For many hundreds of years, Native Americans inhabited the land which would eventually become the city of Agoura Hills. Spanish explorers visited California briefly in the 1500s and 1600s, but it wasn’t until the late 1700s that Europeans arrived to stay. During a 1769 expedition from San Diego to Monterey, padre Juan Crespi wrote that the Agoura area was “a plain of considerable extent and much beauty, forested in all parts by live oaks with much pasture and water.” He called it El Triunfo del Dulcisimo Nombre de Jesus, or the Triumph of the Sweet Name of Jesus. Not long after, the Spanish set up 21 missions in California scattered from Los Angeles to San Francisco. El Camino Real (the “King’s Highway”) connected the different missions, tracing an old Chumash trail and bisecting the future Agoura Hills. At the missions, the Spanish did their best to turn the Chumash into good Europeans by attempting to eliminate their native culture. Through the introduction of new diseases and poor treatment, the Spanish also helped reduce their numbers.
Once in control of California, the Spanish king had begun granting land to his subjects. Miguel Ortega originally obtained a land grant for El Rancho de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Las Virgenes, or Rancho Las Virgenes, a tract comprising 17,760 acres in the vicinity of Agoura Hills. Later the land belonged to Doña Maria Antonia Machado del Reyes and her heirs Jose Reyes and Maria Altgracia Reyes de Vejar. The Frenchman Pierre Agoure first acquired property in the late 1800s and had title to nearly 17,000 acres “in and around Las Virgenes Rancho” by 1906. Like his neighbors in the early twentieth century, Agoure was a rancher, raising thousands of sheep and cows. Improved water pumping technology also led to increased agricultural endeavors in the Las Virgenes area, as farmers planted orchards, vegetables, and wheat.
In the 1920s, a portion of the land near Agoura Hills was subdivided, dubbed “Independence Acres,” and advertised as a beautiful place for people to live where they could be independent and raise chickens. But water was scarce and many hopeful landowners eventually abandoned their independence and left. At about that time, Paramount Studios bought a ranch in the area (later known as Paramount Ranch) and it wasn’t long before the future Agoura Hills was being called “Picture City,” with movie makers latching on to it as a perfect backdrop for their films. In 1928, Picture City officially became Agoura Hills and in the succeeding decades the local population grew steadily. Water concerns lingered, however, and the issue of a permanent water supply was a continuous source of controversy in the community. In 1959, as the result of the hard work of a local citizen’s committee, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District was established and Agoura Hills started bringing in water from the outside
In 1963, the community began piping in water from the Colorado River. Reliable water sources made Agoura Hills more attractive for businesses and families. Furthermore, in 1956 another change had occurred which also dramatically influenced population growth and the character of the city: local highway 101 became the Ventura Freeway. Houses were soon sprouting throughout the area. During the late 1960s and 1970s, this speedy expansion continued, as housing tracts, shopping malls, and schools appeared in ever larger numbers. In 2000, Agoura Hills is a substantial suburb-its ranching industry long gone-and is home to roughly twenty times as many people as in 1950.