Welcome to L.A. Street Names, the origin stories of street names across Los Angeles County, from the shortest cul-de-sacs to the longest boulevards. Mysteries solved, myths debunked, scandals exposed, history revealed. This is an ongoing project with more than 1,700 streets – and growing. See FAQ for more information.
Isaac Newton Van Nuys (1835-1912) was key to the San Fernando Valley’s transformation from farmland into suburb. Hailing from a farming family in upstate New York, Van Nuys sought warmer climes, so around 1866 he opened a general store in Napa Valley. There he met Isaac Lankershim, a grain farmer who would change his life. Lankershim was purchasing 59,500 acres of the SFV from Pío Pico and Van Nuys decided to invest. This led him to move to Los Angeles in 1874; he married Lankershim’s daughter Susanna (1846-1923) six years later. The two Isaacs made a fortune growing Valley wheat, but at the time of Lankershim’s 1882 death, Van Nuys was diversifying into banking and real estate. As such, in 1909 he sold the Lankershim ranch to some very big-name developers (see Whitley Avenue). The town (later neighborhood) of Van Nuys was named for him in 1911 although W.P. Whitsett was its true founder. Van Nuys Blvd. itself was named in 1926; it was originally called Sherman Way – one of several. (See today’s Sherman Way for more.)