Pacoima is one of the San Fernando Valley’s most historic communities and sits on land that also was part of the Charles Maclay empire.
For many years, Pacoima’s fertile soil produced abundant crops of olives, peaches, apricots, oranges and lemons. In fact, the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce was originally called the Pacoima Chamber of Farmers. That was in 1916, a couple of years after the city had briefly changed its name to Mulholland.
William Mulholland was the engineer who brought prosperity to Pacoima and the rest of the Valley by transporting water from the Owens River through the Los Angeles Aqueduct. With the new water supply, farms and poultry ranches proliferated, and thoroughbred horses were raised. Two floods took their toll on the pre-World War II agricultural community, the first in 1891 and the second in 1938. Today residential Pacoima is enjoying a renaissance, thanks in part to the state’s designation as an Enterprise Zone.
Where the rich fertile land of the vast San Fernando Valley slowly rise to meet the beautiful San Gabriel mountains on the north, lies Pacoima, one of the oldest of valley towns- a community which is enjoying a resurgence of growth, due in part to the people who make this community a great place to live, work, and shop.
From its location, Pacoima has a panoramic view of the Santa Susan Mountain Range toward the west and the Santa Monica chain to the south.
Pacoima is a community of Metropolitan Los Angeles, and its colorful history dates back to 1769 when the first party of white men crossed the valley on their way to Monterey Bay. At that time Indian huts dotted the area that is now Pacoima, near the water springs of nearby canyons. With the found of Mission San Fernando Rey in 1771, the Indians found a new refuge. They became converts, lived at the mission and helped to farm the vast mission’s gardens which had stretched out over most of the valley. From the Gabrielino Indians, Pacoima received its name. The name in their language means “Rushing Water,” a name they had applied to the mighty stream of water which flowed forth from the mountain canyons.
The Mexican government secularized the mission lands in 1834 by taking them away from the church. the first governor of California, Pio Pico, leased the lands to Andres Pico, his brother; in 1845 Pico cattle roams the whole valley. in 1845, General Pico sold the whole San Fernando Valley to Don Eulogio de Celis for $14,000.00 to raise money for the war between Mexico and the United States, settle by a Peace Treaty signed at Campe de Cahuenga in 1845, and by the treat of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The Pacoima area became sheep ranches and wheat fields.
In 1873, Senator Charles Maclay of Santa Clara purchased 56,000 acres in the northern part of the San Fernando Valley adjacent to the old Mission of San Fernando Rancho. Then in 1887, Jouett Allen purchased under contract 1,000 acres of land between the Pacoima Wash and the Tujunga Wash. He chose the name that had long been applied ot the beautiful canyon on the north and the “river” that flowed down from it. The land was purchased from the Maclay Rancho Water Co. which had taken over Senator Charles Maclay’s holdings in the Valley. Allen retained 500 acres for himself and subdivided the remainder in 1-acre tracts. From this the town of Pacoima was born.
The town was laid out to conform with the newly laid railroad. Large spacious and expensive two-story homes made their appearance, as the early planners had established building restrictions against anything of a lesser nature. The first concrete sidewalks and curbs were laid and were to remain the only ones in the velley for many years. The town was enjoying a prosperous births in those early boom days.
The Southern Pacific chose it as a site for a large brick passenger station, one of the finest on the line. But it, like the large hotel, the big two-story school building, and many commercial buildings, was to be torn down within a few years as the boom days receded. The early pioneers had frowned upon industry, which eventually resulted in the people turning from the exclusive suburb which they had set up to establish new homes closer to their employment.
In 1888, the main street was laid out in the center of the subdivision, 100 feet wide and eight miles long, running from the hills on the north through the townsite to the ranch line on the south. The street was named Taylor Avenue after President Taylor, then was named Pershing Street. We all know it by its present name- Van Nuys Boulevard. Building codes were established: no home could be built under $2,000.00. The land deed contained a clause that if liquor was sold on this property, it would revert tf Jouett Allen or heirs.
The great flood of 1891 practically obliterated Pacoima. Growth ot this area ceased. The land owners turned to farming the land. Many found this too difficult a task. Little did they know that this section would later grow into a rich farming area when experts learned to what the soil is adapted and where water is plentiful. Judge Widney, a trustee of the Maclay Rancho Water Company, attempting to revive prosperity in 1912, renamed Pacoima “Mulholland.” This name lasted only one year.
In 1916, the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce was founded as the Pacoima Chamber of Farmers. By 1924, according the to San Fernando Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, beautiful olive groves, peach and apricot orchards, orange and lemon groves, alfalfa fields and splendid chicken ranches made this section land of beauty. From the turn of the century until World War II, Pacoima remained a community dotted by small farms, vineyards and orchards.
In 1938, Pacoima experienced another great flood. With rainfall of 29 inches many homes and lives were swept away in the torrents of water.
After the war the area began to increase in population and a period of growth became evident with the construction of new homes, hospitals, fire stations, schools and parks. This growth has continued to our days.