The Rancho Rosa de Castilla was acquired around 1850 by Anacleto Lestrade, priest of Our Lady of the Angels Church on the Plaza [Map of Rancho Rosa de Castillo]. In 1852, Jean-Baptiste (Juan Bautista) Batz and his wife Catalina Hegui Batz, who had arrived in California from Argentina in 1850, acquired the adobe ranch house from Lestrade as depicted in Figure 8 (see photo below). Jean-Baptiste engaged in farming and sheep ranching until his death on December 6, 1859. Under the Homestead Act, Catalina Batz received official title to the 160 acres upon which the adobe stood in 1876. She proceeded to purchase land from the surrounding owners. The ranch eventually encompassed a total of 3,283 acres of land. It included the later communities of Ramona Acres (City of Alhambra), Sierra Vista (El Sereno), Sierra Park (El Sereno), West Alhambra (Alhambra and El Sereno), and Bairdstown (El Sereno) west to El Sereno Avenue (now Eastern Avenue). She survived him until February 22, 1882. The land portion of the estate was then divided between six of her eight children. The southernmost 700 acres passed to the third oldest son Jose Domingo Batz.
For more information about Rancho Rosa de Castilla read: The History of Rosa de Castilla-El Sereno.
Written by J. Garcia, founding member the El Sereno Historical Society.
The map shows different view of the land area belonging to Rancho Rosa de Castilla. The map depicts Rancho Rosa de Castilla centered between the City of L.A. and the San Gabriel Mission.
Map of the lands of the Mission San Gabriel: situated in Los Angeles County, California, originally sold to Messrs. Workman & Reed, now owned by Messrs. Workman, Howard, Brannan & others / surveyed in August 1857 by Henry Hancock, U.S. Dep. Survey. Click on Map or Visit Map Source: Online Archives of California to enlarge.
Rancho Rosa de Castilla, circa 1880. Lots of sheep and you can see many people in the background, some on horses.
Before it was renamed El Sereno, it was Rancho Rosa de Castilla, home of the Batz Family. The Batz Family is pictured above enjoying a summer garden party, 1870.
Links to recent L.A.Times articles on Batz Family/El Sereno history:
Southland Pioneer Esperanza Batz Dies (L.A. Times, Dec.12, 1986)
El Sereno: Price, Convenience,Friendliness Exert Pull (L.A. Times, Feb. 16, 1992)
History of El Sereno (L.A. Times, March 8, 1992) Related to L.A. Times, Feb.16, 1992 PDF article
Martin Lifur, owner of many acres in El Sereno, sits in his horse drawn carriage driven by "Queenie" in front of his ranch house on Hollister St [picture dated 1908]. The land which Mr. Lifur owned eventually became Sierra Park. (Photo from LAPL)
In 1894 Martin Lifur, brother of Josefa Lifur Batz (wife of Jose Domingo Batz), purchased 310 acres of the Batz ranch in the area of Sierra Park from Domingo Batz, eldest son of Juan and Catalina Batz. This included another old adobe near present Navarro Street and Lifur Avenue (just south of Huntington Drive) which had been built by Antonio Jauregui, another Basque sheep rancher prior to being purchased by Catalina Batz about 1880, as depicted in Figures 7 and Figure 9.
1877 Property Boundaries
About 1870 Captain Jacob Colvin Newton purchased a 160-acre L-shaped ranch stretching from the present Eastern and El Sereno Avenues on the west to Guardia Avenue on the east as depicted in Figure 7. In the late 1880s he purchased the northern portion of Batz Ranch from Francisca Batz Echeverria, a daughter of Catalina Batz. On the ranch was a modest cottage on the north side of what is now Huntington Drive at Van Horne Avenue. Captain Newton grew hay and raised horses that would race at his racetrack located just south of Roses Road (now Huntington Drive) and east of Farmdale Road (now Eastern Avenue). Captain Newton and his family lived near Mission San Gabriel from 1870 to 1882, when they returned to their native Erie County, New York. After Newton served one term as County Supervisor, he returned to Los Angeles with his family about 1884. Later they moved their primary residence from West Adams area of Los Angeles to South Pasadena.
A ranch west of what is now Eastern Avenue was owned by the Smith Family. Their home and well existed about 1885 just south of what is now Huntington Drive at Paola Avenue as depicted in Figure 7 (see Fig 7 above). The Smith Estate was partitioned in 1885. George Hugh Smith, who retained a parcel of the family estate after partition, was a prominent attorney in Los Angeles, a State Senator and a Judge of the Second Appellate District. The Cornwall family built a house about 1885 on a part of the Smith property, near present-day Eastern Avenue and Harmony Lane. Most of this ranch was later bought by Evan Evans. He was a trustee of the Farmdale School, the first school in the area. The northeastern corner of this ranch became the Los Angeles Military Academy in 1910.
Around 1870, the residence of Jesse Yarnell sat on a hill in what is now Rose Hill at the western boundary of present El Sereno. Mr. Yarnell was one of the earliest newspaper editors and publishers in California. He was co-founder in 1873 of the Los Angeles Mirror Company, which later merged with the Los Angeles Times.
A ranch house on the south side of Valley Boulevard, near the junction of present day Eastern Avenue, was owned by the Hirigoyen family who had a saloon and boarding house on Ducommun Street in Los Angeles. They raised chickens, ducks, and pigs.
A large acreage in the vicinity of present Monterey Road and Collis Avenue was owned by Hancock M Johnston, one of the owners of the Los Angeles Herald and co-founder of East Los Angeles (now Lincoln Heights). This land later passed to Marcos A Forster of San Juan Capistrano, a nephew of Pio Pico, who subsequently subdivided the parcel.
Sheep and cattle ranching was gradually replaced by agriculture and stock raising. The farmers grew hay and barley, raised pigs and chickens, and ran dairies.
After 1858, the Butterfield stages ran east of Los Angeles along Valley Boulevard. A stop was at The Five Mile House Saloon and watering trough located just south of Valley Boulevard adjacent to the present Long Beach Freeway. The saloon was owned by Glenn and Heller, and later by Simon Maier, President of Pacific Coast Beef and Provision Company.
By 1869, what is now Mission Road/Monterey Road proceeded from the western end of present El Sereno through a pass in the hills to the Rancho San Pascual as depicted in Figure 5. Roses Road was established by 1873, beginning at the present intersections of Huntington Drive and Monterey Road and proceeding east. Later known as Los Angeles-Pasadena Road and East Los Angeles Road, it passed approximately where Huntington Drive is today. About 1875, Brown Road was established through this area. It ran northeasterly from Lincoln Park, at present Valley Boulevard and Mission Road in Lincoln Heights, to West Alhambra Road and Fremont Avenue. It was abandoned about 1900.
The Southern Pacific Railroad was built through the El Sereno area in 1876, as depicted in Figure 10. Catalina Batz purchased the majority of the excess lands adjacent to the tracks after the railroad was completed. Due to Southern Pacific's high rates, development of this area did not follow.
Competition soon followed with the advent of the Santa Fe Railroad, which built trackage to Los Angeles in 1887. A fare war between the two railroads lowered rates bringing many immigrants from the East and Midwest to Los Angeles. During the subsequent real estate boom, the Yorba and Paige Tract, at the western edge of El Sereno, was recorded in October 1887. A few years after the bust of 1888, the adjacent Omaha Heights Tract was recorded in 1892.
The area of present day El Sereno south to Twining Street was included as part of the City of South Pasadena during incorporation on February 29, 1888 as depicted in Figure 11. A vote taken on September 28, 1889, however, excluded from the city limits all land south of West Alhambra Road (effective October 2, 1889). A majority of the voters within the revised city limits wanted to prohibit alcoholic drinking establishments within the borders of the City. All the voters in the excluded territory were in favor of exclusion as they did not want to be in a "dry" town.
This same year saw the establishment of a new Farmdale School district and the building of the Farmdale School. The school is depicted in figure 12 (above). This area, as well as South Pasadena, had been part of the Pasadena School District. The Prohibitionist sentiments of Pasadena and South Pasadena may have been the impetus for the creation of the new school district.
Water sources for the area were the Arroyo Rosa de Castilla and another arroyo that ran north-south just east of present Eastern Avenue. The small Ascot Reservoir, being used by 1894 to store water, did not have the capacity to meet the needs of the many subdivisions that were soon to bring new residents to the area. For more information about Arroyo Rosa de Castilla visit our Special Collection page.
The reasons that the present El Sereno area did not develop between the 1870s and 1900 were not limited to a lack of local transportation and adequate water sources. Magnets for residential, commercial, and industrial growth developed by powerful men of the era encircled the area. To the west was the community of East Los Angeles (later Lincoln Heights), subdivided in 1873 by Dr. John S. Griffin and his nephew Hancock M. Johnston. To the southwest was Boyle Heights, subdivided in 1876 by W.H. Workman. To the east was the town of Alhambra, subdivided in 1874 by Benjamin D Wilson and Ramona/Shorb founded by James de Barth Shorb. To the north were the community of Pasadena subdivided in 1874 and the first subdivisions, platted 1885, in the future South Pasadena (Figure 10).
Picture of Jose Domingo Batz (seated on the left) with wife Josefa Lifur Batz (standing behind him to his right). Josefa was the sister to Matin Lifur, who went on to buy many acres of land that were formally part of the Rancho Rosa de Castilla. The other individuals remain unidentified.
Photo of Jauregui, Antonio and Dominga with family around 1888. Seated front row, left to right: Peter Jauregui, Maria concepcion Garciosa or Grace Jauregui, Ramon Jauregui, Francisco Antonio Jauregui, Louis Jauregui, Martin Jauregui, Standing back row left to right: Martina or Martha Jauregui, Dominga (Labat) Jauregui, Juana Ramona or Jane Jauregui, Francisco or Frank Jauregui. For more information read historical document about Jauregui/Rancho Rosa Castilla and visit www.scbbgd.org.]
The caption of this picture reads: Farmdale Public School, July 12, 1904. The group pictured in front of the old Schoolhouse includes Esperanza and Margerita Batz, from a family of early farmers.
Students and teachers pose outside of the Farmdale School located in El Sereno. The Farmdale Grammar School is still standing on the campus of El Sereno Middle School (original site of Wilson High School) on Eastern Avenue. Photo dated 1905, LAPL
Undated picture (1900-1910?) showing Farm Dale students practicing dance for school events/show(?); or maybe it was part of the P.E. Program from back in the day. What do you think?
(The caption was missing, hopefully we'll be able to find what the caption originally said
1897, picture of Batz Family with foreman Gregorio Arostegui & Family. Also hired men in top row left 3 and uncle Rafael. Manetz (August Batz) is front left, his father, Jose Domingo, then Margerita. Next is their mother, Josefa Lifur Batz--next to her is Esperanza. The next woman is not identified...but the child to her left in a girl's dress is John Batz. In foreground is water tower and blacksmith shop.
Margerita and Esperanza Batz lived in El Sereno (Rancho Rosa de Castilla) all their lives. A lot of what we know about life on the Rancho, and Rancho Rosa de Castilla, comes from the many interviews and stories they shared. Both ladies were unmarried and both passed away during the 1980s; Margerita passed away on March, 1981 and Esperanza on December 10, 1986. Both John and August Batz died in May, 1973; John passed away on May 15, 1973 and August on May 31, 1973. Info courtesy of R. Lerner Archives, CSULA.
Another great picture of the old adobe ranch house. No caption was found for this picture, but it was probably taken around the same time as the others we have shared; between 1885-1890.
Seen here are women, children, and men relaxing in front of the adobe home. What look like turkeys can also be seen around the bench areas near the women.
The Batz family was well known for their hospitality and every wary traveler, trader, and stranger could always count on being able to take a break, be treated to a good meal, and relax for a while at the Rancho before continuing their journey. Their generosity was well known all over Southern California, so much so that Rancho Rosa de Castilla became synonymous with the title Casa de Descanso (Home of Rest)--Los Angeles Herald Article 2-18-1906.