Bell Canyon History
Originally home to the Chumash Indians, Bell Canyon is rich in Native-American history that reaches back 2,00 years. As the first inhabitants of this area, the Chumash had their choice of the best spots on which to live and one of them was Bell Canyon. The Chumash called the jagged sandstone pinnacles that guard the entrance to Bell Canyon “Cwaya Cuqele,” which means “the feather banner is waving. Today, those pinnacles are known as Castle Peak. Each year, during the Winter Solstice, Chumash from all over Southern California would converge on Cwaya Cuqele on December 21st, because on the shortest day of the year, the sun sets directly above the sandstone peak. The Chumash, who were accomplished astronomers, created an observatory in a cave near Bell Creek, where they would mark the progress of the sun.
In 1850 Miguel Leonis, of the historic Leonis Adobe in Calabasas, took Espiritu, the daughter of a Chumash chief, as his wife and moved to the base of Castle Peak. When Leonis died, he left only a small portion of his estate to Espiritu, who retained lawyer Horace Bell to acquire the whole of the estate. As payment for legal services rendered, Espiritu gave Bell some of the land. Bell’s son Charlie, also a lawyer and Calabasas Justice of the Peace in 1906, later built his home there.
In the late 1960s, the land, then a 1,700-acre cattle ranch, was purchased by Spruce Land and Boise Cascade, subdivided and named Woodland Hills Country Estates. One year later, the new subdivision of Bell Canyon went on the market and almost all of the 700 lots sold during the first weekend. The new property owners honored Charles Bell by renaming the area Bell Canyon in 1969. In a nod to the Old West, and to emphasize the equestrian atmosphere of the community, roads were given names like Mustang, Silver-spur, Stagecoach and Corral.
Today, this rich heritage is reflected in Bell Canyon’s natural beauty, architectural styles and community amenities.