Hugo Reid
Hugo Reid, the Scottish explorer who allegedly gave place names to Silver Lake locales. Courtesy of the Arcadia Public Library.

Have you ever wondered why Silver Lake has an abundance of locales with Scottish names? Local lore maintains that Hugo Reid, a Scottish-born adventurer and sailor, was the first European to make a lasting mark on the later-named Silver Lake area.  After being rejected in love, he left behind a promising future as a student at Cambridge University and abruptly booked passage on a ship bound for the Americas.  He would spend the next three years as a happy wanderer, exploring the cultures and wonders of South and Central America.  Always game for a new adventure, he accepted an invitation from a fellow Scotsman to accompany him on a trip to Alta (Upper) California, arriving at the Port of San Pedro in the summer of 1832.  As the crew unloaded cargo, expecting to take about a week’s time, Reid set out on horseback to explore the region.  Apparently charmed by the region and the possibilities, he returned to Los Angeles two years later, and a trading post near the Old Plaza.

Legend has it that the area’s verdant hills and dells made more than a passing impression on the young man.  Stirring memories of his native Scotland, Reid purportedly named a portion of the future Silver Lake area Ivanhoe, a reference to the classic historical romance novel by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1820.  Reid may have even been responsible for coming up with the name “Edendale”, combining the words, “Eden” referencing the biblical paradise, and “dale”, describing the open valleys that coursed through the terrain, evoking the area’s idyllic nature. Besides the Ivanhoe Hills residential development (built in the 1880s), the Ivanhoe Reservoir (which adjoins Silver Lake Reservoir), and Ivanhoe Elementary School, Reid’s mythic legacy reverberates in local street names, including Rowena Avenue, named after the heroine of Scott’s novel; Scott Avenue, named after Sir Walter himself; and Angus Street, the name given to the seaman father of her fictional heroine, Ramona.  Reid would later marry  Doña Victoria, a ravishingly beautiful Tongva Indian and adopt her four children  from a previous marriage.  With the marriage came a substantial dowry of ranch land, bolstered by the Rancho Santa Anita granted to him by Mexican governor Pio Pico.  Unsurprising given his wife’s native heritage, but courageous for the times, Reid wrote a series of letters sympathetic to the plight of the native peoples of the region that was published in the Los Angeles Star.

Adapted from Silver Lake Chronicles: Exploring an Urban Oasis in Los Angeles, Michael Locke with Vincent Brook, History Press, 2014.  Please do not use this material in any media without my permission. © All rights reserved.