An Introduction

My name is Craig Durst, aka the History Hunter. More on that to come. My path to becoming, as Mike Lawler has referred me, “his counterpart to the West,” began in 1990 when I moved to Lake View Terrace. I soon learned that the indigenous Tongva Village of Tuhuunga (historical spelling of Tujunga)  was near my home.

That property on Orcas Avenue had some dozen or so orange trees. I learned later they were a remnant of some long-ago citrus ranch. The house was a very long, thin house extending far back into the lot. It consisted of room after room, each with its own door to the exterior. I soon started hearing rumors that the home had once served as a house of ill repute into 1930s. While interesting, I took it as just rumor until a 90-year-old local man was brought as a guest to one of my gatherings and he was taken aback by the memory of being a patron there many moons ago.

Entering the house, you stepped into a 25’ x 25’ room with one full wall of stone encapsulating a large fireplace and dozens of windows. It was easy to imagine some major shindigs there in its distant past. I began to think, with all the history in just this house what else would I discover if I looked? I began to look indeed, and I haven’t been able to stop since. Decades later, after filling my head with a vast array of local history knowledge, I became the Historian at Bolton Hall Museum and in 2022, the Project Undertaker at the Historic Verdugo Hills Cemetery in Tujunga.

One of my favorite things to do is to learn of some interesting aspect of local history, study it thoroughly, then go out into the field to search for any remnant of that time left behind. In that regard, I’ve found several wonderful things. This is where the moniker of History Hunter comes from and I’m proud of that designation. I will share the stories of these history hunts in future columns.

Having years of access to the archives at Bolton Hall Museum, I have endless stories to tell, but for the most part the documents stored there are concerned with the communities within the borders of what was the Tujunga Rancho, an 1840 Land Grant of some 6800 plus acres including what is today, a portion of Sun Valley, Shadow Hills, Lake View Terrace, Sunland and Tujunga. These are the places in which my stories will mostly come from.

I’m quite enamored with the fact that I’ve made a list of possible topics and I hand wrote the list in what was once the ledger book of George Washington Harris. He was the stone mason extraordinaire who built Bolton Hall itself in 1913. The ledger was recently gifted to me by the museum committee. You’ll learn more about Mr. Harris here at another time, but being that he was involved with media in his day I think he would get a kick out of his old ledger book being put to use in such a way.

To get started I’m going to focus on two things. The first came after much thought about what connects all of us in the Crescenta Valley. The answer is Foothill Boulevard. So, coming ahead, I will begin a series called “Footnotes Along Foothill,”  sharing the history that transpired on or just off Foothill Boulevard from east to west. In addition to this series, I’ll sprinkle in fascinating stories from the past that I’ve learned along my way. Glad to be here, Mike can relax a bit more, and I hope you’ll all join me for some history hunts ahead.

Craig W. Durst, AKA The History Hunter, is a historian of the Tujunga Rancho and President of the Friends of Verdugo Hills Cemetery. He can be reached at craig@thehistoryhunter.com.