Sylmar/San Fernando History

This view, shot from a spot near today's 210/118 Freeways, is from the Valley Times Collection in the digital archive of the Los Angeles Public Library, Here is the caption:

People who prefer a rural way of life fled thickly-populated areas to develop canyons for home sites, only to discover their efforts to seek isolation were in vain. This view taken on February 16, 1957, from the ridge flanking Lopez Canyon shows the large ranch of Fritz Burns, Panorama City developer, with a new subdivision in the far background sweeping in from the San Gabriel Mountains. The charred area on the mountain top is above Olive View Sanitarium in Sylmar. Agricultural acreage in the San Fernando Valley and nearby Santa Clara Valley dropped from 61,300 in 1945 to 35,000 in 1957.


The Fritz Burns Ranch in the foreground has a colorful past

THE REINDEER: Starting in the 1950s, the Burns Ranch was home to a reindeer herd that spent the Christmas season at Southern California shopping centers, including Panorama City. Dayle Hunter's family managed the ranch in the 1960s and '70s and lived there. Roy Dimon and Larry Peterson were occasional employees at the ranch.

GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR: The ranch is known to have been a camp for a few of the 400,000 Axis prisoners held in the United States during World War II. If this seems surprising, it appears that many places, (Beverly Hills, the Birmingham High School site, Cucamonga along with San Fernando) are listed as prisoner camps by some sources. Much of Sylmar was formerly known as San Fernando. The San Fernando prisoners are said to have been used as citrus workers.

D.W. GRIFFITH: The movie pioneer owned the ranch before Burns and shot films there. These two can be found and viewed online: The Female of the Species (1912) The Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1913)

"Female of the Species" 1912. View movie (15 minutes)

Among the actors credited by IMDb with working at the ranch are Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Harry Carey, Elmo Lincoln and Donald Crisp. (Oscar winner in "How Green Was My Valley").


Old San Fernando

The Rey Hotel was reportedly built in 1906 and fell in the 1971 earthquake.

Below, service started on the Pacific Electric Railway tracks in 1913. The tracks took passengers from San Fernando to Los Angeles via Van Nuys and Hollywood. The spectators may have been there to see auto races which also began on Brand Blvd. in 1913. These photos are taken from the 1946 yearbook of San Fernando High School.


We were named after the Michigan State Spartans at the suggestion of Gloria Hazuka whose sister attended MSU. Gloria, Class of 1963, was a member of the student leadership council when Sylmar High opened in 1961.

Sylmar Landmark

The San Fernando Pioneer Memorial Cemetery at Foothill Blvd. and Bledsoe Street began in 1874 as the Morningside Cemetery. Now owned by the San Fernando Valley Historical Society, the property is open for visits at least once a month.

This plaque was dedicated October 24, 1969 and sits under the scoreboard.