Agoura Hills’ postcard from the past

Taking a look back at an Agoura Hills corner as the city approaches its 40th anniversary


Photo courtesy of Elaine Neale Collection / Pepperdine University Special Collections

This vintage, late-1940s postcard provides a glimpse of Agoura Road when it was part of the main route from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara long before the 101 Freeway was built. The tall “Agoura” sign—possibly dating back to the 1920s—welcomed travelers to the little hamlet where they could grab gas and food.

But it was more than that. Known now as the Historic Quarter of Agoura Hills, the area south of the 101 Freeway off the Chesebro Road exit along Agoura Road, can also be thought of as the closest thing to a downtown the city has ever had.

“That’s where the market, gas station, auto repair, movie theater, barber, post office and five-and-dime store were,” says Brian Rooney, local historian and author of the book “Three Magical Miles,” which celebrates the area’s past.

The building at the center of the photo on the northwest corner of Lewis and Agoura roads served as a community hub for generations, starting as Fitzgerald’s Grocery in the 1920s, complete with two tall gas pumps out front. It was the first known country store in the area, Brian says. The Neale family bought the little grocery and gas depot in 1946 and called it the Agoura Market, owning it until 1969.

At that point the building began a completely new journey, housing two beloved performing arts and music centers, beginning with the Stage Door Theater from 1980 to 2008 and Center Stage Music, which closed in 2017, leaving the structure vacant.

The nearly 100-year-old building was unexpectedly torn down by its current owners in March 2022. The “Agoura” sign seen in the postcard—in tones darker than its current red lettering on a white background—was rescued and is now safely stored at City Hall.

Residents stumbling upon this odd little pocket of Agoura Hills these days will find a jumbled mix of businesses in office buildings along with small enterprises lining Agoura Road.

Feed and tack stores and medical spas are mixed in with older homes in the surrounding blocks, a few dating to the 1920s and boarded up.

An impressive corner-facing Mediterranean Revival-style building still holds court on the corner opposite where the market was. Originally the Agoura post office, the structure continues to be in use, housing various businesses over the years.

The little community also has roots in the film industry, serving as the gateway to the many movie ranches in the region where thousands of motion pictures were filmed.

In fact, the area was known as Picture City before residents petitioned for a post office in the late 1920s. “Agoure,” named for prosperous local landowner and sheep rancher Pierre Agoure, was one of the possible names submitted to the postal service. How the “e” got changed to an “a” remains a mystery.

An unusually named street arches above Agoura Road. It’s named for Laura La Plante, a 1920s silent film star who took time away from filming to ceremonially break ground on the road. It was common practice in the day for movie studios to collaborate with real estate developers to boost mutual publicity by naming new streets after an actor.

And filming took place right at the market itself when it was the setting of a small Texas town grocery in the 1962 Jane Fonda movie “Walk on the Wild Side.”

As the incorporated city of Agoura Hills celebrates its 40th anniversary, things are quieter now in this quaint little corner, with scattered remnants indicating its century-old heritage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *