population grew dramatically with the arrival of many thousands of immigrants, especially from Armenia, the Middle East, Korea, Mexico, and the Philippines. Large and small entertainment companies played an expanding role in Glendale culture and business. The newly restored Alex Theatre, 234 N. Brand Boulevard, and numerous international style restaurants made downtown Glendale a dining and entertainment magnet.


Glendale in the 21st Century - the story will continue

As the new millennium began, Glendale's population was about 195,000. In 2009 it had grown to approximately 207,000. Brand Boulevard continues to be our downtown "Main Street", and the site of many new projects including the Americana at Brand and several downtown residential and mixed use buildings. Traditional neighborhood centers such as Montrose, Kenneth Village, and Adams Square/Adams Hill have maintained their architectural and historic character. The rapid development of the last quarter century has fostered a growing appreciation of historic landmarks and neighborhoods, as the city has lost much but also retained a large number of old buildings, especially houses. In 2006, Glendale celebrated its centennial as an incorporated city -- a city which, though very modern, retains much of its historic small-town feeling and natural beauty. As of 2012, the city has five designated Historic Districts. The 200 year old legacy of Corporal Jose Maria Verdugo and his Rancho San Rafael survives in the names of the gentle chaparral that embraces our city: to the east, the San Rafael Hills, and to the north, the beautiful Verdugo Mountains.

Want to Learn More?
The information on this page was taken from many sources. View our bibliography, visit the Glendale Public Library Special Collections Room, and learn more about Glendale history.