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BTTF# 18: The Jue Joe Ranch on Vanowen Street in Van Nuys Now Van Nuys Tennis Ranch

Jue Joe Ranch sometime in the late 40's. Image courtesy Jue Joe Clan History Blog.
Welcome aboard the Delorean! 

Marty McFly here to take you on a journey to the Jue Joe Ranch in Van Nuys. The Delorean has the required plutonium plus some random garbage in the Mr. Fusion reactor ready for this trip. The time circuits are set to sometime in 1947 and the flux capacitor is......fluxxing. The engine is running (not stalled this time) so we need to hurry. Hang on, as the ride can be a little bumpy as we travel back in time to explore the Jue Joe Ranch House at 16600 Vanowen Blvd, 16608 Vanowen Blvd, or 16631 Archwood street. 

For those who have driven on Vanowen St passed Balboa Blvd and happened to notice on your right hand side, a somewhat deserted ranch house with red barn on a massive lot and if you were like me and wondered what the heck that was, well your questions will be answered now. 

Back in my younger rebellious days before blogging and barely appreciating SFV history, I would on occasion hang out at the apartments nearby here with my best friend and his girlfriend. I remember seeing this location and speculating that the property had to be one of the few remaining original ranch properties of the SFV. But my speculation ended there and I didnt pursue any further partially because this information wasnt as widely  available as it is today. 

Fast forward to 2013 and while reading a blogpost from fellow blogger, Andy Hurvitz, of Here in Van Nuys about homes near Vanowen, there was a reference to the Jue Joe Clan History blog which started in 2010 which is a treasure trove of information regarding this property, the family, and agriculture history. The amount of detail on this site is amazing so I recommend visiting that blog and hopefully I will be brief here. Here in Van Nuys also blogged about the Jue Joe Ranch back in May 2011.
Jue Joe. Image courtesy Jue Joe Clan Blog.
Lets start off by getting to know Jue Joe who arrives in San Francisco from China at the age of 18 working in various odd jobs. From 1890 to 1893, he is employed as a houseboy by the Otto Brant family and becomes friends with Otto who founded the Title Insurance and Trust Company in Los Angeles which becomes the largest title insurance company and becomes a major player in the growth of the SFV. Otto would become friends with what was known as the Big Five including General Harrison Gray Otis (owner of LA Times), General M.H. Sherman (Sherman Oaks was named after him), Harry Chandler (editor and publisher of the LA Times), and Frank Pfafinger (Treasurer of the LA Times). This friendship would help Jue Joe later on.
Jue Joe Ranch from around 1949. Image courtesy Jue Joe Clan Blog
From 1890 to 1896, Jue Joe is employed by the Johnson family in Chatsworth as a houseboy. From 1896 to 1902, Jue Joe farms potatoes in Chatsworth. 


Jue Joe Ranch from around 1949 with snow. Image courtesy Jue Joe Clan Blog
From 1902 to 1941, Jue Joe takes on a variety of jobs including going back to China and than back to Los Angeles. By 1934, Jue Joe is hailed as the "Asparagus King" by the LA Times. From 1938 to 1941, the asparagus farming operations fall on hard times due to the depression. In 1941, Jue Joe passes away. At that time there was the Alien Land Law which prevented aliens not eligible to become natuarlized citizens from owning land so Jue Joe places title of all properties onto his American born daughter's names. Also at that time, Chinese born persons are not allowed to become naturalized citizens. 

In 1947, the Jue Joe Van Nuys Ranch house is built by Jue Joe's son, San Tong Jue, and named in honor of his father. In 1955, a lawsuit is filed against San Tong Jue by his sisters, Corrine Jue, Dorothy Jue, and Maxine Jue claiming that San Tong Jue operated the family business on his own without accounting others and claimed he was the sole owner without recognizing others. This trial would continue from 1956 to 1958 including an appeal. The end result was that San Tong Jue was evicted from the property including the farming business since the properties were originally in the daughter's names. Jue Joe had originally set aside land for his daughters but could never set aside land for his son due to the Alien Land Law and Jue Joe never left a will or testament that would explain his wishes for how his estate should be divided partially because Jue Joe didnt think it was necessary that the family would continue in the Chinese tradition. 

After the lawsuit, the family becomes divided and goes there separate ways but towards the end of each family member's lives, they would reconcile and blame the Alien Land Law. In 1987, San Tong Jue passes away. A complete timeline of the family history with associated links can be found here

Now that I got the family history out of the way, lets go back to the ranch house. From Auntie Soo-Jan in the comments: 
I recall moving from the old farm house that had asparagus pushing up through the floors and termite invasions every spring over to the big house when I was about 9 years old, which would be 1947 or so. The house was built soon after World War Two was over. There were 3 bedrooms downstairs and 4 bedrooms upstairs.
Also from Auntie Soo-Jan regarding the connection to SFV native rock star, Richie Valens: 
Ramon Navarro was a favored family member, too. He was also Ritchie Valen's stepfather by common law. Ramon was a very good worker, loyal, and a very gentle man. Whenever Immigration Marshals came after him on the ranch my father would hide him in a bathroom adjacent to our family room. Shades pulled down, we were ordered not to say a word, and, "For heaven's sake," said my father, "muzzle our mutt Bingo so he won't give Ramon away!" After Ritchie Valen's biological father who was a musician died, Ritchie came to live for awhile with Ramon and Connie (Ritchie's mother)and his half siblings on our ranch. He was always drumming on field boxes and singing. When he was twelve years old he threw a rock at a beehive. The bees went mad. The Mexican workers ran for cover in all directions. And San Tong had to shut down the farm for three days. When the coast was clear I went outside to look at the splayed hive. I remember seeing pieces of beeswax scattered about on the ground, and I picked up one piece to play with.
Below is a video from the Jue family at the Ranch from the 1930's to 1950s. 


Now its time to jump back into the Delorean and travel to the future. 

The ranch in 1952 with a housing tract already built south of the ranch. 
The ranch in 1972 with not too many changes. 
The ranch in 1980 with the tennis courts added suggesting that the ranch changed hands sometime in the 70's. 
I am not sure what happened to the ranch and when it was sold. Sometime in the 70's, 8 tennis courts were added and turned the ranch into a clubhouse with the main house, pool, and barn still present after all these years. The ranch is now called the Van Nuys Tennis Ranch (818-782-1661) which is owned by U1 Enterprises LLC with an address of PO Box 5233 Sherman Oaks CA 91413. I am not sure if this is the original owner that first installed the tennis courts or has changed hands sometime int the past. 

According to the property records for 16631 Archwood Street, the home measures 7 Beds/3 Baths on 3,819 sqft built in 1946 which makes up the main house, pool, and driveway. The property records for 16600 Vanowen Street shows a total land square footage of 76,000 which is the tennis courts portion. There is no property record for the barn portion which I believe used to be at 16608 Vanowen St. 

I hope this property can be preserved in some way as it represents the last of the SFV farming culture. I dont believe there are any properties in the SFV with so much original structures dating back to the 40's on one contiguous lot. 

Time to get in the Delorean and head back to the future in its present setting. Here is how the ranch looks today. I was not able to enter the property which appears to be deserted and unused so this pictures are only so good as they are from the street level. I really wish I could enter the property to see how much original features remain and the condition. Like everything else here that it is old, this site is probably bound for demolish to make way for a new housing development unless this sit is given HCM status. 





















From the right side to the left of this image is the former Jue Joe Ranch. 
Empty land behind the apartment which may or may not be owned by the Jue Joe family. 
There is also empty land at the bottom right of this image which is barely shown that may still be owned by the Jue Joe family. Image courtesy Google Maps. 
Image courtesy Bing Maps. 
Image courtesy Bing Maps. 
You can view more SFV history and BTTF posts here

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Marty Mcfly

Anything and everything about the San Fernando Valley. This blog will take you back in time when the valley was covered with dirt and orange groves to a leader in the space race to its current status as America's suburb. Come along and join me on this adventure, I guarantee you have been influenced/impacted by the San Fernando Valley in one form or another even if you have never visited or heard of the SFV.

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