Where Tarzana Gets It’s Name

The land comprising today’s Tarzana in the San Fernando Valley was originally part of the San Fernando Mission, consecrated in 1797.

One hundred years later, the area was a large wheat farm.

In 1909, Gen. Harrison Gray Otis entered the picture. The founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Otis was an investor in the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company, which had purchased the land around present-day Tarzana.

Otis bought 550 acres for himself of what is now Tarzana. These and subsequent real estate investments in the San Fernando Valley by the Otis and Chandler families increased sharply in value when they succeeded in diverting water from the Owens Valley to irrigate their properties.

This Burroughs' bookplate shows Tarzan holding Mars, surrounded by other Burroughs characters and symbols relating to his to the author's own life.

This Burroughs’ bookplate shows Tarzan holding Mars, surrounded by other Burroughs characters and symbols relating to his to the author’s own life.

Around 10 years later, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, bought Otis’ spread and named it Tarzana Ranch. The property was south of Ventura Blvd. and east of Reseda Blvd. 

Eventually Burroughs subdivided his land and sold it for residential development.

In the late 1920s the residents renamed the town Tarzana after Burroughs’ ranch and the famous character he created.

Eventually, Burroughs moved to Hawaii and, after Pearl Harbor, applied to become a war correspondent despite being 66 years of age. His application was approved.

Burroughs moved back to California after the war and died in Encino in 1950 of a heart attack.

While Tarzan of the Apes was the first book in his most successful series of novels, he also wrote westerns, historical romances, science fiction and fantasy. The science fiction centered around Barsoom and Amtor – his fictionalized Mars and Venus. There were journeys to the center of the earth as well.

When Burroughs died he had published some 70 novels.

The Burroughs Crater on Mars is named in his honor.

Primatologist Jane Goodall credits the Tarzan stories as a childhood inspiration that helped drive her to some day live among the great apes as he did.




Filed under: California History

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