Treasures of the Valley

Name Origins – Crescenta, Montrose and More

La Crescenta – Our founder, Dr. Benjamin Briggs, dreamed up this name. Besides his profession as a physician, he was also a land speculator and developer. He purchased the western half of the Williams/Lanterman La Cañada Valley and divided it into lots. From his home on Briggs Terrace, he observed three mountain ranges – the Verdugos, the San Rafaels, and the San Gabriels – as crescent shapes. He added “a” at the end to give it an attractive Spanish flavor. “La” was added at the insistence of the U.S. Post Office to differentiate it from Crescent City in northern California. The area’s previous name had been “Big Rocks,” perhaps a more descriptive name.

La Cañada – La Cañada in Spanish means “a valley between two mountains.” The name was apparently coined by Jose Verdugo to describe the Crescenta-Cañada Valley from Tujunga to the Arroyo Seco, the northern portion of his larger Rancho San Rafael. In the name Cañada, it’s critical to place the tilde (~) over the “n” to differentiate the pronunciation from the country of Canada. In fact, early settlers spelled it “Canyada” to force the proper pronunciation. A neighborhood in the northern part of La Cañada, “Alta Canyada,” retains that older spelling.

Flintridge – Flintridge was named for a developer, Senator Frank Flint. He bought the southern portion of the La Cañada Valley in the teens and developed an upscale community there. Flintridge and La Cañada remained contentiously separate communities until, under threat of annexation by Glendale and Pasadena, they merged with La Cañada in 1976 becoming La Cañada Flintridge.

Tujunga – For thousands of years in Big Tujunga Canyon there was a native village named “Tujungna,” meaning “the place of the old woman.” That perhaps referred to a rock formation in the canyon that resembled an old woman’s face. The Spanish settlers retained many Native American names and so it stuck. Initially Americans called the area “Glorietta Heights,” then “Little Landers,” but it incorporated in 1925 as Tujunga. Sometime after WWII, its name and geography merged with the community of Sunland to the west, and is now Sunland-Tujunga.

Glendale – Originally the area was named “Mason,” a name assigned by the U.S. Post Office. In 1887 “Glendale” was chosen by a group of developers and town boosters who pooled their land holdings to form a township. The name was cemented in place by starting a newspaper called the Glendale Encinal. Glendale is the anglicized version of the Gaelic “Gleann Dail,” which means valley of fertile, low-lying arable land. That well described Glendale at that time.

Montrose – What would seemingly be the simplest name (origin “Mountain Rose”) is actually much more complicated and mysterious. The generally accepted story was that it was either named for a town in Pennsylvania or was from the title of a popular novel. And further were stories that the streets were laid out in the shape of a rose. Historian Robert Newcombe, who literally wrote the book on Montrose, claims that is speculation and describes the mystery.

As we know, Montrose was developed and opened for sales in February 1913. In December 1912 a contest was held to name the new town and a winner was chosen just as 1912 ended. But the whole contest idea was rather sketchy and no reason was given for picking Montrose. Further, two photos from earlier in 1912 show a sign already calling it Montrose. Was the name already chosen by the developers and the contest was just a sales come-on? A tantalizing clue is that there is a Montrose Street in Echo Park that was just being built in 1912. The developers located in Los Angeles would have passed it each day on their way to their new development. Did they pick the name from that street?

Also, although the streets are laid out in a rose pattern the developers never advertised it as such, only calling it only a “unique circular pattern.” Plus, the streets were laid out well before the Montrose name appeared. Was the “Mountain Rose” theory just a coincidence? We’ll probably never know the real story.

What’s in a name? Now you know.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at