Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Morning in Canoga Park: Breakfast at Shadow Ranch Park

It was a chilly, overcast morning but we were determined to have breakfast outdoors and took our oatmeal and iced tea from Starbucks at the Fallbrook Center over to Shadow Ranch Park in Canoga Park (some people will say it's still West Hills).

As the L.A. parks department website notes,

This two story ranch house in Canoga Park is a remembrance of the ranching days and agricultural past of the San Fernando Valley. The large structure located in Shadow Ranch Park is a hybrid of traditional, Southern California styles: rancho adobe construction having been reworked and remodeled with redwood additions and architectural details and components.

The ranch today is a shadow of its once industrious past. This prosperous ranch in the west San Fernando Valley began as a wheat farm under the leadership of Issac Van Nuys and his San Fernando Valley Homestead Association, eventually organized as a wheat enterprise called the Los Angeles Farm and Milling Company with Albert Workman as its superintendent. After 1869, Workman purchased the 9,000 acre ranch himself, and also cultivated another 4,000 acres outlying his property. At one time, there were seventy barns on the Workman Ranch and a thousand head of cattle. Wagon trains carried the harvested wheat to Los Angeles.

The entire west end of the ranch house was one large room, over forty feet long, in which approximately seventy workers could sit down to eat. The center of the house was the family dining room, and the east rooms held a parlor and an office. Today, the residence stands on approximately 13 acres of the original ranch property.

The Workman Ranch and the residence have special notoriety in Los Angeles history; the ranch house grounds are purported to be the site of the first eucalyptus trees planted in Southern California. The story of eucalyptus at the Workman Ranch is that Albert Workman himself imported eucalyptus seedlings from his native Australia, planting them on his ranch in the early 1870s. As local legend explains, these trees are said to be the parents of all eucalyptus trees in Southern California. The Workman Ranch was later renamed “Shadow Ranch,” supposedly in tribute to the tall eucalyptus trees planted by Albert Workman and the shadows they cast on his residence.

The main ranch house was restored in 1933, and, during the 1950s, the complex of structures served as a private girls school, called “Robinayre School for Girls" and dormitory called "The Little House." Today, Workman’s residence is owned by the City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation and Parks, serving as a community center and open daily to the public. The residence was declared Cultural-Historic Monument #9 by the Los Angeles City Council on November 2, 1962.

Sitting on a bench with our breakfast, we read from The Ghost Hunter's Guide to Los Angeles about how the ghost of Albert Workman "refuses to part" with all that's left of his once-grand domain. Workman's ghost paces the floor at night and can be seen at the windows, an old man in a straw hat, gazing out a second story window amid the soft glow of candlelight.

But he didn't join us at our breakfast bench this morning. We're still grateful we had a nice time at Shadow Ranch Park.

No comments: