Did giant mastodons once lumber through the San Fernando Valley? Did saber-toothed cats await their prey along the banks of an ancient Los Angeles River? These, and questions like the location of Michael Jackson’s last rehearsal space in Burbank and the routes across the Valley of the legendary Butterfield Stagecoaches, all deserve to be answered – and, are the great fun of creating a Museum of history and culture for our part of California.
The San Fernando Valley has an endlessly interesting story to tell. It is the responsibility of your Museum to study complex political issues related to the lives of the Valley’s 1,800,000 residents, as well as where the lumber came from to build the Pioneer Church in Chatsworth.
As we amass more documents and artifacts, The Museum receives more and more telephone and email inquiries about things, such as the location of film composers’ homes and details about the great floods of the Los Angeles River in the 1930s.
Our efforts today depend today on volunteers and are a labor of love. Our Museum board oversees the growth of the research library, responds to the inquiries of scholars and does the never ending job of protecting and documenting our many treasures.
History doesn’t generally arrive in neat little packages. Photographs frequently arrive boxed without names or dates. Not thinking of the future, letters are simply signed, “love Betty” or newspaper clippings come without dates and sources.
Here is a sampling how history has been shaped by events based in the San Fernando Valley.
January 13, 1847 is likely the most monumental day in San Fernando Valley’s modern-era beginnings.
On this date, General Andres Pico of the California people and Lt. Col. John C. Fremont representing the United States forces met at a decaying adobe in the Cahuenga Pass. Here, they jointly signed an agreement that peacefully ended the Mexican-American War in California. This document, the Articles of Capitulation, became known as the Treaty of Cahuenga. It is, effectively, California’s Birth Certificate.
Here, on San Fernando Valley soil, is where the United States had, at long last, achieved its goal of Manifest Destiny, for as soon as California became a state just two years later, we were one nation coast to coast.
The occasion of this treaty is re-enacted annually at this very site every January, the Campo de Cahuenga, which today stands in the shadow of another historic Valley treasure, NBC Universal Studios.
History is still being made at the site. When the construction of the Red Line and metro stop adjacent to the Campo prompted an archaeological dig, the foundation of the original adobe was discovered, leading historians to new thoughts of its origins.