From Early Settlements to Suburbia : Simi Valley: A local historian begins planning a book about the city. She says she has been fascinated by the area since moving there in 1943. (2024)

For nearly 30 years, Patricia Havens has been working to save Simi Valley’s past for the future.

In 1964, Havens helped found the Simi Valley Historical Society, and since the early 1970s has taught local history at Simi Valley Adult School.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Sept. 6, 1991 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 6, 1991 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 5 Column 2 Zones Desk 2 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Simi history--A Sept. 2 article incorrectly reported the date that Spanish settlers moved into the Simi Valley area. Simi Valley historian Patricia Havens, who was featured in the article, says it is believed the Spaniards did not settle in the region until after 1795.

Now Havens, 61, is planning to write a history of the valley, chronicling its early days as a Chumash Indian settlement up through its present-day status as the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.


Havens said the last historical accounts of the valley were published in the early 1960s, before Simi Valley became a city in 1969.

“It’s long overdue to do something new,” she said. “We must do what we can to cover the last 50 years. I think it’s important to record what we have accomplished.”

Havens, the city’s official historian, said she has been fascinated with the region since her family moved to the valley from Ventura in 1943. The daughter of a ranch hand, Havens said her family watched the valley change from a rich farming and ranching community to a suburban homestead for ever-fleeing Angelenos.

The most significant changes, she said, occurred after World War II. As ground-water supplies dwindled and the cost of importing water skyrocketed, farmers soon realized that their land was worth more if sold for development.

“The handwriting was on the wall because we had used up all of our ground water,” Havens said of the impending housing boom. “That was what made us change so rapidly. It was inevitable. It happened in the San Fernando Valley, and it was going to happen here.”

Soon, orange groves were replaced with tract homes and strip centers, as Simi Valley’s population shot up from about 3,000 in 1950 to more than 61,000 in 1970. In 1968, the Simi Valley Freeway was opened, providing easy access to and from the San Fernando Valley. Today, Simi Valley is the third-largest city in Ventura County with a population of 100,217, according to 1990 census figures.


Although she is proud of the way the city has grown and changed over the years, Havens seems most impressed with the accomplishments of the early pioneers.

“I just really feel an obligation to the people that preceded us not to have everyone think Simi Valley was always like it is right now,” she said. “I think people should learn from the past.

“Our people are so spoiled nowadays. I don’t think anybody truly appreciates all the labor-saving devices we’ve got. Look at us today, we’re just grumpy if it’s hard to make a right turn.”

Haven’s husband, Neil, said he cannot think of anyone more suited for the job of writing a history of the valley.

“I think this is really a true labor of love,” he said. “I think everyone who knows her would agree she is the most knowledgeable and qualified person to write this book.”

Over the years, his wife has dragged him to old Spanish missions up and down the state, searching out new information about Simi Valley. She recently discovered some documents at the San Fernando Mission confirming that one of the first Spanish settlers was living in Simi Valley in 1792.

“I think it’s great,” said Neil Havens, whose own family has been in Simi Valley since the late 1800s. “She’s a real stickler for authenticity.”

Indeed, Havens said she plans to devote an entire chapter in her book on the correct way to pronounce Simi (it’s Si-mee). The city’s name, she said, is derived from the Chumash Indian word “Shimiji,” later shortened by the Spanish to Simi.

“It’s so much better,” she said of the correct pronunciation.

It is precisely this dedication that has earned Havens the respect of her peers and of city officials.

“She really has been the guiding force in preserving Simi Valley’s historical traditions,” said Sal Fasulo, president of the Historical Society. “Her dedication and the commitment that she has demonstrated during the past 30 years has been phenomenal. There may be others qualified to write a history book, but I think she is the most qualified.”

Mayor Greg Stratton agreed. “I’ve heard her speak several times, and she always seems to have new data,” said Stratton, who has known Havens for more than 20 years. “I’m glad she’s finally found time to sit down and write” a history book.

After graduating from Whittier College in 1951 with a degree in history, Havens began teaching at Simi Valley Elementary School and would continue to do so off and on for the next 20 years.


During that period, she helped found the Simi Valley Historical Society and assisted in the establishment of Strathearn Historical Park and Museum. The park occupies six acres and includes several landmark buildings, including the home of Robert P. Strathearn, one of the area’s early pioneers.

Last spring, Havens’ class at Simi Valley Adult School drew 60 people, its largest enrollment ever.

“I really don’t know why,” she said. “A lot of them were people who have lived here 20 or 30 years. Maybe they are just becoming more aware of the place.”

This year, Havens is taking time off from her teaching job to concentrate on her book.

In preparation, Havens has spent the past several months poring over old documents, gathering notes and transcribing about 100 hours of tape-recorded interviews with relatives of pioneer families.

She estimates that it will take at least two years to complete the book, maybe longer given her hectic schedule.

Havens refused to comment on the recent publication of a book that is billed as an illustrated history of Simi Valley. Titled “Simi Valley: Toward New Horizons,” the book was published by Chatsworth-based Windsor Publications, in cooperation with the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce.


Chamber officials said they commissioned local author Linda Aleahmad to write the book because more people will want to know about Simi Valley after the Reagan library opens later this year. The book has been distributed nationwide.

In addition to writing her book, Havens is overseeing completion of a new Chumash Indian exhibit at the historical park and is negotiating with the city to use a vacant building as a temporary museum at the park site. Requests for large tours of the historical park are also beginning to come in, in anticipation of the opening of the Reagan library in November.

Despite the heavy workload, Havens has no complaints. “I don’t like to let something drop until it’s finished,” Havens said as she sat in her office at Strathearn Park, thumbing through a pile of old documents and pictures. “And this will never be finished.”

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From Early Settlements to Suburbia : Simi Valley: A local historian begins planning a book about the city. She says she has been fascinated by the area since moving there in 1943. (2024)


What is the history of Simi Valley? ›

Simi Valley's rich history begins with the Chumash people, who lived in Simi Valley up to 13,000 years ago until the 1800s. The two Chumash villages in the area—Shimiji (or Shmiyi) and Ta'apu— are the origins of the City's name, while Tapo Street and Tapo Canyon are the namesakes of Taa'apu.

What was the population of Simi Valley in 1970? ›


What Native Americans lived in Simi Valley? ›

The Chumash People lived in Simi Valley as long as 10,000-13,000 years ago up until the early 1800s.

Is Simi Valley affluent? ›

If you're asking, “Is Simi Valley a rich area?” Let's answer that with the median household income at $90,000, which is higher than the median household income at the national level which is $61,937.

When was Simi Valley under water? ›

For most of the last 7 5 million years, Simi Valley has been covered by deep to shallow seas. Startling with Chatsworth Formation time and ending with lower Saugus Formation time, the sea advanced seven times across Simi Valley.

What is the racial breakdown of Simi Valley? ›

Population & Diversity

In 2022, there were 5.04 times more White (Non-Hispanic) residents (71.6k people) in Simi Valley, CA than any other race or ethnicity. There were 14.2k Asian (Non-Hispanic) and 12.6k White (Hispanic) residents, the second and third most common ethnic groups.

What is the history of Santa Susana? ›

The area was inhabited by the Chumash Indians as early as 500 AD and there have been numerous Chumash artifacts found in the area, in addition to the pictographs in Burro Flats Painted Cave. In the 1920s, the Knolls became home to brothels and also a religious cult.

When was the Simi Valley Mall built? ›

The retail center opened in 2005 with Macy's and Robinsons-May as anchor stores; the latter was converted into a Macy's Men's and Home store on September 9, 2006. The complex was designed by the architectural firm F+A Architects to resemble a hillside Italian village.

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