Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jean Louis Vignes, Catalina Island & Lincoln Heights

Vignes Street

Vignes Street is a familiar marker in downtown L.A., such as the sign along the Hollywood Freeway seen below. The street name is attributed to Jean Louis Vignes, who arrived in Los Angeles in 1831, having traveled to California from the Bordeaux region of France.

He bought a tract of land adjacent to the Los Angeles River (near the present location of Alameda Street and south of Aliso Street) and laid out El Aliso Vineyard, named for a huge, shady sycamore tree. Vignes, whose name means “vines” in French, imported fine grape vine cuttings from Bordeaux. He became the most important winemaker in the West, producing as many as forty thousand gallons a year and is today considered a pioneer of California wine-making.

Vignes at Santa Catalina Island

In 1840, Vignes and a man named Juan Ramirez petitioned the Mexican government to use Santa Catalina Island for Merino sheep raising. They argued that the sheep industry was all that was possible for the rugged island terrain.  They further persuaded that the island was absent of danger from "carnivorous animals."  Their petition may not have been granted, because Vignes was active in wine-making by that time.

Vignes in Lincoln Heights

Extended family members were encouraged to join Vignes in Los Angeles and participate in wine-making. One such person was Vital Ferdinand Vignes, a nephew. In the late 1880s, a Vignes orchard (possibly of Vital's or another relative) was established in Lincoln Heights, on an elevated piece of land above Prichard Street (now Lincoln Park Avenue.)

This area in 1873 was known as East Los Angeles, and the vast land holders included John S. Griffin (a physician of the army during the U.S. War with Mexico 1846-1848), John Downey (state governor during the Civil War and the city of Downey's namesake), and Griffin's nephew, Hancock Johnston.

Pictured below is today's Keiro Nursing Home, which resides on the hill top, a portion of the former Vignes orchards.  My dear mother-in-law and father-in-law, who both spent their last days at Keiro, would have appreciated the agricultural history of area.  When they were well they tended their own garden of citrus fruits and vegetables.

Keiro Nursing Home in Lincoln Heights.
(Click on images to zoom in)

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