Toluca Lake is a district in the San Fernando Valley region of the city of Los Angeles, California, 12 miles (19 km) north of downtown Los Angeles. Toluca Lake started out as farmland but today is home to affluent residents.
The area’s historic boundaries are Cahuenga Boulevard, Camarillo Street, Clybourn Avenue, and the Los Angeles River, and it is located between two major film and television production studios, Universal Studios to the south and Warner Bros. to the east. The Santa Monica Mountains surround the area.
A 6-acre (24,000 m2) body of water called Toluca Lake is located near the district’s southeastern boundaries; water originally came from springs, but currently wells at the lake’s edges maintain the water level. The bottom of the lake is surfaced with four inches (102 mm) of asphalt concrete to halt water seepage Owned by the surrounding homeowners, the lake has been maintained by the the Toluca Lake Property Owners Association, a non-profit corporation established in 1934. Surrounded by a gated community of private residences and the Lakeside Golf Club, the lake is essentially inaccessible to the general public.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Times’s “Mapping L.A.” project supplied these Toluca Lake neighborhood statistics: population: 7,782; median household income: $73,111.
In 1893, a petition was filed with the U.S. Postal Service for the area's first post office, to be named "Toluca Post Office." General Charles Forman, a wealthy local landowner and one of the proponents of the petition, later stated that he had chosen the name "Toluca" from a Paiute Indian word meaning "fertile" or "beautiful" valley. Though part of a larger area traditionally called "Lankershim" after a Colonel of the same name — and with a Southern Pacific Railroad train station named "Lankershim" also opened in 1893 across from the post office — Forman called his own ranch and the surrounding land "Toluca."
One of the wealthiest men in Nevada, Forman had made his fortune from nothing, starting in mining, then cattle ranching, and then lumber. Falling in love with and marrying Los Angeles native Mary Agnes Gray, he soon moved to the area in the late 1880s and started the Kern River Company, a power company which delivered electricity from generators at the Kern River to Los Angeles. He also bought a large parcel of rich farm land, which included much of modern day Toluca Lake and at least the western portion of the "ancient and historical" marshy pond now called Toluca Lake. By 1923, the Forman Toluca Lake Ranch was a flourishing producer of peaches, apples and walnuts That year, investors bought and developed the land as "Toluca Lake Park." This initial venture failed, but a new group soon took over, renaming the development company "The Toluca Lake Company." With a "vision of creating a first 'bedroom community' for Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley," the company formally changed the name of the community to simply Toluca Lake, and adopted as their logo the "swan on rippled water" image still associated with the community today.
The name Lankershim also was considered for the town. Colonel J. B. Lankershim established the town site of Toluca at the eastern edge of the family's vast holdings in 1888. During the late 1890s, the town name Lankershim had replaced Toluca. By 1927, the lure of Hollywood inspired local merchants to launch a campaign to change the community's name to North Hollywood. The original town site of Toluca is now part of Toluca Lake.
Aviator Amelia Earhart lived in Toluca Lake on Valley Spring Lane after marrying flamboyant publishing magnate George Palmer Putnam in 1931. The Spanish colonial-style home, which still exists today, features a front-yard tree under which she signed her round-the-world flight plan. She made her home in Toluca Lake because the best aircraft in the world were being designed and built nearby at the Lockheed plant in Burbank. Entertainer Bob Hope moved to Toluca Lake in the late 1930s and lived there until his death in 2003 at the age of 100. In 1945, Frank Sinatra and his family moved into a house in Toluca Lake and spent weekends at their Lone Palm Hotel in Palm Springs. The house was located down the street from where Earhart had lived. Former actor and 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan had his wedding reception with second wife Nancy Reagan at the Toluca Lake home of actor (and best man) William Holden on March 4, 1952.
Toluca Lake homeowner groups have recently begun mobilizing against a proposed development in North Hollywood by NBC-Universal and Thomas Properties Group. The Metro Studio Project involves upwards of 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of space and would house employees leaving NBC's Burbank facility. The project also proposes a Times Square-style supergraphics and digital illuminated billboards. It would be built partly on land for which NBC Universal has a lease agreement from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Given the current recession, there have been signs the project may be delayed indefinitely. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has yet to act on the proposal, and Environmental Impact Reports are not finalized.
The Bob's Big Boy Restaurant of Burbank (est. 1949), the oldest such restaurant in America and a California Point of Historical Interest, is located just beyond the boundary of Toluca Lake and is often misidentified as being located there. Toluca Lake was also home to the first IHOP restaurant in 1958, though it is no longer located there.
The local Catholic church, Saint Charles Borromeo, is attended by various celebrities and has played host to several celebrity weddings and funerals, including the funerals of Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Choir director Paul Salamunovich was the former director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Several condominium and apartment complexes are located in Toluca Lake, along Riverside Drive and Moorpark Way. The first condominium complex to be built there is at 10470 Riverside Drive, erected in 1974.