Shade trees of Woodland Hills

Residents south of Ventura Boulevard and east of Topanga Canyon enjoy some of the shadiest streets in the Valley. They can thank a land huckster named Victor Girard, who had the trees planted in the 1920s in a desperate bid to lure buyers to his real estate scheme.

Girard named the community after himself and placed ads all over Los Angeles hoping to beckon families to the far west end of the Valley. It was a tough sell. Prospects would have to drive past countless other real estate come-ons along winding Ventura Boulevard and cross the Chalk Hills to reach Girard. What they’d find was bare grassland. There were no trees to block the summer sun or blowing dust.

Girard started a country club, a stable and a newspaper and erected a Moorish-style headquarters at Topanga and Ventura to help sell his lots and weekend cottages. But his best move was planting groves of eucalyptus, cypress, acacias, peppers, Monterey pines — 120,000 in all.

The Depression and reports of double-selling the same parcels doomed the Girard dream. He left, followed by most of the residents. A few of the old Girard cottages remain, but his enduring legacy is the trees, now nicely mature.