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Atwater Village History

What is now Atwater Village began originally as a part of Rancho San Rafael, which covered much of what is now Glendale and northeastern Los Angeles. In 1868, W.C.B. Richardson purchased a portion of the rancho and renamed it Rancho Santa Eulalia. In 1902 this land was eventually subdivided and with some subdivisions offered for sale to prospective homebuilders. The subdivision that stretched from the Southern Pacific tracks to the Los Angeles River was eventually named Atwater Tract for its proximity to the river – “at-water”. The area would later be known as “Atwater” with the word “Village” added in 1986.

In subsequent decades, residents began to settle in the area. Many new residents were newly prosperous workers, including many working at the nearby DWP substation. Spanish-style houses and bungalows were built in the 1920s to 1940s, many of which still retain their original details. Growth was aided by the construction of a line of the Pacific Electric Railway with its distinctive “red cars”, which ran down Glendale Boulevard. The line, along with the rest of the streetcar system, however, was dismantled in favor of freeways and buses.

Atwater Village really sprung up in the 1920s and 30s because of its prime location between Los Angeles and Glendale. The oldest standing establishment in Atwater Village is the Tam O’Shanter Inn. The Tam O’Shanter Inn was established in 1922 by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp. One of the former oldest establishments in Atwater Village was Atwater Avenue Elementary which was established in 1922 but was demolished after it was severely damaged in the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake. Other old structures are the Atwater Park Baptist Church (1923), Holy Trinity Catholic Church (1925), the Hyperion Bridge (1927), the Van de Kamp Bakery Building (1930), John Marshall High School (1931), Beach’s Market (1935), Washington Irving Middle School (1937), Vince’s Market (1939), the Atwater Village Public Library (1954). Most of these historic buildings have either been renovated or destroyed. The Atwater Park Baptist Church has had buildings added on, the Van de Kamp Bakery Building was restored and turned into a charter school and Work-source Center, John Marshall High School was renovated and strengthened with steel after it was severely damaged in the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake, Beach’s Market has been demolished, and the Atwater Village Public Library has expanded into other buildings.

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