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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administration Information
  • History of the Del Amo Estate Company
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms
  • Bibliography
  • Related Material
  • Separated Materials

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Del Amo Estate Company Collection,
    Dates: 1908-1978
    Bulk: 1926-1964
    Collection Number: ["Consult repository."]
    Creator: Del Amo Estate Company
    Extent: 119 boxes, [51 linear feet]
    Repository: California State University, Dominguez Hills Archives and Special Collections
    Archives & Special Collection
    University Library, Room G-145
    1000 E. Victoria Street
    Carson, California 90747
    Phone: (310) 243-3013
    URL: http://archives.csudh.edu/
    Abstract: This collection includes ledgers, business and financial papers, correspondence, photographs, maps, prints, newspaper clippings and other materials related to the incorporation, operations, and liquidation of the Del Amo Estate Company. There are also some personal papers of the company’s founder, Gregorio del Amo. The collection shows aspects of land use and development in Southern California, and is particularly interesting in detailing the construction and development of the Del Amo Shopping Center, at one time the largest shopping mall in the world.
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Administration Information


    There are no access restrictions on this collection.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Title of item], Del Amo Estate Company Collection, Courtesy of the Department of Archives and Special Collections. University Library. California State University, Dominguez Hills

    Acquisition Information

    Eugenio Cabrero, former Secretary and Director of the Del Amo Estate Company, donated these materials to California State University, Dominguez Hills, in 1979.

    Processing Information

    In April 1984, records related to the Shopping Center and Board of Directors Meetings were processed as part of the History 350, Archives and Record Management course, under the direction of then-University Archivist Bruce Parham. Daniel Martinez processed Minutes of the Board of Directors and Meetings of the Stockholders and Related Materials Collection and Joyce Loranger processed the Del Amo Shopping Center Collection. These two collections were absorbed into the current collection. The finding aids written by Daniel Martinez and Joyce Loranger were used as reference in the writing of this finding aid.
    Some papers from the Del Amo Estate Company were re-foldered in earlier processing, but many materials remained unprocessed until 2005. Wherever possible, materials have been kept in their original order and original folder titles have been retained.

    Project Information

    This finding aid was created as part of Early Los Angeles/Rancho San Pedro Manuscript Cataloging Project, a CSU Dominguez Hills Library project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The project started in 2005. Project Director was Greg Williams. Project Archivists were Thomas Philo and Jennifer Allan Goldman.

    History of the Del Amo Estate Company

    The Del Amo Estate Company was established 1926 by Susana Delfina Dominguez and her husband, Dr. Gregorio del Amo. As an heir of Manuel Dominguez, Susana inherited property in the Rancho San Pedro, one of the original Spanish land grants, located in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County. While Gregorio helped oversee the property personally for some years, the Del Amo Estate Company was formed as a way to provide management of the land while also giving Gregorio and Susana del Amo the means and time to pursue their philanthropic interests.
    In the early years of personally overseeing the inheritance, Gregorio del Amo focused on leasing small parcels of land to individual farmers. While agricultural leasing would continue for many years, del Amo introduced commercial and industrial land use in the 1920s. In 1921, Dr. del Amo founded the San Pedro Ranch Nursery, which soon began to serve an international clientele. With the discovery of oil on del Amo land, however, petroleum production immediately became central to the Gregorio and Susana del Amo fortune. They signed the first oil lease in 1920, with the Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil Company, and Chanslor-Canfield started producing oil in 1922. In the years leading up to incorporation, the del Amos signed additional leases with Texas Oil, Marland Oil, United Oil, and other companies. While the del Amos overall followed the Dominguez family practice of leasing land rather than selling it outright, on October 5, 1926 they broke tradition by selling 332 acres to the Shell Oil Company, who wanted to build an oil refinery in the area.
    By the time of the refinery sale, the del Amos had already made the decision to incorporate their interests, now totaling $7,000,000 in cash, land holdings, stocks, and other assets. The articles of incorporation for the Del Amo Estate Company were drawn up by prominent Los Angeles attorney Henry O’Melveny, and they were approved by the state of California on October 22, 1926. The del Amos received permission to sell stock in the company on November 13, 1926, and the Del Amo Estate Company opened its offices at 706 Union Bank Building in downtown Los Angeles. To help him run the company, Dr. del Amo turned to two men he had brought to California from his native Spain: the doctor’s nephew, Francisco de la Riva, was made Vice-President, and Eugenio Cabrero was appointed Secretary and Treasurer.
    From its inception, the Del Amo Estate Company had several purposes. In addition to managing the operations associated with the Rancho San Pedro properties, the company existed to support the cultural and philanthropic interests of both Susana and Gregorio del Amo. Susana Dominguez del Amo was a devoted patron of the Catholic Church, and she used some of her wealth to build the Dominguez Memorial Seminary in 1927. This Seminary, built near the Dominguez family adobe, provided classroom and dormitory space for those in the Claretian order, with whom the Dominguez family had a long relationship. When Susana died in 1931, Dr. del Amo maintained the Seminary, including funding repairs when it suffered extensive damage in the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933.
    In addition to his wife’s work on behalf of the Church, Dr. del Amo pursued his own wide-ranging interests. The San Pedro Ranch Nursery reflected his strong love of horticulture, and throughout the 1920s, he hoped it would eventually provide an occupation for his eldest adopted son, Carlos; that was not to be, however, as Carlos died in 1931. In 1937, the nursery, now renamed as the Del Amo Nurseries, was merged into the estate company’s operations. Dr. del Amo's largest undertaking was a plan he hoped would foster greater cultural understanding between the two lands he considered home – California and Spain. The Shell Oil refinery helped fund del Amo’s endowment of the Del Amo Educational Trust, an educational exchange program between Spain and Southern California, and del Amo established the Del Amo Foundation to administer the grants, scholarships, fellowships given by the Foundation.
    As President, Dr. del Amo was involved in major decisions and undertakings of the Del Amo Estate Company; however, from the earliest days of incorporation, he left day-to-day operations largely in the hands of others, including de la Riva, with a series of Executive Vice-Presidents and Directors, and primarily with Eugenio Cabrero, who would remain as Secretary through the company’s entire lifespan.
    Freed from most of the everyday concerns of running the company that bore his name, Dr. del Amo spent much of the remaining decade of his life traveling abroad and also creating a hub for the Spanish population in Los Angeles. He entertained frequently, and maintained ties with Spanish diplomats, politicians, entertainers, and other members of Spanish culture. The del Amo estate at 1119 Westchester Place in Los Angeles became a favorite site for local society as well, and Dr. del Amo often lent use of the house or its gardens to social clubs and organizations for teas and receptions. During World War II, the estate was lent to the Los Angeles chapter of the American Red Cross for use as a production center.
    Throughout the 1930s, the Del Amo Estate Company largely retained the character and size that Gregorio del Amo had given it. With his death in 1941, however, the company began a period of diversification and growth that would change the shape of the company forever. Jaime del Amo, Dr. del Amo’s youngest adopted son, became President of the company, but he lived most of the time abroad, leaving it largely to the Board of Directors and other executives to shape the company’s future. Oil Operations became a discrete department within the company, and assumed even more importance throughout the 1940s and 1950s. While the company continued to lease out property for small enterprises such as farming or the sale of dirt and sand, the Directors began to envision even greater industrial and commercial development as the key to the company’s growth.
    The post-war land boom and the growth of Los Angeles’s freeway system combined to make South Bay cities such as Compton, Torrance, Redondo Beach, and Lynwood accessible and increasingly desirable for residents and businesses. The large tracts of land owned by the Del Amo Estate Company became prime property for development. By the mid- to late-1950s, the Del Amo Estate Company signed leases with developers such as Kaufman & Wilson to build large residential developments, and with companies such as Western Corrugated, Coleman Engineering, and the Hawthorne Medical Building to build large facilities on Del Amo property.
    The capstone of the move to commercial development began with the signing of a tri-party agreement among the Del Amo Estate Company, Sears Roebuck, and Broadway-Hale on March 11, 1957. In this agreement, brokered by Coldwell, Banker, the Del Amo Estate Company agreed to sell parcels of land to Sears and Broadway in a common area, and those two companies would build their own stores. The Del Amo Estate Company would share in landscaping, parking, and easement costs. With those two major stores as flagships, the Estate Company would lease adjoining parcels of land to other retail tenants, thus creating a block of stores that would become the Del Amo Shopping Center.
    The Del Amo Estate Company engaged noted Los Angeles architectural firm of Welton Becket & Associates to design the center, and the official groundbreaking ceremonies took place in December 1957 on Torrance land bounded by Hawthorne Boulevard, Carson Street, Sepulveda Boulevard, and Madrona Avenue. The Sears building opened for business on September 30, 1959, followed by the Broadway and well-known retailers such as Oltmans, J. C. Penney, Thrifty Drug Store, Woolworth’s, and dozens of others. Within a few years the Del Amo Shopping Center was the largest shopping mall in the world.
    In 1961, Jaime del Amo resigned from the Board of Directors to live full-time in Geneva. The remaining and new members of the Board, particularly Jaime’s immediate replacement, Thomas Ford, believed that the trend toward commercial and industrial development in the area would only continue, but that the rising value of the land would place huge tax burdens on the company and drain their reserves of cash. Instead, Ford and the other Directors saw the value of selling off all Del Amo Estate Company lands and liquidating the company. In August, 1963 the Board voted to begin the process of liquidation. According to the Internal Revenue laws of that time, if a company could complete liquidation of all assets within one year of initiating the process, assets could pass directly to the stockholders without tax penalty. The Del Amo Shopping Center was sold to the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company, and by August, 1964, when the company closed its longtime office in the Union Bank Building, the assets of the company had been completely liquidated, with the company realizing a profit of approximately $46,000,000.

    Scope and Content

    The Del Amo Estate Company Collection (1908-1978) comprises business, legal, and financial records related to the Del Amo Estate Company, which was incorporated in 1926 and liquidated in 1964. In addition, there are business and personal papers associated with the founder of the company, Dr. Gregorio del Amo y Gonzalez (known as Gregorio del Amo), his family, and key employees of the Del Amo Estate Company. This collection illustrates the way business evolved in Southern California through much of the twentieth century, and also offers a vivid portrait of cultural life in Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s. Materials in the collection include articles of incorporation, minutes of meetings, ledgers, stock journals, reports, deeds, maps, blueprints, leases, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, financial and business records, tax materials, invoices, and receipts.
    The collection documents the company’s business operations, which were built primarily on leasing its land for three major purposes: agriculture, oil operations, and commercial development. The bulk of agricultural leases in the collection are typically for small plots of land with individual farmers, though there are also leases with ranches, orchards, and other large concerns. Some leases are accompanied by quitclaims and correspondence related to lease renewal or cancellation, easements, rent fees, legal disputes, and sanitation and nuisance complaints. The company leased land to a number of Japanese and Chinese tenants; leases for these tenants are notable for including copies of birth certificates, proofs of citizenship, and other documentation needed for compliance with California’s Alien Land Act. With the advent of World War II, some Del Amo tenants were evacuated to relocation centers. The collection contains correspondence related to evacuation and relocation, including letters sent from relocation camps.
    Oil operations on Del Amo land directly mirror the growth of the petroleum industry in the Los Angeles area. The collection comprises leases, quitclaims, maps, prints, legal papers, and correspondence with a number of major oil producers, including Union Oil of California, Mobil, Texaco, and General Petroleum. There are daily and monthly reports detailing oil production, drilling, and oil settlement on Del Amo wells, but there are gaps in most producer information. There are also representative production and inventory reports submitted to Los Angeles County and the State of California. The most extensive records are with the Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil Company, who signed the first oil lease on Del Amo land in 1920. Correspondence, reports, and legal papers show their entire history with the Del Amo Estate Company, from the earliest negotiations to final operations in 1941, when the companies parted in legal dispute.
    The move to commercial and industrial land development in the 1950s is shown in records related to a number of companies, including Kaufman & Wilson, Western Corrugated, Coleman Engineering, and the Hawthorne Medical Building, all of whom built major developments on Del Amo land. Papers related to the Del Amo Shopping Center are of special interest, showing every facet of development in great detail, from initial plans, negotiations with Sears Roebuck and Broadway-Hale, engaging Welton Becket & Associates to design the buildings and oversee construction, and leases and correspondence with dozens of Shopping Center tenants.
    The collection provides a comprehensive picture of factors going into the decision to liquidate the Del Amo Estate Company in the early 1960s, offering documentation on tax and legal issues, proffers from various suitors, land sales, stock purchases, disbursement of dividends, and shareholder notifications.
    While offering a history of the Del Amo Estate Company, the collection also paints a vivid portrait of its founder, Gregorio del Amo, documenting his travels, cultural interests, and his position in Los Angeles and Spanish culture. There are itineraries for his frequent travels to Europe, as well as letters and telegrams exchanged with company Vice-President Francisco de la Riva or Secretary Eugenio Cabrero regarding Del Amo business. His prominence in the cultures of his two countries is evident in the breadth of his correspondence files, which contain letters from major figures in Los Angeles business, such as oil magnate Edward Doheny (box 66, folder 3) and Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler (box 96, folder 10 and others), and with Spanish diplomats, business figures, and entertainers such as guitarist Andres Segovia (box 101, folder 10). His philanthropic ventures are reflected in projects as large-scale as the construction of the Dominguez Memorial Seminary and its 1933 repair (box 59, folder 1-2), or as small as individual donations to local, national, or international organizations. While some correspondence, especially from the early years of the company, is in del Amo’s own hand, the majority is handwritten or typed by others, particularly Eugenio Cabrero. Roughly two-thirds of this material is written in Spanish. Throughout his life, Gregorio del Amo was plagued by ill health. Health matters are referred to often in del Amo’s own correspondence, but also illustrated through medical and nursing records, and travel records for a 1937 trip to the Mayo Clinic (box 72, folder 1, 4).
    With the closing of the company’s Union Bank Building office in August 1964, the official lifespan of the Del Amo Estate Company ended, though correspondence regarding taxes, liquidation, and the Del Amo Trust (administered largely by Cabrero and others also associated with the Estate Company) continued into the 1970s, and is included in the collection. In 1979, Eugenio Cabrero donated the company records to California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), a university built on land that was formerly part of the Rancho San Pedro.


    Indexing Terms


    Family-owned business enterprises
    Japanese American evacuation and resettlement
    Japanese American farmers--Los Angeles
    Land use--California, Southern
    Oil and gas leases--California, Southern
    Oil fields--Valuation
    Oil inspection
    Oil wells--California--Los Angeles
    Oil wells--Maintenance and repair
    Petroleum industry and trade--California
    Real estate business--California--Los Angeles
    Real estate development--California--Los Angeles
    Real property--Valuation
    Shopping centers
    Shopping malls
    Shopping malls design

    Personal Names

    Del Amo, Gregorio
    Del Amo, Jaime
    Cabrero, Eugenio

    Corporate Names

    Chanslor-Western Oil & Development Company
    Claretian Missionaries
    Del Amo Foundation
    Del Amo Estate Company
    Del Amo Nurseries
    O'Melveny & Myers
    San Pedro Ranch Nursery
    Shell Oil Company
    Standard Oil Company of California
    Union Oil Company of California
    Welton Becket and Associates

    Geographic Terms

    Compton (Calif.)
    Long Beach (Calif.)
    Los Angeles (Calif.)--History
    Redondo Beach (Calif.)
    Torrance (Calif.)

    Genres and Forms of Materials

    Photographs, original
    Photographic prints


    The following works were used in the creation of this finding aid:
    Gillingham, Robert Cameron, The Rancho San Pedro: the story of a famous Rancho in Los Angeles County and of its owners the Dominguez family . Los Angeles: Cole-Holmquist, 1961.
    Grenier, Judson, California legacy : the James Alexander Watson—Maria Dolores Dominguez de Watson family 1820-1980 . Los Angeles: Watson Land Company, 1987.

    Related Material

    The following related collections are located in Archives & Special Collections, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH).
    1. Del Amo Foundation Collection
    2. Del Amo Nursery Collection
    3. Rancho San Pedro Collection

    Separated Materials

    During the 2005-2006 processing, duplicate, redundant, or nonessential materials were removed from the collection, along with items not directly related to the Del Amo Estate Company. Newspaper clippings were photocopied and discarded.