Toluca Lake 100 Year Anniversary

By 1923 Toluca Lake was blooming with walnut, apple and peach orchards. Charles Forman had died and his ranch was sold as part of his estate. A group of investors purchased the Forman Toluca Ranch with the idea of creating a residential subdivision named Toluca Lake Park. Regardless of whether they believed Forman was the originator of the name Toluca, the name was well established by this time. Though the nearby Southern Pacific Railroad station was known as Lankershim Station, they had named the line the Toluca Flyer for its better known destination. Forman claimed the word Toluca was a Paiute Indian word he selected meaning fertile valley. The Toluca Lake Park venture was abandoned as quickly as it had been created, but then resurrected by a new group formed under the name, The Toluca Lake Company, dropping the word Park from the name.

The lake which received its name from the Toluca Ranch in turn had lent its name back to the new community of Toluca Lake.

What began as a natural spring fed swampy pond was enhanced into a six acre water feature for the planned neighborhood. It was at the start a park-like setting where residents could wile away many a summer day on the water. The first home built on the lake shore was on Valley Spring Lane (and later became the home of famed aviator, Amelia Earhart).

After Warner Brothers opened their lot a block away in 1928, Hollywood’s elite discovered the lake in Toluca Lake. The waters swiftly became surrounded by the most expensive homes in the neighborhood and today the water cannot be viewed by the public, much less enjoyed by the neighbors. Thus, Toluca Lake has remained a wonderfully tranquil community to live in.

The lake ranges up to ten feet deep and is regularly stocked with fish. The lake bottom has been entirely sealed with four inches of asphalt to prevent seepage and its water level is now maintained by the Toluca Lake Homeowners Association (a non-profit corporation organized in 1934) via water pumped from the water supply stored in the Los Angeles underground aquifer.

The original boundaries of Toluca Lake were Cahuenga Boulevard, Camarillo Street, Clybourn Avenue and the Los Angeles River on the south. Today, when asked about the the community’s boundaries, one needs to determine for what purpose the question is asked. When specifics are called for, each individual community group or governmental agency has drawn their own boundaries to meet their needs. For example, the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce serves the entire community in Burbank and Los Angeles, while the City of Los Angeles understandably considers it’s neighborhood called Toluca Lake to be entirely within its city boundaries. (see maps)

The first International House Of Pancakes (IHOP) opened in Toluca Lake in 1958 on the corner where Mo’s now stands. Bob’s Big Boy across the street opened in 1949 and is today the oldest remaining Big Boy restaurant of the chain. The original stalls for car-hop service are still in the parking lot. Other memorable neighborhood establishments live on in the minds of those who have called Toluca Lake home, such as Now Voyager, the Money Tree and the Tick Tock Restaraunt on the corner of Riverside and Talofa.

Toluca Terrace can be found in writing as early as 1989. The homeowners in that area chose to create the Toluca Terrace Woods Homeowners Association with a committee, the Toluca Terrace Community Action Committee, to help determine what could be done to improve their neighborhood. Real estate agents began using this name for properties in the area to enhance appeal-by-association with the popular Toluca Lake properties. It sounds better than simply saying, “Toluca Lake adjacent.” Many area names in Los Angeles have been created just for this purpose. A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet. The areas of Toluca Woods, West Toluca Lake and Toluca Terrace are now known as “the Tolucas,” though they were not within the original plan for the Toluca Lake Park development.

There is a Toluca, Montana, a Toluca, Illinois, a Toluca, North Carolina… but, there is only one Toluca Lake.


General Charles Forman Toluca Lake’s Founding Father

by Richard Bogy

One of the most popular television shows of the 1960’s was Bonanza, which told the story of a fictional character named Ben Cartwright. But was that character really fictional? Well, perhaps not entirely. There was a real person whose life greatly mirrored that of the television character, and that person is Toluca Lake’s founding father General Charles Forman. Continue reading “General Charles Forman Toluca Lake’s Founding Father”

When North Hollywood Was a Town Named Toluca

Toluca Lake birdseyeby Nathan Masters

Some of Southern California’s “lost towns” never actually vanished; they simply assumed new identities. That’s what happened to one small San Fernando Valley farming village that sprang up in the late 1880s — a village we know today as North Hollywood.

The town’s name was born unstable; in its early years, residents feuded over what to call their home.

Some preferred Lankershim — a name that honored James B. Lankershim and his father Isaac. In 1888, Lankershim subdivided the easternmost 12,000 acres of his father’s old wheat ranch, carving the vast tract into farms of 10 to 80 acres each. On the map advertising the new venture, the Lankershim Ranch Land and Water Company identified a prospective townsite where the old road to the San Fernando Mission crossed a newly graded road, Central Avenue. The map identified the townsite as Lankershim.

Many of the residents who settled there disregarded the map’s suggestion. Instead, they called their town Toluca. The name’s origins are… Read more at KCET.org

A Tale of Four Toluca Lakes

by Richard Bogy

Toluca Lake Park Sign
Toluca Lake Park Sign

Beginning in 1922, as construction of Lakeside Golf Club of Hollywood moved forward, a group of land investors began to buy the farms to the north of the Club. They had an idea to build what would become the first “bedroom” community for Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. Initially the project was to be called Toluca Lake Park. By 1923 the project was stalled. Investors from nearby Hollywood joined the project and formed The Toluca Lake Company. With new capital and fresh ideas the project moved forward. The community name was shortened to Toluca Lake, and a community plan was created that included an architectural vision and four distinct areas within Toluca Lake. Throughout the Toluca Lake community signs were installed that featured the Toluca Lake Company logo; a swan over rippled water. Some of those original community signs remained as late as the 1970’s. Continue reading “A Tale of Four Toluca Lakes”

History of Thee Toluca Lake Swan

by Richard Bogy

In 1923 The Toluca Lake Company introduced the familiar Swan Shield logo, which features a distinct white swan, poised in silhouette atop two rippling water lines and set against a forest green scalloped shield. Below the swan was the simple wording “Toluca Lake.” That logo was the first association between a swan and the Toluca Lake community. The design of the swan and shield was intended to bespeak the affluent, lush and calm nature that is our community. The Toluca Lake Company placed numerous signs throughout the community featuring the Swan logo, however by the 1970’s all of those original signs had been stolen.

In the 1950’s the Toluca Lake Company agreed to allow the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce to use the by-then famous image as their own symbol, and today – 65 years later – that historic Swan and Shield continues to be the identifying logo for the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce. Over the years some have tried to create alternative swan images for their own organizations, but there is still just one true and original Toluca Lake Swan logo carefully guarded by The Chamber and cherished by those who love this community.

Tom LaBonge

by Richard Bogy, past president of the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce

On January 7th Toluca Lake lost a great friend, supporter, leader and cheerleader with the passing of Councilmember Tom LaBonge. Tom was a man of limitless energy and passion, who possessed a huge heart. He loved people. He loved Los Angeles. He loved Toluca Lake.

Tom’s contributions to our community are simply too long to list here, but suffice to say that Toluca Lake continues to be a very special place thanks to Tom LaBonge.

Tom was born in the Silverlake community of Los Angeles in 1953. A generational Angelino who attended John Marshall High School, where he shined as a football player and later as a coach (while coaching at Marshall he mentored a young Andy Reid, now coach of the Kansas City Chiefs). A devout Catholic, Tom’s father was the publisher of the Catholic news “The Tidings.” Tom always had a loaf of pumpkin bread ready to say “thank you” to people who gave of their time for the 4th Council District. It was not just his way of showing his appreciation for people who gave to the community, but also his way to support the Monastery of the Angels, who baked the bread for him.



Tom loved Los Angeles and as a young man decided he wanted to commit his life to the City. In 1976 he went to work for Councilmember Peggy Stevenson, then joined Council President John Ferraro’s office in 1978. Tom also worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and was Chief of Field Operations for Mayor Richard Riordan. In 2001, after the passing of John Ferraro, Tom was elected to fill his mentor’s seat. He served as Councilman for the fourth district until he termed-out of office in 2015.
Tom was passionate about Griffith Park, the largest urban park in America. Under his leadership the Park acquired additional land, including expansions of the Cahuenga and Burbank Peaks, and he stopped planned development of surrounding open space. He worked to ensure the success of the Los Angeles Zoo and the Autry National Museum. Tom famously led tours through the Park, including his solstice walks to watch the sun go down over the City that he loved. He could be found hiking through the Park most mornings and was always quick to stop and talk to other park lovers. He especially enjoyed meeting visitors from other countries, and was always glad to tell them about the history and the sites of Los Angeles.

Tom famously carried garden tools, rakes, brooms and trash bags in the trunk of his car, and as he drove through the City if he was to see an overflowing trash can or litter in the street he would jump from his car, put on his orange safety vest, and clean the street, gutter and sidewalk.

Tom’s greatest love though was his family. The joy of his life was his wife Brigid, daughter Mary-Cate and his son Charles. Though we will all miss him greatly, he will live on in the memory of all who knew him.

A Sweltering Day in Toluca Lake

by Ron Babbini

It’s HOT in Toluca Lake, so a Toluca Lake story to make us feel cooler.:

In July, 1945, Mel Torme went to his song writing partner Bob Wells‘ home in Toluca Lake. There he saw Wells playing a catchy new tune on the piano.

It was a sweltering day, and they decided to write lyrics to the tune that would make them feel cool. Hence, they wrote one of the most popular ever Christmas songs (in my mind, a quintessential Manhattan song) in the heat of summer in Toluca Lake:

Watch Nat King Cole – “The Christmas Song” (1961)” on YouTube

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

So I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you

So I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas to you

Songwriters: Mel Torme / Robert Wells

Remembering Toluca Lake

The China Trader

The location of the Trader is now partially a public green space, partially Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theater and partially a retail space. You can find some souvenirs from the China Trader on e-bay.

China Trader 300The China Trader was owned by Jack Webb, creator of Dragnet, Adam 12 and Emergency. Jack’s ex-wife was Julie London – who married Bobby Troup after she and Jack divorced. It was, however, a “friendly” divorce – and all three remained close friends, which is why Bobby (and Julie) were often found performing at the China Trader. The China Trader was opened when both Trader Vic’s (Beverly Hills) and Don the Beachcomber (Hollywood) were all the rage, and The Trader filled that themed South Pacific lounge/restaurant niche in the San Fernando Vallley. Continue reading “Remembering Toluca Lake”

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