San Fernando Valley Historical Society

Lankershim Reading Room History

The Lankershim Reading Room comes from a time just after the turn of the 20th century. When it was built in 1904, the Eiffel Tower was the world's tallest building, people were still humming "In the Good Old Summertime," and Devil's food cake was all the rage.

Isaac LankershimIsaac Lankershim

The Lankershim Reading Room's story begins with Isaac Lankershim, a German immigrant who built his fortune in cattle and wheat farming. In 1869, he and his partners bought the southern half of the San Fernando Valley from Pio Pico for $115,000 and created the Lankershim Ranch.

One of his partners was Isaac Newton Van Nuys, who later married Lankershim's daughter. The two Isaacs were business visionaries. They were involved in cattle and sheep ranching, exporting wheat to Europe, hotel construction, and other ventures.

Isaac Newton Van NuysIsaac Newton Van Nuys

After Isaac Lankershim died in 1881,Van Nuys and Lankershim's only son, J.B. (James Boon), ran the business. During the real estate boom of the 1880s, J.B. sold off 12,000 western acres of the ranch and created the Valley's first real estate subdivision. The eastern sector of the ranch, now known as North Hollywood, was a fruit growing region and much admired for its peaches.

JB LankershimJ.B.

J.B. had the Lankershim Reading Room built for his only son, Jack, who used it for painting, reading and other hobbies for many years. J.B. also had a daughter, Doria, and an adopted granddaughter, Jackie, who both lived in Europe. The last of the Lankershim family passed away in 1948.

In 1950, what remained of the ranch and buildings was sold. Lockheed executive Harvey Grey Trembley bought half of the ranch house and the reading room and moved them to 9012 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Canoga Park.  The Trembleys called the octagonal reading room the “Summer House,” and used it and the relocated ranch house for entertaining. During this time, the Lankershim Reading Room was repainted and the gaslights were converted to electricity.

Picture from 1950sIn 1957, the Trembley's sold the eight-acre property to a new church, Chapel in the Canyon.
During the chapel years, the Lankershim Reading Room was used as a lending library and structurally altered: the pocket windows were covered with wooden panels, a bay window was installed, and the wooden exterior was covered with stucco. 

 

Lankershim Reading Room NewIn 2001, the property was sold to construct a senior living center. While the property was being cleared for construction, James B. Gulbranson, then Vice President of the San Fernando Valley Historical Society, was driving by. An avid historian, he recognized the structure as a relic from the vast Lankershim Ranch.  He took steps to save the building, and it was moved to the Andres Pico Adobe Park in Mission Hills. Through private donations and a series of fundraising efforts, the Lankershim Reading Room has been fully restored to its near-original glory and was dedicated in May 1, 2010 as City of Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument #978.