Flashback Fridays – Echo Park Lake

"Echo Park in Midwinter" (Postcard for sale through EPHS)

Echo Park Lake began its life as Los Angeles Reservoir No. 4. It was built in 1868 by a private company called The Los Angeles Canal and Reservoir Company. Water flowed to the reservoir from the L.A. River in Los Feliz. Legend has it that the name Echo Park comes from the fact that the builders of the reservoir could hear their voices echoing off the surrounding canyon walls. The water collected in a damn near Bellevue Avenue and from there it traveled to a mill near 5th and Figueroa.

The property surrounding Echo Park Lake was purchased in the 1880s by a carriage-maker named Thomas Kelley and several other speculators.  Kelley and his partners wanted to divide up the land and sell it to individuals to build homes and businesses. However, the city wanted to reserve the right to overflow the damn if needed, which would have made those plots useless.

After several years of arguing, they came to an agreement. Kelley and his partners gave up 33 acres of land around the reservoir to be used as a park. In exchange, “the city agreed not to overflow the reservoir land, making the remaining land held by Kelley and his associates – including the street that would soon become Sunset Boulevard – far more valuable.” Landscaping on the park began in 1892, and by 1895 the park and its boathouses were completed.

Thanks to the Echo Park Historical Society for all the info! For a more thorough rundown of the history of Echo Park Lake, you can visit its website.

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