Chatsworth Celebrates 125 Years as an
Anchor of the North San Fernando Valley
Before Northridge…before Porter Ranch…before Granada Hills…there was Chatsworth. The farming community then known as Chatsworth Park was officially established on March 10, 1888. Early residents planted wheat, as well as peach, pear and walnut trees.
Chatsworth Park was the passageway to the San Fernando Valley. It sat at the foot of the stagecoach trail which connected the San Fernando and Simi Valleys and areas to the north. Stage coaches not only carried passengers, but also delivered mail. In 1890, two years after Chatsworth Park became a town, Joseph A. Nelson was named the first in a long line of postmasters, which also included four women: Lori Cowgill (1924), Blanch White (1926), Marie G. Turner (1945), and Caroline Frost (1951). The post office itself was first built in 1893. Over the years, it moved to various locations along Santa Susana Ave. (now Topanga Canyon Blvd.) and Devonshire St., where it now sits near the corner of Owensmouth.
The farming community was put on the map in 1893 when the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the 22 mile Burbank Branch to Chatsworth. A depot station and the Chatsworth Hotel were soon added at Topanga and Marilla. In 1904 three tunnels were completed to connect Chatsworth Park to Simi Valley along a new coastal route that can still be travelled today. The railway began to list the community as Chatsworth instead of Chatsworth Park. The shortened name was eventually adopted by the townspeople. By 1900 Chatsworth had 23 residents, a post office, a general store, a hotel and a railroad station. The town fathers organized the Valley’s first Chamber of Commerce on April 20, 1914.
The town’s first elementary school, then known as the Santa Susana School (now Chatsworth Park Elementary School), was built in 1880 at the northwest corner of Devonshire and Topanga. The 1880 building was replaced in 1917 when Chatsworth became a part of the LA City school system. The 1933 Long Beach Earthquake resulted in a third building being built in 1937, and it still is in use today as Chatsworth Park Elementary.
During the ‘50s and 60’s, to address its growing population, Chatsworth opened several more schools including Superior Elementary School (1959), Devonshire School (1962), Germain (1963), Ernest Lawrence Middle School (1968) and Chatsworth High School (1963). Prior to the opening of Chatsworth High School, students attended school in Canoga Park.
On March 20, 1915, Chatsworth became part of Los Angeles so that it could share in the water rights from the Owens Valley. As early as 1912, the movie industry discovered the rock formations, ranches and natural resources of Chatsworth—all used in early Hollywood films. This also brought celebrities to the area, including Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, who starred in many westerns over the years; Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball; and, in recent years, Kevin Spacey, Val Kilmer and Kirk Cameron, to name a few.
Following World War I farmers began planting oranges, lemons, grapes and figs. These crops greatly contributed to the survival of the community and those who came through it during the Great Depression. Families with few resources who migrated to the north San Fernando Valley found a warm reception in Chatsworth, where local farmers, the PTA of Chatsworth Park School, along with the Women’s Club and the Community Church, cooked hot lunches for the children and fed many of the adults in outdoor soup kitchens.
World War II brought further expansion to this community. The area experienced a growth spurt in the early 1960’s, going from 16,000 to 30,000 residents. As the community grew, so did the schools, businesses, religious and civic organizations.
Today, with a population of about 40,000 residents, Chatsworth is home to 22 preschools, 10 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, 7 high schools, approximately 30 churches, and several major corporations, such as 3M Corporation, Capstone Turbine, Hydraulics International, and the production and distribution facilities of Lamps Plus. Residents enjoy its multitude of horse trails, park and recreation areas, hiking trails and historic buildings.
Some facts you may not have known about Chatsworth:
• The cornerstone for the Chatsworth Community Church (Methodist) was laid in 1903 making it the second oldest Protestant Church in the San Fernando Valley. The church’s name was changed to Chatsworth First Methodist Church in 1958. After it was closed in 1963, the church became the 14th site to be designated as a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument. In 1965, the church was moved to Oakwood Memorial Park.
• Chatsworth was home to St. John’s Military Academy, which originally opened in 1918 in Los Angeles proper and moved to Chatsworth in 1962. Its campus was on Devonshire St. between Oakdale and Corbin.
• On Valentine’s Day in 1921, 24 women started the Woman’s Community Club of Chatsworth. Grace Hageman was the first president. This is one of the oldest and continuous clubs in the area.
• Rancho San Antonio on Plummer Street west of DeSoto, also known as the “Boys Town of the West”, was moved from its original location
in Redondo Beach to Chatsworth in 1938. The organization remains at the same site today.
• The Chatsworth Florist shop has been on Devonshire St. since it was established in 1952.
• The Pampalone Schurter Professional Building on Devonshire (across from Los Toros) has housed dentistry practices for over 60 years. The Chatsworth Chamber of Commerce was even a tenant there at one time.
• The Chatsworth Library has existed in various locations and storefronts. Between 1952 and1963, when the first permanent location was built at 21052 Devonshire St., the community was serviced by the LA Public Library Bookmobile Program. The Devonshire St. location was rebuilt along with several other libraries in Los Angeles in 2004.
• Los Toros Mexican Restaurant and The Cowboy Palace Saloon still have horse hitching posts.
• Chatsworth was once home to the Devonshire Golf Club (now Rockpointe condominiums) and the Aqua Sierra Sportsman’s Club (now Chatsworth Park South) at the end of Devonshire St.