CityDig: The Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos of Los Angeles County


The first of several beautiful maps done by the Title Insurance Company evokes the “romance” of ranchos that once dotted the state. This pen and ink version was included in a brochure handed out at the company’s Spring St. offices and was later embellished by cartographer Gerald Eddy with colorful renderings of the rancheros lifestyle. The pictorial map is extremely accurate despite its original purpose—to stir interest in real estate in the county—and accurately depicts how Los Angeles County was divided into land grants by the Spanish crown and later the Mexican government. At the center are the very important Pueblo lands, four square leagues of city property that were eventually sold off to pay taxes after California gained statehood. Local place names abound in the rancho names, including Redondo, Tujunga, Santa Monica, Santa Anita, La Puente, and Malibu. From the first Spanish Land Grant in 1784 to Juan Jose Dominguez the ranchos operated self-sufficiently all across Southern California. When Mexico took over governing in 1821 the number of ranchos increased dramatically from the original 30 to over 800. After the United States annexed California, the rancheros faced the sometimes-disastrous task of proving ownership. One by one andpiece by piece the ranchos were sold off over the second half of the 19th century, the romance long gone.

Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.