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Orcutt Otter LbNA #48472

Plant date:Jun 29, 2009
City:West Hills
County:Los Angeles
Planted by:Old Roar Contact Inactive
Found by: Creeping Death
Last found:Jun 15, 2021
Last edited:Jun 29, 2009
(Letterbox replaced on Aug. 18, 2013 and AGAIN on Dec. 27, 2013 -- this time at a slightly different location.)

This letterbox is hidden in a beautiful but little recognized historical treasure: the Orcutt Ranch Horticulture Center in West Hills. Now owned by the City of Los Angeles, it once was the hacienda retreat of William Warren Orcutt (1869-1942), chief geologist for the Union Oil Company, and his wife, Mary Logan Orcutt. Among his many achievements, Orcutt is credited for determining in 1901 that bones in the La Brea Tar Pits came from prehistoric beasts.

In the 1910s and 1920s, the Orcutts built their retreat on 210 acres of ranch and orchard land they called Rancho Sombra del Roble, or “Ranch in the Shade of the Oak.” In their hacienda the Orcutts hosted Olympic athletes during the 1932 Games. President Herbert Hoover stayed at the ranch when he visited the Orcutts.

William Warren Orcutt died at the ranch in 1942. In 1965, the property was acquired by the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks, which operates it as a horticultural center, community garden, historical monument and park. It is available as a location for weddings, garden parties and film shoots.

Directions for finding the letterbox:

The entrance to the Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center is on Roscoe Boulevard, just east of Valley Circle Boulevard in West Hills. Park in the lot and enter the grounds past the red barn. To the left you’ll see the courtyard home of the Orcutts. Walk past the home and bear left, passing the sundial and flagpole. Continue toward the rose garden and the classical-looking statue of the three naked ladies. Lovely place, isn’t it?

As you walk through the little hedge maze to your right, get a load of the huge 600-year-old oak tree and the grotto shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Walk past the towering bamboos until you reach the rancho’s original entryway, which is guarded by two rampant stone otters, each wearing a crown. Mr. Orcutt’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter told me that the otters come from the family crest of Scotland’s Urquhart clan (“Orcutt” derives from “Urquhart”). The otters represent the family’s motto, “By Land and By Sea.”

After passing the stone otters, bear right and walk down the narrow concrete walkway (with the pipe railing) to the creek. Continue on this path to a brick bench at your right. Cross the little bridge and bear left. You’ll arrive at stone memorials of two teenage girls who died within months of each other in 1991. Immediately adjacent, you’ll see a 1948 monument describing “Ancient Live Oaks and Old Mission Lime Kilns.” After reading the plaque, turn around to see a 700-year-old oak tree whose sawed-off branches fueled kilns that were used to make bricks and tiles for the San Fernando Mission.

Turn your glance further to the right and you'll see a brick bench. The letterbox is behind the bench, under some leaves and a rock. Be careful that no one sees you as you take the letterbox and replace it. This box was stolen twice in the last year alone.

After returning the letterbox, please replace the leaves and the rock. And be sure the log book is inside the little plastic baggie.

I hope you enjoyed your search for my first letterbox!