Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

CV Street Name Origins – Part 6

Let’s start now on street names from La Cañada Flintridge. Oddly enough I’ve got a whole lot on La Cañada names – way more than La Crescenta street names.

We’ll start off with a submission from a reader about Belita Lane.

Belita Lane is above Foothill in the neighborhood on the far east side of La Cañada. Here’s what the reader wrote: “When we moved to Belita Lane in La Cañada, I googled Belita and learned that at the time the houses on the street were built, around 1946, there was a popular British ice skater named Belita (she used only one name), so I assume it was named after her since I found no other possible source for the name.”

Sure enough, Belita was the stage name of Maria Belita Jepson-Turner. She was an Olympic skater who parlayed her athletic fame into a film career. She was about at the peak of that career in 1946 when this street would have been laid out. There seems to be a pattern in this neighborhood because Belita intersects with Lamour Drive, undoubtedly named for film star Dorothy Lamour. Nearby is Revlon Drive, perhaps named for the line of makeup that many of these stars wore. This pattern may be due to the fact that many people in the entertainment industry were settling in La Cañada post-war.

Kirst Street – At the top of this development is tiny Kirst Street, near the top of Viro Road. It’s named for the pioneering Kirst family. In 1904, Pauline and Nicholas Kirst traded their downtown LA hotel for a 90-acre ranch in the Cañada Valley. With their six children, they moved into a ranch house located about where Kirst Street is, and planted grape vines. Only three years after moving in, Nicholas Kirst was tending horses in their barn. Tragedy occurred when one of the horses stumbled and fell on him, crushing him to death. The Kirst family stayed on the property into the next generation, even expanding their ranch over to where Trader Joe’s is today at Foothill and Gould.

JPL streets – Just to the east of this neighborhood is the famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They named their streets for their many space and missile programs. The streets on the campus include Pioneer Road, Explorer Road, Mariner Road, Surveyor Road, Sargent Road and Corporal Road (named for the Sargent and Corporal missile projects), and DSN Road (for Deep Space Network). Above the campus is Mesa Road, named for the Gould Mesa, the hill behind JPL. Gould Mesa is a fault feature of the Sierra Madre earthquake fault, which runs right through JPL.

Gould Avenue – Named for Will D. Gould, a very successful Los Angeles lawyer. He purchased 1,100 acres in the late 1800s, and built a grand getaway resort for himself, which he named Highland Park. Gould Avenue, marked by the distinctive row of eucalyptus trees, was his driveway. Gould’s specialty was real estate law and in the litigious and wild early years of LA’s growth, he made a fortune. Included in the lawsuits he argued were disputes involving many of La Cañada’s pioneering families like the Lantermans.

Knight Way – Knight Way crosses Gould at the top of the line of eucalyptus trees. It’s named for the pioneering Knight family. Jesse and Elizabeth Knight moved to La Cañada in 1887. Maria Haskell, sister of Dr. Benjamin Briggs, had given up on farming the rocky soil and sold 100 acres to the Knights. They successfully introduced citrus, planting their new acreage in oranges and lemons. Their packing house was on the upper end of their property near the western end of today’s Knight Way. They organized the California Fruit Growers Association, which coined the iconic “Sunkist” name. Their son, T. Fenton Knight, was a successful businessman and investor and served five terms in the state assembly.

Princess Anne Road – Above Knight Way and east of Angeles Crest Highway is Princess Anne Road. It’s named for England’s Princess Anne, the only daughter of the current Queen. She was born in 1950, about when this street would have been laid out.

Next week, more La Cañada street names.