from Old Torrance Olmsted Districts by Bonnie
Mae Barnard & Save Historic Old Torrance)
and images may not be used without the ex permission
of Bonnie Mae Barnard)
as it was long ago, a portion of the story of the land
we call Torrance, California is revealed in the names
of its streets. Many street names are literally imprinted
in the cement curb of the street. The original northerly
boundary of the Business District, Dominguez Way carries
the first significant name: Dominguez. For the land we
call Torrance, California was a part of an eighteenth
Century Spanish land grant (1784) to Mr. Juan Jose Dominguez.
The original land grant included much more than the area
that would eventually become known as Torrance.
was thirteen years after Mr. Dominguez’ death that
the land grant was reconfirmed, and officially passed
to a nephew, Cristobal Dominguez whose name does not appear
in our streets. Instead, a street in the original city
of Torrance bears the name of his son, Manuel, the next
executor of the estate. Manuel Dominguez married Maria
Engracia Cota (1827) and her name is immortalized in two
of our streets: Engracia and Cota Avenues in the heart
of the original city.
Upon the death of Mr. Manuel Dominguez the land passed
to his wife, Maria Engracia Cota de Dominguez. However
within a short six months, she died leaving the land to
the couple’s six surviving daughters: Ana Josefa,
Guadalupe, Maria Dolores, Maria Victoria, Maria Susana,
Maria Jesus de los reyes. Although Guadalupe’s name
still is visible in the cement of the street corner, the
street name was changed to Post Avenue in honor of Judge
George Post. He was the founder of Torrance National Bank,
the first bank in the town.
was the death of one of the sisters in 1907 that paved
the way for the city of Torrance to exist. Ana Josefa
Dominguez de Guyer died leaving her share of the estate
equally to her five sisters. The Dominguez sisters in
turn decided to form a corporation representing the Guyer
estate (1910). The Corporation, “The Dominguez Estate
Company” soon held half of the original Dominguez
Land grant as a result of additional land deeded or sold
to the Company by the sisters. However, three of the married
Dominguez daughters: Victoria, Dolores, and Susana each
formed a separate company to manage her estate. These
were the Carson Estate Company, the Watson Land Company,
and the Del Amo Estate Company. Each of those company
names found their way into the names of our streets: Carson
Street, Del Amo Boulevard and Plaza Del Amo, as well as
Watson Street. Soon after the formation of the Dominguez
Estate Company sales of the land began.
of those who were instrumental in the purchase of the
land that would become the original city of Torrance,
California are also immortalized in our streets. A major
street in the city, Redondo Boulevard, became Torrance
Boulevard after Mr. Jared Sidney Torrance, president of
the Dominguez Land Company and the man for whom the city
would be named.
Hellman, Joseph F. Sartori, John S. Cravens and Dr. W.
Jarvis Barlow, and Mr. Torrance, representing J. H. Adams
& Company, were each stockholders of the Dominguez
Land Company which purchased 2,792 acres at the cost of
$350 per acre from the Dominguez Estate Company and 730
acres from the Del Amo Estate Company for the creation
of the would-be town. In addition to Mr. Torrance, two
of those stock holders were immortalized in our street
names: Joseph F. Sartori in Sartori Avenue and John S.
Cravens in Cravens Avenue.
city of Torrance was the brainchild of Mr. Jared Sidney
Torrance. Mr. Torrance, a resident of Pasadena, California
was an extremely successful businessman. The city that
he envisioned for this ideally located town-to-be would
not just be a single company town, but a town that offered
its residents a variety of occupational and housing choices.
The town would have several major industrial factories
that would provide ample employment. It would have a variety
of home designs from which the employed man could choose.
It would provide pleasant surroundings both at work and
at home, thereby providing the employers with contented
employees, and the employees with a real community. Another
major aspect of Mr. Torrance’s vision included home
ownership. He believed that the working man who was happy
at work and who owned his own home, would stay and contribute
to the community. His vision was a city in which people
were happy to work, to live and to play. This community
in addition to industry, business and residential would
include a library, schools, a hospital and opportunities
for cultural experiences. Perhaps Mr. Torrance’s
vision is best stated by Mr. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.
as he reiterated his understanding of said vision in a
letter to Mr. Torrance.
company [Dominguez Land Company] intends to make its profit
through creating and marketing a first class line of goods
in the way of industrial sites, dwelling places for those
engaged in the industries, and various incidentals through
furnishing these goods of a quality that will make them
worth more to the buyers and occupants, per dollar of
cost, than any that can elsewhere be obtained . . . with
a sufficiency of capital available it is a good business
enterprise and will clearly work out to the great advantage
of the resulting community (Story of Torrance).
bring his vision into a workable plan would require big
names and big bucks. Five years after the city was founded
(1912), as Mr. Torrance presented a glowing report on
the city, he told the Torrance Chamber of Commerce, “We
employed the most eminent landscape architect. The complete
plans cost $10,000” (February 16, 1917). That distinguished
landscape architect and city designer was Mr. Frederick
Law Olmsted Jr.
significant was this selection that the Los Angeles
Times displayed a picture of the prominent Mr. Olmsted
and proclaimed, “Huge Fee for Laying out Industrial
City: Landscape Architect of International Reputation
Here to Draw Plans for Great Dominguez Project . ..”
(Dec. 22, 1911). The Los Angeles Examiner announced,
“No meager, insufficient talent is to be employed
in the project for a model industrial village on the Dominguez
Ranch “ (Dec. 10, 1911). This famous landscape architect
and city planner was the progeny of Frederick Law Olmsted
the famed 19th Century architect and designer of New York’s
Central Park; the park system of Buffalo, New York; San
Francisco Public Grounds; Mount Royal Park, Montreal,
Canada; the U.S. Capitol Grounds in Washington, D.C.;
and the National Zoological Park, in Washington, D.C.
The father passed to son, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. the
philosophy of cooperation with nature to produce a calming,
soothing force to be enjoyed by all who view one’s
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. carried the ideals of his mentor
and father to new heights. He became the most accomplished
and respected landscape architect and city planner in
the country! His prestigious accomplishments include creating
planning reports for growth and expansion. The suburbia
of such major cities as Newport, Rhode Island; Detroit,
Michigan; Utica, New York; Boulder, Colorado; Pittsburg,
Pennsylvania; and Rochester, New York is the result of
the genius of Mr. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. He served
two terms as President of the American Society of Landscape
Architects. He was a major author of the McMillan Plan,
the comprehensive blueprint for transforming the vast
nucleus of Washington, D.C. and for guiding the prospective
development of the nation’s capital; he was appointed
by President Taft to the then newly-formed Fine Arts Commission
which provided supervising authority in aesthetic, architectural,
and planning matters in the nation’s capital city.
He taught architectural students at Harvard. He created
the Harvard curriculum for landscape architects and city
planners, and in 1909 was selected as the President of
the first National Conference on City Planning and the
Problems of Congestion in Washington, D.C. Frederick Law
Olmsted is the city planner chosen by Mr. Jared Sidney
Torrance to bring his ideas into a reality in what would
become known as Torrance, California.
Design is as easily distinguishable today as it was almost
one hundred years ago when the city began. Frederick Law
Olmsted Jr.’s trademark, the inclusion of nature,
is evident on the street named El Prado which translates
to “The Meadow.” It is a serene parkway with
open space and trees and a spectacular view from Torrance
High School, its highest point. From this vista on a clear
day one can view Mount San Antonio, commonly referred
to Mt. Baldy. The beautiful expanse of El Prado was designed
to join the Residential Districts and the Business District
by a vista of nature.
another trademark of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.’s
design, are evident in the original city of Torrance.
An Industrial District; an Unclassified District for growth;
A Business District; A Residential District; each District
was designed with the utmost thought given to make the
working and living environment pleasant to the inhabitants.
While all of the city would have the advantage of the
wonderful California climate, Olmsted positioned the Industrial
District to take full advantage of the faithful Pacific
Ocean breeze that greets the city each afternoon. It,
he planned, would send the smoke and pollutants away from
the residents of the city of Torrance. The Business District
was designed to be within walking distance of the eastern
end of the spectacular tree-lined parkway of El Prado.
The beautiful El Prado was designed to be the center of
the Residential District.
designated and designed by function, which allow a view
of the road not taken, as well as a break from a monotonous
linear view, are also characteristic of Mr. Olmsted’s
designs and are easily still seen in Old Torrance. Olmsted
accomplished this with curved streets and a “Round
About” at the pinnacle of El Prado, where Torrance
High School is now located. Sadly the Round About was
removed. Nevertheless, the streets of Old Torrance definitely
reflect the Olmsted Design.
second big name brought in to bring Mr. Torrance’s
vision and Mr. Olmsted’s plan into fruition was
the Modernist architect, Irving J. Gill, the would-be-city’s
Resident Architect. The bulk of Mr. Gill’s work
is in Southern California. Although La Jolla, California
can boast about having the largest collection of structures
in California designed by Mr. Gill, Torrance appears to
have the second largest collection. As resident architect,
Mr. Gill designed: the bridge whose graceful arches are
a thing of function and beauty and mark the eastern entrance
to Old Torrance; the impressive and compellingly designed
Depot which was utilized by the Pacific Electric Railway;
the Tract Office of the Thomas D. Campbell office, which
would become the Torrance National Bank; the Murray and
the Roi Tan Hotels, the Brighton Hotel, and office buildings
with sophisticatedly simple lines, and ten small, Modernistic
concrete homes. The bridge’s arches are now accented
with lush foliage as Mr. Gill planned, and continue to
add that powerful, majestic sense to the eastern gateway
of the city.
Old Torrance as it is called today, was the entire town
of Torrance. It became everything that Mr. Torrance envisioned.
Not as quickly as he had hoped, but thanks to a truly
novel and visionary man, Mr. Jared Sidney Torrance, the
creativity and expertise of a great city planner, Mr.
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., and a great resident architect,
Mr. Irving J. Gill, the vision was to become a reality.
The original city, now affectionately called, "Old
Torrance" still boasts the design and the early architecture
both for the pleasure of its residents and for those who
come to Torrance to view its charm. It became and still
is a great place to live, to stroll, to work and to play.