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This collection contains legal and business papers related to the Rancho San Pedro and to its owners, the Dominguez family. The Spanish crown gave the Southern California lands of the Rancho San Pedro to Juan Jose Dominguez in 1784, and in 1858 the United States government granted a patent confirming Dominguez family ownership of the Rancho. A few items predate the 1858 patent, but the bulk of the collection is from 1880-1960. Some materials concern the Rancho San Pedro itself, including partitions of land among family members, farming, oil and water development, and legal issues with neighboring cities, including Los Angeles and Long Beach. Much of the collection comprises records of the business, water, and real estate companies established by Dominguez heirs in and around the Los Angeles area.
The materials in the Rancho San Pedro Collection document the history and development of the Rancho San Pedro, one of the original Spanish California land grants. Juan Jose Dominguez, a soldier in the King’s army, received the Southern California land grant in 1784, largely as a reward for his years of service in California. Unlike many original owners of Spanish grants, Dominguez and his heirs managed to retain ownership of the Rancho San Pedro through the decades as California moved from Spanish to Mexican to United States rule. Of over seventy Spanish and Mexican land grants, the Rancho San Pedro was the first to be granted a clear patent by the United States government.The Rancho San Pedro Collection contains records documenting a number of Dominguez family-related companies. While they existed in the context of the Rancho San Pedro, and they were inextricably bound to each other, they were also nonetheless organized as separate entities. A brief history of each follows:The will of Ana Josefa Juliana Dominguez de Guyer divided her estate among her sisters. The sisters decided to form a corporation that would manage the de Guyer estate, with each sister receiving equal shares. The Dominguez Estate Company was incorporated in 1910. Dominguez daughter Marcelina also donated her share of Rancho holdings to the Dominguez Estate Company a year before her death in 1913. Headed by Henry O’Melveny, the Dominguez Estate Company became the largest and most diverse of the family-related companies, dealing in oil production, land and water management, real estate, and stock and bond investment. Operations on the Rancho San Pedro lands remained of paramount importance, and the Dominguez Estate Company managed leases to farmers, and also negotiated with officials, municipalities, and companies in matters regarding easements, rights of way, and land purchases.The Dominguez Estate Company (along with the Dominguez Water Company) was initially headquartered in the Title Insurance Building in downtown Los Angeles. In 1929, the company purchased property at 5410 Wilshire Boulevard, in the booming Los Angeles business district known as the Miracle Mile. The Dominguez-Wilshire Company was incorporated that year to oversee construction of the Dominguez-Wilshire Building, and then to manage the building and rent office and retail space. The Dominguez Wilshire Company was dissolved in 1936, with the Dominguez Estate Company taking over the management of the building and tenancy. In 1944, the company was reincorporated as the Dominguez-Wilshire Corporation. It resumed management of the building, and stayed in existence until 1958, when it voluntarily dissolved, and its assets transferred to the Dominguez Estate Company.While the Dominguez-Wilshire Company was established to manage rentals at the Dominguez-Wilshire Building, the Wilshire-New Hampshire Company was incorporated in 1948 to develop and manage other properties, particularly an office building in the 600 block of New Hampshire Avenue in Los Angeles. The directors included Dominguez family members H. H. Cotton, H. H. Jarrett, and Edward A. Carson. The Wilshire-New Hampshire Company was in existence for three years; in 1951 it was voluntarily dissolved, and its assets absorbed into the Dominguez Estate Company.When water engineer William Mulholland determined that there were extensive water reservoirs under Rancho lands, the Dominguez Water Company was established in 1911 as a means to distribute water to all parts of the Rancho. Headed by lawyer Henry O’Melveny, the company also supplied the water needs of the nearby town of Compton. While never profitable, the Dominguez Water Company remained in operation until 1936, when the Dominguez Estate Company bought it out, then reincorporated it in 1937 as the Dominguez Water Corporation. In 1940, the Dominguez Water Corporation became a public utility, eventually moved its headquarters to Long Beach, and began to greatly expand service.The Carson Estate Company was informally established in 1901 following the death of George Carson, then formally incorporated in 1914, with Victoria de Carson as President and her children as directors (along with son-in-law H. H. Cotton, who was elected secretary). The Company initially intended to raise money through the leasing and sale of land, but with the discovery of oil on Rancho property, the articles of incorporation were amended in 1924 to permit oil drilling on the Carson property. Farming, land management, and oil production would continue to be the primary concerns of the Carson Estate Company.The Francis Land Company was incorporated in 1928 to help manage the Rancho San Pedro holdings of Maria de los Reyes Dominguez de Francis. De Francis was widowed and had no children of her own, and she wished to distribute her wealth to members of the extended family without imposing heavy tax burdens. Her lawyer and confidant, Henry O’Melveny, organized the company to have close and complex ties with the other family-related companies, particularly the Dominguez Estate Company, the Carson Land Company, and the Watson Land Company. Following de Francis’s death, the assets of the Francis Land Company, largely held by the Carson Land and Watson Land companies, were transferred to the Dominguez Estate Company. The complexity of the issues surrounding both the de Francis Estate and the Francis Land Company made resolution problematic, and it would take years of legal maneuvering before both were settled. The Francis Land Company continued to exist as a subsidiary of the Dominguez Estate Company until 1944, when it was dissolved, though all assets were not liquidated until 1951.While the Francis Land Company accounted for the bulk of the de Francis estate, Mrs. de Francis retained ownership of nearly $3.5 million worth of municipal bonds. In 1932, O’Melveny incorporated another company, the Reyes-Dominguez Company, to manage these assets, largely through the purchase and sale of bonds and securities. In 1936, the Reyes-Dominguez Estate Company began the process of liquidating its assets; like the Francis Land Company, however, it was several years before all of these assets could be transferred to the Dominguez Estate Company.The Watson Estate Company was incorporated in 1912 to help protect the interests of Dolores Simona Dominguez de Watson. While the Watson Estate Company made a steady, albeit relatively small, income from leasing land, it broke with other Rancho-based companies in regularly selling off small pieces of property. The company was reincorporated as the Watson Land Company in 1927, largely as a way to have lands assessed according to richer 1920s valuations, rather than the 1913 valuation that had been used. Under reincorporation, land sales and leases gave the Watson Land Company a sounder financial foundation. As with other Rancho-based concerns, the Watson Land Company realized profits from sales and leases to oil companies; throughout its history, though, the directors of the Watson Land Company focused on the agricultural and industrial development of the land. The success of this practice grew throughout the century, and the Watson Land Company remains one of the most successful in Southern California.Following the death of Dolores Watson Jarrett, her husband H. H. Jarrett managed their sons’ estate until they reached legal adulthood. The estate held Dominguez and Watson stock, and in 1937 Jarrett created the Jarrett Estate Company as a way to invest the profits, primarily in real estate. In 1937, the name of the company was changed to Ramona Properties. In 1939-1940, Ramona Properties purchased lots from the Francis Land Company in what was to become Cheviot Knolls, one of the first major Los Angeles subdivisions.In 1939, H. H. Cotton and H. H. Jarrett headed a syndicate formed to purchase property known as the Arnaz Tract from the Marblehead Land Company, owned by Malibu heir and Los Angeles benefactress Rhoda Rindge Adamson. In April, 1939, the syndicate incorporated as the Beverly-Arnaz Land Company, with Cotton as President and Jarrett as Director. Also on the board was noted Los Angeles developer Walter H. Leimert. By 1940, the Arnaz Tract was being developed as Beverlywood, a subdivision located near Beverly Hills and what is now Century City in the Los Angeles area. The company was voluntarily dissolved in 1946 and its assets liquidated.The Valencia Spanish Tile Corporation, a manufacturer of ceramic tiles, operated out of Culver City, located near Los Angeles. Several members of the Carson family owned stock in the corporation from the 1920s, and in 1937 Lucy Carson Rasmussen, David Carson, and H. H. Cotton gained control of the company as principal shareholders. They were only nominally directors, retaining former owner Charles Bausback as manager. While not actively seeking out new business, the corporation continued to serve a number of clients for several years.
301 boxes, [155 linear ft.]
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