A Discussion of Burbank Street Names

Mark Tapio Kines, Wes Clark and Mike McDaniel

These are excerpts of January 2022 e-mails between Kines, Clark and McDaniel on the subject of the origins of Burbank street names.

Kines: Do you have any insider knowledge on the etymology of any Burbank streets? No road is too big or too small. I've already tackled quite a few (Empire, Magnolia, Hollywood, Jeffries, Lamer, University, Priscilla, Sherlock, etc.). But maybe you've picked up some funny or compelling stories here and there. Each of my paragraph-long writeups includes some biographical background on the namesake of each street.

Clark: Burbank street names... whoa. There's a big project. Let's see what I can come up with off the top of my head: Okay, so the street names dealing with universities have to do with the grand plans of a developer named Ben Marks to create a “Greatest University in the World” which eventually became a pleasant residential neighborhood. It was called the Benmar Project, from the 1920s. All that is left of Ben Marks’s grand scheme is a series of street names that reflect academic references: Cambridge Drive, Tufts Avenue, Andover Drive, Eton Drive, Stanford Road, Groton Drive, Birmingham Road, Uclan Drive, Amherst Drive, Cornell Drive, Dartmouth Road, Hampton Road, Harvard Road and University Avenue.

Then there are the street names dealing with various Burbank families: Jeffries (James J. Jeffries, former heavyweight champ), Jolley (former councilman), Lamer (originally pronounced "la-MARE"). From our third book, True Tales from Burbank (2018): "George Lynn Monroe, in the Burbank Community Book (1944), describes how some Burbank streets were named. (The names in boldface are street names in Burbank.): "As the big ranchos were broken up the small farmers began to flock in, in increased numbers. When the town of Burbank was first laid out and put on the market the valley section was sold in 20, 30 and 40-acre tracts. Later five and ten-acre tracts were available. These were the days when the Fischers, the Luttges, the Radcliffs, the Dufers, the Clarks, the Myers, Sheltons, Storys, Sprinkles, the Buffingtons, the Lamers, the Gowers, the Parishes, the Reeses, the Peytons, the Forbes, the Doans, the McConnells, the Kirkpatricks, the Sparks, the Grismers were common names among the farming population. Many of these names are still with us both in life and in the names of the city’s streets."

Mike and I wonder: Isn’t it past time to name Lockheed View Drive (near the Starlight Bowl) something else? There’s no Lockheed to be viewed anymore. We’re all for history, but there is a necessity for practicality, too.

Another excerpt from our third book: "By the way, Chandler Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in Burbank and the San Fernando Valley, is named for Harry Chandler (1864–1944), the publisher of the Los Angeles Times from 1917 to 1944 and, at one time, the largest private landowner in the United States."

Verdugo is named after an old Spanish family from the ranchero days. Dincara Road gets its name from the Dincara Stock Farm, a horse stable on Mariposa Street and Riverside Drive which was also a gangster-run casino in the late 1940s.

Pepper St.... another excerpt from our third book: "In George Monroe’s Burbank Community Book is a description of Burbank’s pepper trees: 'In its earlier days Burbank was known far and near for its streets lined with pepper trees. Most of these were planted by the original Townsite Company, the pepper tree having, evidently been chosen as a sort of ‘theme’ tree. Most of the avenues on the hill section of the city were lined with these trees and presented a beautiful appearance.'"

Then there are the number streets... San Fernando Road/Boulevard is Second Street. And there's some debate about how and why San Fernando is a road out of Burbank and a Boulevard within it. Not sure of the details. We used to get reprimanded about that.

Burbank's Main Street really isn't a Main Street at all. That would be San Fernando. Riverside Dr. is near the L.A. River. Scott Road was named after an early American land owner, Jonathan R. Scott.

I was raised on Lincoln Street, named for the Civil War President, no doubt. We think in the early twenties it was intended to be the major north-south thoroughfare that Buena Vista became. (Buena Vista Road appears on a 1903 map.) Buena Vista has taken on a worldwide recognition because it's where Disney is located and they use the name throughout their parks, media and other companies.

Front Street runs parallel to the railroad tracks, hence, "front."

Lots of American cities have tree names for streets. Burbank has some: "Pepper" (see above), "Olive," "Palm," "Cypress," "Magnolia," "Walnut," "Ash," "Cedar," "Oak," etc. We have both an Elm and an Elmwood. There used to be a "Myrtle" (it's shown on a 1922 map) but it no longer exists.

East Avenue runs east and west, countering the slant of the surrounding streets.The Whitnall Highway has a history of its own. Again, from our third book: "With those gigantic power transmission towers, it stands out in Burbank, that’s for sure. It almost looks... rural. And, 'Highway?' What highway? As one might guess from the generally underwhelming nature of the place, there were plans for it that didn’t happen. It’s named for George Gordon Whitnall, a former Los Angeles director of city and county planning who, in the early 1920s, envisioned a high-capacity road stretching from Newhall through the San Fernando Valley and into a two-mile tunnel running under Griffith Park to Hollywood. The first section of it opened in 1927 on the intersection of Whitnall Highway and Cahuenga Boulevard, just past the Burbank boundary line. But, partially as a result of homeowners’ complaints, the effort stalled in the 1930s. In 1959, a new master plan was adopted by the state legislature that included a Whitnall Freeway (more or less the same name but a different path). This was intended to connect Burbank with Malibu and the Pacific Coast Highway. Once again, land was purchased and homeowners complained; by 1975, the whole thing was called off. Sections of the Whitnall Highway remained, however, cutting an odd diagonal path through residential streets arranged on a slightly canted east–west grid. In the 1990s, the City of Burbank established parks under the power lines (nothing could be built there), sensibly named Whitnall Highway Park North and Whitnall Highway Park South."

Mike: Let's not forget about Burbank's courts, those very short streets. The two most popular are Farley Court and Colgin Court; both have a few houses or units that face what is an alley between streets. I spoke to a relative of Farley who was his grandfather, and he said that he bought the land and built the three little houses on the land for his kids and built and named the (what is really a driveway) court.

Kines: I'm still trying to find info on Sparks – at least now I know it's a proper name. I have a little info on Grismer. Peyton might be for John S. Peyton, a Burbank mail carrier from 1911 to 1915. He's the only Peyton I could find from those days. I have a subscription to newspapers.com, which includes the Burbank Review, but not everyone made the news back then.

One lingering question I have is just who came up with the name "Toluca," at least on your side of the hill. It seems to be either J.B. Lankershim or Charles Forman, but I couldn't ascertain who coined it, or when it was coined. The earliest mention I found was from 1892, although Los Angeles already had a Toluca Street outside downtown in 1888.

I'm also not satisfied with my research on Clybourn Avenue. My guess is that it was just named after Clybourn Avenue in Chicago.

Here's a couple of tidbits you might not know about Ben Marks and the university-named streets: According to a tract map, Walnut Avenue was supposed to be Elmhurst (after Elmhurst University). I assume it was nixed because it was too similar to Elmwood. Uclan Drive was added much later, in 1951, by developers Edward Zuckerman and Barney Morris. (I couldn't figure out if either went to UCLA.) For what it's worth, Karen and Richard streets are named for Morris's kids. Tufts Ave. was added later too, but I haven't delved into it yet.

And there are streets around Empire that were named for Empire China Co's executives: Landis, Keeler, Jackson, Morgan. Keeler was the guy who brought Lockheed to Burbank. Isaac Landis, who founded Empire China with Fred Keeler (they owned a kaolin clay mine together), was a swindler who wound up in jail. Meanwhile, of course, Keeler would bring Lockheed to Burbank – all because of the Empire China factory, which turned him on to Burbank as a place to build a business.

Victory Blvd. was definitely named after World War I; it was meant to honor the Valley boys who fought in the war. It took decades to finish. Here's a couple 1924 clippings that show Victory's old names as Crescent and Main in Burbank: Clipping One (L.A. Times, July 20 1924), clipping 2 (Van Nuys News, Dec 19 1924). (This marked-up 1924 map shows how Victory, Crescent and Main were linked to form Victory.) The street was called Leesdale in NoHo and the rest of the Valley.

Priscilla Lane was named for actress Priscilla Lane, of the Lane sisters, a singing/acting group from the 1930s and 1940s. Priscilla was the breakout star. She was at the street's inauguration in 1941. Warner Bros. likely arranged it as a publicity stunt for one of her movies with them. Rosemary Lane was named in 1942, supposedly for her sister. Rosemary was not under contract to any studio and had no releases in 1942, so it may have been some developer's little in-joke. Surprised no one thought to name a street after their other sister: Lola Lane, whose name inspired that of Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane.

Sherlock Drive is for a guy named Charles Edward Sherlock (1853-1944), a sheep farmer who split his time between Burbank and Oregon.

Hollywood Way had its grand opening to the public on November 23rd, 1924.

Note: There is a letter in the possession of the Burbank Historical Society mentioning that in the 1920s Mayor James C. Crawford realigned and paved Pioneer Blvd. from Olive Ave. to San Fernando Rd. and had it renamed to Hollywood Way. The letter was written by his son Virgil Crawford in April 1981.

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