Indians, explorers, squatters, and bandits are all part of Calabasas history. Settlements of Chumash Indians named the area Calabasas, a word descended from the Indian word for “where wild geese fly”. Others think Calabasas comes from the Spanish word for wild gourd or pumpkin.
In the early 1900’s the Monte Nido area of Calabasas became popular as a weekend respite from the city. People would visit Seminole Hot Springs or Crater Camp. The latter, on over 400 acres, opened in 1914 as a year round camp picnic ground. It was an extremely rugged background with many oaks and heavy underbrush. Plentiful waterfalls had kept streams running for trout fishing. There are still reminders of the camp today on the site of Malibu Meadows.
Malibu Creek State Park was a favorite spot during the early Hollywood days for filming. Movie producers found the scenery ideal for many Hollywood films such as ‘Tarzan’, ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’, ‘Stalag 17’, and ‘How Green Was My Valley’ just to name a few.
The first subdivision in Calabasas, called Park Moderne (the bird streets) was a retreat for artists, craftsmen, and writers. It was built on land traded off as a part of Sam Cooper Jr.’s homestead in 1928.
The first Calabasas School was built in 1880 on the south side of Calabasas Road. A second school built on the same site in 1924-25, was a 1-teacher school for the area until 1948, when it joined with Liberty, Cornell and Las Virgenes to form the Las Virgenes Unified School District. The former Pelican’s Retreat retains a small portion of the second school building.
Lack of water in the Calabasas area was always a major concern. With the founding of the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in 1958, a water supply was assured, and the area began its development boom.
Information on the history of Calabasas area is available at the Kathleen Beachy Memorial Library at Pierce College. Established and maintained by the Calabasas Historical Society, the library is available to researchers.
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