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Historic West Hills Home Demolished 

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The old ranch house at 7556 Woodlake Avenue in West Hills was demolished this week.

The house was built in 1927 and sat on 2.18 acres, according to Zillow.

The property is currently owned by  William G. Ross and Joy A. Ross as Trustees of the Ross Trust.

For several years members of the West Hills Neighborhood Council attempted to have the site declared a cultural and historic monument, given its age.

Community activist Dan Brin applied to have it designated such, but then-Councilman Mitch Englander “killed it,” according to Brin.

A year ago Brin restarted the process but said that Councilman John Lee also vetoed the measure, agreeing with Englander that property owner rights superseded.

According to the Valley Relics Museum, this is the history of the property, dating back to 1911.

The land was originally purchased by John T Hadley in 1911 from a land syndicate that was established by five of Los Angeles’ most prominent businessmen. One of the owners was Harrison Gray Otis, founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. 

The towns of Owensmouth and Van Nuys were also established by this organization. When Hadley died by 1920, the property went to his wife. She sold the property to Virgil Deaver, a nurseryman. Frank Howard bought the property sometime in 1926. 

The two-story Dutch Colonial Revival Home was built for Frank Stewart Howard, a Buick distributor, in 1927 at the cost of $8,500. Howard founded The Howard Motor Company and had dealerships in Pasadena and Hollywood. He hired J.H. Hillard to build the house, a garage and 14 chicken coops of varying sizes to house exotic birds, and other animals including thoroughbred horses. The largest coop was 108 feet long. 

Unfortunately, Howard was a drinker and during a family argument in which he was choking his wife, his 12 year old son shot him and he died before he reached the hospital. The Howard Estate deeded the property to George Chambers on October 18, 1930.

Chambers and his wife, Mary retired to the ranch until George passed away in 1940. Mary sold the ranch to May Carreaud, who leased it to Grenville Stratton, a Douglas Aircraft executive who was well known for breeding horses, in 1944. Grenville built a guest house and turned the largest chicken coop into a barn.

Grenville W. Stratton purchased the property from Mary in 1947. As the new owner, he changed the name of the property to Circle S Stables to suit the needs of his thriving horse racing and breeding business. Under his ownership, Circle S Ranch became widely recognized as a landmark on the southeast corner of Tenth Street and Santa Ana Avenue, later changed to Saticoy Street and Woodlake Avenue. Under his ownership, the Circle S Ranch made a name for itself in the horse racing industry. 

When his wife passed away, his stepdaughter sued him for half of the estate. In 1954, the cost of the long, drawn out lawsuit and Greenville’s bad health forced him to close the ranch. In 1956 they subdivided the ranch into 207 home site lots and one 3.46-acre lot for the remaining ranch buildings. The 100-foot horse barn was removed from the property and later razed when its new location was subdivided. The original barn was moved to a location on Zelzah but was also demolished to make way for an apartment building. Greenville’s second wife, Janice, sold the remaining property to William & Joy Ross in 1972. In 1990 it was put in a family trust.

According to sources the Ross family has entered into a joint venture to develop the property. Attempts by Valley News Group to reach the owners were unsuccessful.

The speculation is that the parcel will be developed into single-family homes, though a search of  Los Angeles City Planning  records did not turn up any permit requests. 

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