"In the years prior to 1870," write Robert Gottlieb and Irene Wolt in Thinking Big, "Los Angeles was little more than a dusty cattle town full of saloons and violence. Shootings and stabbings were so common that the town averaged a murder a day. With a weak local government doing little to control the fighting and gambling, Los Angeles picked up a reputation as the toughest town in the country."
The Great Drought of 1864 decimated the cow population, forcing ranchers to sell their land. Along with the impending arrival of the transcontinental railroad, this spurred the first of several real estate booms, attracting men who would shape the city in an image of their choosing.