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A Walk in History: Rancho Sombra del Roble aka Orcutt Ranch

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One of Los Angeles' quirkiest claims to fame might be the La Brea Tar Pits, where prehistoric fossils were discovered in the early twentieth century in the bubbling ooze in what would eventually become a core area in a bustling city. William Warren Orcutt is considered a "pioneer of the oil production industry in California," and is credited as the "discoverer" of those fossils:

It was during [1901, his] first year in Los Angeles that Orcutt discovered fossilized prehistoric animal bones preserved in pools of asphalt on the Hancock Ranch. These would be the first of many fossils excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits. In commemoration of Orcutt’s initial discovery, paleontologists named the La Brea Coyote in W.W. Orcutt’s honor, Canis Orcutti.

Orcutt and his wife Mary enjoyed spending time away from the heart of the city, and therefore built a ranch to the north in a wild, untamed part of Southern California we now refer to as Canoga Park. Called Rancho Sombra del Roble, this rambling estate with garden, orchard, and ranch facilities is now more commonly known as Orcutt Ranch, and in addition to having been named as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument # 31, is operated by LA Parks and is open to the public for perusal, walking about, and, on occasion, fruit picking. Recently we headed into the Valley to spend a quiet afternoon roaming about the Ranch, peering into the adobe home, and finding a pleasant escape from the density and urbanity of the overall area in this piece of natural and local history. On the property are several old trees, some of which are considered unusual, like the "Purple Lily Magnolia, the Lady Palm (native to the Orient), the Bunya Bunya (an Australian evergreen with cones weighing up to 15 pounds (7 kg)), cork trees, and a California Live Oak measuring 32 feet (10 m) in circumference, believed to be 700 years old."

Orcutt Ranch
23600 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park, CA 91304
(818) 883-6641