The neighborhood was named after its land grantee, José Vicente Feliz whose 8,000-acre land grant included Griffith Park and other modern neighborhoods. An old adobe house built in the 1830s by his heirs still stands on Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park, named for Griffith J. Griffiths, another prominent figure in the area’s history.
The grant was confirmed in 1843 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena, to Jose Feliz’ daughter in law, Maria Ygnacia Verdugo de Feliz. When Maria’s husband died, she inherited the rancho and later married Juan Diego Verdugo. When Maria Ygnacia Verdugo de Feliz passed away, Don Antonio de Feliz inherited Rancho Los Feliz. Don Antonio de Feliz resided on the hacienda with his sister and niece. On his deathbed, rumor has it that his signature was affixed on a will drafted by Don Antonio Coronel. Feliz then died of smallpox in 1863. When his niece Petranilla discovered that her uncle had been tricked into signing away the entire inheritance over to Don Antonio Coronel, she put a curse on all of the lands, the new owners, and swore that no one would ever benefit from the ill-gotten spoils.
And so it became serious, as the curse seemed to take effect almost immediately. Many of Coronel’s close associates suffered violent deaths, their cattle sickened and died, and their lands were destroyed by flood and fire. Coronel, wanting to get rid of the curse, sold the property to a James Lick, a wealthy businessman who then died in 1876.
If there really was a curse, then it was the family of Griffith J. Griffith for whom its gravest vengeance was reserved. 1884, Welshman Colonel Griffith J. Griffith assumed ownership. Griffith, a mining and real estate magnate, donated the land that is Griffith Park today to the city of Los Angeles for use as a park. Some did not know, however, that Griffith was also a chronic alcoholic who spiraled out of control and later blamed Petronilla’s curse on the land to be the cause of his drinking and criminal behavior.
At the time of his death in 1919, he had bequeathed more land for a Greek-style theater, and $700,000 to the city with the objective of establishing an astronomical observatory. Today, a bronze statue stands at the entrance of Griffith Park and Fern Dell, one of the first areas which the Feliz family developed.
The neighborhoods surrounding Griffith Park were developing at the same time, from notably the exclusive gated community of Laughlin Park which was home to stars of the day including Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B DeMille. Nestled between the former Edendale movie center and the new Hollywood, the neighborhood was a perfect location for film and industry types. In the 1920s the north side of Los Feliz Boulevard was lined with Japanese-owned nurseries.
Neighborhood children waited eagerly for movie stars such as Greta Garbo and Ginger Rogers to pick up their weekly bouquets. Other areas within Los Feliz include the Los Feliz Hills and Los Feliz Estates (north of Los Feliz Boulevard), Los Feliz Village, Los Feliz Square, Los Feliz Knolls, and Franklin Hills. While the character of the lower, south end of Los Feliz is not as exclusive and expensive as the hills, the treelined streets and well-kept craftsman are a gem of their own.