A Brief History

The land on which our community garden is now located was once part of the grounds of an elegant forty-nine acre estate.  “Jualita,” as it was then known, was the winter home of Gurdon Wattles, a businessman and banker from Omaha, Nebraska.  Designated City of Los Angeles Cultural Monument No. 579 in 1993, the Wattles Mansion can be seen just beyond the north gate of our garden.

Wattles Mansion Then - Photo Credit: Hollywood Heritage

Designed by noted architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Gray (who also designed the Beverly Hills Hotel, Huntington Library, and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena), the mansion and grounds were begun in 1907.  The original estate featured four distinct gardens: a formal Spanish garden, an Italian rose garden, a Japanese garden, and an American garden.  These gardens were opened by Mr. Wattles to the public, becoming one of Hollywood’s early attractions.  Our current garden still contains the original citrus and avocado groves.  Some eight different species of avocado trees, now a century old, were rescued from the Doheny mansion when they were being cleared for the construction of Main Street in Los Angeles.  Early visitors to Jualita would stroll the grounds from Hollywood Boulevard to the top of the hill beyond the mansion, and enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the city.

An inscribed tablet at the public entrance reminded them: “Someone loves this garden and has lent it to you.  Please respect this kindness and leave it as beautiful as you find it.”

Wattles Mansion Present Day - Photo Credit: Hollywood Heritage

The transformation of the lower 4.2 acres into an organic community garden began in 1976, through the initiative of Mayor Tom Bradley’s community gardening program.  Wattles Farm was one of the first gardens in the city created under this program.  Sorely neglected for years, the property was revitalized by a small handful of thirty volunteers who cleared heavy brush and weeds, dug up stumps, put in plumbing, and established the first plots.  They also worked to resurrect the one hundred forty-one surviving avocado trees.  Of these determined and devoted individuals, Sam Trueblood was the last original charter member to still be active in the garden.

Historic avocado grove at Wattles Farm. Many of the trees date from the time of Gurdon Wattles.

In January, 1978, we incorporated as Wattles Farm and Neighborhood Gardeners, Inc., a nonprofit, tax exempt, educational 501(c) (3) California corporation.

Today we have some 300 members in 172 plots within our community garden.  Through the healthy effort and generous spirit of all of us working together, we continue to grow and thrive.

The image below is a scan of a historic Wattles Newsletter from Spring ’95, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the garden. As you can see, in the nearly 20 years that have passed since, so much has changed, and so much has stayed the same!

 

Wattles Newsletter Spring '95

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