Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

CV Street Name Origins – Part 1


Recently I was sent a list of local street name origins by another local historian, Jo Anne Sadler. (For a deep dive into local name origins, get her book “Crescenta Valley Pioneers and Their Legacies.”) I’ll use her list and my own knowledge to reveal how certain streets got their names. If you have some knowledge about local street name origins, please email me and I’ll include them. Here are a few from La Crescenta.

Pickens Avenue and Pickens Canyon Avenue – For a man who had such a big presence in the valley, there are only two small streets named after him. Theodor Pickens looms large in local legend. He is considered the first American to settle in the valley (1871), and the original major water source, Pickens Canyon, was named for him. Yet only two tiny streets carry his name: Pickens Avenue, only a block long, coming off Rosemont just below Montrose Avenue, and Pickens Canyon Avenue, also only a block long, coming off of Briggs.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical Society
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Briggs Avenue – I think most of us know it was named for Dr. Benjamin Briggs, CV’s founder. When he moved to the valley in 1881, he purchased Theodor Pickens’ property on the upper side of the valley on a terrace overlooking the valley. He built his house there, and the area became known as Briggs Terrace. Briggs Avenue was basically his driveway.

Dunsmore Avenue – James Dunsmoor, a Civil War vet, came to the valley with his young family in 1874 and bought land in today’s Dunsmore Canyon. He worked as a beekeeper. He didn’t stay long, less than a decade, selling his land to Benjamin Briggs in 1883. He left because his kids needed a place to go to school. But his name stuck, even though it was misspelled from the original Dunsmoor to Dunsmore.

Shields Street – Shields comes off the top of Briggs Avenue and winds up into Briggs Terrace. It’s named for John Shields. He moved here, like many people of that era, for the clean dry air. After a serious illness, he left his family and bought land in 1884 at the top of La Crescenta Avenue, in what is today the Pinecrest neighborhood. He lived in a tiny little cabin. For some reason people started calling him “General” Shields. Either it was a joke or a lie on his part, but this whole story got passed down about him having been a Confederate general, which he wasn’t.

Goss Canyon Avenue – Named for Goss Canyon just below the street. Thomas Goss was a prominent LA brick manufacturer who in the 1880s harvested all the trees from Goss Canyon to fire his brick kilns.

Terrace Drive – Obviously named because it is located on Briggs Terrace. Briggs’ original house built of cement in 1883 (?) sat in the middle of the loop of Terrace Drive. It may have been the first cement structure in Southern California.

Dorothy Drive – Dorothy comes off of Terrace Drive. It’s named for Dorothy Childs. Mr. Childs was a successful screenwriter in the 1930s. Dorothy was his wife, and they lived on a large piece of land at the corner of Dorothy and Terrace.

Olive Avenue – Coming south off Terrace, we find Olive coming off Briggs. It was named because it was carved out of the extensive olive groves that Briggs planted just below the Terrace. There are still a few of those olive trees on that street.

Utley Road – This tiny little street that also comes off Briggs has an interesting origin. It’s named for Dr. Utley, who operated Utley Sanitarium. The sanitarium was located at the end of Utley Road and we are told that some of the houses in that area are adapted from the sanitarium buildings.

Fairmont Avenue – Fairmont comes off Briggs near Foothill. It was the location of the Fairmont Hotel, a beautiful turn-of-the-century resort hotel where rich folks came to CV to “take the air.” Was the hotel named for the street or the street for the hotel? We don’t know.

Next week we’ll continue with more street name origins.