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 1,200 streets – and growing. See FAQ for more information.
Charles Nordhoff (1830-1901) was a celebrated journalist whose hype for California attracted countless transplants. Born in Prussia, Nordhoff emigrated to Ohio with his father but was orphaned at 13. He then embarked upon nine years of seafaring life, and in 1855 he wrote three books about his adventures. This caught the eye of the New York press, and Nordhoff soon became a star writer at Harper’s and the Herald. Nordhoff toured the Golden State in 1872 and published a glowing account of his visit entitled California: For Health, Pleasure, and Residence. (It’s believed that Southern Pacific Railroad exec Collis P. Huntington hired him for the job.) It was a sensation, and in 1874 the Ventura County town of Nordhoff was named in his honor. Although Nordhoff himself never lived there, his grandson Charles Bernard Nordhoff (1887-1947) did. You might know his work: he cowrote Mutiny on the Bounty. Here in the SFV, Nordhoff Street was one of several roads named in 1916 after Ventura County locales (e.g., Saticoy Street). Never heard of the town of Nordhoff? That’s because in 1917, its citizens rechristened it Ojai. (German names were deeply unpopular during WWI.) Family footnote: Charles Nordhoff may not have been an Angeleno, but his son Laurence (1863-1941) lived in L.A. for over fifty years, quietly working as a DWP clerk.