Friday, September 7, 2012

Town of Ramirez, near Whittier, Cal.

Present-day Whittier is situated on one of the earliest Spanish land grants, Rancho Los Nietos, provided to soldier Manuel Nieto in 1784.  The next generation of his family broke up the property which became Rancho Santa Gertrudes (Whittier), Rancho Los Alamitos, Rancho Las Bolsas, Rancho Los Cerritos, and Rancho Los Coyotes.  Other cities that comprise the area today include Anaheim, Artesia, Buena Park, Cerritos, Downey, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Lakewood, Long Beach, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs and Seal Beach.

The following covers land activity pertaining to areas gradually annexed by the City of Whittier to what is familiar to us today.

Ramirez Family

Mexico-born farmer Jose Maria Ramirez purchased 140 acres from Nieto's widow in 1830 (according to the Arcadia Publishing's local history book on Santa Fe Springs.)  Other sources state that Ramirez about 1855-56 acquired more land from Lemuel Carpenter. 

Ramirez must have thrived here in a place that became known as Los Nietos.  In 1836, the settlement had 200 inhabitants; in Thompson & West's 1880 History of Los Angeles County, there were about "20 native California families, in nearly as many adobe houses."  The book also described that there were 2 stores, a school-house, and one saloon.  The primary crops were corn, barley and beans.  Many sheep and hogs abound, too.  An 1876 visitor to Los Nietos observed the abundant water supply to the "veritable garden spot, being largely rolling hills amply watered by the San Gabriel River."  The visitor, Ludwig Salvator, pointed out the area's reputation for a fine crop and high yield of Indian corn.

The 1860 Census lists him and his wife Josefa (ages 41 and 30 respectively, with several children in the Los Nietos Township.)  The 1870 Census list them again (ages 55 and 50 respectively, which of course does not add up right.)  Also listed are their 15 California-born children:  Luisa, age 23; Jesus, age 22; Angel, age 21; Jose U., age 19; Rosalia, age 17; Juan, age 15; Manuel, age 12; Anita, age 11; twins Leonardo & Juan, age 9; Juanita, age 7; Facundo, age 6; illegible name, age 4; Carlos, age 2; and Francisco (?), age 1.  Ramirez' personal and property wealth listed was rather higher compared to other farmers.

Ramirez was neighbor to Tomas Sanchez Colima and other Colima relatives.  Colima held title to a fairly significant lot of Rancho Santa Gertrudes.  The Colima Road place name survives to present day.

The patriarch passed away in 1883 (source: Early California Wills, California: California Society, D.A.R., 1952, 952 pgs; Volume 1. *** ---page 145--- Estate of Jose Maria Ramirez age 64 Will filed in Records of County Clerk,Los Angeles County Dated October 27,1883 Probated October 27, 1883 Widow Josepha de Ramirez age 58 Children:- Louisa L. Rameriz Facundo F.Rameriz Angel C. " Juana G. " Juan D. " Cipriano F. " Manual M. " Carlos P.A. " Ana P " Leonardo S. " Juan Eunique " Witnesses:- Max Schwed, Albert Claud Executor:- Josefa Ramirez.)

The 1900 Census still included Josepha R., age 70, and that she bore 17 children, with six still living.  Also listed are daughters Louisa [sic] and Anna along with a son Leon of 17 years of age.  In the 1910 Census only Louisa (now 64 years of age) is listed along with sister Anita and brother Facundo.  The 1920 Census lists Facundo as a 51 year old walnut farmer residing in Los Nietos.  An obituary notice reported the passing of "Miss Luisa Ramirez" at her home in Los Nietos on September 20, 1928 at the age of 84.

Real Estate Boom of 1887

People poured into Los Angeles for the land rush.  Some created syndicates to invest in land and hoped to turn around and sell subdivisions.  An example was a group from Michigan that included Simon J. Murphy who established a citrus ranch after the land boom went bust.  But before he formed the ranch enterprise the syndicate did what everyone else was doing - heavily promoting and trolling for buyers.  The group promoted the former Ramirez tract.

August 21, 1887

New Housing Developments

In 1941 the Murphy Ranch Company placed about 800 acres on the market.  Click here for Flickr to see beautiful photographs of the ranch from 1941.  Two of its selling points were the citrus and avocado trees and proposed horse-riding trails to be featured near the envisioned tract called Friendly Hills.  Development did not appear to gain ground until the mid-1950s. 

Below were some of the publicity photos from model homes (updated 4-13-2018 these model homes were built by Sun Gold Inc. and located 3/4 of a mile east of Friendly Hills at Whittier Blvd. & Santa Gertrudes.  Sun Gold also built the homes at Friendly Hills):

The "Homestead" model living room (Image courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research)

The "Bluegrass" model kitchen (Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)

The "Bluegrass" model den (Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)

The "Contemporary" model bedroom (Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)

The "Contemporary" model backyard (Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)

(Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)

Golf Course Homes and the Friendly Hills Country Club

The Times reported on April 4, 1965 that some 500 undeveloped acres of the last of the Murphy Ranch land was about to undergo construction into 600 homes, a country club, and an 18-hole golf course.  In March, 1966 the news reported that the country club and golf course project was led by Walter R. Gayner.  The mention in the paper that the golf course would be completed in the following year helped to fuel home buyers in the tract near La Serna.  A tremendous amount of landscaping and land-shaping moved the golf course opening to January of 1968.

(Sometime between the 1950s and the home building of the following decade a road underwent name changes:  the new Mar Vista Street replaced the former Baldwin Street near Uptown Whittier which turned into 6th Street as it extended east.  The Mar Vista name also replaced a stretch as its approach  the intersection of Colima, known as La Sexta Street.)

By April of 1971, the Friendly Hills Men's Club set its sights on constructing and operating a 27,000 square feet clubhouse, with separate dining and banquet rooms, a dance floor, cocktail lounges, men and women's card rooms, locker room facilities with saunas, showers, dressing rooms and lounge areas.  The existing amenities included a pro shop, swimming, diving and wading pools and a poolside snack bar.

In subsequent years, the clubhouse became a hub for community meetings such as Republican groups and events such as fashion shows featuring celebrity designer Mr. Blackwell.

In mid-summer of 1971, 107 units of homes were advertised on a 40-acre site adjacent to the country club.  The developer was Coast Construction.

In 1983, D&D Development Company announced its plans for Friendly Hills Estates, a gated community of 99 view homes above the country club on Mar Vista near Colima.

In the 2003 comedy "Bringing Down the House" with Queen Latifah and Steve Martin, the ivy-covered exterior below was photographed, introducing the scene in the dining room.  The camera shows the golf course through the large dining room windows.

Photos taken in May, 2012

Circa 1955 of the Murphy Ranch property (Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)


  1. Great advertisement for the Country Club lifestyle:

    Unfortunately, I am not a member.

    1. Hope everyone can see the snazzy little typewriter on the desk on the den in the series of model home pictures!