Regulating Place: Standards and the Shaping of Urban America

By Eran Ben-Joseph; Terry S. Szold | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11

Protecting Palos Verdes

The Dark Side ofthe Bourgeois Utopia

ROBERT M. FOGELSON


The Origins of Palos Verdes Estates

In 1913 a syndicate of wealthy eastern financiers, railroad executives, and other businessmen bought most of what had once been El Rancho de Los Palos Verdes from George Bixby for $1.5 million. The ranch had been carved out of El Rancho San Pedro-one of the immense ranches into which the Spaniards had divided much of southern California-in 1846; and in 1882 it was partitioned into 17 parcels, the largest of which, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was awarded to Jotham Bixby, from whom his son George inherited it in 1894. Leading the syndicate was Frank A. Vanderlip, whose career reads like a Horatio Alger story. The son of a Midwestern farmer, whose death forced the sale of the family homestead, Vanderlip went to work as a lathe operator and, after a year of college and a job as a financial analyst, turned to journalism. He spent a few years as a reporter and editor and then as private secretary to Lyman Gage, a Chicago banker who had been appointed Secretary of the Treasury. Following a stint as Assistant Secretary, Vanderlip joined the National City Bank of New York, one of the country's largest, as vice president; 8 years later he was named its president. For the $1.5 million-small change to Vanderlip and his associates, all of whom were millionaires-the syndicate acquired a huge parcel, about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Covering roughly 16,000 acres, or 25 square miles, it was nearly one-quarter the size of Los Angeles before the city annexed the San Fernando Valley in 1915, over one-half the size of San

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