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Little Rancho Santa Ana

Granted to:  Hugo Perfecto Reid in 1841 by Governor Juan B. Alvarado

Size:  13,314 acres

Location:  Los Angeles County

There is no record of a saint named Anita.  Anita means Little Anne or Annie, and neither are those names in the list of saints' names.   The name of Rancho Santa Anita may have come from Rancho Santa Ana.  Rancho Santa Ana was the name of several land grants in the Los Angeles area, including the large Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana granted to Antonio Yorba in 1809, which became the town of Santa Ana.  Thus, Rancho Santa Anita may have meant  Little Rancho Santa Ana.


Mission San Gabriel, the fourth of the Spanish missions in California, was established in 1771 about ten miles east of what is now central Los Angeles.  This mission had many acres of land in crops (wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils) as well as vineyards and fruit orchards.  They also had grazing land for over 20,000 head of cattle.  Until 1834, when the mission lands were taken away from the Catholic Church, thousands of acres in what is now east Los Angeles County were used by the mission for its farms.


Hugo Perfecto Reid was a Scotchman who came to California on a merchant ship in the mid-1830s.  When his ship put in at San Pedro harbor, he made a visit to the pueblo (town) of Los Angeles.  There he made friends with a shopkeeper, Abel Stearns.

Reid was evidently pleased with California and the little town of Los Angeles, because a few years later he came back and opened a store himself.  The story of his interest in California is a romantic one.

One of his customers at the store was Doņa Eulalia, the former housekeeper for the padres at Mission San Gabriel.  Now that the mission was closed, Doņa Eulalia had been given a rancho.  An Indian servant who worked for Doņa Eulalia often came with her to shop at Hugo Reid's store. 

The Indian woman's name was Victoria.  She was the daughter of a Gabrieleno chief.  Reid thought she was beautiful, and looked forward to her visits to the store.  Later, when he learned that Victoria was married and had three children, Hugo Reid was sad.  He left California, thinking he would never return.

Just a year later, however, Reid received a letter from his friend, Abel Stearns, telling him that Victoria's husband had died.  Reid came back to California.  The next year he and Victoria were married.


Victoria was the owner of a small piece of land near the old Mission San Gabriel.  She called it Uva Espina, meaning "gooseberry," for the gooseberries which grew wild there.  By marrying Victoria, Hugo Reid became the owner of this land.  He built a house for Victoria and the children there. 

But Hugo wanted a bigger place.  In 1839 he had Victoria petition for a land grant. 

Mexican Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado granted 13,319 acres to Victoria in recognition of the services that she had given to Mission San Gabriel.  Hugo Reid was recorded as the owner of the land in 1841.  The land granted was just east of Mission San Gabriel, in the area of the present-day cities of Arcadia and Sierra Madre.


Hugo and Victoria named their new place Rancho Santa Anita.  Even before the grant was final, Hugo built an adobe ranch house for the family.  The house overlooked a little lake, with steps leading down to a boat dock.  The children could ride in the boat that was kept there, and could catch fish in the lake. 

Hugo planted fruit orchards and vineyards on his rancho.  But he soon found that he did not like to spend all his time overseeing the affairs of the rancho.  He wanted to travel again.  There were many months when Hugo was off to some other country and Victoria was alone on the rancho.     

During one of his times at home, Hugo decided to sell Rancho Santa Anita.  He and Victoria moved back to little Uva Espina.  Hugo continued to be restless.  He tried his hand in the gold fields in 1849, but was not successful.  When California joined the United States, he served in the state's first Constitutional Convention.


It was 1847 when Hugo Reid sold Rancho Santa Anita to a friend, Henry Dalton, for $2,700.  Dalton received a patent to the land from the U.S. Land Commission in 1866. 

A big change came to Rancho Santa Anita in 1875 when it was purchased by Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin.  Baldwin paid $200,000 for the rancho.  He moved into the adobe house that Hugo Reid had built by the lake.  A few years later, in 1881, he built a large white Queen Anne style house just around the lake from Reid's old adobe home. 

Baldwin was more interested in horses than in cattle or crops.  He built racing stables for his fine thoroughbred horses.  He sold some of the acres of the rancho, keeping the part around the lake. 


The name of Rancho Santa Anita is familiar to some people because of Santa Anita Park, one of the most famous thoroughbred horse-racing tracks in the U.S.  The modern race track was opened in 1934.  It has been noted for the innovations in horse racing which have taken place there, such as the magnetically-controlled starting gate, photo finish, and electrical timing.


The cities of Arcadia and Sierra Madre now cover much of the old Rancho Santa Anita.  The Santa Anita racetrack bears witness to the more recent history of the rancho.

A bit of Rancho Santa Anita's early history remains in the adobe house that Hugo Reid built for Victoria and the children.  This house, known as the Hugo Reid Adobe, was restored in 1961.  It is designated as California Historical Landmark No. 368.  The Hugo Reid Adobe is furnished as it might have been when Reid and Victoria lived there.

In addition to the Hugo Reid adobe, Baldwin's Queen Anne cottage is there  (California Historical Landmark No. 367), as well as a coach barn and a bird sanctuary.  In the coach barn is a display about Reid and the rancho.  Today the old homes are  surrounded by the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum (in Arcadia), which displays trees and shrubs from many parts of the world. 

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