Westlake Village is a planned community that straddles the Los Angeles and Ventura county line. The eastern portion is the incorporated city of Westlake Village, located on the western edge of Los Angeles County, California. The city, located in the region known as the Conejo Valley, encompasses half of the area surrounding Westlake Lake, and small neighborhoods primarily south of U.S. Route 101 and east of La Venta Drive. The population was estimated to be at 8,473 in 2014, up from 8,368 at the 2000 census. The headquarters of the Dole Food Company is also located in Westlake Village.
The original community was known simply as “Westlake”. Roughly two-thirds of it was annexed by the city of Thousand Oaks in two portions, in 1968 and 1972. In 1981, the remaining third eventually incorporated as the City of Westlake Village.
About 3,000 years ago, Chumash Indians moved into the region and lived by hunting rabbits and other game, and gathering grains and acorns. On-going excavations, archaeological sites, and polychrome rock paintings in the area provide a glimpse into the social and economic complexity of the ancient Chumash world.
In January, 1770, the first Europeans came to the area. Captain Gaspar de Portolà’s party of Spanish explorers and missionaries traveled through the area from west to east, camping one night near a Chumash village, believed to be the site of present-day Westlake Village. Father Juan Crespí, chaplain and diarist of the expedition, wrote: “We are on a plain of considerable extent and much beauty, forested on all parts by live oaks and oak trees, with much pasturage and water.” Crespi named the place El triunfo del Dulcísimo Nombre de Jesús (in English: The Triumph of the Sweetest Name of Jesus) to a camping place by a creek – today’s Triunfo Canyon Road begins between Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village (see Conejo Valley). Later Spanish travelers also used this route, making it part of El Camino Real(today’s U.S. Route 101).
In 1795, the area became part of one of the first Spanish land grants, Rancho Simi, given to the Pico family. When Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, Alta California became Mexican territory, and the Rancho Simi grant was confirmed in 1842.
At the time California was admitted to the union in 1850, most of the land that later became Ventura County was divided among only 19 families. The picturesque future Westlake Village site among rising knolls, arroyos, barrancas and ancient oaks was recognized as the central part of two Mexican land grants: Rancho El Conejo and Rancho Las Virgenes.
In 1881, the Russell brothers purchased a large portion of the land for cattle ranching. According to Patricia Allen, historian and family descendant, Andrew Russell beat the competition in buying the land by racing across 6,000 acres (24 km²) on a fifteen-minute trip in a buckboard and sealed the deal with a $20 gold piece. The price per acre was $2.50. The area continued to be known as the Russell Ranch although it was sold in 1925 to William Randolph Hearst and again in 1943 to Fred Albertson. The Russell family leased back part of the land to continue its successful cattle ranch operation while the Albertson Company used the vast area as a movie ranch. Many movies and television shows were filmed here, including Robin Hood, King Rat, Laredo, and various episodes of Tarzan, Buck Rogers, Gunsmokeand Bonanza.