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County Department History


Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

The County Charter was officially adopted in 1850. Back then, two members of the Board of Supervisors, namely Supervisors Eduardo Pollorena (Poyorena) and Bernardino Guirado, were elected and both lived in Los Nietos. Starting from 1912, the County Hall of Records served as the official meeting place for the Board of Supervisors. If you're interested in learning more about Supervisors Pollorena and Guirado, check out Additionally, you can view historic photos of all Board of Supervisors members at


Description of Supervisorial Districts in 1888

The City of Los Angeles is divided into five districts. The first district comprises the townships of Soledad, San Fernando, San Gabriel, El Monte, Azusa, and San Jose Hills. The second district includes a part of Los Angeles City located east from Main Street to the river up to the most northern part of the City. The third district covers all parts of Los Angeles City located west of Main Street. The fourth district includes Compton, Long Beach, San Antonio, Santa Monica, La Ballona, Wilmington, portions of Los Nietos west of the San Gabriel River, and north of Telegraph Road. The fifth district includes Anaheim, Westminster, Santa Ana, San Juan Capistrano, and a part of Los Nietos Township, east of the San Gabriel River, south of the old Telegraph Road.

Los Angeles County Hall of Records

The Hall of Records was built in 1909 and located at 220 N. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. It was the City Hall for County government and accommodated various County Departments, including the County Auditor-Controller, Board of Equalization, Civil Service Commission, Board of Supervisors, County Counsel, Superior Courts, Vital Statistics, and the Marriage License Bureau. In 1960, the old Hall of Records was torn down and replaced by the new County of Los Angeles Hall of Administration at its present location of 500 W. Temple Street. You can check out pictures of the last Board of Supervisor’s meetings at the old Hall of Records and the first Board of Supervisors meeting at the Hall of Administration in 1960 on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive.d.


The First County Seal

(1887-1957):  The original 1887 County of Los Angeles Seal displayed grapes hanging from a vine, surrounded by the words "Board of Supervisors-Los Angeles Co. Cal."   

Agricultural Commissioner/ Weights and Measures (ACWM)

The County of Los Angeles' first official seal had hanging grapes and depicted the significance of vineyards during the 1800s. During this time, Los Angeles County was the main winemaking hub in California. The wine industry flourished during the Spanish Missions period, including the San Gabriel Mission. However, in the 1870s, a pest outbreak destroyed numerous vineyards, leading to financial ruin for the owners. The effort to eradicate the insect pest resulted in the creation of the United States Department of Agriculture, and later, the Board of State Viticulture Commissioners in California. This later evolved into the creation of the County Agricultural Commissioner.


The Department initiated pest and plant eradication projects, including spraying for noxious weeds. The Puncture Vine, a road hazard that flattened tires, the Canada Thistle, an orchard pest, and the Argentine Ant were among the pests that infested agricultural land. During the peak of the agricultural boom, the County was the leading producer of agriculture in the nation, and Harold "Buddy" Ryan served as the Agricultural Commissioner for over 44 years (1918-1962).


In the 1950s, Los Angeles County was divided by districts for agricultural inspections. Whittier, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, and Montebello, with the Rio Hondo as the western border, comprised District 10. Orchard Cards were used to track growers, their property location, crops, variety, year planted, and number of trees and acres. Inspectors would issue citations to owners of diseased, neglected, or abandoned crops, and if dead crops were not removed, the County would remove them. By the 1960s, many orchards were on the decline. You can find a copy of an Orchard Card issued to the Parnell School for Girls, which once existed where Parnell Park is currently located, and other vintage department photos on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive. (Sources: Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures and The Department of Crops and Livestock Report, Department of the Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures, Los Angeles County 2010).


Parks and Recreation

In the 1950s, Supervisor Frank Bonelli played an active role in creating new parks in the Whittier Unincorporated area to meet the demands of new residents after World War II. You can view photos of Supervisor Bonelli participating in dedication ceremonies at Sorensen Park, playing with local children at Gunn Park (now Adventure Park), and attending ceremonies at Whittier Narrows Regional Park on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archives.


Adventure Park (Gunn Park)

On October 20, 1959, the Department of Parks and Recreation purchased 15.52 acres of land in the Southeast Whittier area to build a recreational facility. The park was initially known as Gunn Avenue Park but was later renamed Adventure Park by the Department and the Board of Supervisors. The new name was chosen for its positive connotation. Adventure Park was dedicated on May 31, 1962. You can find photos of Supervisor Frank Bonelli with local children at the park construction site on the Whittier Unincorporated Photo Archive.


Amelia Mayberry Park

Amelia Mayberry Park was named after a respected community leader who lived in the area and donated the land for the park. The park was dedicated on February 19, 1958. A committee was formed in 1954 by the local Coordinating Council to promote the development of a park in South Whittier. The 17-acre site where the park is located was acquired by the County of Los Angeles in the late 1940s. However, the County had a policy against developing new parks which prevented the development of the site. To raise funds, carnivals were held to assist with the development. Through the efforts of the Whittier Coordinating Council, the County officials made an exception to this policy, and other local parks were also developed. In 1957, the County opened bids for the construction of a recreation building which was estimated to cost $131,000. You can read about Amelia Mayberry under "Notable Landowners". You can also see photos of Mayberry Park on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive.


Amigo Park

During the 1960’s residents and a local volunteer club began promoting the use of a vacant parcel of land as a playground.  Over the years, residents have helped maintain the lot for local children to play in.  In 1985, the County purchased the land and eventually developed the property into a park. 

Sorensen Park

In the late 1940's, residents of the surrounding community organized the Sorensen Park and Recreation Association.  Their efforts, in part, also led to the founding of a library within the grounds of the park. 

Whittier Narrows Regional Park 

The Whittier Narrows got its name due to the narrow area between two hill areas, the San Jose Hills and the Montebello Hills. Whittier Narrows Regional Park serves as a flood control area and includes a dam. The dam was built in response to a long history of flooding that has occurred in the area along the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers. The park area is leased to the County of Los Angeles for recreation purposes. The area has significant historical importance as it was the location of the original Mission San Gabriel, constructed in 1771 along the banks of the Rio Hondo River, and a battle to control California that took place in 1847. Furthermore, segments of the film Birth of a Nation directed by D. W. Griffith were filmed here in 1914, as well as segments for the Tarzan movie series.


Miniature Railway

 This railway used to run on a 1-mile long track situated in the Legg Lake Park area of the Whittier Narrows Regional Park. It was operated under a concession from the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department. The miniature railroad was assembled using parts manufactured in 1904. During the 1960s, the railway operated on a 15-inch gauge track.


Public Library

The County Free Library Act of 1912 led to the creation of the Los Angeles County Free Library which evolved into the County of Los Angeles Public Library.  The first local library was opened in 1919 at Los Nietos School.   


Los Nietos Library

 The Los Nietos Library had its beginning shortly after World War I, in September 1919.  Since its founding, the library has offered service at five different locations. A bookmobile provided library service to the community for a short time.  A new library is currently under construction at Los Nietos Middle School, which will expand space, and return the library back to its original 1919 location.  Below is a listing of the previous library locations:

1919: Los Nietos School

1939: 2031 Norwalk Boulevard

1948: Bookmobile

1949: Los Nietos School Cafeteria

1950: 8801 Norwalk Boulevard (currently Sunshine Market on Norwalk Blvd. in Los Nietos)

1979: 11644 E. Slauson Avenue

Sorensen Library

Residents of this community formed the Sorensen Park and Recreation Association in the late 1940s, which contributed to the establishment of a library within the Sorensen Park area. The original library, covering an area of 1,000 square feet, was named after Christian Sorensen, a local citrus rancher, and was built in 1956. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, the library was never expanded. In November 1992, Sorensen Library was one of ten County libraries that were closed in response to budget cuts. However, in 1996, Sorensen Library was reopened using funds from the Community Services District. In November 2008, Sorensen Library was closed again to make way for a new facility. Finally, the new building opened on October 1, 2010, and is ten times larger than the former library, covering an area of 10,655 square feet. The new Sorensen Library is the first green library of the County Library. You can view photos of the Sorensen Library dedication in 1956 on the County Library website and on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive. 


South Whittier Library

The South Whittier Library has a long history that dates back to 1915. The library started in a one-room schoolhouse located on Los Nietos Road near Anaheim-Telegraph Road. The librarian, Amelia Mayberry, managed the "Free Library." Later, the library moved to a separate building built specifically for the library and was dedicated on April 16, 1956, on Laurel Avenue. After 16 years, the library moved again to its current location at 14433 Leffingwell Road. In January 1988, the library closed down for renovations. However, during the renovation period, the community still had access to an outreach van from January to October 1988. Finally, the remodeled and expanded facility opened for service in October 1988. 


Public Safety

Fire Department

The Early Years

In 1920, the Los Angeles County Fire Department was established, initially known as the Los Angeles County Forestry Department and Fire Protection Districts. Prior to the construction of the two current fire stations, Fire Station 96 (built in 1956) and Fire Station 15 (built in 1962), fire protection was offered through fire districts. Some stations serving the Whittier Unincorporated area, such as Fire Station 49 (La Mirada), became part of an incorporated city later on. The City of Whittier had a volunteer fire department on South Comstock Avenue during the early 1900s, and established a paid professional firefighting unit in 1924. The volunteers used hand fire carts, which were stored in the first city firehouse made of galvanized steel with a bell tower.


Memories of Old Fire Station 17In 1923, the Santa Fe Springs Fire Protection District was established to serve the Santa Fe Springs oil fields and the surrounding Whittier Unincorporated area. Captain A.J. Marty was appointed as the leader of the district and stored an old Graham Chemical Truck in his garage. In 1926, Station 17 was constructed on the property of the Pacific Clay Products Pipe factory on Norwalk Mills Road, which is now known as Norwalk Boulevard, in Los Nietos, which is now Santa Fe Springs, just a few blocks south of Los Nietos Road. The station was designed with a Spanish-Mediterranean style and a tiled roof. Seven people were assigned to work at this station.


In 1931, a lot located at the northern end of the Santa Fe Springs District on the McNees Tract at Western and "C" Streets was purchased with the intention of building Fire Station 15. However, due to protests from a major oil company, the plan was abandoned. In the early 1940s, Fire Station 17 served as Battalion Headquarters, which included dispatching operations conducted out of the second floor. Battalion Chiefs Keith Klinger and Glenn Griswold oversaw operations during this period. Chief Griswold was renowned for creating the "fog nozzle" used in firefighting and was Southern California's most experienced authority on fighting oil fires. Chief Klinger was appointed as the County's Fire Chief in 1953 after Fire Chief Cecil Gehr was killed in an auto accident while responding to a fire. Chief Klinger retired in 1969 after 35 years of service. Chief Griswold was killed in action during WWII while serving as a Fire Chief in Naples, Italy.


Retiree Harry Miller, who served from 1942-1968, was a fire dispatcher at Fire Station 17 in the early 1940s. According to Miller, firefighters worked 72 and 96-hour workweeks and were on duty every other day. Their monthly salary was approximately $170 dollars. An old milk wagon was converted into a butane-fired commissary unit for meals served in the field. 


Fire Station 17 was a two-story cement building with a full hose tower. There was a porch looking out the front of the building on the second floor. There was an attached shop and garage, Captain's quarters, and an office for the Chief, who at the time was Glenn G. Griswold. Also, there was a low cement tank behind the station that was used for oil-fire drills and such. Next door on one side was Pacific Clay, a large tile and pipe manufacturer, and on the other side was the Sparkletts Water Company. The man who ran it lived in a house that was part of the business.


Pacific Clay had a fire on Thanksgiving Day in 1950. That was a significant event. Eventually, Santa Fe Springs was incorporated, and the building was used as its Road Department for some years. It has since been demolished.


In 1946, the Santa Fe Springs Fire Protection District became part of the San Gabriel Valley Fire Protection District, and in 1951 Engine 15 was stationed at the newly built Fire Station 15 located on Colima Road north of Whittier Boulevard. County Fire Station 17, which had been relocated to 11400 Washington Boulevard, was later moved to its present-day location at 11770 Hadley Street in the City of Whittier.      


A New Era

In 1958, the City of Santa Fe Springs established their own fire department. However, in 1962, the area around Fire Station 15 on Colima Road was annexed by the City of Whittier and given to the Whittier Fire Department. To replace the lost station, a new Fire Station 15 was built on Santa Gertrudes that serves both the City and the Whittier Unincorporated area. In 1975, the City of Whittier disbanded their own fire department, which had been around for 74 years, and merged with the County Consolidated Fire Protection District. 

During the 1950s, the southern part of the Whittier Unincorporated area included parts of what is now La Mirada. Fire Station 49 served that area and was located south of the corner of Rosecrans and Valley View Avenue. After the City of La Mirada incorporated in 1960, the fire station moved to its current location near City Hall on La Mirada Boulevard. 

To meet the area's growing public safety needs after a housing boom, Fire Station 96 was built in 1956, and Fire Station 15 was constructed in 1962. These stations were significant improvements for the area's fire service. Fire Station 96 was nicknamed "the Farm" due to the collection of poultry kept in the station's backyard, which included chickens, roosters, ducks, and geese. Children often toured the station and became familiar with the animals. Despite the population growth, the "Sunshine Acres" area where Fire Station 96 is located was still largely rural when it was built and was surrounded by open space. Nearby, there was a lumber yard, a horse stable, and a railroad line. (Source: County of Los Angeles Community Connection, Spring 2003, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Historical Overview of Fire Service to the Whittier Unincorporated Community). For vintage photos of local fire stations, visit the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive at


Sheriff’s Department

Prior to the establishment of the Sheriff’s Department in 1850, law enforcement was directed under the jurisdiction of a constable.  The Whittier Unincorporated area was originally considered part of the Los Nietos Township and later the Whittier Township.  According to Paul R. Spitzzeri’s article for “The Branding Iron”  (Fall 2007), “townships were jurisdictions set up to provide for a post office and judicial apparatus, meaning a Justice of the Peace and his court and constables patrol the area, in unincorporated areas of counties.”  (Source:  


Since the formation of the Sheriff’s Department in 1850, twenty-four men have served Los Angeles County as Sheriff.  Two were killed in the line of duty.  In 1907, the Department purchased its first automobile for use by the Sheriff. 
Mrs. Margaret Q. Adams was sworn in as the first female Deputy in the United States in 1912. 


Prior to 1913, the Whittier Township Constable and Deputy Constables were paid per arrest and worked out of the Justice Court.  Most of their arrests were court ordered.  In 1926 Sheriff’s Sub-Station 4 (Norwalk) began policing the City of Norwalk and the Whittier Unincorporated area.  All calls for service were received through the Los Angeles Police Department’s Central Station switchboard and forwarded to the Norwalk Sub-Station.  The Sheriffs’ Department did not have a switchboard to send out calls until 1931.  The marked patrol car system was inaugurated and uniforms were adopted in 1932.  Prior to this time, all personnel wore civilian clothes.  In 1935, two-way radios were installed in patrol cars allowing deputies to answer calls from their patrol vehicles and the Sheriff's School of Instruction, now known as the Sheriff's Academy, was opened. 


The Constabulary was responsible for the Whittier Unincorporated area until the early 1940s. Deputies assigned to the Norwalk Station did not patrol, they only answered calls for service from the station.  The Sheriff’s “Night Detail” patrolled high crime areas as needed, but were assigned to the Hall of Justice Main Office.  (Source: courtesy of
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.)    After the closing of Lowell High School in South Whittier in 1980, the County purchased the land and opened the Sheriff‘s Training Academy (STAR Center) at the corner of Telegraph Road and Colima Road.  You can read more history about the Sheriff’s Department at  See a list of all past Sheriff’s at (Source: Los Angeles Almanac at  Read a bio on Whittier Township Constable, George M. Bankston, and view photos of local constables on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive. 


Regional Planning

Regional Planning was created in 1922 with the establishment of the Regional Planning Commission, a body that still exists and is responsible for advising the Board of Supervisors on all planning matters.  It is the oldest planning body in the United States.  It became an independent Department in 1974 and continues to support the Commission and Board of Supervisors.   Read about the Department of Regional Planning’s preservation efforts at co

The Mills Act

The Mills Act grants local governments the authority to enter into contracts with the owners of qualified historic properties who actively participate in the restoration and maintenance of their historic properties, with a potential property tax relief.  The Department of Regional Planning is responsible for reviewing applicants for potential contracts with homeowners.  For more information on this and historical landmarks, log onto

Health Services

For over 150 years, Los Angeles County has provided health services to residents regardless of their ability to pay for care. The County of Los Angeles healthcare system began in 1856, when the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul opened an eight-bed facility.  In 1878, the County opened its own 100-bed Los Angeles County Hospital.  The University of Southern California (USC) Medical School entered into an affiliation with the Los Angeles County Hospital in 1885.  The department, known as the Department of Charities, responded to the population growth of Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s and constructed the County General Hospital on Mission Road (now LAC+USC Medical Center), which became a training site for new physicians.


Department of Public Works (DPW)

Going back to the turn of the last century, the Department of Public Works (DPW) was made up of the once-separate County Roads, County Flood Control District, and County Engineer Departments.  These individual departments helped shape and support the community through the construction of streets, roads, storm drains and flood channels.  DPW also served as building managers for County fire stations, libraries, community centers and other facilities. There were ten major floods in the Los Angeles area between 1850 and 1900.  With no devices to confine the floods, the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers sometimes carved out new channels and changed their courses.  The Los Angeles Flood Control District was created in 1915.  The County Road Department began in 1913, and in 1916, the Office of the County Engineer was created and responsible for building and safety, land surveys, and designing waterworks.  Major thoroughfares like Whittier Boulevard and Telegraph Road were paved through in some areas in 1925.  Streets were widened and expanded and traffic signals were modernized as the region grew and former farmlands transformed into new residential areas. 


Municipal water, sewer and storm drain facilities were built and upgraded under community streets throughout the 20th century as the populations grew.  In the 1940’s a County Master Highway Plan was developed.  Local road improvement projects, like sidewalks and street widening of Telegraph Road in South Whittier, (Carmenita Road to Mills Avenue), occurred in 1955.  In the midst of the housing boom, traffic control measures were needed.  In 1961, the County Road Department installed several traffic signals at major intersections including Mines Boulevard in Whittier Downs, Carmenita Road at Meyer and Leffingwell Roads, and Slauson Avenue at Pioneer Boulevard in Los Nietos.  Significant storm drain improvements were constructed between 1960 and 1970 and State and County roads were the main thoroughfares before Interstate 605 was built in 1963-64.   

United States Army Corps of Engineers

Prior to 1914, there had been no effort to develop flood control facilities in Los Angeles County.   In 1938, the Army Corps of Engineers gained responsibility over drainage in Los Angeles County and the Whittier Narrows Dam was included in a plan for flood control; and was constructed in 1957.  During the early 1950’s, buildings located within the sphere of the dam construction site included neighborhoods located north of Mission Mill Road, between the San Gabriel River and San Jose Creek.  Streets affected were Shadow Lane, Kratt Lane, Chancellor Avenue, and Spring Grove Avenue.   Homes and other buildings were sold at bid by the Army Corps of Engineers.  Some families chose to move their homes to other locations.  (Source: The Whittier News, Whittier California, May 22, 1950.)  Read more about the Army Corps of Engineers at


Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC)

The County Clerk was established after the State Legislature divided California into 27 Counties in 1850.  Los Angeles County was much larger during this era, and included Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange Counties between this time and the late 1800’s.  The first Los Angeles County election took place in April 1850 resulting in Benjamin D. Wilson being elected as the first County Clerk, and Ignacio Del Valle as the first County Recorder.  These positions were established a year before the Board of Supervisors.  (Source: Seaver Center for Western Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County).


One means of registering livestock was through cattle brands.  The County Recorder accepted pieces of leather with the brand and earmarks burned into it.  The RR/CC still has some archived cattle brands on leather registered to Whittier Unincorporated area landowners such as Pio Pico and Jose Maria Ramirez from the 1800’s.  Others are in the repository of the Seaver Center for Western History at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. 


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