Rancho Sombra del Roble
c. 1926 – L.G. Knipe
23600 Roscoe Boulevard – map
Rancho Sombra del Roble, now more commonly known as the Orcutt Ranch Horticulture Center, was built by W.W. Orcutt and his wife as a vacation and, ultimately, retirement home.
William Warren Orcutt was a Minnesota native who moved west in around 1880 with his family, then to Los Angeles in 1901 where he got a gig with the Union Oil Company. He stayed with the corporation for nearly forty years. Soon after arriving in L.A., Orcutt became the first finder of fossils in the goo in the La Brea Tar Pits. He later went on to become a geological pioneer in the fields of oil and petroleum. Towns in Santa Barbara and Colorado are named after him.
W.W. had a couple of ranches in the area, but focused on the approximately 210-acre Rancho Sombra del Roble (Ranch in the Shade of the Oak), then a cattle ranch and citrus orchard, making up a lot of what Canoga Park is today. The original residence, very much in the style of the American Southwest, was finished being built around 1926, although there has been a lot of changes to the structure, including the additions of a new wing and a solarium, over the years.
Hey! What’s the deal with all the swastikas found on the ranch house, above the windows, the courtyard floor, and even in some ironwork? Was ol’ W.W. some sort of Nazi? Nein! Before the Nazis got a hold of it, the swastika stood as a symbol of well-being and good fortune and luck. So Orcutt’s swastika usage predates Adolf’s.
The Valley Oak (Quercus Lobata) in the right rear is about 600 years old.
The barn.A little sign by the 700-year-old Coastal Live Oak (Quercus Agrifolia) below states:
The limbs of this historical oak tree were cut and hauled to nearby kilns to fire the limestone to a powdery ash. The limestone then was transported to the site of the San Fernando mission. Limestone was combined with the clay to make the mortar for the bricks and tiles in building the mission.This oak's got a circumference of about 33 feet.
The ranch entrance these days is on Roscoe Boulevard, but it used to be on Justice Street (the disused gate’s above). Just inside the old entrance is the monument below. You can see the WWO intitials, but was there some sort of lamp on top originally?
Orcutt died in the home in 1942. His wife, Mary Logan Orcutt, was still living at the rancho when the city declared twenty-four acres of it a Historic-Cultural Landmark (less than forty years after the residence was built). The designation includes the ranch house, a few outbuildings, the gardens, a bunch of huge, ancient oaks, and the citrus orchards. The city’s Recreation and Parks department bought the site in 1966 and it's now open to the public.
Today, Rancho Sombra del Roble may be rented for special occasions. Docented tours are also offered, but only on nine Sundays in the year, not in the summer. For Judith Stock's take on the Orcutt Ranch, go here and here.
Up next: St Saviour’s Chapel