Live Oak Manor and the Stone Gateway Arch


Photo taken on 4/11/2017


This stone gateway is located on the west side of Sierra Highway at Remsen Street south of Eternal Valley Cemetery. It was built by retired Los Angeles contractor John E. Olmstead in 1926 at the entrance to his home, which he called Live Oak Manor. At that time, the road to the Newhall Tunnel, called San Fernando Road, made a big curve to the east following today's Remsen Street. In 1930, to eliminate the curve, a new road was constructed from the tunnel straight north to where Remsen Street now begins. This forced Olmstead to move the arch to its present position, where it still remains.

Some have written that the stone gateway was the entrance to Henry Clay Needham's ranch (which was built around 1889), but this is incorrect. However, it was located right next to the road leading to Needham's ranch.

John Evans Olmstead was born in New York on September 7, 1875 and died on September 23, 1945, in Los Angeles. The 1910 US Census reported that John (34) was a contractor living in Los Angeles. He had a wife, Nora (32), and two children, Elizabeth (7) and Nora (3), both born in California. The 1920 US Census for the Burbank Township, Sunland Precinct still had John and Nora with their two daughters Elizabeth and Nora. His occupation was farmer. In 1920, 17 year old daughter Elizabeth married James Barbour. the 1930 census for the Soledad Township, Newhall town, just showed John (55) and Nora (56). His house was owned and was valued at $8000. He had no occupation (because he was retired).

The 1928 voter registration for Newhall shows John E. Olmstead with an address of Live Oak Manor. The 1930 and the 1936 - 1944 voter registrations for Newhall all show John Olmstead.

In 1931 Olmstead started a cactus and a rock garden. They became very well-known and had many vistors in the 1930's. Unfortunately, in 1939 San Fernando Road was changed making it very difficult to reach the gardens from the north. So Olmstead decided to close them and sell everything off.

Sometime between 1939 and 1946 (Olmstead dying in 1945), Joe Warmuth became the owner of Live Oak Manor. By 1950, H.M. West was the owner. In 1952, two oil wells were drilled on the property.

During the years, the stone gateway was a constant. A business park will now be constructed in northern Needham Ranch including the Live Oak Manor land. However, the gateway will be preserved by the builder.


Aerial photo taken in 1928 showing the old road alignment. Olmstead's Live Oak Manor is in the red circle and Needham's ranch house is in the green one.


Aerial photo taken between 7/18/1930 and 8/25/1930 showing the new road. It would now be San Fernando Road and the old road would be named Clampitt Road (for E.A. Clampitt who had many wells in that area). I think that in the 1950's the first half of the road would be renamed Remsen Street.


1930 close up showing the Live Oak Manor in red circle with Henry Needham's ranch house in green circle.

Closer view. It seems like you can see the top of the stone gateway between the trees (in the circle).


Stone gateway constructed. (The Signal, July 22, 1926)


New road. Stone gateway must be moved. (The Signal, October 17, 1929)


Stone gateway moved. (The Signal, January 1, 1930)


Plans for cacti garden. (The Signal, December 17, 1931)


(The Signal, May 19, 1932)


(The Signal, June 23, 1932)


Los Angeles Times takes notice. (Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1932)


Olmstead advertised in the Cactus and Succulent Journal of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America from 1934 through 1937. (Top to bottom: Cactus and Succulent Journal of June 1934, Sept. 1935, Feb. 1936, March 1936, April 1936, and April 1937)


(The Signal, May 9, 1935)


(The Signal, July 25, 1935)


Adds a glass house. (The Signal, April 29, 1937)


The Live Oak Manor Cactus Gardens soon would be closed due to the division of San Fernando Road (Sierra Highway today) into separated lanes for north and south bound traffic. This made it too difficult for north bound motorists to enter the gardens. (The Signal, March 10, 1939 - article located by Tricia Lemon Putnam)


(The Signal, March 10, 1939)


John Olmstead died in 1945. It looks like the property was sold to Joe Warmuth. (The Signal, October 31, 1946)


By 1950, the property was owned by H. M. West. (The Signal, March 23, 1950)


Successful wells were being drilled just south of Live Oak Manor on Needham Ranch. Two wells would be drilled near the stone gateway on the Live Oak Manor property. West 1 was spudded on September 3, 1952 and West 2 was spudded on December 13, 1952. (The Signal, October 2, 1952)


This photo looks southwest at the Live Oak Manor property on October 9, 2017, with the stone gateway on the left. The actual house site was probably on the flat land behind the rig. Both wells were plugged and abandoned in 2001. The pipes were cut off 8 ft below the surface and buried. Here they have exposed both wells maybe to confirm the well locations and check the status of the abandonement before construction of a business park starts. West 2 (at base of derrick in red circle) evidently had some issue because it was being worked on when this photo was taken. There was no work done to West 1 (surrounded by fence on left in red circle).

"The Center at Needham Ranch" is a business park that will be constructed in the northern part of Needham Ranch. It is Phase 1 of the Gate-King Industrial Park which will eventually extend from Sierra Highway west to Pine Street. Actual construction has not started yet, only preliminary work for Phase 1. Trees and bushes are being removed. Old oil wells, like these two, are being inspected and plugged and abandoned if necessary.


This old entrance was located just inside of the road off of Sierra Highway and, like the stone gateway, faced the property that contained Live Oak Manor. The date of construction is not known. They were removed just after the previous photo was taken. However, the stone gateway will not be removed.


Live Oak Manor property consisted of the oddly shaped Lot 53 of Tract 2703. Tract 2703 was a subdivision of the St. John Subdivision of Rancho San Francisco. It was surveyed in from April - June of 1914 by the County of Los Angeles.