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How Our Streets Got Their Names

Learn about the origins of street names in Beverly Hills.

In 1852 former Spanish soldier Vicente Ferrer Valdez and his wife, Maria Rita Villa de Valdez, settled onto what he called “Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas” for a $4,000 price tag. Rita called the 4,500-acre land spread “San Antonio” because she did not like the name her husband chose. At the present-day intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Alpine Drive, the small Valdez home was built. 

Valdez died in 1828, leaving Rita and 11 children behind. Rita was so scared of the constant attacks by the indigenous people of the area that she eventually sold the large property. The developers of our city, the Rodeo Land and Water Company, got its name from the large rancho, as did the world-renowned street “Rodeo.” 

The name “Rodeo” stuck, even though Valdez’s wife didn’t “like” it. (Oops, sorry. This isn’t Facebook). 

The Rancho Rodeo was later purchased by Major Henry Hancock (as in Hancock Park), an attorney from New Hampshire. He had come to the state during the 1849 gold rush. After the land made its way through the hands of Benjamin D. Wilson and William Workman, it was purchased by Dr. Edward Preuss in 1868.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Henry Hammel and Charles Denker took over the property, naming it Hammel and Denker Ranch. It was a part of the land grant known as El Rodeo de Las Aguas, “The Ranch of the Gathering Waters,” where the streams from the canyons met and lima bean fields flourished. The Hammel and Denker Ranch was between what is now Doheny Drive to the east, Whittier Drive on the west, the foothills just above Sunset Boulevard to the north and Wilshire Boulevard to the south. The street Hammel became a part of our cityscape. 

When Burton Green of the Rodeo Land and Water Company named the city upon its 1914 incorporation, he did so after Beverly Farms in Beverly, Mass. Aside from that name, many city street names were taken from the East Coast such as Roxbury, Bedford and Camden. 

I wrote in another blog that on our early 1920s Beverly Hills Speedway track, many race cars had paint jobs that read “Durant Racing.” William C. Durant was a founder of General Motors, as well as the co-owner and president of the Beverly Hills Speedway. His son Russell “Cliff” Durant was an American race car driver who died in Beverly Hills on Oct. 30, 1937. Durant Drive was at the western end of the speedway and is today the wide street that students use to reach the Beverly Hills High School campus. Speed humps have been installed there to prevent it from replacing our past speedway. 

Of course, Doheny Road was named after Edward Doheny, who built Greystone Mansion in 1928. Most of his expansive property became the Trousdale Estates. Check out the accompanying photo of an undeveloped Doheny Road. 

Then there’s Olympic Boulevard, which was once called Country Club Drive. In 1934, the City of Los Angeles changed the name in honor of its Olympic-hosting duties.

Did you know that there are many streets in our city that do not need the added designation of north or south? Yet people continue to write South Reeves Drive. And Spalding is often written with an extra “u.” El Camino has no other word to its name; its simply El Camino. Charleville is named after an early mayor of our city. And in case you didn’t know, the Beverly Hills border does extend to Pico Boulevard. The last annexed segment of Beverly Hills includes Hillgreen Drive, the city’s southernmost street, which ends at Pico. 

If you have more street history to share, please comment below.

Thank you for reading, Russ

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Pease October 25, 2011 at 08:53 PM
I like that El Camino is just that. It would look weird otherwise. Like Strada Vecchia Road in Bel-Air, which translates to "Old Road" Road.
Russ Levi October 25, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Come to think about it, that's true. Why include a word with a similar meaning, In France, we can easily rue the same street twice. I appreciate your input, Tom.
Michele Harris October 25, 2012 at 09:07 AM
Great article. Durant Drive was named for Russell Clifford Durant however, not his father William, "Billy" Durant. Cliff was Pres. and Co owner of the Beverly Hills Speedway where his team of Durant Specials pioneered the Miller engines which would dominate racing for several decades. Cliff was also at various times the President of Durant Motors, V.P. of Chevrolet and Pres. of Durant Aviation all of California. Billy had very little to do with operations in California.
Peter Hemming March 10, 2013 at 06:35 AM
Dear Russ, Many years ago we lived on Hutton Drive. My brother told me this street was named after our mother Marion Hutton who sang with the Glen Miller Orchestra back in the 40's. My brother was famous for telling whoppers but I've always wondered about this. Can you tell me where Hutton Drive comes from?
Anthony Crothers February 17, 2014 at 08:52 AM
Re: Your Post about Sunset Blvd. We believe that if you go back and re-check the early maps and history of Los Angeles you will find that Sunset Blvd. was called Beverly Blvd prior to it being renamed "Sunset Blvd. The street originated in downtown L.A. and went all the the way to the beach in Santa Monica.

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