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Down home in Burbank

June 08, 2002

Ryan Carter, Molly Shore and Laura Sturza

BURBANK -- Other cities have kept busy becoming incorporated or

changing from agricultural to industrial economies. Burbank might have

been unremarkably similar to them, if not for the influx of movie

studios, Lockheed Corp. and an airport.

Those events, along with hundreds of others, changed the city from a

rural expanse and made Burbank what it is today -- a city not without

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flaws, but also a place where residents say they feel like part of a

small-town community. That's no small feat in a city of 100,000,

surrounded by one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.

DEFINING MOMENTS

David Burbank, a dentist from New Hampshire, arrived in Los Angeles in

1867 and bought land that he used to raise sheep. He sold his land to the

Providencia Land, Water and Development Company, which created the town

of Burbank when it started selling properties in 1887. The ranch house

that Burbank built later became a Warner Bros. backlot.

In the early 1900s, Burbank was a village amid farms, orchards and

wineries. It became the first incorporated city in the San Fernando

Valley in 1911, ushering in a board of trustees that would become the

City Council.

"The first group were business people who had the interest of the city

progressing," Burbank Historical Society co-founder Mary Jane Strickland

said. "They targeted water, electricity ... things that meant a lot to

people. They were quite progressive."

By the early 1930s, most of the peach and apricot orchards were gone,

with farms disappearing later that decade.

"They fell into development -- it was very gradual," said Strickland,

77.

While the city lost its agricultural and farming economy, the movie

and aviation fields quickly filled the void. At times, the two industries

collaborated.

"They worked together a lot, when they were making movies out there

[at the airport]," said Les Copeland, president of the

soon-to-be-reopened Burbank Aviation Museum.

From stunt-flying shots filmed at the airport to movie stars flying in

and out of Burbank, the two industries have worked in tandem.

The studios first crossed over the hill from Hollywood in 1926, when

First National Pictures set up shop in Burbank to make Westerns.

"So many of the location scenes were shot out here anyway because it

was so rural," Strickland said.

First National Pictures was purchased by Warner Bros. in 1929, leading

the way for NBC, Walt Disney Productions and scores of pre- and

post-production houses.

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