The Valley plays a major part in the James Dean legacy, as the actor lived in a house in the later years of his short life on Sutton Street behind the La Reina Theatre in Sherman Oaks, where Dean was a frequent patron.
On the final day of Dean's life, he stopped to fill up his Porsche Spyder racing car with gas at the "Casa De Petrol" station on Ventura Boulevard at Beverly Glen and there is a famous photo documenting this event which we are sharing with our Chatsworth Patch readers for the first time.
The gas station is now a flower shop, but the poles that were once in between the gas tanks are still clearly visible. The gas station was used in other TV series, like "Six Feet Under," and it is located right to the east of the Casa De Cadillac car dealership, which has been in operation since 1948.
Casa De Cadillac is known for its classic "art moderne" architectural style, and is one of the most famous landmarks in the Valley with its majestic glass showroom display looking almost exactly the same as it did back in the day when a 1949 Coupe De Ville stood for sale on its showroom floor, as you see in the photo featured here from the Christmas season of 1949. The dealership attracts pop architecture lovers from all over the world and the company is still family owned after 63 years in business.
The corner of Beverly Glen and Ventura was known as "The Casa Corner," as next to the Casa De Petrol was "Casa De Cascade" car wash, with an aqua sign (the color of the old Fedco sign) with white letters on it. The rock waterfall that is still in front of the Handy J Car Wash, is a holdover from the "Cascade" days.
The "Cascade" was one of the ritziest car washes on Ventura Boulevard and catered to many of the luxury cars of the neighborhood, many of which were owned by celebrities like Art Linkletter, who always brought his Caddies to the Car Wash for their regular wash and wax. (Linkletter owned "The Brass Ring" night club nearby in Encino.)
On the southwest corner of Beverly Glen and Ventura boulevard was "Casa Burger" hamburger and hot dog stand. This famed fast food eatery was part of individually owned, pre-franchised fast food outlets, which began invading Ventura boulevard in the late '60s.
Ironically, Casa Burger (shown here in a very rare set of photos) lasted until the early 1980s when it was replaced by a Fatburger, which is still in business there today. A lot of burgers have been sold over the last 60 years on Beverly Glen and Ventura boulevards!
Up the street from the "Casa" businesses on the north side of Ventura boulevard were two other famous landmarks, Valley Stationers (now the Guitar Center) and Barone's Famous Italian restaurant, now relocated in Valley Glen.
Also, at the time of Casa Burger's last few years, a "Moby Disc" record store opened up just to the east of it, and I recall going to trade in used LPs and getting a vanilla milk shake at Casa Burger with some of the take.
James Dean made his last journey on that fateful afternoon in 1955 and one of the key points on the timeline that day was him filling his own gas tank at the Casa De Petrol.
James Dean fans from all over the world come to see this famous corner where I believe a gas station still existed until the 1980s as well. I have always thought that the "Casa" businesses must all have been owned by the same family.
What do you remember about Casa De Cadillac, Casa De Petrol, Casa Burger, or Casa De Cascade Car Wash?