The Streets of Los Angeles

California’s largest city was officially founded in September 1781. As clichés go, sleepy hamlet would be the most apt. There were 44 original settlers, evenly split among adults and children.

Over the years, it became an agricultural and cattle ranching center.

The 1834 wedding of Maria Alvarado to Pio Pico, last governor of Alta California under Mexican rule, was attended by all 800 residents of the pueblo.

As governor, Pico made Los Angeles Alta California’s capital, an act that alone justifies his name gracing one of the city’s major streets. 

In August 1846, the city was “conquered” by Commodore Robert F. Stockton, whose surname graces the San Joaquin County seat, and John Fremont. They took over Pico’s home, the governor having fled to Mexico.

The locals fought back, using an old colonial cannon they had buried for safekeeping, eventually pushing the Americans from Los Angeles.

The Americans refused to be denied and retook the city – without bloodshed.

When the war ended in 1848, California was ceded to the United States.

And things began to change – like street names.

Downtown thoroughfares morphed from Spanish to English.

Many of the changes were simple translations. Aceituna became Olive. Esperanza turned into Hope. Flores to Flower. Loma to Hill. Primavera –according to one writer named for Pio Pico’s favorite granddaughter – became Spring Street.

Other streets got a wholly new name. Caridad, charity, became Grand. Grasshopper Street – Calle de los Chapules – is now Figueroa which, in turn, is a tip of the hat to the former Mexican Governor Jose Figueroa. Broadway was originally Fortin, “small fort.”

A street predating the Spanish that they called Calle de Los Indios, ran from a Native American settlement called Yang-Na along the Los Angeles River to the Pacific. Yang-Na was encountered by Portola’s expedition on August 2, 1769.

In 1895, a land developer was trying to create a swanky subdivision on 35 acres along the Calle de Los Indios in what’s now the Westlake area of Los Angeles. 

The developer donated a strip of the land to the city to build a boulevard – through what was then a barley field – with the stipulation that the street bear his name:

Henry Gaylord Wilshire. 


Filed under: California History

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