Calabasas (Spanish for “Pumpkins”) is an affluent city in Los Angeles County, California located in the hills west of the San Fernando Valley and in the northwest Santa Monica Mountains between Woodland Hills, Agoura Hills, West Hills, Hidden Hills, and Malibu, California.
Indians, explorers, squatters, and bandits are all part of Calabasas history. The Chumash Indians led a peaceful life amidst the rolling hills, making their homes in canyons where streams and springs ensured a plentiful supply of wildlife.
Acorns from the massive old oak trees that thrive in the area formed an important part of their diet. Some of the oaks in Calabasas may be 500-700 years-old today.
Settlements of Chumash Indians named the area Calabasas, a word perhaps descended from the Indian word for “where the wild geese fly.” Others think Calabasas comes from the Spanish word for pumpkin or wild gourd.
Spanish expeditions in the 1700’s forever changed the Indians’ way of life. The Diary of Miguel Costanso, which documents the Portola expeditions in 1769-1770, refers to encounters with the Chumash in the area. Six years later, the Juan de Anza party camped just west of Calabasas.
El Scorpion, or El Escorpion, a ranch that once occupied a large tract in the west Valley, was granted to three Indians in Calabasas in the 1830’s. About 25 years later, Miguel Leonis, the Basque “King of Calabasas” acquired the ranch and 1100 acres by his marriage to Espiritu, an Indian who had inherited the property from her father.
Leonis was often in trouble with the law, hiring gunmen to expand his lands, bribing witnesses and threatening nearby settlers. He was killed in 1889 when he fell from his wagon after removing a band of squatters from his property. Squatter wars and gun fights were a bloody part of Calabasas history. “Inhabitants killed each other off so steadily that a human face is a rarity,” wrote Horace Bell in his book on the old west coast.
When large ranches were divided into farms in the late 1800’s, families of settlers struggled against poverty and drought. In her book, “Calabasas Girls,” Catherine Mulholland brings the era to life with photographs and letters of her ancestors, the Ijams. When water and power came to Owensmouth (Canoga Park), they were happy to leave the difficult life of Calabasas pioneers.
After the turn of the century, several select spots in the Calabasas area developed into weekend respites from the city. Crater Camp in Monte Nido was opened in 1914 as a year-round picnic ground. There are few reminders of the camp today on the site of Malibu Meadows.
The Stunt family developed a homestead on the north slope of Saddle Peak, also in the Monte Nido area. A favorite spot for filming motion pictures, the scenery was ideal for Hollywood. Scenes from such films as Tarzan, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Stalag 17 were shot in this area, today known as Malibu Creek State Park. Circa 1863, an adobe which was built near the park by a settler named Sepulveda for his wife and 12 children, is now in the process of restoration.
On the north side of Calabasas Road is L.A. Historical Cultural Monument Number One, the Leonis Adobe. When Leonis renovated it in the 1870’s, he enlarged it extensively and remodeled it into a Monterey-style house. He and Espiritu made it their home. The recent history of the adobe is one of struggles to save both it and its grounds from destruction. In the 1960’s, the threat of razing the adobe to build a supermarket led Kathleen Beachy to purchase the property. Toady, it is a superb monument to a bygone era, with meticulously maintained furnishings and grounds, and serves as an anchor for Old Town Calabasas.
Around 1983, the Plummer House, once the oldest home in West Hollywood, was moved next to the Leonis property. As a young boy, Senor Plummer had visited his neighbors in the Leonis Adobe. The building has been beautifully restored and both the adobe and Plummer House are open for tours.
What is now the Sagebrush Cantina was originally a group of small stores built by Lester Agoure, Sr. in the early 1920’s. The parking lot once was the local jail. Outside was the famous hanging tree, dead, but still standing today. It is the identifying logo of the Calabasas Chamber of Commerce.
Lack of water in the Calabasas area was always a major concern. With the founding of the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in 1958, a water supply was assured, and the area began its development boom.
The first subdivision in Calabasas, called Park Moderne (in Mulwood near Calabasas High School), was a retreat for artists, craftsmen, and writers. It was built on land traded off as part of Sam Cooper Jr.’s homestead in 1928.
The first Calabasas high school was built in 1880 on the south side of Calabasas Road. A second school, built on the same site in 1924-1925, was a one-teacher school for the area until 1948, when it joined with Liberty, Cornell, and Las Virgenes to form the Las Virgenes Unified School District. The former Pelican’s Retreat retains a small portion of the second school building.
A walk on Calabasas Road in the historic Old Town, takes one past several old buildings. The first, west of the Motion Picture Home, was originally a two-story pioneer store and dwelling owned by Charles and Alice Cooper. Called “Hunter’s Inn,” it provided rooms for hunters and travelers. After Charles died, his widow married Lawrence Kramer and together they operated a store until his retiring in 1968.
The next building, walking west, is a rebuilt replica of a garage built in 1921 and owned by the Daic brothers. Operated by Joseph, Charles, and Al Daic, descendants of homesteaders, it was originally a two-pump station. It became a popular movie backdrop in the early 1980’s. The Daic brothers built a smaller building next door to the garage, where Gaetano’s is now located. A Touch of Class was the residence of Theresa Thilmony, an early beloved school teacher.
The Leonis Plaza was at one time the site of many small buildings constructed in the 1920’s. They were shops for artisans, and one was the home of the Las Virgenes Enterprise. This had formerly been a blacksmith shop belonging to Juan Menendez, the son of Espiritu.
Information on the history of Calabasas area is available at the Calabasas Library.
Information on this page is provided courtesy of www.cityofcalabasas.com
Vista Pointe is located along the transverse ranges that run parallel to, and between, the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) and Parkway Calabasas.
From Parkway Calabasas: Hidden Hills West, Westridge, Calabasas Hills, Calabasas Park Estates, and The Oaks.
From Park Granada or Mulholland Drive: Mulholland Heights, Mulwood, Las Villas, Bellagio, The Ridge, Creekside, Clairidge, Calabasas Country Estates, Calabasas Highlands, Mountain Park, Abercrombie Ranch Estates, Cold Creek, and Park Moderne.
From Las Virgenes: Mountain View Estates, Monte Nido, Deer Springs, Stone Creek, El Encanto, Archstone, Mont Calabasas, Malibu Canyon Park, The Colony at Calabasas, and Calabasas View.
Mont Calabasas, a community on Las Virgenes Road was annexed into the city of Calabasas in 2011. Prior to annexation, the neighborhood was located in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County.
From Lost Hills Road: Saratoga Hills, Saratoga Ranch, Deer Springs, and Steeplechase.
The most celebrity populated neighborhood in the general area of Calabasas is Hidden Hills, a separately incorporated city, which is featured on the E! TV series Keeping Up with the Kardashians
The 2010 United States Census reported Calabasas to have a population of 23,058. The population density was 1,780.4 people per square mile (687.4/km²). The racial makeup of Calabasas was 19,341 (83.9%) White (79.5% non-Hispanic), 375 (1.6%) African American, 48 (0.2%) Native American, 1,993 (8.6%) Asian, 8 (less than 0.1%) Pacific Islander, 368 (1.6%) from other races, and 925 (4.0%) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 1,481 persons (6.4%).
The Census reported that 23,049 people lived in households, 9 lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 were institutionalized. Of 8,543 households, 3,320 (38.9%) had children under the age of 18 living at home, 5,124 (60.0%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 942 (11.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 315 (3.7%) had a male householder with no wife present, 310 (3.6%) were unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 31 (0.4%) were same-sex married couples or partnerships. About 1,624 households (19.0%) were made up of individuals and 525 (6.1%) consisted of someone living alone who was age 65 or older. The average household size was 2.70. There were 6,381 families (74.7% of all households); the average family size was 3.11.
The population consisted of 5,841 people (25.3%) under age 18, 1,875 people (8.1%) age 18 to 24, 5,025 people (21.8%) age 25 to 44, 7,414 people (32.2%) age 45 to 64, and 2,903 people (12.6%) age 65 or older. The median age was 41.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.8 males age 18 and over.
The 8,878 housing units averaged 685.5 per square mile (264.7/km²), of which 6,287 (73.6%) were owner-occupied, and 2,256 (26.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.2%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.2%. Around 17,769 people (77.1% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 5,280 people (22.9%) lived in rental housing units.
According to the 2010 United States Census, Calabasas had a median household income of $124,583, with 6.6% of the population living below the federal poverty line.
City policies are decided by a five-member city council. Council members serve four-year terms and are elected at-large. Each year, the council chooses one of its members to act as mayor and preside over city council meetings.
Calabasas residents are zoned to schools in the Las Virgenes Unified School District, one of the highest-ranked districts in the state. The district also serves the nearby communities of Agoura Hills, Bell Canyon, and Hidden Hills, and certain smaller areas. Calabasas High School is a part of the district.
In January 2004, Alice C. Stelle Middle School, located at the corner of Mulholland Highway and Paul Revere Road, was opened to serve the eastern half of the city. The western half is served by Arthur E. Wright Middle School, located on Las Virgenes Road, which prior to 2004, was the city’s only middle school.
Calabasas is also home to Chaparral, Round Meadow, Lupin Hill, and Bay Laurel public elementary schools, which are part of the Las Virgenes Unified School District, as well as the private Viewpoint School.
In July 2008, the city completed construction of a Gold LEED-certified Civic Center and Library complex. Located at 100 Civic Center Way, the two-building complex is the first municipal-owned and constructed ‘green’ civic center structure in California. The complex cost an estimated $45,000,000 to complete. This figure includes the outright purchase of the land on which the complex sits.
The Civic Center complex contains: the Calabasas Library, meeting rooms, and an amphitheater, and the Calabasas Channel (CTV).
The Hindu Temple of Calabasas
The city is home to a large Hindu Temple complex on Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas, visited by many Hindus and others from both in and outside California. The Hindu Temple Society of Southern California was incorporated in the State of California as a nonprofit religious organization on August 18, 1977.
Claretville of Calabasas / King Gillette Ranch
The Claretians (The Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Rome, or The Claretian Order) of the Roman Catholic Church had come to Southern California by way of Mexico in the early 1900s, working in Los Angeles inner-city missions. From 1952 to 1977, they operated the Theological Seminary of Claretville and the Immaculate Heart Claretian Novitiate on the former Gillette Estate, which they renamed Claretville. The Thomas Aquinas College rented the Claretville campus from the Claretians from 1971 to 1978. When the Claretians sold their Claretville property in 1978 to Clare Prophet and her Church Universal and Triumphant, Thomas Aquinas College purchased, moved to, and began construction on a permanent campus in Santa Paula, California. At the present time, the Gillette Estate/Claretville property is now known as the King Gillette Ranch, at the intersection of Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas. The land and historic structures by architect Wallace Neff are now part of Malibu Creek State Park.
Brandon’s Village is a universally accessible playground located at Gates Canyon Park in Calabasas. It serves over 5,000 special-needs children from Calabasas and surrounding communities. Designed by Shane’s Inspiration, a nonprofit organization that designs and builds universally accessible playgrounds, Brandon’s Village is about 1 acre (4,000 m2) in size. Its playground equipment is over 70% independently playable by children with disabilities, and also provides meaningful and stimulating play opportunities for children without disabilities.
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