Vintage Valley map romanticizes the region’s early mission days

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Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason says for a long time, he “really struggled in finding good maps of the Valley. I even talked to [Valley historian] Kevin Roderick about that, and he kind of agreed with me.”

It was only after after years and years of looking, Creason says, that he started to find some real gems. One of the library’s more popular maps of the Valley is this one below.

Created in 1960for theSan Fernando Valley Federal Savings and Loan Association, it depicts the area of the Valley once owned by the Spanish mission system. (Banks, especially big ones, Creason says, would often publish maps; Valley Federal was one of the region’s “oldest and largest financial institutions,” and it specialized in single-family home loans.)

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

The 1960s might seem like an odd time to produce a map about the missions, but Creason saysafter World War II, “it was kind of a flush time, especially in the Valley. People were starting to look back and romanticize” the region’s early mission days.

Valley Week

This story is part of Curbed LA’s Valley Week, a celebration of culture, real estate, architecture, and neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley. You can view all of our Valley Week stories here.

Aside from the arrow pointing to “Old Indian trail”—a path that would later become Sepulveda Boulevard—the map doesn’t give much indication of the presence of the indigenous people who were living in the Valley for thousands of years before the Spanish arrived, notes Creason.

Instead, the map zeroes in on the borders of the mission’s lands and some of the ranchos that existed in the Valley around the same time. Also marked are landmarks of the time, some that exist today, and others that are lost forever.

The arrival of the Spanish into the Valley is marked by dotted lines showing the expedition of Gaspar de Portolà, who was “scouting places for the missions” and stumbled across the Valley. The mission in San Fernando was the 17th out of 21 eventually built, and, according to the map, was one of the first structures built in the Valley.

The map gives a lot of attention to buildings, but Creason says two major events also took place in the Valley during the 1800s: the 1831 Battle of the Cahuenga Pass and the 1845 Battle of Providencia.

That second battle led to more activity in the Pass—the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga—which resulted in Californians receiving rights as Americans and ended the Mexican-American War in Southern California. Campo de Cahuenga, where the treaty was signed in 1847, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Valley-adjacent lands on this map saw a few notable firsts, including the Pioneer Refinery, the first oil refinery (“before Doheny and all that”) in LA, and the first discovery of gold in California, which happened in Santa Clarita Valley’s Placerita Canyon in 1842before Sutter’s Mill, says Creason.

Creason says this map is very popular when he uses it in talks and with library patrons—“people just love this thing.” It’s easy to forget how much has happened in the Valley, he says, but this map tells a very clear and colorful story, and reminds people that the area is rich with history, and he says those elements together make it captivating.

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