I found a DWP  Collection photo from the 1920s that shows the Van Nuys office of “Wagner-Thoreson Co.” (a realty company) and a nattily attired man standing in front. 

In the background is an estate on a large piece of land. A signpost reads: “Sherman Way” and “Lane St.” The photo had some information underneath which said “Lane St. was later renamed Califa St.” 

Where exactly was this? 

On Google Maps there is not a “5856 Sherman Way.” I thought the signpost might be blocking a number “1” so I inputted “15856 Sherman Way” but that address, in present day Valley Glen, was not at an intersection.  Califa and Sherman Way do not intersect either.

The 1926 San Fernando City Directory listed “Wagner-Thoreson Co.” at 5856 Van Nuys Bl. (at Califa). Not “5856 Sherman Way.”

Then I remembered something. 

Sherman Way was once the route of the Pacific Electric streetcar. The PE snaked its way up through the Cahuenga Pass into North Hollywood, then west down Chandler Blvd. It turned north up Van Nuys Blvd. and then travelled to go west on Sherman Way.

But Chandler Blvd. and Van Nuys Blvd. did not exist in name until 1926. From 1911 until 1926 Chandler, Van Nuys and Sherman Way were all named: South Sherman Way, North Sherman Way and Sherman Way!

On May 25, 1926, the Los Angeles City Council, with some infighting between San Fernando Valley residents, came to a compromise and agreed to partition the Sherman Way family into three distinct names: Chandler, VNB and Sherman Way.  

So the man in the mystery photo is standing on present day Van Nuys Blvd. at Califa, a block south of Oxnard.

Van Nuys Bl. 1930

Pacific Electric service lasted until December 29, 1952. 

Cahuenga Pass 12/29/52
N. Hollywood, CA. 12/29/52
Chandler Bl. 12/29/52

These sad and wondrous Kodachrome photos from the collection of Caesar “CJ” Milch (not the original photographer) show the #5146 car that once ran up through the Cahuenga Pass and into the eastern San Fernando Valley on its last day.

6 thoughts on “Clearing Up a Photo Mystery

  1. Mark, thank you for investigating this. This photo caught my eye when I recently saw it flash by in the PBS Video LA Foodways (22m 04s). (https://www.pbs.org/video/la-foodways-pnsrgh). I’m a Wagner history buff and have been tracing down my family history for years (www.thewagnergroup.org). During your research, did you by chance come across which “Wagner” the sign was centered around?


      1. Well, the sign says “Wagner-Thoreson Co”. So, I assumed it was a combination of two family names – one being Wagner and a the other Family name Thorenson. If that was the case, I was curious if by chance the Wagner name could have been one of my distant relatives – such as John Wagner, Michael Wagner or maybe Otto Wagner. Being a Wagner myself, it caught my eye so, I thought I would investigate this.


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