Yesterday was the second installment of my class at the Skirball on the Sepulveda Pass. I was a bit out of it due to my faceplant earlier in the day, but I still found the energy to participate at my usual level :-). The focus of yesterday’s class was on some of the people and personalities connected with the pass. Here’s what I remember:
- Tongva. We talked a bit more about the Tongva connection to the pass, and looked at the similarities and differences between Tongva beliefs and Jewish beliefs. The contention that the instructor is building to ties to the connection between Jewish institutions as the Sepulveda Pass. To me, how much is predestination and how much is coincidence is probably best left for others to decide, but there no question that certain natural spaces seem to have drawn Jewish institutions.
- Spanish Period. We talked about the connection between the rebirth of Christianity in Spain and the goals for the “New World” (at least for Spain). We looked at how Spain established its center in Mexico City, and how the Sonoran Desert made it difficult for exploration from Mexico City to Southern California (including how the prevailing currents in the Pacific also made it difficult for coastal transit up from Mexico). We looked at the initial path of the Portola Expedition and the establishment of the missions, in particular the path taken for the initial exploration (which was from roughly 1 Wilshire to the Brentwood area, discovering that the coastal route wasn’t viable due to the Palisades, travel over the pass to Santa Clarita and then down the Santa Clara River to the coast (San Buenaventura).
- The Sepulveda Family. We talked about the Sepulveda family, after whom the pass was named. We looked at how the Sepulveda family acquired their land grants. This includes how various branches of the family acquired land in the Pasadena area (San Pasqual), Palos Verdes, West Los Angeles (San Vicente y Santa Monica), Ballona, and Palisades, and other areas. This included mention of the conflict with the Dominguez family over San Pedro.
- William Mulholland. We also talked about William Mulholland, about whom I am very familiar from just reading Catherine Mulholland’s book about her grandfather. We talked about his role in the aqueduct, and the aftermath of the Saint Francis Dam disaster. There wasn’t that much discussion about the creation of Mulholland Highway.
- Nathan Shapell. Lastly, we talked about Nathan Shapell, about whom the segment of I-405 from West Los Angeles to the Valley was named back in 2007. We discussed his history and his home building efforts, and more important, his connection to the Little Hoover commission and Jewish philanthropy. The instructor opined that this was the rationale for the naming including the pass, as opposed to (say) Route 118 near Porter Ranch, which Shapell developed.
The next installment of the class will look at the Sepulveda Pass and the freeway, which of course is of great interest to me. I’ve loaned the instructor some of my older map copies (the 1939 Gillespie Guide, the 1950-ish Thomas Guide, and the 1959 Renie Guide) to provide some of the history.
Music: Sweet Little Devil (2012 Studio Cast): “Flirtation Ballet”