The History of Lake Sherwood

Lake Sherwood as seen from the  Sandstone Peak trail  in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Lake Sherwood as seen from the Sandstone Peak trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Lake Sherwood is an unincorporated community of about 1,500 residents in Ventura County overlooking the Lake Sherwood reservoir. It is south of Thousand Oaks and west of Westlake Village, off of Potrero Road,  accessible via Westlake Boulevard on the east and Wendy Drive and Reino Road in Newbury Park on the west.

For centuries, the Conejo Valley was inhabited by the Chumash. The Spanish came into the picture in the late 18th century and, when passing through what is now Hidden Valley, named the area the Potrero Valley.

The Potrero Valley was part of the original 48,761 acres constituting Rancho El Conejo. After California became the 31st state in 1850, a land commission was appointed to determine who owned land grants in the area.

Rancho El Conejo was sold in 1872 to John Edwards and Howard Mills. Mills received 22,240 acres that included the Potrero Valley in 1874. Mills sold the southeastern 8,476 acres to Joseph and Isabell McLaren Howard in 1875.

Photo of the Howard Ranch in the 1880s. The Howard residence was near where Triunfo Park is today in Westlake Village. (Courtesy of Conejo Through the Lens Collection; Thousand Oaks Library Special Collections.)

Photo of the Howard Ranch in the 1880s. The Howard residence was near where Triunfo Park is today in Westlake Village. (Courtesy of Conejo Through the Lens Collection; Thousand Oaks Library Special Collections.)

In 1888, the Howards sold the land to the Banning Company of Long Beach. In 1896, W. H. Matthiessen bought the Potrero Ranch from Banning. Then in 1904, Matthiessen built a 45 foot dam (originally called Alturas Dam) that created Potrero Lake (also referred to as Lake Matthiessen). Total capacity of the 156 acre lake, which today is called Lake Sherwood, is 877 million gallons of water.

In the early 1920s, the area around the lake was transformed into Sherwood Forest for the filming of Robin Hood, featuring Douglas Fairbanks. And of course that's where the name Lake Sherwood originated.

Meanwhile, W. H.'s son F. W. "Christy" Matthiessen married Elsie Mack in 1917. The couple made plans to develop the surrounding area as the Las Turas Lake Club in the 1920s. Except...they divorced in 1925, with Elsie receiving the portion of the ranch with the lake.

Elsie remarried. Her new husband's name was James Canterbury and briefly the lake became Lake Canterbury. After the stock market crash of 1929, the Canterburys sold the property to William Randolph Hearst. Hearst allowed the property to be used for filming of many films, including the 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood.

In 1963, Dayton Realty purchased the lake and surrounding property. Dayton wanted to rezone the land to develop nearly 1,400 homes and commercial properties. This plan was fought off by local residents and rejected by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

From late 1983 to summer 1984, Dayton drained the lake, indicating that it needed to test the dam...which never happened...then never refilled the lake, leaving thousands of fish stranded and left to die in the mud. (Photo of draining of lake in January 1984)

Lake Sherwood was made available to the public after the depression of the 1930s until the lake was emptied in 1984.

A view of Lake Sherwood from the north off of Lake Sherwood Drive.

A view of Lake Sherwood from the north off of Lake Sherwood Drive.

In 1985, billionaire businessman David Murdock bought the dry Lake Sherwood lake bed and surrounding property.  His Ventura Farms and Lake Sherwood Ranch are on the old F. W. Matthiessen property in Hidden Valley.

In 1986, heavy rains filled Lake Sherwood back up, though it would take many years for the lake to regain the wildlife it lost after it was emptied.

Murdock developed the community with over 650 homes in three gated neighborhoods along with the Sherwood Country Club and Sherwood Lake Club. The lake is now privately owned and is not open to the general public. 

Hillside Letters in the Conejo Valley and Greater Ventura County

There are over 500 hillside letters, or “mountain monograms,” in the United States, including 81 in California. What are hillside letters, you ask. They are simply large single letters, abbreviations and sometimes even messages erected on a hillside, usually by a school or town.

The Big “C” overlooking UC Berkeley (From Wikipedia; public domain)

The Big “C” overlooking UC Berkeley (From Wikipedia; public domain)

One well known hillside letter is a giant concrete block letter “C” built in the hills overlooking UC Berkeley that was constructed on March 23, 1905.

We have our share of hillside letters here in the Conejo Valley and Greater Ventura County, some of which you may be aware of…others, perhaps not.

The mountain monograms visible in our neck of the wood include:

The letters CLU on Mt. Clef Ridge above Cal Lutheran University are maintained by students.

Hilltop A overlooking Agoura High School up a steep hill. Made out of wood, I believe.

Here is a view of the letter VC north of Ventura College in late April 2019.

Here is a view of the letter VC north of Ventura College in late April 2019.

If you drive north up Catalina Street, west of Ventura High School, you will be able to see this letter V on the hillside.

The letter F is located in the hills west of Fillmore and is quite easy to see.

This letters SP letters in the hills south of Santa Paula is cleared brush. They originated originated in 1922. More information on THIS PAGE.

Happy Face Hill in Simi Valley is not a mountain monogram but is perhaps the visible hillside attraction throughout Ventura County.

Over 25 Things to Do in Agoura Hills

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The City of Agoura Hills incorporated in 1982 and is part of Los Angeles County. But we consider Agoura to be part of our family, consisting of Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Westlake Village, Oak Park and other communities that form the Conejo Valley.

Agoura Hills has an area of 7.86 square miles, with a population just under 21,000. It became the 83rd city in Los Angeles County when residents voted to incorporate, just one year after neighboring city Westlake Village incorporated.

Here is a compilation of things to do in the City of Agoura Hills.

Trails and Hiking

A "must do" in the Agoura Hills area is the hike to the old M*A*S*H TV series set in Malibu Creek State Park.

A "must do" in the Agoura Hills area is the hike to the old M*A*S*H TV series set in Malibu Creek State Park.

Kids

Fitness Related

Ah yes, comic relief courtesy of Caltrans signmakers in 2013 when a new Agoura Hills sign on the 101 was put up   filled with typos  . It was subsequently   corrected  .

Ah yes, comic relief courtesy of Caltrans signmakers in 2013 when a new Agoura Hills sign on the 101 was put up filled with typos. It was subsequently corrected.

Other Entertainment, Things to Do and Annual Events

The old Agoura sign on Agoura Road at Lewis Road.

The old Agoura sign on Agoura Road at Lewis Road.

Closed: Troutdale was a local fishing pond for those looking for the experience of fishing but without the hassle of driving far! Located just off of Kanan Road, near Triunfo Canyon. It appears to be closed as of summer 2018.

Northbound PCH Just South of Mugu Rock: 1950 and 2019

Mugu Rock came into existence in 1940 when a 200 foot cut was made into the mountain. Today it is an iconic scene that is often seen in auto commercials.

Taken on July 2, 1950, this is a view of Mugu Rock from the shoulder of northbound Pacific Coast Highway (SR 1). From a private collection. And below it is the same view, remarkably similar, 69 years later, on April 20, 2019. Thankfully, some things never change.

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Hillside Letters "SP" on South Mountain in Santa Paula

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When driving southbound in Santa Paula, look up towards the mountain south of the city (aptly named South Mountain) and you’ll see the letters SP boldly emblazoned high up on the hill that overlooks the Santa Paula Airport.

According to the Santa Paula Times, the letters are 125 feet long and 25 feet wide and originated in the 1922 time frame when a group of high schoolers made the trek up the mountain to carve the letters.

The brush was cleared annually over the years until the 1970s; for decades thereafter, the brush overgrew the letters and made them difficult to see.

Then, as part of the city’s centennial celebration in 2002, the Times noted that Limoneira Co. and other volunteers and donors worked to clean up the letters for all to see.

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Santa Paula is not alone in its mountain monogram. Other local area cities with monograms include Agoura Hills (there’s a letter A in the hill north of Agoura High School), the letters CLU emblazoned on the hill overlooking Cal Lutheran University, the letter F in the hills east of Fillmore, the letter V in the hills above Ventura High School and the letters VC in the hills above Ventura College.

Of course, the most prominent icon landscaped into a hill in Ventura County is Happy Face Hill seen by westbound drivers on the 118 near Kuehner Drive.

Happy Face Hill in Simi Valley - sure to bring a smile to your face.

Happy Face Hill in Simi Valley - sure to bring a smile to your face.

Tell Me a Little Bit About Newbury Park

Newbury Park is a community located in the western portion of Thousand Oaks. It became part of Thousand Oaks by community vote sometime in the 1960s and 1970s. Thousand Oaks became a city in October 1964.

A view of Newbury Park from Boney Peak in March 2015.

A view of Newbury Park from Boney Peak in March 2015.

Egbert Starr Newbury (Photo Courtesy Conejo Valley Historical Society)

Egbert Starr Newbury (Photo Courtesy Conejo Valley Historical Society)

Newbury Park is named after Egbert Starr Newbury, who owned thousands of acres of land in the Conejo Valley after moving to California from Michigan for health reasons in 1871.  Newbury was one of the three largest Conejo Valley landowners of his time. He and his wife Fannie became the first postmasters in the Conejo Valley in 1875.  The post office was located in a small compound near their house, which was located at the current location of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza

The other major landowners at that time were John Edwards, who owned much of the current Newbury Park/Thousand Oaks area north of the 101, and Howard Mills, who owned much of what today is Westlake Village and Hidden Valley.

Edwards sold 10,000 acres of what is now central Thousand Oaks to Edwin and Harold Janss in 1893.  The Janss Corporation also bought thousands of acres of land in Newbury Park (Friedrich, Running Springs and Borchard Ranches) in 1962.  Apparently there was an effort to incorporate Newbury Park as a city in 1963 but it failed when it lacked sufficient votes.

Over a 30 month period beginning in the Fall of 1876, only 6 inches of rain fell in the Conejo Valley.  This drought brought devastation to landowners, most of whom lost their crops and livestock and had to sell at a loss or went bankrupt.  The Newburys were no exception; they moved back to the midwest in 1877.  Egbert fell ill to pneumonia in 1880 and passed away at the young age of 36.

The Newburys lived here only six years, so why is it still called Newbury Park? Because the name of the Newburys' post office never changed! The Newbury Park Post Office has changed locations a number of times (including 1602 Newbury Road from May 1968 until it moved to its current location at 3401 Grande Vista Drive in 2013). So the Newbury name and legacy live on here in the Conejo Valley.

Horse tied to a sign indicating the Newbury Park Post Office, in 1909. The location was near modern-day Lynn Ranch. (Courtesy of the Thousand Oaks Library Local History Photo Collection).

Horse tied to a sign indicating the Newbury Park Post Office, in 1909. The location was near modern-day Lynn Ranch. (Courtesy of the Thousand Oaks Library Local History Photo Collection).

Sources: "The Conejo Valley - Old and New Frontiers" by Carol A. Bidwell and "The Newburys of Newbury Park" by Miriam Sprankling

But wait...there's more to Newbury Park! Casa Conejo is also part of the Newbury Park community but is not an incorporated part of Thousand Oaks. It is considered a census-designated place in Ventura County, with its own Municipal Advisory Council. Casa Conejo is the first planned community in Newbury Park and was built in the early 1960s. It is has an area of .5 square mile and is bound by Borchard to the South, Old Conejo Road to the North, Jenny Drive (East of Newbury Park High School) to the West and Sequoia Middle School to the East.

Interested in historical pictures of the area going back to the 1950s?  Click here to read about the work of prolific Conejo Valley photographer, Ed Lawrence. 

Click here for a history of Thousand Oaks.  Thousand Oaks is over 56 square miles and Newbury Park represents about 40% of that square footage.

Three dozen or so things to do in Newbury Park

Another three dozen or so kids' activities in Newbury Park

Yet another three dozen or so sports and fitness activities in Newbury Park

Ventura County Area Listings in the National Register of Historic Places

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The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America's historic and archaeological resources.

There are over 80,000 listings in the National Register in five general categories: building, structure, site, district and object.

To be considered eligible for the Register, a property must meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. This involves examining the property’s age (generally at least 50 years old), integrity and significance.

To learn more about the National Register of Historic Places and to search its database, visit www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/index.htm.

Now let's highlight Ventura County area properties listed in the Register as of September 2017. Most of these you can visit (links provided where applicable):

Other nearby historic places: