Tag Archive for: History

Automobile Club of Southern California

It’s always interesting to find some historical pieces of Los Angeles on the big Internet, this one comes from Big Map Blog. It’s a 1915 road map of the entire Southern California area, commissioned by the Automobile Club of Southern California. And it’s a pretty big map – so we’ve zoomed in on the Echo Park area to show you our little area almost 100 years ago. Funny thing is, if you compare this map with a current-day Google map, it doesn’t look a whole lot different. But the landscape sure is: what was once a bunch of fields and open space now is one of the city’s most populated areas.

Another interesting map from the same blog – credited to Birdseye View Pub. Co.’s – of the Los Angeles area circa 1909. Incredible detail on this one – here’s the zoomed in version on Echo Park below:

Birdseye View Pub. Co.'s birdseye map of Los Angeles, California in 1909.

Both very, very large maps are made available for download on the Big Map Blog. See if you can find your house!

Flickr photo via Mary-Austin & Scott

Tonight is the Echo Park Historical Society Quarterly Meeting, and if you’re into Echo Park history this is definitely the one to check out!

Favorite local author Charles Fleming (he wrote the Secret Stairways book I’ve been carrying everywhere with me) will be talking about his book at the stairways of Los Angeles. I’ve also heard there’ll be a short tour of the remnants of the Egyptian themed mural in what once was the bowling alley (see awesome historical photo above.

EPHS will also hold its annual Board of Directors election. Members in good standing (paid memberships) will cast ballots during the quarterly meeting. Candidates will have an opportunity to make a brief presentation before ballots are cast.

The historical society meeting takes place TONIGHT! from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at the Rec Center Studio, located at 1161 Logan Street.

Visit the Echo Park Historical Society website for more info, or email ephs@HistoricEchoPark.org

My, how a lot has changed! There aren’t a lot of bikini-clad women hanging around the lake these days, but this is a great video of Echo Park Lake in the 1960s with Jody Miller for her song “Things”:

The video is actually a scopitone – basically a music video that played on a jukebox (it pre-dates what we now know as a music video, but is the same general idea).

Check out the size of those lotus leaves, and some of the plant life looks way different (those palm trees are much bigger now!). You can see canoes in the background at the boathouse – yes you used to be able to canoe! If only you could take a little Lazer sail boat like the one she’s got on the lake…!

h/t @smitty4657 for the link!

Lately I’ve been delving into the history of some of these Echo Park locations that have development “drama” revolving around them these days. Last week we wrote about the history of Barlow Hospital as it develops plans to upgrade hospital facilities by selling land for who-knows-what. This week we’ve got the Sunset Flats, planned for what was the former community garden, on our mind. So today we reflect on how that garden came to be, how the community came together to keep it thriving for years, and more importantly, what happened to it?

Date unknown - looks very 1990s. Flickr photo via Glen Dake

Flickr photo via Glen Dake

The garden was started in the late 199os as part of an effort to use land that wasn’t being used (deemed a “nuisance” property), but was privately owned, and really helped empower and improve the neighborhood. Located at 2223 Sunset Blvd, where now you’ll see a lot of overgrown weeds and possibly still some edible plants, they sold honey, grew and sold flowers, fruits and vegetables. It was literally the heart and sweat of many long-time Echo Park residents, including, we’ve heard, our friend Jesus Sanchez of The Eastsider LA.

The plight of the garden began around 2004, where our research begins to pick up the chatter that the land owner needed to sell the property. This is when things get a little complicated and messy, and is an issue that I am continuing to explore in interviews with residents and community leaders. Apparently the community got together and started raising money to purchase the land, and things were looking really promising in June of 2004 – the owner was willing to sell the land, and all they needed was a grant to finalize things. Sometime after that, things went south, and the manager of the garden had apparently been taking that money raised to purchase the land, stringing along the landowner and everyone else along. The Echo Park Community Garden had been bamboozled.

That’s the long story short. Without money to buy the property, the land was sold and there was little hope for the future of the garden. A 2004 issue of EPIAn Ways describes the frustration of being locked out of the garden for months:

The current landlord bought the land two years ago and has no idea the importance this community places on the garden. He seems to be unaware of what existed before the garden formed and therefore sees little value to keeping the garden as a tenant. The Echo Park Community Garden has been a collaborative effort between hundreds of families, individuals as well as social service agencies, neighborhood groups and government. It has also served as an environmental, educational and nutritional resource for the neighborhood families and schools.

Read more

Early Barlow Hospital, unknown date

With all the hoopla surrounding Barlow Hospital these days, we thought we’d cover some of its 100-year-old history.

Barlow Hospital was founded in 1902 by Walter Jarvis Barlow. Born in Ossining, New York, Walter traveled to Los Angeles in 1897 seeking a dry, sunny climate after contracting tuberculosis. Though his was caught early and thus cured, tuberculosis was a serious disease treated with rest, fresh air, sunshine and general well-being. So Los Angeles became not only a perfect place for him to recover, but became the home of the area’s first tuberculosis treatment facility: Barlow Sanatorium.

Source: Barlow Genealogy

Set on the border of Elysian Park (which is the city’s oldest park, founded in 1886) were the 25 acres he purchased from J.B. Lankershim for $7,300. A $1,300 donation actual came from Alfred Solano, his namesake being, of course, nearby Solano Canyon. Walter was actually Solano’s step-son-in-law (Walter’s wife Marion’s mother was remarried to Alfred). Jarvis Street in Solano Canyon is likely named after Walter.

Anyways, enough about Walter. He created the Sanatorium to care for those people with turberculosis, a place for them to relax and get well. The site chosen for the hospital was a good one – a small valley protected the climate and provided clean air away from the bustling city nearby. Ironically, the Barlow Hospital website describes the location as wise because it was a “protective barrier against development.”

Most of the structures on the site (32 in all) were built between 1902 and 1952, and have been recognized as Cultural Monument No. 504. In addition to administrative and medical offices, there are quite a few patient bungalows with porches, dining rooms, laundry facilities, and recreation areas. If you’re walking South on Stadium Way from Scott Avenue, you can see these residential-looking structures on the right-hand side. You’ll also probably notice how dilapidated they are. Over the first few years, the hospital had enough room to house and care for 34 patients.

By the end of the 1970s, the focus on turbuculosis was no longer needed as TB became manageable and treatable, and instead concentrated on the treatment of respiratory diseases. By the 1980s, the hospital wanted to provide for AIDS patients by fixing up some of buildings that weren’t being used. Interestingly, the efforts came out of an organization that fought against a 1986 proposition that would have required a quarantine of AIDS carriers.

In 1988, the Chris Brownlie AIDS Hospice was opened at Barlow as the first AIDS hospice in California, and remained open until the mid-1990s. The two-story building where the hospice was had been home to around 1,500 patients.

The hospital has maintained its original philanthropic mission and continues to be a not-for-profit facility. It serves Southern California as a long-term acute care facility, focusing on rehabilitation goals such as weaning patients off of ventilators, and even home to the Barlow Respiratory Research Center. Currently, the hospital is seeking to sell of a huge portion of the land to fund the development of a new hospital, which it needs to do in order to comply with post-Northridge earthquake retrofitting requirements.

The future of the historic Barlow structures are uncertain, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated as they happen.

Our friends at the LA History Twitter page have reminded us that today is November 4! What the heck does that mean, you ask?

You guessed it: Oil!

Or maybe you didn’t. It’s kind of a weird part of LA History to embrace, but, as we wrote about recently, the very first oil well was actually here in Echo Park. It was November 4, 1892 when Edward Doheny and Charles Canfield dug this well at the site of what is now the Echo Park Pool. This discovery launched an oil boom in Los Angeles, so today is an interesting, and important, day in our history.

Currently, there are just a handful of oil wells compared to what it used to be (see photo of the Belmont oil field below). In fact, there’s a Google map Urban Oil Wells existing in Los Angeles – check it out by clicking here. To put things in perspective, here’s an 1906 map of oil fields in Los Angeles:

Source: Library of Congress

I’ve added the blue dot to indicate Echo Park Lake, the orange dot indicates the Los Angeles River (it’s a little tough to read). All the little black dots are oil fields (not just individual wells, oil fields).

Belmont Oil Field, date unknown

Photo by Echo Park Now

The Jensen’s Recreation Center building has always been a favorite Echo Park monument of mine. A historic cultural monument since 1998, the 86-year-old building has undergone quite a few changes inside.

The old bowling alley at Jensen's. Flickr photo via Mary-Austin & Scott

The building was built by German immigrant Henry Christian Jensen in 1924 and designed by architect E.E.B. Meinardus. Originally, it was a bowling alley with a pool hall at street level with 46 apartments on the other two floors. The Echo Park Historical Society website describes the space as catering to mostly males throughout the 1930s and ’40s. Even though the storefronts might not look exactly the same as the original structure, thankfully the Beaux Arts and Italianate inspired ornamentation that wraps around the outside of the building still exists.

The bowling alley is no longer there, but the sign featuring a bowling figure remains on the roof of the building. The 28 feet wide x 17 feet tall sign has 1300 red, green and white incandescent lightbulbs. An interesting fact: even though neon was a more popular application for signs in the 1920s (especially this size!), this one maintains the incandescent light bulbs.

Relighting of the sign. Photo from Paul Furlong

In 1997, after 50 years of neglect and the sign unlit, it was restored and relit through a cultural affairs grant. We’re not exactly sure how long the sign was lighting up the Rec Center roof, but we do know it was fixed and relit again in 2005. However, that lasted only one month, and the sign has been dark ever since.

Lately there’s been some great headway to relight the sign. The Echo Park Historical Society received $5,000 from an LA County Historic Preservation Society grant. Echo Park residents, fans of history, and Echo Park Improvement Association members have also privately donated to fix and maintain the sign as well. And just this week, the Greater Elysian Echo Park Neighborhood Council approved the allocation of $2,500 to the Historical Society for the restoration of the sign.

Hopefully we’ll see the sign relit (and maintained) some day soon!

If you’d like to donate to the Echo Park Historical Society for the restoration and upkeep of the sign, click here for the EPHS website.

The CCAC, photo from EPIAn Ways October 2000

A mention in the most recent Echo Park Improvement Association’s newsletter (EPIAn Ways) this month caught our interest – it’s been a whole ten years since the Central City Action Committee (CCAC) cut the ribbon on its current location in Old Fire Station No. 6 on Edgeware Road in Echo Park. Citing an article from the October 2000 issue of EPIAn Ways, the grand opening celebrated not only the organization, which organizes youth activities and graffiti removal in the area, but also displayed a “mini museum” of historical fire department photos. We thought we’d do some research on those photos and the history of Old Fire Station No. 6 for this week’s Flashback Friday.

Read more

This week’s flashback is another fun photo find, this time along Sunset Boulevard. We’re not certain when these photographs were taken, but my amateur classic car knowledge places it around the 1920s or early ’30s (please let me know if this is inaccurate and we’ll happily revise!).

The photo above shows the building where The Echo is currently located. The original architecture on the left-hand side of the image, where the arches are, display what is now Two Boots and Origami Vinyl, the central entrance is now The Echo.

Makes you kind of wish the arches on the right-hand side were maintained, right now there’s the old Nayarit Restaurant sign.

The photo on the right is around, I believe, the same time. This is taken from Sunset Blvd. on the Bridge that crosses over Glendale Blvd.. Notice the wooden sidewalk along the left side of the street, and you can see the Jensen’s Recreation sign in the distance. And of course, the trolley lines zigzag across the sky.

Flickr photos via Echo_29

Unknown date, possibly late 1930s. Source: Paul Furlong

More flooding in 1959. LA Public Library image #28410

We’re trying to piece together little bits of history surrounding photos like one shown above – flooding along Glendale Blvd. at Park Avenue was extremely common prior to the paving of the Los Angeles river. But how all that water got to Echo Park (remember, this is prior to all flood control in Los Angeles) is actually an interesting story.

The story starts with a buried river called the Arroyo de los Reyes, which originates off of Glendale Blvd. near the 2 terminus. It flowed down Glendale, to where Echo Park Lake now is, and into downtown down 2nd Street where it ends up just south of Pershing Square and eventually connecting to the LA River (Source: LA Creek Freak).

So it makes sense this area would be more susceptible to flooding – when it really, really rains, the creek/river would swell, and so on and so forth. We’re not sure exactly when the river was buried or why exactly it no longer floods Echo Park, perhaps due to being buried, but it might also have to do with the storm drain and flood control in the late ’30s, early ’40s.

The photo to the bottom right is a pretty severe flood on Glendale Boulevard during the Los Angeles Flood of 1938, caused by a couple of storms from the pacific and killing over 100 people and $40 million in damage.

Glendale Blvd., Feb 1938. Photo source: Paul Furlong

These floods, especially the 1938 one, prompted the Flood Control Act of 1941, and thus the construction of mandatory storm drains and flood control channels. This, of course, means the Los Angeles River was paved to help control future flooding.

Looking at these pictures, it seems like a good idea to have some flood control in Los Angeles. But the paving of the LA River is more and more criticized as being a misguided effort because it interferes with, well, the natural flow of things. There are some green movements to help the River filter out pollution and revitalize the river overall, you can learn a lot about lost rivers and creaks through the LA Creek Freak blog and the Friends of the LA River.

This AMAZING historic home in Angelino Heights has been on my radar for at least a year now as a fun fixer-upper project. We noticed a little “for sale” sign a while back while I was showing off Carroll Avenue to some family, and I was curious to see how much we could buy this little bit of Angelino Heights paradise.

According to a Big Orange Landmarks website post last May, this seven bedroom, two bath, approximately 2,700 square foot house (as described by Zillow) is going for $1,750,000. We’re not sure what it’s up for now, the sales flyers were no longer there, but you can expect it’s going to be a high price for that crazy neighborhood (there are 51 Victorian residences and carriage houses in the area!).

Located at 1325 Carroll Avenue, the house is known as the Irey House, named after original owner and gardener Hiram B. Irey. It was built in 1887 but originally located at 1123 Court Street, and moved in 1978 as part of the Carroll Avenue Restoration Foundation’s efforts to restore Carroll Avenue.

Architecturally, the house is known as a nearly pure Eastlake style (that’s the Victorian style) like its neighboring houses but with a dash of “Stick” style – meaning it has those extra ornate features like gingerbread trim or other geometric patterns.

Of note is the angled bay window and “unusual asymmetrical arrangement of windows and roof line,” reads a description from a 1978 publication on Historic Angelino Heights. “Also of interest is the window that illuminates the interior stairwell on the second floor.”

The last I heard, the house was being repaired a while back by its current owner, but only foundational elements leaving the restoration of the aesthetic elements to the new buyers. So if you have a knack for Eastlake-Stick style restoration, drop by the house on Carroll Avenue and check it out for us!

"Exterior view of the first Kaspare Cohn Hospital at one thousand four hundred forty Carroll Avenue"

It was originally spelled with an E and a tilde over the second N. That is the original (Spanish language) spelling of the word. The sign just down the street from me at Sunset and Douglas reads “Angeleno Heights.” Somewhere along the way, some people began to spell it “Angelino”, but no one knows when or why although there are different theories. But the two different spellings do not connote any sort of difference in meaning. That’s just what happens over a period of 120 years.

Angelino Heights (see what I did there?) is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles second only to Bunker Hill. It was founded in 1886 by William W. Stilson and Everett E. Hall when they filed for the creation of a subdivision in this elevated part of Los Angeles. In the same year, the Temple Street Cable Railway was built. It ran from Angeleno Heights to downtown and allowed those living in this newly formed suburb to commute from home to work. This line was later electrified making transportation to and from home even easier for Angeleno Heights’ residents.

The first big building boom occurred when the neighborhood was first created which is where all the Victorian homes come from. Then, beginning in 1888,  a banking recession stopped all new construction. Another big wave of construction happened in the early 1900s resulting in Craftsman and California bungalow-style homes. Just after World War II, many older homes were split up into multiple apartments to accommodate more people.

In 1983, Angeleno Heights became Los Angeles’ first historic district. Several homes in the neighborhood are Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments and the entire 1300 block of Carroll Avenue is registered as a United States Historic District (and Michael Jackson’s video for “Thriller” was filmed there).

Unfortunately, I could only find one photo of old Angeleno Heights (see above) in our beloved USC Digital Library. But they do have a huge collection of filled-out census forms from 1939! One just has to search by street name to find them. Check out the census forms for Carroll Avenue, W. Edgeware Road and Calumet Ave. It seems there were a fair number of renters living in Angeleno Heights in the 1930s, and rent could cost anywhere from $25 to a whopping $35 per month.

I sure hope you guys like photo posts, because I can not get enough of the photos of Echo Park in the USC Digital Library. The collection is full of awesome old photos, and I highly suggest you check it out.

Today, we are going to take a little photographic tour of Chavez Ravine and the early years of Dodger Stadium.

"They're playing ball in Chavez Ravine, 1957"

The text that goes with this photo reads, “Some day the Los Angeles Dodgers hope to be playing ball where Mrs. Barden Scott is playing with her three children, Richmond, 5; Matthew, 3, and Valerie, 18 months. She figures that when the Dodgers build their fancy new ball park in Chavez Ravine home plate will be just about where her home is. But first the Dodgers will have to buy up her place and a few others scattered through the area. Mrs. Scott is willing to sell, but some other owners aren’t.”

"Aerial shot of Chavez Ravine and surrounding area, 1959"

An aerial view of Chavez Ravine just before construction began on Dodgers Stadium.

“Dodger stadium (Chavez Ravine), 1961”

“Chavez Ravine Dodgers ball park, 1961”

Photos of Dodgers Stadium being built.

“Dodgers plant first tree in Chavez Ravine, 1961”

The text that goes with this photo reads: “The Dodgers will plant the first tree in the Chavez Ravine ball-park landscaping on Thursday morning March 9 at 9:30 am. The tree will be an ash — baseball bats are made from ash. Present will be Dick Walsh, Dodger Vice President, a bat boy in a Dodger uniform with a ball bat and Mrs. Carolyn Patterson, Chairman of Plant a Tree Week.” I want to know where this tree is!

“Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine at night, June 1, 1962”

A night game at Dodgers Stadium less than two months after it opened on April 10, 1962.

Photo via USC Libraries

The Echo Park Shallow Pool in 1958, with the 101 Freeway in the background. This pool (located by the Rec Center) is now closed until further notice, but the Echo Park Deep should be reopening today after dealing with some cloudy water issues.

h/t USC Libraries for the photo!

Panoramic view of Echo Park, looking north toward Mount Hollywood, December 1911

We recently found some photos in the University of Southern California’s Digital Library of Echo Park in the very beginning of the 20th century.

We’ve posted some of the pictures here for your enjoyment. The photo above was accompanied by a lovely account of the beginnings Echo Park Lake written by Jose Rivera.

Initially, the area we now know as the park was a natural arroyo that filled with water from a spring-fed stream that originated at Baxter Street and flowed down what is now Echo Park Avenue. In 1868 the Los Angeles Canal and Reservoir Co. dammed the arroyo to make a reservoir that aided in powering a woolen mill at what is now 6th and Figueroa (then known as Pearl St.) and was to eventually serve local residents, walnut orchards and vineyards to the south along Alvarado. The immigrants that worked these orchards and vineyards settled here and began to build small homes along Sunset Boulevard, between Echo Park Avenue and Lemoyne Street.

In 1875, the woolen mill closed and the reservoir land (then known as the Montana Tract) was sold off. Eventually, Thomas J. Kelley and Dr. W. Lemoyne Wills purchased the land for a business venture. In 1888, Mr. Kelley and Dr. Wills donated the land to the city for the expressed purpose of creating a public park for the enjoyment of the people of Los Angeles.

The first Superintendent of Parks for the city was an English immigrant named Joseph Tomlinson who was assigned the task of creating the park. One day, while overseeing the work, Mr. Tomlinson thought he heard his workers talking during a break, but he knew they were across the park from him. The park had an echo! He knew what the name of the park would be! The park was dedicated and opened to the public in 1895. The famous bed of lotuses that grow in the lake at the northwest end of the park, the largest stand of lotuses outside Asia, is a mystery yet to be solved. One legend says that evangelical Chinese missionaries planted them for use as food, but no one knows the real story. They appeared some time in 1923 or 1924.

Click below to view more photos.

Read more