Tongva Indian villages, the Rancho San Rafael and the Campbell–Johnson Ranch preceded the town of Eagle Rock. Surrounded by hills, the area at the end of the 19th century was a rural area far removed from the bustling city. Truck farms, Victorian farmhouses and barns populated the valley. With the founding of the Union Church and the Women’s Twentieth Century Club, the small population began its cultural organization.
The arrival of the Los Angeles Railway streetcar system in 1906 made suburbanization of the valley possible. The tracks came from downtown Los Angeles along Central Avenue (now Eagle Rock Boulevard) and extended to the intersection of Townsend Avenue and Colorado Street, the heart of town at the time. A local line ran to Glendale and Montrose. Another line ran down Figueroa Street and up to the Eagle Rock to supply the Edison power station, and serve the verdant area known as Eagle Rock Park.
Craftsman-style homes and public buildings such as the Women’s Twentieth Century Club, exemplified the times. The Carnegie Library, attractive churches, and brick commercial buildings were built along the boulevards. A wide range of housing served a diverse population. Occidental College was built, opening in 1914.
Eagle Rock was incorporated as a city in 1911. A spirit of boosterism and small town sociability prevailed. Children walked through orchards and past grazing cattle to school. The increase in population soon led to a more citified style. In 1923 the people of Eagle Rock voted to become part of the City of Los Angeles under the threat of an inadequate water supply and the promise of an upgraded school system.
The 1920’s saw an upswing of construction. Houses were constructed in Period Revival styles. Eagle Rock High School was built and the elementary schools were enlarged to accommodate the growing population. The library was expanded and remodeled. The end of the decade saw construction in the new Art Deco fashion before the world-wide depression put an end to prosperity.
World War II transformed Eagle Rock, bringing the town more than ever into the context of the City and the region. Many young people, returning from the war, settled here. The Stimpson lemon ranch, the last large farm, and the remaining empty lots filled with mid-century modern houses. Retail businesses remodeled to stay in tune with the times and capture what proved to be the final period of traditional main street shopping.
The fifties brought momentous changes. The trolley tracks were torn out and the freeway bridge was completed over the Arroyo. The last dreams of a park in the valley of the Eagle Rock died as the dump road, freeway off-ramp and reservoir all were built, obliterating much of this natural area. A part of that dream was resurrected when Eagle Rock Recreation Center was built on the nearby knoll.
Demographic and social change came with the end of legal segregation in 1964. This coupled with the movement to the suburbs of the boomer children, brought a new population to our town. The struggle to prevent the building of the freeway through the center of the valley brought us together. The strong loyalties of new and old residents sustained our quality schools and vibrant culture. New regard and understanding of the value of our quality housing stock, city-adjacent location and potentially walkable commercial areas began reviving and refreshing Eagle Rock. Today we have rededicated ourselves to sustaining the tradition of “L.A.’s Hometown”.
History courtesy of Eric Warren, Eagle Rock Histoical Society.