Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

The Development of Oakmont Woods

Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the  Crescenta Valley. Reach him at
Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley. Reach him at

Or perhaps I should title this “History and Painkillers Don’t Mix.”

You see, I screwed up big time on an article I wrote last month on the history of Onandarka Ranch. I got several facts wrong on what happened after it was developed into housing, even the name of the development. I called it Glenwood Oaks instead of its proper name Oakmont Woods. My lame excuse is that when I wrote the column I was one week out from knee replacement surgery, and my body, my mind, and my historical facts were churning around in a volatile mix of Oxicodone and Vicodin.

I got letters and emails correcting me, most notably from the Gregg family, developers of Oakmont 1, 2, 3, and 4, and Beatrice Minkoff (101 years old!), the sister-in-law of Hyman Minkoff who developed Oakmont Woods. Mrs. Minkoff also sent me a NewsPress article by Katherine Yamada from a few years ago that covered the history of Oakmont Woods.

I apologize to all. And thank you for providing more info.

So to turn lemons into lemonade, here’s what I learned from my mistake. From Mrs. Minkoff, who still lives in Oakmont Woods by the way, I found out the correct naming convention for the streets of Oakmont Woods.

Developer Hyman Minkoff had four daughters and named four of the streets after them. Shirleyjean Street was named for daughter Shirley Jean Minkoff, Camann Street for Camille, Eilinita Avenue for Eileen, and Delorita Avenue for Delores. As each daughter married, their generous Dad gave them a house as a wedding present. Now, you would think they would want to live on the street named after them, but no! Shirley Jean picked a house on Eilinita Avenue, Camille moved to Emanual Drive, Eileen picked one around the corner on La Crescenta Avenue, and Delores took the old Onadarka Ranch house built by Col. Baldridge in 1913. Go figure.

The name of Emanual Drive came from the name of Hyman Minkoff’s business partner Emanual Fagen. Although Minkoff first wanted the street to be named “Fagen Drive,” the City of Glendale asked him to reconsider. The name “Fagen” was too similar to the name of the character from Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist who was a disreputable leader of a band of young thieves. Minkoff instead substituted Emanual for the street name.

Bob Gregg let me know that when Minkoff was done building he sold nearly 100 acres above Oakmont Woods to the Gregg family in 1969. This acreage was the genesis of the famed Oakmont 5 development, which after years of public hearing and court battles was purchased by the City of Glendale and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy as dedicated open space.

For over half a century Oakmont Woods has been a charming and quiet neighborhood of winding streets and some beautiful examples of Ranch-style and Mid-century architecture. It has an isolated feel due to its cozy setting in the folds of Englehard Canyon in the lush Verdugo Mountains and because its only access point is via a narrow bridge over Verdugo Creek.

Two little known gems exist in Oakmont Woods. One is Camp Max Straus at the end of Shirleyjean Street. This 112-acre, non-denominational youth camp is operated by the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and offers a wilderness camp experience to underprivileged youth. Camp Max Straus does beautiful work at giving at-risk urban kids a chance to experience hiking, swimming, music, stage-arts and camaraderie in an oak-covered outdoor setting that most of these kids have never experienced before. They’ve been doing good work there since 1938, yet most people in CV don’t even know they exist.

The other is the Verdugo Mountains Open Space Preserve. This little-known 244-acre nature preserve spreads up the Verdugos just behind Oakmont Woods and features thousands of mature trees, springs and streams, and great views of our valley. A trailhead into this preserve is at the end of Emanual drive.

Thanks for letting me set the record straight, and for allowing me to add some interesting facts about our Oakmont Woods.