I recently got an email from someone inquiring about Verdugo City. Where is it, what is it, and why is it?
Most of us have been mildly curious or even amused when we notice for the first time, sometimes after living here for years, that a place called Verdugo City has its own sign on the 210 Freeway. We might also notice that the name Verdugo City is inconveniently wedged into a couple of overly long community organization names, like the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce, or the Montrose-Sparr Heights-Verdugo City Neighborhood Association (the MSHVCNA for short?). For those of us that are really dialed into detail, we might even call “that other Montrose post office” at La Crescenta and Honolulu by its proper name – the Verdugo City Post office. But the location of this mythical city is somewhat murky.
Technically, the Verdugo City Post Office IS Verdugo City. Verdugo City has its own Zip Code – 91046, but that Zip Code only applies to post office boxes within the Post Office itself. The demographics of that Zip Code show a population of 0.
But it’s also one of the historic neighborhoods of Glendale. It’s got one of those little blue signs the city has recently put up on its historic neighborhoods, like Montrose, Rossmoyne, or Adams Hill. It has a little more cache because it has its own post office, but overall it’s just a general area, with vague boundaries that are perhaps better defined in the context of history.
I called Mike Morgan, who is invaluable to me as a history resource for “below Montrose Avenue” CV history. He told me that Verdugo City is comprised of about 10 acres that a real estate developer with big dreams carved out in the boom years of the early 1920s. Its boundaries are roughly La Crescenta Avenue to the east, Montrose Avenue to the north, Ramsdell to the west and the Verdugo Mountains to the south.
In 1923, developer Harry Fowler wanted to create a new town in the unincorporated Crescenta Valley. He saw opportunity in the car and bus route between Glendale and Tujunga, which then ran up La Crescenta Avenue, and turned left on Honolulu. He centered his town on that intersection, established a post office there, and built the Fowler Building on the northwest corner, where the Chevron Station is today.
The Fowler Building was grand brick structure, two stories tall, with the omnipresent pharmacy and soda fountain on the first floor, and offices and a ballroom/auditorium upstairs. An annex to the west held a grocery store. The brickwork on the façade of the Fowler Building was fantastic, the best in the valley, but was later modernized to a gorgeous art deco façade that was home to the long running Roger’s Pharmacy. The building was destroyed in the ’71 earthquake, and Roger’s Pharmacy, after moving to few other locations near the intersection, finally went out of business last year. Incidentally, the Fowler Building was reconnected with the present recently when Trader Joe’s was looking for samples of appropriate architectural styles for their upcoming Montrose branch. They were shown photos of the Fowler Building and the beautiful brickwork of the Valley Pharmacy, which is still intact under several inches of stucco at the corner of Honolulu and Ocean View, and now serves up frozen yogurt as Froyo Life.
Fowler wanted to make Verdugo City the power base of the valley, so he started his own newspaper, and became a short-lived bombastic voice. He pushed for name changes for some of the major streets in the valley, and even a name change for La Crescenta itself, something like North Angeles if I remember correctly. No one paid him much attention, and Fowler faded away, but the Verdugo City name has hung on, probably because of the post office.
And there you have it – whether you cared or not – the where, what and why of Verdugo City.