In our Banning/Wrigley Historic District, it is not uncommon to see a vehicle stop in the middle of the street and then a passenger jump out and race into a front yard of a complete stranger. Sure enough, one of our beloved peacocks has caught someone’s attention.
Usually the peacock is just crossing the street or a lawn, on its way to find its next meal, but occasionally we are treated with a magnificent display of feathers spread and a dance.
Visitors wonder just how these beautiful and strange birds ended up in our historic district. The definitive story is still up for debate, but here are the two most plausible sources.
- There once was a charismatic real estate magnate named Elias “Lucky” Baldwin. He owned an 8,000-acre ranch that now makes up most of Arcadia. He grew fruit trees and vegetation. In 1880, he introduced to the estate a few wild peacocks he had purchased in India. This is our first potential source of our Wil-tonian peafowl.
- William Wrigley Jr. bought Catalina Island from the Banning Family in 1919. He used the island for spring training for his Chicago Cubs. One story goes that Wrigley’s daughter gave peacocks to the Banker, Frank Vanderlip, who purchased the 16,000-acre Rancho de los Palos Verdes (PV) estate in 1913. PV is now called home for hundreds of peacocks.
However, a documentary on Vanderlip claims that the peacock gift came from the daughter of Lucky Baldwin, not the daughter of Wrigley.
The local version is, the peacocks were brought into Palos Verdes to cure the rattle-snake population and then they worked their way to Wilmington and stayed, because they love camphor trees, and history.
This leaves us with three versions of the Wilmington peafowl origin: they came 1) directly from Lucky Baldwin’s ranch to the Banning Family, or to the Wrigley’s, in Wilmington, or 2) to either the Bannings or Wrigleys on Catalina and then to Wilmington, or 3) from Palos Verdes, originating from Lucky or Wrigley.
As the origin remains a mystery, the beauty continues to be our treasure. And be sure to stick around at dusk or come early in the morning, to hear the antithesis of their beauty, their squawk!