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History of Glassell Park

Andrew GlassellGlassell Park was named for Andrew Glassell (pictured above, 1827 – 1901).  He was an early land owner, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, and the first president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.   Glassell was born on a plantation called Richland, in Virginia, to a family whose roots inAmerica predated the Revolutionary War.

In 1852 Andrew headed west during the Gold Rush.  He carried with him a recommendation letter from a Supreme Court Justice and was named a federal attorney for the city of San Francisco.  He refused to pledge loyalty to the Union during the Civil War, and consequently he was barred from practicing Law.  Glassell temporarily switched careers and operated a saw mill in Santa Cruz before moving to Los Angeles in 1868.  Andrew’s younger brother William was a submarine captain for the Confederate Navy and after the Civil War followed his sibling to California and founded the town of Orange, CA.   A sister, Susan, also relocated to Southern California after the death of her husband, Civil War Colonel George S. Patton; grandfather of the famous World War II General of the same name.

Before the arrival of the Glassells, however, Los Angeles had a rich Spanish and Mexican history.  In 1784 Jose Maria Verdugo, a corporal in the Spanish Army, received a land grant from Governor Pedro Fages to settle what he called the Rancho San Rafael. The tract was over 36,000 acres in size, including much of Northeast Los Angeles. Attorney Andrew Glassell received part of Rancho San Rafael from the lawsuit known as the Great Partition of 1871.

In 1889 the Glassells built a stately Victorian home they called “The Ranch House” on an elevated site where Washington Irving Middle School now stands.  The house had a huge basement with a shooting gallery and also contained a dark room.  Moss Avenue was the wide driveway that approached the house from the East.  The Glassells owned acres of land surrounding the house  and planted them with citrus orchards and a walnut grove at San Fernando Road near Fletcher.  During the depression the family sold a 62-acre parcel of land which would become Forest Lawn Cemetery.  In 1936 the City of Los Angeles took their house by eminent domain to build Washington Irving Junior High School for a price of $25,000.

Many of the streets in our neighborhood are named after Glassell family members and friends. Toland Way, for example, was named after Glassell’s wife, Lucie Toland. Andrita and Marguerite Sts. are named for his daughter and daughter-in-law, respectively.  Drew St. is named for Glassell’s grandson. Weldon, Chapman, Roswell and Edward Streets are named after family friends.

Source: Glassell Park Improvement Association (www.gpia.org)
Photo: KCET Departures