20419 Ruston Road: A Mid-Century Ranch Beauty in East Woodland Hills

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In the northern suburbs of Los Angeles sits this beautiful 3-bedroom/3 bathroom modern rambler at 20419 Ruston Road. A spacious home amongst the green expanse of the Woodland Hills/Tarzana border, this home ideal for the family that craves nature yet still wants to be close to all that LA offers. Property available March 1, 2016 – $4,000.

Long before the Portola Expedition in 1769 that would bring Spanish explorers to settle in the San Fernando Valley, the Fernandeno-Tataviam and Chumash Indians had been peacefully living in the area for nearly 8,000 years. The Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana was settled in 1797 in the village of Achoicominga and for the next 60 years or so began converting the indigenous.

According to the website of the Fernandeno-Tataviam Indians:

“On August 19, 1795, Father Vicente de Santa Maria described Achoicominga in his expedition diary:
We went to explore the place where the alcalde of the pueblo (Los Angeles), Francisco Reyes, has his rancho. … We found the place quite suitable for a mission, because it has much water, much humid land, and also limestone… this place we came to a rancheria near the dwelling of said Reyes — with enough Indians. They take care of the field of corn, beans, and melons, belonging to said Reyes, which with that of the Indians could be covered with two fanengas of wheat. These Indians are the cowherds, cattlemen, irrigators, bird-catchers, foremen, horsemen etc. To this locality belong and they acknowledge it, the gentiles of other rancherias, such as the Taapa [Tapu], Tacuyama [takuyama’m = tsawayung or Chaguayabit], Tucuenga [Caguenga or Tujunga ?], Juyunga, Mapipinga, and others, who have not affiliated with Mission San Gabriel.

San Fernando Mission, circa 1885 courtesy of USC Digital Library/California Historical Society

San Fernando Mission, circa 1885 courtesy of USC Digital Library/California Historical Society

The San Fernando Mission was the 17th mission built in California, and still remains at 15151 San Fernando Mission Boulevard in Mission Hills, about 16 miles north of the home at 20419 Ruston Road. Another site near the home on Ruston Road is Los Encinos Historical State Historical Park, which was once also inhabited by the Fernandeno Indians. The park was at one point located on a Rancheria where indigenous Fernandenos lived, and was a stop on the Portola Expedition.

De La Osa Adobe, circa 1945 courtesy of Los Encinos Historical State Park website

De La Osa Adobe, circa 1945 courtesy of Los Encinos Historical State Park website

The land where the current state park exists passed through many hands before it was purchased by the state of California in 1949. Visitors to the park can still see the De La Osa Adobe, built in 1849 by one of the rancheros who owned and lived on the property.

Just four miles away from the Ruston Road property sits another adobe from the old California cattle-ranching days of the late 1800s. The Leonis Adobe was the former home of a Basque rancher named Miguel Leonis and his Chumash Indian wife Espiritu Chijulla. Built in 1870s, the home has been restored meticulously and was declared a cultural historical monument, the first structure in Los Angeles County to receive one.

The adobe style would get a makeover in the early 1900s, when a cunning businessman and land developer named Victor Girard Kleinberger would move to Los Angeles and try his hand at making a fortune. According to a Los Angeles Times article from 2008, the man would sell Oriental rugs door to door by utilizing a ruse of sticking the rug in the opened door before it could be slammed on him, then coughing and complaining about tuberculosis (Brenoff).

Girard eventually settled in present-day Woodland Hills and began developing across Southern California. He’d attempted to entice people to his developments by chartering “sightseeing” buses for them, and according to the LA Times article, would create the illusion of a bustling business district by creating false business fronts for visitors to see.

San Bernardino County Sun, February 18, 1921

San Bernardino County Sun, February 18, 1921

Bus ticket to the town of Girard, circa 1920 courtesy of USC Digital Libraries

Bus ticket to the town of Girard, circa 1920 courtesy of USC Digital Libraries

According to the Los Angeles County Office of Preservation, Girard purchased nearly 3000 acres of land and subdivided 400 acres of it to develop “mountain cabins” which he marketed as vacation rentals. Girard planted over 120,000 eucalyptus, sycamore, pine, and pepper trees, dramatically changing the landscape and perhaps exists as his biggest contribution to today’s San Fernando Valley as we know it (Canoga Park Survey Report).

In the early 1940s, residents of the town of Girard worked to rename the city and it officially became Woodland Hills, a testament to how the founder of the city had tarnished his own reputation because of shady business practices.

But Girard’s influence lives on in the Woodland Hills Country Club (formerly the Girard Country Club), an exclusive and absolutely stunning golf course and event grounds located less than two miles west of the home at 20419 Ruston Road.

Van Nuys News, November 12, 1926

Van Nuys News, November 12, 1926

Designed by popular links architect Billy Bell, Sr., Girard’s country club was used as bait to entice prospective homebuyers. He’d offer a free membership into the club (as seen above) to those purchasing one of his “mountain lodges,” and according to the Woodland Hills Country Club website, the course has remained almost exactly the same with a few minor changes.

San Bernardino County Sun, July 18, 1941

San Bernardino County Sun, July 18, 1941

We had the pleasure of speaking with longtime resident and historian Rose Goldwater, who’s lived in her original home just south of the Ventura Freeway since 1968. In 2011, Goldwater was awarded the Rose Goldwater Lifetime Achievement Award by the Woodland Hills-Tarzana Chamber of Commerce for her many contributions to the community. And community is certainly an important thing to her.

Rose Goldwater with KNBC Weathercaster,.Fritz Coleman, photo by Michael Owen Baker, LA Daily News

Rose Goldwater with KNBC Weathercaster,Fritz Coleman, photo by Michael Owen Baker, LA Daily News

She told us that she came in just as the ranching industry began dying out or moving to Tarzana.

“It went from farm land and ranch land into homes. If you go down Fallbrook from Ventura to Victory and to your left are all these beautiful farm-like homes. Not huge like they used to be…maybe an acre to acre and a half.”

At one point, movie stars like Barbara Stanwyck owned ranches in the area for a time. Goldwater mused that:

“Woodland Hills was a sleepy little area, very nice. We had a Chamber of Commerce and we had a Flag Day Parade on the Fourth of July that went right down Ventura Blvd from Fallbrook to Canoga. The street was closed, we had flags and a parade and that kind of thing. Most of the people I knew were not veterans, but many of them did work for the aircraft industry. We had Pierce College, we had the farm there that was going full boar. We had the horse farm, the pig farm, the chicken farm…all of that over at Pierce. Litton was going pretty good, and we had RocketDyne. Those were the big industries here.”

She went on to describe how integral Pierce College was to the community at that time, but that things have changed.

“The community seems to have gone from community college…all over, not just here” she joked. “When we had the earthquake, the big one, the people brought all of their animals to Pierce because there was no place else to take them. It was the only college geared toward farm [in Los Angeles]. It’s all changed now…when Dr. Herb Ravage was president of the college, we had a milking contest. I was president of the foundation and I learned to milk a cow. It was him and I in a race against time…it was wonderful.”

Goldwater started the original Fourth of July event at Pierce and raised quite a bit of money for irrigation for the animals that were housed at the school.

Circa 1920s Brant Ranch at corner of De Soto and Oxnard, which turned into Warner Center, courtesy of LA Department of Water and Power

Circa 1920s Brant Ranch at corner of De Soto and Oxnard, which turned into Warner Center, courtesy of LA Department of Water and Power

Another Woodland Hills notable is Harry Warner, the motion picture magnate who co-founded Warner Brothers Studios with his three brothers in 1905. In the 1930s, he purchased a 1,200 acre lot near De Soto and Oxford Street that he used as a ranch to breed horses, known as the Warner Ranch. The lot—located just about 3 miles north of 20419 Ruston Road–eventually became Warner Center in the 1970s and today is a largely a hub for businesses.

As Goldwater noted, the 1930s saw the influx of aviation industry workers into the Valley, and companies like RocketDyne and Northrup Gruman emerged in the late 1950s in Woodland Hills thus creating an even larger need for post WWII housing. She told us that the area formerly housing RocketDyne is being developed into condominiums.

One such aviation worker happens to have been a previous tenant of 20419 Ruston Road, a man named Keith Cochran. According to an obituary from 1990, Cochran was an engineer who specialized in radar as a systems analyst for Hughes Aircraft. A co-inventor of a patent on electronic radome-error composition, Cochran and his wife Ruth became owners of 20419 Ruston Road in 1972.

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The traditional ranch rambler is a likely fit for a middle-to-upper-class family in 1960s/70s Los Angeles, combining simplicity and elements of luxury in a tasteful way. The Cochrans purchased the home just 11 years after it was built in 1963, though they were not the first owners. A Mr. and Mrs. William R. Allen were likely the first owners of the home, and installed a swimming pool from Donald A. Carmichael pools in 1963.

October 2, 1960 Valley News

October 2, 1960 Valley News

A large swath of Woodland Hills was developed by Wilson & Wilson developers during the time that 20413 Ruston Road was being built. The ad above is for a home very close to the property, and highlights the “Vista De Oro” neighborhood, a demarcation still used today that refers to the gorgeous Vista De Oro Avenue just a short hop away from Ruston Road.

20419 Ruston is just slightly south of what is considered the East Woodland Hills Historic District, an area bordered by Natoma Avenue to the east, Dumont to the north, Wells to the south, and Kelvin to the west. According to the LA County Office of Preservation, most of the homes constructed in this district were single-level traditional ranch style homes built from 1954-1959. Before the post WWII architectural boom, this district was replete with citrus and walnut groves, which became selling points for many of the largely returning war veterans looking for tract housing.

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Curvilinear roads and wide lots typify the homes in the nearby East Woodland Hills Historic district. Girard’s arboreal contributions endure along pretty tree-lined Ruston Road, providing just the right amount of shade and privacy.

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The flora continues throughout the property with stunning pine trees and an assortment of succulents and shrubs, as meticulous landscaping demonstrates. Orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees also abound.

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An abundance of space in the form of front, back, and side patios make this truly an entertainer’s home on this ½ acre lot. Indoor/outdoor fluidity is one of the perks of a one-story home, and perfect for busy families who want the convenience of easy sight lines to keep track of the little ones.

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The interiors retain the casual appeal that 60s and 70s design brought to residential architecture. Contemporary ranch living that offers luxury touches like expansive fireplaces, lowered rafted ceilings, and huge French doors yet does not compromise on comfort and fluidity.

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Tiles change to carpet in the bedrooms and office and this one offers tons of storage with these fantastic built-ins.

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The kitchen is equally bestowed with hearty wooden cabinetry and continues the indoor/outdoor motif of this lovely home.

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Natural light streams through the living areas, and the patio-adjacent location is pretty sweet too. A second fireplace exists for those chilly Valley evenings, which yes, do happen.

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The spacious bedrooms and bathrooms feature an equally sunny and vibrant aura with skylights, expansive picture windows, and clean, bright tiling.

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…and a supremely retro vanity area adjoining the bathroom in the master bedroom doesn’t hurt either…

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But the real draw of the home is definitely the expansive back yard. With its beautifully inset pool, fruit trees, and exquisitely manicured back yard, 20419 Ruston Road is truly a comfortable, peaceful oasis in an already peaceful section of the Valley.

As Rose Goldwater said when we asked her if she’d ever considered moving out of Woodland Hills: “Why would I move?”

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