On account of its land contour and elevation - the rolling hills, the lush vegetation of the Arroyo Seco, and the grassy flatlands, within an area accessible to both Los Angeles and Pasadena - part of what was named after the Garbanzo sweet pea appropriately became known as the Highlands, and later Highland Park.
Initially used as sheep and cattle grazing land, the area was soon subdivided and portioned into lots, as real estate owners and developers realized the potential value of the property.
Inasmuch as the dirt roads in the area were subject to change, depending upon the weather conditions - dusty in the summer months and muddy during and after the rains - a major steam railroad, the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Valley Railroad, built through the area in the mid 1880's, brought with it economical, practical transportation, and a dependable, time- saving link to the two important big cities. "All abroad!!"
Taking advantage of the developing situation, the Garvanza Land Company was organized by some local businessmen, to promote and sell property. The sales were brisk. Business lots sold for as high as $1,500.00 and new construction was highlighted with the opening of the Garvanza Hotel in 1886. Residential lots sold for as much as $400.00.
A small school was set up in Miller's Hall.
The Sierra Madre stagecoach stopped at the hotel.
In spite of a major depression throughout most of the southland in the early 1890's -- with falling prices, some commercial failures and property foreclosures, and with business lots that once sold for $1,500.00 sold again for as low as $100.00 -- the people of the area held together and, incredibly, forged ahead with uncanny prosperity.
A second major railroad, the Los Angeles Terminal Railway, was built through the area in 1890 and offered 24 scheduled trains a day to local riders. Then in 1895, an electric trolley system was built, to compete for the active passenger trade.
A wooden trestle over the Arroyo Seco was replaced with a heavy steel bridge by the Santa Fe railroad in 1896 because of the heavier and longer trains using the right-of-way.
Highland Park was annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1895.
Persuaded with a gift of 10 acres of land located at Pasadena Avenue (Figueroa Street) and Avenue 50 in Highland Park, Occidental College moved into the area in 1898, from its former site in Boyle Heights. The apparently prudent move developed to such a point that it attracted both President William Taft and Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt into the community, and to a visit to the small college campus, a few years later.
Overlooking the Arroyo Seco, adjacent to the trolley tracks, the College of Fine Arts, an extension of the University of Southern California, opened in 1901 and operated for two decades. The buildings and grounds then became the Judson Studios, named after its founder and first dean.
An influential group of women formed the Highland Park Ebell Club in 1903, and when the elite ladies organization opened a clubhouse ten years later, more than 20,000 people attended the colorful ceremonies.
A community newspaper, the Highland Park Herald, was established in 1905.
A Masonic Lodge and the Bank of Highland Park were organized in 1906.
The Los Angeles Railway extended the tracks of its "Yellow Car" system up through Highland Park in 1904, and down through York Valley in 1906.
The Annandale Country Club was established in 1906, and was visited a few years later by President Taft and by multi- millionaire Andrew Carnegie. A reception held in 1910 in honor of the industrialist consisted of 283 guests, 57 of whom had also achieved millionaire status. The putting "greens" on the golf course were oiled sand.
After a speaking engagement at the college in 1911, Roosevelt toured the area in a new convertible Buick with his longtime friend Charles Lummis, the most flamboyant local resident. After viewing the Arroyo Seco, Roosevelt remarked, "This Arroyo would make one of the greatest parks in the world." And so it as; but twelve years later, at the insistence of Lummis, the Ebell Club and the general public, the City of Los Angeles passed an ordinance to preserve, for all time, 60 acres of land to become the Arroyo Seco Park system.
Among a list of notable accomplishments, Lummis was City Editor of the Los Angeles Times for a few years, founded the Southwest Museum, and maintained the sociable position of hosting lavish parties at his home, located next to the Arroyo Seco. His home was affectionately called "El Alisal," named after a sycamore tree in his yard. His guests included explorer-writers John Burroughs and John Muir, and actor-entertainers Douglas Fairbanks and Will Rogers.
Benjamin Franklin High School opened its doors for instruction in the late teens and almost immediately, along with Occidental College, the campus was used as a training area for student-soldiers destined for service in World War I. More than 200 young men from the local area entered the armed forces.
Some major sports/athletic personalities attended school in the area, most prominent being Bobby Riggs, the triple crown winner in tennis (including Wimbledon) in 1939; and Sammy Lee, Olympic diving champion in both 1948 and 1952 Summer Games.