When Hank Truxillo moved his family to the San Fernando Valley a few
years ago, they hoped to find an earnest, down-to-earth neighborhood.
They discovered it in Reseda, on the banks of the Los Angeles River.
"It's (got) an old, funky downtown, just the way I like it," said Truxillo, 51, now secretary of the Reseda Neighborhood Council. "It is an interesting, unique place. It is Americana."
It should be. Reseda will celebrate its 100th birthday on Saturday with a Reseda Centennial Music & Arts Celebration. The bash in Reseda Park will feature live bands, art, food, rides, a car show, movie night and more.
For the past century, the central West Valley community has been the little L.A. suburb that could -- and couldn't.
Reseda, one of the first towns in the Valley, became an epicenter for its postwar development (as well as the real epicenter for the 1994 Northridge Earthquake).
Later bypassed by freeways and shopping malls, it also became a byword for economic blight.
Despite such challenges, however, some hope for a Reseda rebound. They see a Reseda rich in Hollywood lore, rife with historic schools, churches and parks and rekindled by its Main Street mom-and-pops.
And symbolized by the historic Reseda Theater.
"Reseda was the hub of the
San Fernando Valley, like a prospering flower," said Nancy Sweeney, founder of Revitalize Reseda, a nonprofit advocacy group. "(But) it's a wilting flower trying to be rerooted.
"Up, up and away -- we're looking for the flower to prosper once again."
Once part of the Lankershim wheat empire, the town first known as Marian was born through a patriarch's love for his daughter -- and a newspaper publisher's love for money.
With Owens Valley water on the way, a syndicate run by Los Angeles Times publisher Gen. Harrison Gray Otis bought most of the southern Valley, according to historian Kevin Roderick.
His Los Angeles Suburban Homes launched three new towns to help spearhead a local land rush: Van Nuys in February 1911; Owensmouth (later named Canoga Park) in March 1912; and Marian (Reseda) on July 20, 1912.
Marian was named for Otis' daughter Marian, wife of Times' scion and business manager, Harry Chandler.
Each burg was linked by an expansive new boulevard, Sherman Way. Pacific Electric Red Car trolleys were soon added to carry commuters 25 miles downtown.
Less than a decade later, Marian was renamed Reseda, after a commonly found garden plant. Until the 1940s, it was a hub for sugar beets, walnuts, lima beans and lettuce, with a population of several thousand.
After World War II, its population exploded. Shaped like a square -- between Victory and Roscoe boulevards, and Corbin and White Oak avenues -- the 6.5-square-mile community now harbors 72,000 residents.
At its heart is Reseda Boulevard and Sherman Way.
"This used to be the place to shop," said 39-year-old Cary Iaccino, chair of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, gesturing toward what used to be a J.C Penney, not far from a long-gone J.J. Newberry five-and-dime. "Then they put the Northridge mall in, and sucked away all the core businesses.
"That was the beginning of the downfall."
Iaccino walks past the commercial ghosts of yesteryear.
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