Maureen Megowan's Blog


The Development of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes

The following is one of a series of articles on South Bay History that I have had published in the South Bay Digs magazine:

                       The Development of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes

 Probably the greatest single event that would shape the future of Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates occurred in 1953.  Since 1944, the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation had leased a 300-acre tract of land on the north side of the Peninsula for mining of diatomaceous earth (the original mine included the current site of the South Bay Botanical Gardens, the former Palos Verdes Landfill, and Ernie Howlett Park, and the remnants of this mine can be seen at the southwest intersection of Hawthorne Blvd. and Via Valmonte) from the Vanderlip family. Although this mine’s resources had nearly been exhausted, another rich deposit was known to exist on a 165-acre tract near the crest of the Peninsula.

For two years, the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation had been unsuccessfully attempting to purchase this property. Finally, Frank Vanderlip Jr., President of the Palos Verdes Corporation, agreed to sell, provided that Great Lakes purchase all of the stock in the Palos Verdes Corporation for about $9 million, so that the sale would be taxed at capital gains rates. Upon completion of the transaction in December 1953Great Lakes Carbon Corporation suddenly owned 6,800 acres of prime undeveloped land in the center of the Peninsula, all that was left of the 16,000 acres bought by Frank Vanderlip Sr. from Mr. George Bixby in 1913, with the exception of 500 acres retained by the Vanderlip family in the Portuguese Bend area.


 A road map in a 1949 Sales brochure. Note that Hawthorne Blvd and Crenshaw have not been extended into the Palos Verdes Peninsula

What happened next was not surprising. The plans for mining operations were quickly discarded when it was discovered that the quality of the dicalite deposit was not good and a group of well-known architects and engineers were hired to create a master plan to develop the property. Great Lakes also formed a 79%/21% partnership with Capital Company, an experienced real estate firm. Capital Company, in the late 1930's became a subsidiary of Transamerica Corp. and in 1964 changed its name to Transamerica Development Co.
Fueled by the master plan created by the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation and the burgeoning economic growth occurring in the South Bay area, the remaining unincorporated area on the Peninsula began to develop rapidly and in ever-increasing densities. On April 1, 1950, the Palos Verdes Peninsula had about 6,500 residents, and by June 1967, the number of residents had grown to approx. 54,000. By 1967, only about 1,600 acres remained to be developed.

For more South Bay Los Angeles and Palos Verdes History, go to

For more information about Palos Verdes and South Bay Real Estate and buying and selling a home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, visit my website at . I try to make this the best real estate web blog in the South Bay Los Angeles and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I would love to hear your comments or suggestions.

Comment balloon 1 commentMaureen Megowan • July 26 2011 03:13PM


Maureen, Love the history lesson.  It sure makes areas more interesting when they can read the background and history of a place.

Posted by 1 ~Judi & Don Barrett & Chassy Eastep - Integrity, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 7 years ago

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