Chapter 3 – The City of Burbank
In 1911, two events of outstanding importance occurred: the incorporation of Burbank as a city and the completion of the Pacific Electric Railroad from Los Angeles to Burbank. The business district had added a hardware store, a livery stable, a dry goods store, a general store, a bicycle repair shop (which sold light fixtures and sporting goods, did pipe fitting, and sold automobiles), and a number of real estate offices because a second San Fernando Valley land boom had started in 1905 and the people were beginning to buy property again.
San Fernando Road between present day Angeleno and Orange Grove Avenues as it appeared in 1911.
San Fernando Road and Verdugo Avenue, 1911.
Traffic was no problem at the corner of San Fernando Road and Verdugo Avenue in 1911. There were very few cars. Many people rode bicycles, others rode horses or used horses and buggies.
The original settlers who had stayed in Burbank and the few newcomers who had bought property decided to make Burbank a city. The population was barely large enough to ask the State Legislature to approve the incorporation and on July 8, 1911, Burbank became a city of sixth class. The members of the Board of Trustees selected to govern the city were F. A. Halburg, Thomas Story, Martin Pupka, J. T. Shelton, and C. J. Forbes. The trustee elected Mr. Story the first mayor. Mr. Story came to Burbank in 1880. He and his son had purchased the Goodenow Hardware store on San Fernando Road. Ralph O. Church, the cashier at the Burbank State, was chosen for city treasurer. J. A. Swall was city clerk, T. F. Ogier became town marshal, and Charles Salisbury was city attorney. The City Trustees held their meetings in the "Brick Block" at the corner of San Fernando Road and Olive Avenue.
The city government lost no time getting to work. One of its first official actions was to bring power to light the homes and streets with electricity for the first time. The Brand Pumping Plant on Verdugo Avenue was given a contract to provide the power. The city streets were named and the houses numbered. Many of the streets were named in honor of the early settlers. The Post Office Department was induced to give the town two mail deliveries a day instead of one. Bonds were voted to buy a water plant. The trustees adopted a city seal. One of Burbank's earliest laws, Ordinance Number 4, said in part “…said seal shall be circular in form, and in the center there shall be a cut showing a cantaloupe…” The trustees did not forget that this lowly fruit had helped save the town's life when the land boom collapsed.
The first city funds were provided by $100 loans from private citizens, $750 of county road money, and $114 profit on a barbecue which celebrated the coming of the Pacific Electric to Burbank. On September 22, 1911,, the Burbank Review published a special edition and the next day the giant barbecue on Olive Avenue and Third Street not only the drew the local citizens, but Governor Hiram Johnson, United States Senator John D. Works, and State Senator Lee C. Gates. They were celebrating the completion of the Pacific Electric Railway Company line to Burbank. There was good reason to celebrate for this had not been easy to accomplish. In 1910 the Pacific Electric officials were not impressed when representatives of Burbank's population of less than 1,000 asked for an extension of the Los Angeles Glendale line to Burbank. The Pacific Electric officials agreed to extend the line if Burbank citizens would pay a bonus of $48,000 and secure a right-of-way within six months. A committee of citizens headed by Ralph O. Church signed an agreement to that effect.
The six months went by and only $38,000 had been raised. One of the opponents of the public fund raising was J. W. Fawkes. In 1907, Fawkes had patented the first monorail car in the United States and wanted to run a monorail line from Burbank to Tropico (South Glendale). He had built one 56-passenger monorail car and a short line on his ranch on Olive Avenue between Lake and Flower Streets. Fawkes was unsuccessful in securing the right to build his line, so the fund raising progressed.
The Burbank committee received a 60-day extension of the time agreement. Two days before the deadline, the fund still lacked $10,000. Ralph O. Church and Charles B. Fischer drove all day in one of the valley's first automobiles and their destination was San Diego. There they visited A. J. Stough who had large land holdings in Burbank, and convinced him to contribute $8,000 to the fund. On their all-night journey home, Church and Fischer stopped in Riverside. They routed out of bed another man who had property in Burbank and they would not leave his home until he had given them the remaining $2,000.
Citizens disagreed over where the right-of-way should be. A member of the Board of Trustees opposed the plan to locate the car line along Glenoaks Boulevard to Scott Road through "people's vineyards." He said the vineyards would be ruined and, besides, it would be a hundred years before anyone lived that far from the business district. In spite of these protests, the selected right-of-way for the Pacific Electric Railroad was from the end of the Glendale line to Glenoaks Boulevard and along Glenoaks to Scott Road.
The first car over the Pacific Electric tracks arrived in Burbank on September 6, 1911. The Burbank Review ran a special edition advising all citizens that: "On Wednesday, the first electric car running on a regular passenger-carrying schedule left the Pacific Electric station at Sixth and Main Streets, Los Angeles, for Burbank at 6:30 a.m. and the first car from Burbank to Los Angeles left at 6:20 a.m. the same day. Upon arrival of this car on its maiden trip, many citizens gave evidence of their great joy by ringing bells and discharging firearms. A big crowd of both men and women boarded the first car and rode to Glendale and there changed to the second car coming from Los Angeles and rode home again. Every face was an expression of happiness and satisfaction."
Looking up Olive Avenue on the day the first Pacific Electric car arrived from Los Angeles.
Before September 6, 1911, Burbankers going to Los Angeles could get there by two daily Southern Pacific trains from San Francisco and Santa Barbara or, the travelers could take an automobile stage from the corner of Olive Avenue and San Fernando Road to Broadway and Brand in Glendale and continue the trip to Los Angeles by way of the Pacific Electric trolley. With the completion of the Pacific Electric line, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce adopted the slogan, Burbank - 45 minutes from Broadway (L.A.). Since automobiles were scarce and a trip by auto over unimproved San Fernando Road to Los Angeles took much longer than 45 minutes, most people who wanted to travel to Los Angeles before the "Burbank Line" used horses and buggies. The P. E. cars saved these people considerable time. From 1911 until 1955, many passengers used the "red cars." The line was abandoned and the tracks removed in 1956.
On March 26, 1913, $70,000 in bonds was approved by the citizens of Burbank to be used by the city to build a plant on Magnolia Boulevard to produce electricity and to drill more water wells in the city. The people celebrated this achievement on July 4 of that year when visitors crowded the sides of San Fernando Road to watch "the greatest automobile race ever known." Barney Oldfield, a famous racing driver of that time, and 49 others raced from Los Angeles to Sacramento.
This picture of San Fernando Road between Angeleno and Olive Avenues shows a narrow macadam strip down the center. This was the only paved street in town. Other streets were dirt roads.
The city of Los Angeles also had reason to celebrate in 1913. A great engineering accomplishment, the Los Angeles Aqueduct - for which the citizens had voted a $23,000,000 bond issue in 1907 - was finished. On November 5, 30,000 people gathered to watch the first mountain waters from the Owens River Valley, 250 miles away, come plunging down the open aqueduct. Cannons were fired searing the horses that had brought some of the people to this celebration. Many people from Burbank traveled out San Fernando Road to the gathering at the "cascades." The picture below shows the celebration at the opening of the spillway.
Enroute to the aqueduct celebration, 1913.
By 1916, a city hall had been built and Burbank had purchased its first fire truck. Fifteen hundred people now lived in Burbank, triple the population of 1908. The City Trustees moved their meetings from the “Brick Block” to the new city hall which faced Olive Avenue and was located on the corner of Olive Avenue and Third Street. The picture above was taken in 1927.
During World War 1 (1917-1918), the boys and girls of Burbank Grammar School bought Liberty Bonds. To promote the sale, a large sign hung in the main entrance of the school, The World Must Be Made Safe For Democracy.
Another elementary school was built in 1916 on the northwest corner of Magnolia Boulevard and Third Street across the street from the grammar school. The school was for children in the primary grades, and was later named the Luther Burbank School. This building was converted to the school district's administration offices in 1941.
The beginning of manufacturing and the passing of the agricultural era took place in 1917. Ralph O. Church, Burbank's first city treasurer, read in his morning paper that the Moreland Truck Company was planning to move its plant from Los Angeles to Alhambra. Church called one of Burbank's most enthusiastic boosters, Maurice Spazier, and told him the news. The two men immediately set out for the Moreland plant in Los Angeles. They found Watt Moreland, head of the company, ready to draw up an agreement to move to Alhambra. Church and Spazier offered Moreland a suitable site for his factory - free of any cost to him. Moreland stalled the Alhambra deal to look at the site in Burbank. The first site, at Verdugo Avenue and Flower Street, was unsatisfactory. The offer was quickly changed to a 25-acre tract on the corner of San Fernando Road and Alameda Avenue owned by Henry Luttge, and $25,000 was raised to pay for the land. Buildings were constructed and the truck company moved in. - Moreland trucks traveling on the highways of this and many other countries of the world bore the label "Made in Burbank."
The factory was surrounded by farms as shown in the picture on the following page. On the side toward the business district there were acres of potatoes growing. Other farmers raised fruits of various kinds, melons, and alfalfa.
Many years later, after the Moreland Company stopped producing trucks, the building was used by the Vega Aircraft Corporation. Still later, the Weston Biscuit Company manufactured cookies at this location.
Another factory opened shortly after the Moreland Truck plant. The Libby, McNeill and Libby Canning Company took advantage of the nearness of Burbank to the Southern Pacific Railroad and the fruits raised in the valley and built a canning factory on Verdugo Avenue where the street crossed the railroad.
In 1919, a modern building replaced the Burbank Grammar School. The Thomas A. Edison School was built on San Fernando Road between Magnolia Boulevard and Palm Avenue. This building was used as a school until the earthquake of 1933. For a time after that it was used as an administration building. In 1941, the administrative offices were moved across Magnolia Boulevard to the Luther Burbank School building. The Edison School property was later sold, the buildings torn down, and business structures were erected.
The Thomas A. Edison School in 1927.
The Burbank Public Library, as a branch of the Los Angeles County Library, was started in 1913 through the efforts of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. It was combined with the "Library of the Brotherhood" and located in their rooms in the Thompson Block at San Fernando Road and Olive Avenue. In 1918, the branch was moved to the city hall where it remained for about six years, and was then moved to the Thompson Building at San Fernando Road and Orange Grove Avenue. In January, 1924, Mrs. Elizabeth Knox was appointed Burbank's first librarian and the library was moved again, this time to 221 East Olive Avenue.
Another land boom started in the early 1920's. A Hollywood real estate promoter, Ben W. Marks, bought a part of the Stough Ranch property in 1919. He planned to develop a subdivision that would equal the Wilshire Boulevard area. He donated the present site of McCambridge Park to the city for a municipal center and hoped that the southern branch of the University of California (U.C.L.A.) would be located in the Benmar Hills residential area. The once-favored Burbank site was rejected when the Janss Investment Company donated the land in what is now Westwood to the University and U.C.L.A. was built in Westwood. Marks' promotion began to collapse and ended in financial disaster, defaulted bonds, and confused property title claims. The "Campus" sign in the picture on the next page was a reminder of the ill-fated Benmar Hills development which had sought to bring the University of California to Burbank. The picture was probably taken in the late 1920's.
Many small real estate promotions were attempted about this time and tracts such as "Schomp Heights, Burbank's Beauty Subdivision" began replacing old time ranches.
Burbank citizens, both men and women, organized service clubs. The first was a Kiwanis chapter formed in 1922. The following year, the first women's service club, the Burbank Business and Professional Women's Club, was organized and met at the Santa Rosa Hotel. One of this club's projects was planting trees on park property at the corner of Hollywood Way and Vanowen Street, now the site of the Lockheed facility. Earlier, the American Legion Post 150 and troops of Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls had been formed.
In the Fall of 1924, the clubhouse of the Woman's Club of Burbank was completed at 705 East Olive Avenue. The picture below was taken in 1927. The club had been organized in 1916 when the members of the Lavender Salad Club and the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Chamber of Commerce joined forces. There were no restaurants in Burbank and the Lavender Salad Club's nine members had been serving lunches for businessmen at the Santa Rosa Hotel since 1909. The ladies wore white lawn aprons trimmed with lavender flowers and lavender lace beading, hence their colorful name. Membership dues in the Woman's Club in 1916 were $1 a year and luncheons at meetings cost $.25. Among the charter members were Mrs. Ralph Church, Mrs. George Wood, Mrs. E. A. Fischer, Mrs. Charles B. Fischer, Mrs. Frank S. Roach, Mrs. B. W. Redding, and Mrs. G. Ray Pendell. The Junior Woman's Club was organized in 1926 for daughters of the Woman's Club members.
The Burbank business district had expanded both north and south from the corner of San Fernando Road and Olive Avenue by 1924. On the west side of San Fernando Road, business buildings stretched form Verdugo Avenue to Cypress Avenue and on the east side, the buildings extended to Palm Avenue.
In the period between 1920 and 1930, many new industries located in Burbank. First National Studio (now Warner Brothers) moved to California to take advantage of the climate and built a studio on Olive Avenue. Production companies used city streets for many outdoor shots. The people of Burbank enjoyed seeing themselves on the screen but were unhappy because the railroad depot was used so often for a "hick town" station.
Other firms which came to Burbank were Cinecolor, Bendix Aviation, General Water Heater Corporation, Empire China Company, Mission Glass Works, and the Andrew Jergens Company, makers of Woodbury Soap. The picture below shows the Jergens plant at 99 West Verdugo Avenue as it appeared in 1927.
The photo below is one of the first pictures of Burbank taken from an airplane in 1922. It shows the Jergens and Libby buildings at Verdugo Avenue and the Southern Pacific tracks. The business district and school buildings on San Fernando Road can also be seen. Most of the people lived above San Fernando Road. Farms and vineyards surrounded the city.
A number of other firms located in Burbank during the twenties, but many were business failures. Among these were the American Aluminum Corporation and the Inner Tube Company. Both businesses failed before they really got started leaving disillusioned stockholders (most of whom were substantial Burbank citizens) with no legal recourse.
Empire China Company enjoyed a more or less precarious existence for several years before having to close its doors because of a dispute among its stockholders.
About this time, too, General Grease Company came into being and existed only long enough to collect a considerable amount of money from unsuspecting Burbank citizens.
A number of smaller concerns such as the Genevieve Jackson Dehydrating Company and a garlic-processing factory also flourished for a while. Probably the only industry that Burbank has ever asked to relocate its plant was the garlic factory. But it is said that conditions got so bad "that garlic fumes actually permeated nearly every clothes closet of every home in town. And either the garlic factory had to go or Burbank stood to lose a sizeable portion of her population. So the garlic factory moved!"
These firms, however, abandoned buildings that later became the locations of other industries which were successful.
Burbank was gradually changing from a farming area to a city and began dropping its rural ways. Municipal garbage pickup was authorized in 1920; outhouses were banned in 1922; and in April, 1923, the federal government officially recognized Burbank's growth by dropping the village mail delivery classification and substituting city postal delivery service.
The city marshal's office was reorganized into a police department in 1923. Uniformed police officers enforced traffic laws so efficiently that traffic fines often exceeded the department's operating cost. The police department was noted for its enforcement of Prohibition. In 1921, federal agents were assisted by local officers in a raid on a still being operated by men from a neighboring community.
In 1919, the First Methodist Church broke ground for a new building at the corner of Olive Avenue and Third Street and the building was dedicated in October, 1922. When a new Methodist church was built on Glenoaks Boulevard in 1948, the building on Olive was torn down.
The First Methodist Church on Olive Avenue in 1927.
During the year 1921-1922, Burbank High School was built at Third Street and Fairmount Road. In September, 1922, the student body totaled 300 and the faculty had twenty members. A library was added to the original building very shortly after the school opened. By 1925, a swimming pool, shops, and tennis courts were added to enrich the instructional program.
Two new elementary schools were built in 1922-1923. Abraham Lincoln and Joaquin Miller Schools first opened their doors in March, 1923. These schools were located in population centers away from the business district. Each school consisted of two classrooms and one kindergarten plus an office and a teachers' room. These two schools remained as primary schools for a few years. The addition of Grades 4, 5, and 6 necessitated two new classrooms for each building in 1927. Further growth made additions necessary at three other times.
On Sunday, March 4, 1923, a 450-acre tract opened in the Magnolia Park area. Earl L. White, a dairy operator, aimed his real estate promotion at the middle income group. White cleared the property with mule teams, graded and improved the streets, built some houses, and began a sales campaign. Two hundred fifty salesmen took prospective buyers around to view lots and houses. Mr. White knew the value of a connecting link from Burbank to Cahuenga Pass and asked for help from the city. When he was unable to get the help, he cleared the underbrush through Dark Canyon and graded the street. This "connecting link" is now Barham Boulevard and Hollywood Way.
Earl L. White built and sold Magnolia Park's first plat of 147 homes. His company handled $18,000,000 worth of real estate transactions in seven years by attracting customers with street dances and spectacular airplane stunts.
Mr. White also built a shopping center at the corner of Hollywood Way and Magnolia Boulevard. It included a bank, sub post office, daily newspaper, radio station, dry goods store, beauty and barber shop, shoe store, hardware store, electric shop, and even a mortuary. The newspaper, The Burbank Tribune, had more paid subscribers than any other daily in the valley at that time. Publication of this newspaper stopped in the early days of the depression.
KELW (Kall Earl L. White) started as a 1,000 watt radio station in 1927. The Hearst newspaper syndicate bought the station in 1935 and changed the call letters to KEHE. In 1939, the station was purchased by Earle C. Anthony and became KECA. In 1944, Mr. Anthony sold the station to the Blue Network. That same year the Blue Network was changed to the American Broadcasting Company and the call letters became KABC.
View of the valley, 1922, taken from the head of Olive Avenue before the valley was developed.
By 1929, over 3,500 homes had been built in the Magnolia Park area. The "Big Depression" of the 1930's robbed Magnolia Park of its radio station and daily newspaper, and stopped all real estate promotion. It was almost 10 years before the area again boomed.
The city of Burbank expanded its boundaries by annexation during the 1920's. The Valley District which included nearly all of present day Magnolia Park had been added to the original townsite in 1915. In 1922, the Thornton-Luttge District became part of the city, followed by the Sherlock Drive District later that same year. A small tract west of Clybourn Avenue between Magnolia Boulevard and Clark Avenue called the Magnolia Park District was annexed in 1923, the Moreland District in 1924, and the Sunset Canyon District in 1926. Since the 1920's the largest addition to the city was the Benmar Hills annexation in 1948 and, as shown on the map, Burbank realized several boundary changes during the 1950's.
Following is the legend for the map below, which shows the territorial growth of the city of Burbank:
1.) 2.59467 incorporation July 15, 1911
2.) 9.14 Valley District - Annexed April 19, 1915
3.) 0.14043 Thornton-Luttge District - Annexed March 29, 1922
4.) 0.10564 Snerlock Drive District - Annexed October 16, 1922
5.) 0.04477 Magnolia Park District - Annexed October 6, 1923
6.) 0.02884 Moreland District - Annexed March 10, 1924
7.) 4.23 Sunset Canyon District - Annexed January 18, 1926
8.) 0.446 Benmar Hills Addition - Annexed March 1, 1948
9.) 0.00867 McClure Addition - Annexed January 21, 1954
10.) 0.1266 Grandview Highlands - Annexed August 19, 1954
11.) 0.0189 Keswick Addition - Annexed August 16, 1955
12.) 0.0089 Horace Mann School Site - Annexed October 19, 1955
13.) 0.05715 Cabrini Addition - Annexed February 4, 1959
16.94589 Square Miles
Burbank Junior High School, 1924.
In 1924, the first unit of Burbank Junior High School was erected at the corner of Third Street and Grinnell Drive. Since 1922, the John Muir Intermediate School, for the seventh and eighth grades, had been using the old Burbank Union High School building at San Fernando Road and Cypress Avenue. The 1909 building was gloomy and well worn. The new building was the latest word in California educational buildings with roomy classrooms, large sunny windows, and special rooms for science, art, and home economics. The library was in the principal's office and the principal watched over the fifty books that the library contained.
John Muir Junior High School, 1929.
In 1925, the ninth grade was transferred from the high school to the new junior high and by 1929 the school had been enlarged. A cafeteria, an auditorium, shops, and a gymnasium had been added. The gym was built on the site of the old Burbank Union High School.
Burbank Junior High School became John Muir Junior High School in 1928 after John Burroughs Junior High had been built in the valley section of the city. After the 1933 earthquake, the third floor art room at John Muir Junior High School was removed and that school shared its classrooms with Burbank High School while the earthquake damage to the high school's main building was being repaired.
Burbank was now growing rapidly. The schools had to keep pace. Bonds were voted in 1924 to build George Washington, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt Elementary Schools. Each building had four classrooms when it opened in 1926. Roosevelt School, pictured below in 1927, is, representative of the architecture of these schools. In 1927-1928, the Ralph Waldo Emerson School, consisting of six classrooms, a kindergarten, an auditorium, offices, and storage spaces was built. Through the years, all of these schools have been enlarged and some have been completely rehabilitated or rebuilt.
The Burbank Union High School District and the Elementary City School District were united in 1927 and became the Burbank City School District with a City Board of Education and a City Superintendent of Schools. Then in 1928, the name of the system was changed to the Burbank Unified School District.
Burbank's population had grown enough by 1926 to meet the California requirement for "Home Rule." A city must have more than 3,500 people in order to prepare and adopt a local charter that gives that city supremacy in city affairs, and exempts it from general state laws relating to municipal affairs.
The Burbank electors chose fifteen freeholders (real estate owners) to prepare a charter. Miss Octavia Lesueur is generally credited with doing the major portion of the work of writing the charter. Other writers were J. H. Barnum, Roy Campbell, L. F. Collins, A. C. Fillbach, Ray G. Ludlow, C. A. Thompson, J. D. Radcliff, Earl L. White, Addison Sence, John Luttge, and Walter E. Lawrence. After eight months' work, a charter was presented by the Board of Trustees to the voters. At a special election on January 4, 1927, the voters approved replacing the trustees with a city council-city manager type government. On January 13, the California State Legislature approved the charter.
One of the first actions of the City Council was to replace the volunteer fire department with a regular department. Two branch fire stations were built in the valley section.
By 1927, Burbank had 1.25 miles of paved streets, 1,996 telephones had been installed, and the number of water meters increased from 952 in 1921 to 3,900 in 1927.
The picture below shows Burbank in 1927, about the time its original city charter was adopted. Compare this picture with the previous one.
In these early years, there were no traffic signals in Burbank and many people drove Model-T Fords. Pepper trees, planted by the Providencia Land Company, lined many of Burbank's streets.
On April 19, 1927, a Park Board was established because of a controversy over the pepper trees. Some Burbank citizens were concerned because anyone who wished could remove trees with no thought of replacing them. Octavia Lesueur was elected president of the Park Board and during her term of office more than 30,000 trees were planted or replaced in the parkways throughout the city.
Olive Avenue from below San Fernando Road, 1927.
The city had also established a Playground Commission and a Recreation Commission. At first the two groups operated separately, but eventually they consolidated as the Burbank Park and Recreation Department. The department was given charge of all parkways and recreational facilities.
Many businesses had been added to the San Fernando Road area by 1927. A theatre near the corner of Angeleno Avenue showed "Leading Photoplays." Cars were no longer able to angle park on San Fernando Road. Because of the traffic, parallel parking had become necessary.
Above: Olive Avenue at San Fernando Road, 1927.
Above: Two scenes of San Fernando Road near Olive Avenue, 1927.
Above: San Fernando Road at Verdugo Avenue, 1927.
Above: San Fernando Road at Angeleno Avenue, 1927.
Above: The Empire China Company in 1927.
By 1927, the Lockheed Aircraft Company had outgrown its Hollywood headquarters. Through one of its major stockholders, Fred S. Keeler, also a stockholder in the Empire China Company, Lockheed found ample space in a building partly occupied by the Mission Glass Works at the corner of San Fernando Road and Empire Avenue. Miles of farms, orchards, and vineyards surrounded the plant. In March, 1928, the Lockheed Company occupied 20,000 square feet of working area at the corner of Empire Avenue and San Fernando Road. The Burbank Review predicted a future payroll of "as high as 200 men." Behind the new factory a landing strip was cleared of sagebrush and tumbleweeds and leveled. Twice a year the strip was graded to fill gopher holes and keep down weeds.
The company prospered because the Lockheed planes set nearly every speed record of the times. Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post, Frank Hawks, and Amelia Earhart were some of the famous pilots who purchased these planes. Wiley Post and Harold Gatty made a trip around the world in 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes. This was in July, 1931. Other pilots used Lockheed planes to set both speed and altitude records. Amelia Earhart, in her Lockheed Vega plane, was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. This was in May, 1932, and the flight took 15 hours and 18 minutes.
Wiley Post with his single-engined Lockheed Vega in 1933.
In July, 1929, the Detroit Aircraft Corporation, aspiring to become the "General Motors of the Air," purchased 87 percent interest in Lockheed. The sale was disastrous for Lockheed because with the stock market crash in October, 1929, and the depression that followed, the Lockheed branch of Detroit Aircraft Corporation remained the only part of the organization making money. The company took all the profits of Lockheed to try to keep the parent organization alive. In October, 1931, the Lockheed branch followed Detroit Aircraft into bankruptcy and the Title Insurance and Trust Company of Los Angeles became receiver for the Lockheed unit.
On June 6, 1932, seven young men bid $40,000 for the assets of the bankrupt Lockheed Aircraft Company. Robert E. Gross, Carl B. Squier, Lloyd C. Stearman, Walter T. Varney, Cyril Chappellet, R. C. Walker, and Thomas P. Ryan III were the only bidders for the company assets which included the Lockheed name, the design and manufacturing rights to a series of plywood airplanes, and the experience and service of a few men who were substantial contributors to aviation's development. A two-story house north of the plant was used for the office and engineering sections. Thus Lockheed Aircraft Corporation was born.
In the late 1920's, the Aeronautics Branch of the United States Department of Commerce surveyed the entire Los Angeles area to determine the most favorable airport location and recommended the Burbank area as the best from the standpoint of weather, surrounding terrain, and closeness to populated districts.
Spurred by this report, valley civic leaders spearheaded by the Burbank Chamber of Commerce and the Burbank Review began a drive for an airport early in 1929, and took options on the land. Surveys showed a half million-dollar bond issue was needed to buy land, grade it, and get the airport started. Such a bond issue was considered politically and economically impossible for a town with only a few thousand persons.
United Aircraft and Transport Corporation became interested, conducted surveys that confirmed the Department of Commerce report, and took over the options. In 1929, they began construction of the “first $1 million airport in the United States.” They purchased 240 acres of land at the corner of Vanowen Street and Hollywood Way, and the city of Burbank donated a section of Winona Street to provide required runway space. The runways were constructed by discing the ground and sprinkling it seven times with heavy oil. A 2% inch thick pliable surface gave a proper cushion for early planes, which were not equipped with modern shock absorbers. Two hangars and a pretentious terminal building were the first structures at the airport. The field was still a vineyard with a dry riverbed running through it. United Airport was dedicated with a big three-day military and civilian air show that began on Memorial Day, 1930.
Hamilton Standard Propeller and Northrop Aircraft Corporation built plants at the field. Pacific Air Transport was the only commercial line using the field and their San Diego-Seattle run landed one flight a day. The plane was a single-engined Boeing 40B that carried four passengers and a pilot.
United Airport dedication ceremonies, May 30, 1930.
United Airports Company of California, Ltd., purchased the airport in 1934 and developed it to the largest in the Los Angeles area. The field became known as Union Air Terminal.
By 1930, 16,662 people called Burbank their home. Most of them lived close to the business district or in the Magnolia Park area. Many vineyards were still maintained both north and south of the developed area above San Fernando Road. The last of the grapevines gave way to housing in the 1940's.
Above: The valley area in 1929 showing United Airport in the distance. The angled street along the bottom of the picture is Olive Avenue.
Above: An aerial view showing the air terminal and surrounding area in 1935. The street that runs across the center of the picture is San Fernando Road.
Burbank citizens traded their skills as carpenters, barbers, or professional people for food and services. The city used people who were unemployed to pave streets, build flood control channels, or to cut fire breaks in the hills. The downward trend in employment continued into 1935 at which time city relief programs listed 1,608 heads of families as unemployed.
The Lockheed Company, which incorporated in 1933, grew in contrast to other businesses. Within a year's time following incorporation, 289,741 shares of stock were sold. A new all metal, twin-ruddered, two-engined plane was developed called the Electra. It carried ten passengers, two pilots, and a full cargo of mail or express, and sold for $36,000, a very low price for a multiengine airplane. The price was soon raised to $55, 000, which was still the lowest cost for any plane of its class. A smaller version of the Electra, known as the Electra Jr., was designed and built, and, at the request of the Air Corps, Lockheed modified the standard Electra into the first successful pressurized substratosphere airplane. This model was called the XC-35.
Above: Lockheed Hudson bomber.
Before World War II started in Europe, Lockheed planes modified from a Model 14 Super Electra design were sold to the British government, beginning in 1938. Nearly 3,000 of these "Hudson" bombers were built by the end of World War II. In 1937, the United States Army Air Corps asked the aircraft industry to submit designs for a pursuit plane capable of reaching an altitude of 20,000 feet in six minutes and a top speed of 360 miles per hour. Lockheed engineers submitted the design for the P-38 Lightning, destined to become one of the most widely known and used fighter planes in World War II.
Above: P-38 Lightning fighter.
Employment at Lockheed jumped to 7,300 in September, 1939, and continued to increase. The Vega Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of Lockheed, bought property at the corner of Hollywood Way and Empire Avenue next to the air terminal. Lockheed expanded its facility at Empire Avenue and Victory Place and bought a distillery on San Fernando Road to be converted into a factory to build the P-38's.
While Lockheed was building war planes, its engineers were anticipating the future peacetime need for luxury-class, four-engined commercial transports. When World War 11 ended and commercial planes could again be manufactured, Lockheed was prepared to meet the need with the new, distinctively designed Constellation.
In spite of the depression, the Burbank City Council optimistically believed that the city would one day need more electricity than the Public Works Department could provide. In 1931, a contract was signed with the Bureau of Reclamation for 25 million kilowatt-hours per year of electricity from Hoover Dam. This electricity was on a take-or-pay basis be- cause the city was using only 13 million kilowatt-hours per year at that time. Three years later, the entire city electrical system was changed from 50 cycles to 60 cycles. The change was necessary to use the power from Hoover Dam. A program to rewire or replace all the city's electrical motors, at a cost of about $150,000, was undertaken. The conversion was extended all the way down to electric clocks, and city workers went to homes to adjust higher priced clocks or simply to supply new clocks for lower priced models.
Also in 1931 a new city seal was adopted which replaced the "cantaloupe" seal, and reflected the city as an urban rather than a rural community.
The city built a new main library building on Olive Avenue near Glenoaks Boulevard in 1935. The county library service operated the library until 1938 when the Burbank Public Library became a city department. The picture above was taken in the 1960’s.
The main Burbank Post Office found a permanent home at 135 East Olive Avenue in 1938. The United States government purchased the Santa Rosa Hotel (the Burbank Villa) which was built in 1889, from the heirs of Mrs. May Clarke who owned the hotel and the surrounding property. The hotel was demolished and the post office building was erected.
The first post office, in 1887, was located in a red barn on Orange Grove Avenue which was also used for a grocery store and a boarding house for workmen during construction work on the Burbank Villa. After the barn location, the post office made many moves. The second site was on San Fernando Road between Olive Avenue and Orange Grove Avenue. The post office next moved to the "Brick Block" on the northeast corner of Olive Avenue and San Fernando Road and then to the southwest corner of San Fernando Road and Orange Grove Avenue. One of the more permanent homes of the post office was on the north side of Angeleno Avenue between San Fernando Road and First Street where it remained for 17 years.
Besides changing locations, the post office itself changed very dramatically. It started as a fourth class office with one person, a lady, operating it. People called for their mail at the grocery store. After fourteen years, it became a third class office with a postmaster and a clerk, and provided both residential and business deliveries. As time passed and the population of Burbank increased, more carriers were added. In 1925, the post office attained a first class status.
The First National Studio, later Warner Brothers, was joined in Burbank by other movie companies. In 1935, the Columbia Studios built a "ranch" on the site which had been the Burbank Motion Picture Stables at Hollywood Way between Verdugo Avenue and Oak Street. A special zone variance allowed the "shooting" of pictures any time day or night.
Walt Disney Productions outgrew their Los Angeles studio and, in 1939, purchased 51 acres on Buena Vista Street between Alameda Avenue and Riverside Drive. The completion of the Disney studios late that year reinforced Burbank's position as the world's motion picture producing center.
Above: First National Studios with the Lasky Ranch in the distance. Inset shows Warner Brothers.
Above: Walt Disney Productions, Inc.
The growth of Lockheed and the coming of the studios and other industries to Burbank drew people to the area. Burbank's population more than doubled from 1930 to 1940. The census of 1930 listed 16,662 people, and 34,337 inhabitants were counted in 1940.
By the late 1930's, the United Airports Company of California, Ltd. was making efforts to sell Union Air Terminal. To prevent the loss of this major airport to the Burbank and Los Angeles area, and to provide a good field for flying and testing World War II planes then being built in increasing numbers, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation purchased the field in 1940. It formed a subsidiary, Lockheed Air Terminal, Inc., to operate it.
The original 240 acres were increased to 550 acres and the facilities were expanded to 45 major buildings, including 17 hangars, all of which represented an investment of many millions of dollars.
After December 7, 1941, when the United States became involved in World War II, Japanese nationals were sent to relocation camps. Some of these Japanese families had been operating vegetable farms and nurseries in Burbank. Their farms were subdivided and houses were built on the land. This completed the city's evolution from an agricultural to an industrial community.
After World War II started, engineers at Lockheed developed planes for the armed services and for our wartime allies and employment rapidly rose to 80,800 men and women. Planes built in Burbank made outstanding contributions to the war effort and included not only such famous names as Hudson and P-38, but also the PV-1, Ventura, and, after the war ended, the P-80 Shooting Star jet fighters. Vega Aircraft Corporation, the Lockheed subsidiary, pooled its skills with the Boeing and Douglas companies to build 12,731 B-17 bombers.
Lockheed subcontracted some of the assembly work to other plants in the area. Camouflage changed the appearance of Lockheed from the air. Lockheed and other war production factories were covered with canvas painted to look like fields, hills, houses, and trees. From the air it appeared that a new "subdivision" had replaced the Lockheed plant. The picture above shows the terminal in 1945. Some evidence of camouflage can be seen.
The population of Burbank during the next ten years doubled again. By 1950, 78,224 people lived in the city. This population explosion affected all of the city departments. A new city hall, constructed across Olive Avenue from the original one, was completed in 1943. The police department was enlarged and the fire department added new stations. The picture opposite shows the personnel and equipment of the fire department in February, 1950, with the new city hall in the background.
The post office added two classified stations. The first was in Magnolia Park and the second was on Empire Avenue and was known as the Lockheed Station. The second one was later moved to Glenoaks Boulevard near Scott Road and called the Glenoaks Station. Still called the Glenoaks Station, this post office was recently relocated on San Fernando Boulevard and Grismer Avenue. Three sub-stations were located in local markets: the Toluca Mart, Bill's Ranch Market, and King Cole Market. In 1966, the sub-station was moved from the Toluca Mart to a newly developed shopping center on Pass Avenue.
In 1947, helicopter service was added to the truck and railroad handling of mail. Post office trucks carried airmail to and from a helicopter landing site and from there it was flown to the Municipal Airport, later called the Los Angeles International Airport.
The Burbank Post Office first used the heliport at Lockheed Air Terminal, then a landing site near Lake Street in Burbank, and later transferred to the Glendale heliport.
The quantity of airmail increased steadily and Burbank was able to obtain only partial helicopter service. This service was discontinued on July 31, 1966, when Burbank began a more active participation in the ZIP Code program (Zone Improvement Plan). As a part of this plan, the city of Van Nuys was named the sectional sorting center for the Burbank area and, as of August 1, 1966, all mail from Burbank was sent by trucks to Van Nuys and then directly, by the fastest transportation available, to the sectional center closest to its destination.
The school population increased by 4,000 from 1940 to 1950. Eight new elementary schools were built: Thomas A. Edison, 1940; Bret Harte, 1941; Henry M. Mingay, 1945; Central, 1946; Thomas Jefferson, Monterey Avenue, and Robert Louis Stevenson, 1948; and Benjamin Franklin in 1950. John Burroughs Junior High School became a senior high school in 1948 and two new junior high schools, Luther Burbank and David Starr Jordan, were opened in September of that year.
During World War II, Mickey Mouse and all the Walt Disney characters also "went to war." The Disney Studios produced training films for industry and the armed services. Cartoons promoted the sale of war bonds. One of them, “The New Spirit,” was a sensation. It was a film to show why income taxes should be paid without delay. It was estimated that 37 per cent of all Americans paid their taxes almost immediately after seeing the picture. (This was before income taxes were withheld from paychecks.) Units from every branch of the armed forces asked for, and received without charge, mythical mascot designs. Disney artists contributed more than 200 designs.
One of the San Fernando Valley's major hospitals opened in 1944. The Sisters of Charity built St. Joseph's Hospital using contributions from private citizens and businesses.
The Burbank Symphony Orchestra made its debut on July 17, 1944. Verdugo Park, with the city's first municipal swim stadium, opened in 1948.
In 1946, the second city seal was replaced by the present seal which was described as follows in Section I of Ordinance No. 799, "The following described Seal is hereby adopted for the City of Burbank and for the Police Court of the City of Burbank, to wit: a seal oblong in form, with rounded corners, and which shall have inscribed thereon a pictorial representation of an airplane, factories and a moving picture reel with the words 'CITY OF BURBANK' inscribed across the top of said seal immediately above the wings of the airplane and with the word 'PROGRESS' inscribed at the bottom of said seal immediately under the moving picture reel, and further with the words 'INCORPORATED JULY 8, 1911' inscribed below the factories pictured therein." Disney Studios designed the third Burbank City Seal.
When World War II ended in 1945, war production ceased in Burbank, but the wartime prosperity was not followed by a depression. Although Lockheed received cancellations of more than $1 billion in orders, and employment dwindled to 35,000 at the Burbank facilities, no mass layoffs were necessary. Lockheed had prepared for peace with the development of the Constellation, and production of the P-80 jet fighter plane continued into peacetime years.
The progress of the city of Burbank suffered a setback in December, 1946, when the major airlines transferred nine-tenths of their operations to the newly opened Municipal Airport in Los Angeles ending the position of leadership held by Lockheed Air Terminal as the main commercial air passenger field in Southern California.
Above: Lockheed Air Terminal in 1960.
Many persons believed this shift of airline flights would doom the Lockheed Terminal. After a short period of adjustment, however, the growth of the airport continued due to the steady increase in air travel and air freight shipments of all kinds, the growth of public demand for low cost, air coach type travel, and the convenient location of the terminal.
In 1966, Lockheed Air Terminal ranked as one of the busiest and largest privately owned commercial airports in the United States, and the Lockheed company had grown and diversified until, as shown in the chart below, its geographically dispersed facilities covered 22 million square feet, and assets totaled more than $650 million. Employment was approximately 88,000.
Above: Aerial view taken in 1966 showing the two main facilities of the Lockheed-California Company and the air terminal.
Above: Aerial view taken in 1966 showing the two main facilities of the Lockheed-California Company and the air terminal.
Real estate values in Burbank increased when wartime building restrictions ended. Potential homebuyers, trying to find a place to live in the city, created a postwar building boom. Large housing tracts consumed all vacant areas. Over 7,000 new residents moved into Burbank from 1945 to 1950.
The population increased by approximately 12,000 from 1950 to 1960, to reach a total of 90,155. Growth of the city's industries increased. The electronic, assembly, and other light manufacturing industries thrived as advanced technology was applied to consumer products and to the needs of a government concerned with rocketry and atomic age defense.
The National Broadcasting Company bought property at Olive Avenue and Alameda Street in 1951. The site became the location of NBC's color television studios. Later, when more studio facilities were added, all the local NBC programs originated in Burbank.
United Productions of America, a film cartooning studio, opened in the Toluca Lake area and joined the motion picture community of Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, Disney Studios, and Technicolor.
Early in the 1950's the Burbank County Courts Building, under construction in the picture above, was built on the site formerly occupied by the First Methodist Church on the corner of Olive Avenue and Third Street. The Superior and Municipal Courts and an office of the county clerk were located in the building.
Starlight Bowl opened in Stough Park in the summer of 1950. The bowl became the setting for many cultural and other community activities.
Above: Starlight Bowl with the cut-and-fill area in the background.
In 1953, St. Joseph's Hospital opened a new $2 million wing which made it the valley's leading medical center with a capacity of 250 beds.
Two more elementary schools were opened during the 1950's: Providencia in 1952, and Horace Mann in 1955. A new John Muir Junior High School was completed on Kenneth Road in 1952. The Adult Education Center moved its offices from Burbank High School to the former Muir building on Grinnell Drive.
During the early 1950's, when syndicated crime appeared to be getting a foothold in Burbank, the city realized a "time of troubles." Concerned citizens created the Burbank Citizens Crime Prevention Committee and requested the California Crime Commission to investigate.
The report of the commission shocked the people of the city and repercussions resulted in the resignation of the chief of police. By the time the investigations were completed some members of the City Council had resigned, and one councilman who refused to resign, was recalled by the citizens. (The Burbank Citizens Crime Prevention Committee still exists as a reminder of the interest of the people in fair and honest local government practices.)
New City Council members were elected and a new city manager was appointed. This group encouraged the formation of a citizen's advisory committee on capital improvements to assist them in a survey of community needs. Representatives from nearly every civic organization were among the committee members who met on July 29, 1954. This group proposed a 10-year capital improvement program with an expected cost of more than $10 million!
Burbank voters approved $5,565,000 in bonds to finance the program. Additional funds came from the annual revenues of the city government and a half-cent increase in the city sales tax.
By 1961, most of the major projects of the program were completed. A new main fire station had been built on Olive Avenue between Third Street and Glenoaks Boulevard. Two new fire stations were built in other parts of the city. The old city hall was remodeled for use by the police department. Later, the old building was torn down and replaced by a new one, the Police Services Building. In addition to housing the various divisions of the Burbank Police Department this building also housed a 12,500 square foot Emergency Operations Center for the coordination of activities during a natural disaster or national emergency. McCambridge Park became a major recreation center. Three overpasses bridging the Golden State Freeway and the railroad tracks were built at Olive Avenue, Magnolia Boulevard, and Burbank Boulevard. In the picture above the Olive and Magnolia overpasses were complete and the Burbank Boulevard overpass was under construction. DeBell Golf Course was constructed in the foothills adjacent to Stough Park between Walnut Avenue and Harvard Road, becoming the first course in the city since the early 1930's.
Above: In the picture above, the flood control channel can be seen parallel to the Golden State Freeway. To the left of the channel, in the lower half of the picture, is the Public Works Department and between Olive Avenue and Magnolia Boulevard the Public Service Department and steam plant can be seen.
Since 1961, additional capital improvement projects have been built. Flood control facilities were completed and a new main library building was opened on Glenoaks Boulevard. A clubhouse and community center were built atop a knoll at DeBell Golf Course. The Municipal Services Building, next to the city hall on Third Street, and the water reclamation plant were completed in 1966. These last two projects were financed through an additional $2 million in bonds voted in February, 1963. All of these improvements have been the result of careful planning of citizens who were actively interested in the growth and welfare of the city.
Burbank, a prosperous city of over 90,000 citizens, was born during the Southern California land boom of the 1880’s when thousands of Americans came west during the railroad rate war between the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe. The newcomers so completely Americanized the little town that Burbank's Indian and Spanish heritage has survived only in street names. Almost completely forgotten are the city's first inhabitants, nomadic Indians of the Shoshonean language group who lived in wickiups, were noted basketweavers, and spoke the Cahueg-na dialect.
Perhaps the most lasting mark made on the area by the Spanish was San Fernando Road. Although surrounded by twentieth century civilization, it still appears to follow the route of the old road that linked the San Fernando and San Gabriel missions.
Burbank plans for the future.
Above: The Golden Mall (click here for a dedicated page)
A six-block, traffic-free "Golden" Mall has been scheduled for construction during 1967. The area will encompass the present downtown Burbank on San Fernando Road from Tujunga Avenue to San Jose Avenue. This undertaking has been intelligently designed for pleasurable shopping and browsing in a relaxed and attractive atmosphere.
Brief History of Burbank, California. Burbank: Burbank Chamber of Commerce, 1961.
Of Men and Stars, A History of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Chapters I-IX. Burbank: Lockheed Air- craft Corporation, 1957-1958.
Ranchos de Los Santos, The Story of Burbank. Burbank: The Burbank Branch of the Security Trust and Savings Bank, 1927.
Robinson, W. W. Panorama, A Picture History of Southern California. Los Angeles: Title Insurance and Trust Company, 1953.
Rolle, Andrew F. and John Gaines. The Golden State, A History of California. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1965.
The Story of Burbank from Her Eventful Pioneer Days. Burbank: The Magnolia Park Chamber of Commerce, 1954.
Williams, Mabel Young. California, A History. Sacramento: California State Department of Education, 1965.
Your Burbank Home. Burbank: Burbank Merchant’s Association, 1928.
In addition to the booklets and leaflets found in the bibliography, help of inestimable value was received from the following individuals who provided material and pictures or who assisted in the writing and editing: Mr. Clyde Simpson, Security First National Bank; Mr. Les Strout, Burbank Chamber of Commerce; Mr. Tony Frank, Burbank Chamber of Commerce; Mr. Headlee Blatterman, Chief Engineer KFI; Mr. Gordon Stanton, Lockheed Air Terminal; Mr. Phillip A. Juergens, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation; Mrs. Grace Reis, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation; Mr. Ronald Lockmann, Graduate Student U.C.L.A.; Mr. Laurence Sprecher and Miss Gladys Callahan, Office of the City Manager; Mrs. Norine Haskitt, Office of the City Clerk; Mrs. Marguerite Fanning, Burbank Post Office; Dr. Harry O. Simmons, Member of the Board of Education; Mrs. Edna Scribner; Mr. Howard Martin; Mrs. Florence Edgerley; Mrs. G. Donald Modd; and the following people who are or have been associated with the Burbank Unified School District: Mrs. Delores Palmer, Mrs. Barbara Handley, Mrs. Joan Horne, Mr. Donald Newcomer, Mr. Willard Fredricksen, Mr. Gordon Risser, Mrs. Doris Ryeraft, Mr. Michael Kosteva, Mrs. Louise Wickersham, Mr. Russell Wickersham.
Above: Appendix - Diseno (grant map) of the Providencia Rancho field in the capitol at Monterey in 1842 by "David W. Alexander et al, Clmts."
Above: Appendix - A portion of a map of Los Angeles County made by Wildy and Stahlberg in 1877.
Above: Appendix - Official map of the county of Los Angeles, California, by E.T. Wright, 1898.
Above: Appendix - Burbank's main intersection at Olive Avenue and San Fernando Road in June, 1910, as shown on a Sanborn fire insurance map.