Category Archives: History

Ofrenda Viewing

2011 Ofrenda

Flowers that have been placed on the ground

Skull Candles on The "Altar"

2011 Ofrenda @ LASHP

From November 2nd- November 7th The Anabolic Monument will be host to a public viewing of the Ofrenda that they built in the park. The word Ofrenda translates to offering and it is set up to celebrate and honor ancestors. For those interested please stop by to celebrate and view the Ofrenda of the Day Of The Dead, or Dia De Los Muertos. We have stopped by a few times and it is absolutely stunning. Above you can see our images from our viewings this year, and below we have one image of last years Ofrenda. For more information you can email Olivia- chumacero13@gmail.com

2010 Ofrenda

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Filed under California Native Plants, Events in the Park, Happenings in the Park, History, Los Angeles, People of the Park, photos, Wildflowers, Your Stories

Uncovering The Past

Beginning to Uncover the Past

Visitors to Los Angeles State Historic Park (LASHP) often wonder what exactly makes our park historical. This is due to the fact that most of our material history is underground. This past week, State Park archaeologists have been at LASHP uncovering some of that history.

The Dig Begins

In 1875, the Southern Pacific Railroad made its way into what is now downtown Los Angeles, connecting the city to the transcontinental railroad in the north. The property chosen for the new passenger depot and yard was located in what is now the middle section of the park and was considered far from the existing town center at the time. 4 years later, in 1879, passenger traffic had increased to the extent that a hotel was constructed next to the depot, offering weary travelers a respite with a “parlor sitting room” and restaurant serving quick “25 minute meals.”

The Entrance of the Hotel

This past week State archaeologists uncovered the foundation of the hotel and what was once the ice house for the rail yard. Based on their current excavation, we now know that the ice house walls went much further down than originally thought. It appears the ice was kept cool below ground in something much like a basement. They also located what they believe to be a hotel water closet, based on terra cotta and metal piping that was found.

The Hotel

Here are a few photos documenting the dig and illustrating how the layers of history within our park continue to reveal hidden stories about the park and the city’s past.

Foundations of Rooms at the Hotel

The Hotel

The Ice House

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Filed under Events in the Park, Happenings Around The Park, Happenings in the Park, History, Los Angeles, Park Info, photos, Tours In The Park

On the Trail of LA History

To the Park from the Chinatown Gold Line Station

Seniors from Franklin High School’s Arroyo Seco Academy in Highland Park spent some quality time this past semester considering Los Angeles history. With guidance from the National Park Service, students partnered with the LA City planning department to develop trails as part of the CASP (Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific) Plan. The CASP plan is especially significant for the park because it affects future development of the area immediately surrounding LASHP. Not surprisingly, the park figured prominently in the urban trails that the students developed. In fact, after touring the park and learning of the site’s history, students themselves determined that LASHP should be the ending destination for the trails that each team was tasked with developing. Superintendent Sean Woods and Park and Recreation Specialist Stephanie Campbell recently visited Franklin High School to see their proposed trails and talk with students.

Sean and Stephanie checking out the presentations

From walking to biking to skateboarding, the trails were multi-use and creative, capturing many interesting sites and modes of transport. One team envisioned a trail along Grand Avenue centered on the theme of entertainment. Another originated at a Ramen shop in Little Tokyo, passing a monument to a Japanese American Astronaut, and then through a pocket park commemorating Christopher Columbus. One particularly thoughtful trail, titled “Exploration of the Township,” traversed the area adjacent North Broadway, including Cathedral High School, Johnson Fain Architecture and San Conrado Catholic Mission, which holds a Native American mass the final Sunday of every month. In addition to assets along the trials, students also identified areas for improvement such as wider sidewalks, enhanced street lighting, graffiti removal, and the addition of bike lanes, rest stops, and vegetation.

All the trails shared a true sense of Los Angeles history and contained surprises even for State Parks staff well versed in local history. Superintendent Woods was particularly pleased by the student projects, noting the, at times, arduous process of obtaining an historic designation for the park site. “It’s so gratifying to see the students embracing the history of the park and carrying on with what State Parks and the advisory committee began ten years ago.” Councilman Ed Reyes must also have been quite impressed. He not only addressed the students but spent time talking to each and every team about their trails. By 7:00 pm, as the evening was winding down, the Councilman was still happily engaged with students and immersed in LA history.

Councilman Ed Reyes addresses students

Great work Franklin!

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Filed under History, Los Angeles

Artifacts

With a new native landscape plan in the works our maintenance crew is busy preparing the soil in front of our office for all the new plants. While poking around in front yesterday we noticed some broken pottery pieces with Chinese characters that appear quite old. Bit of the material culture from the Southern Pacific Railroad days perhaps? Any of our cultural resource specialists care to weigh in? Leave your comments!

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Backstage LA – Infrastructure in Three Acts

Digesters at Hyperion Treatment Plant

Digesters at Hyperion Treatment Plant

LASHP would like to extend a thank you to the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design for letting us tag along on a tour of the Hyperion Treatment Plant, the first of their three part series, Backstage LA taking a closer look at components of our urban infrastructure that are so often taken for granted. But taking it for granted is actually okay. Infrastructure, as an underlying base or foundation, by it’s very nature is about not being noticed. Infrastructure is about quietly and effectively helping society get on with the bigger business of being civilized. If we are taking it for granted that means it is doing it’s job well. Sewage processing and treatment is one of those most happily dependable and discrete functions. The ability to make human waste invisible with a quick flush, coupled with its sanitary containment and disposal, is nothing short of miraculous when contrasted with the raw state of earlier, or undeveloped, sewage conditions – to say nothing of public health epidemics with which they were (and are) often accompanied.

The Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant is the largest, and oldest waste water treatment facility in Los Angeles, and the largest treatment plant west of the Mississippi. The plant began operating in 1894 initially as a discharge point for raw sewage directly into the Santa Monica Bay. Today, 6,500 miles of pipeline feed 350 million gallons of waste into the plant each day for treatment. Since 1998 the plant has operated as a full secondary treatment plant and was selected as one of the Top Ten Public Works Projects of the 20th Century along with Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal and the Golden Gate Bridge. This distinction marks the plant’s long operational history and progressive technological improvements. Our tour guides, Nancy Carr and Mike Mullen, colorfully equated the massive high-tech facility with another famous regional wonder – “Disneyland for poop” they called it. The two hour tour included a video on plant operations, presentations by Carr and Mullen, a tram tour around the facility, and even a visit to the super-secure underground pipe galleries. Treating the waste from all of Los Angeles is a complex process requiring this vast industrial landscape of giant pipes, containers, tanks, and equipment – digesters, air scrubbers, outfalls – the massive systems of conveyance were striking, as were the successive stations and stages of treatment.

Something important happens here

Something important happens here

...and here

...and here

Mike Mullen pointed out that 1% of funds from capital improvement projects at the facility is allocated to art, and in the most recent case, building facades were the recipient. Apparently local residents preferred that the plant look other than what what it actually does. Interestingly the resulting architecture, exhibits a slightly cartoonish quality.

architecture

Tanks

If you ask me, this bit looks straight out of Bikini Bottom:

Sponge Bob where are you?

Sponge Bob where are you?

In all seriousness, the work that occurs at Hyperion is invaluable to our quality of life in Los Angeles. During the tour, Mr. Mullen pointed out that the whole reason for the plant’s existence and operation was just to the west. Hyperion Treatment Plant exists to protect one of the greatest resources we share as residents of California, the Pacific Ocean. In that respect, Hyperion Treatment Plant and California State Parks are muy simpatico with respect to a shared mission of resource protection. Looking directly across the street to beautiful Dockweiler State Beach, we were offered a moment of seriously not taking it all for granted.

Dockweiler State Beach

Dockweiler State Beach

After such a high-tech sewage adventure, we will leave you with some impressive, low-tech, waste treatment craftiness by Homegrown Evolution. In the event that systems ever do go down, there’s a lot to be said for reliable back up.

Homegrown Evolution's Milk Crate Toilet

Homegrown Evolution's Milk Crate Toilet

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Filed under Fieldtrip, History, Los Angeles

Empty Nest, Concrete River, and LASHP

Sadly, it appears that the LASHP Tweet received over the weekend is correct. Our resident Killdeer and chicks have indeed moved on, leaving not a trace but the two orange cones which were situated on either side of their gravelly nest. While we’re sorry to see them go, it’s still quite exciting to see a variety of birds here in the park and be reminded daily of the tremendous impact a little open space can have in supporting urban wildlife populations. At the same time, it’s sobering to think of the wildlife that has been lost over the years due to urban expansion, and in our particular location, the channelization of the Los Angeles River.

Los Angeles River

Los Angeles River

This is what the river looks like today – 52 miles of concrete, minus a scant few in the soft-bottomed Glendale Narrows where complete channelization was not possible due to a particularly high water table. Yes, Los Angeles was once home to a wild, free-flowing river. It was the river that primarily attracted the Spanish to this location, one of the few where water flowed year-round, as an ideal spot for settlement. The river was the reason that over 45 Tongva/Gabrielino Indian settlements had already been in residence along the its course for over a millennia before the Spanish arrived. The Tongva village of Yang Na, one of the largest settlements, is thought to have been located within a half mile of LASHP.

In 1769 the Portola expedition crossed the Los Angeles River near where the park meets the Broadway Bridge. From the bluff, the Spanish noted flourishing native settlements and the particular beauty of this location near the river, a verdant marshland of dense willow and sycamore. Father Crespi appreciated the fertility of the land, and wrote in his diary that they encountered “a great vineyard of (wild) grapevines and countless rose bushes having a great deal of open blossoms, all of it a very dark friable soil.” A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de la Reina de los Angeles was founded by a small group of 46 settlers.

Portola Trail marker at Elysian Park entrance off Broadway

Portola Trail marker at Elysian Park entrance off Broadway

The river was a vital component of the young agricultural village and provided the sole source of irrigation and drinking water for over a century. Water from the Los Angeles River was transported to the growing Pueblo through irrigation ditches, or zanjas. A section of the most significant channel, the Zanja Madre, or “Mother Ditch” was actually uncovered during the construction of the MTA Goldline and this brick covered remnant of the old Pueblo irrigation system is still visible from LASHP. The conveyance of water to El Pueblo was so important, in fact, that a prominent municipal position, that of Zanjero, was created in 1854 to oversee the water supply and maintenance of the zanjas.

Zanja Madre

Zanja Madre

Brick Detail on Zanja Madre

Brick Detail on Zanja Madre

Although the river was vital to the sustenance of the Pueblo, it was also dangerous and prone to violent flooding along its meandering, undefined path. As the population of the region grew and development increased in proximity to the River’s shallow banks, the danger to residents from periodic flooding increased exponentially. Three great floods, in 1914, 1934, and 1938 all hit Los Angeles with catastrophic consequences. Public distrust of the river grew along with the expanding population. Eventually, the seasonal threats of raging flood waters were met head on by the Army Corp of Engineers which began channelizing the river in 1940 making it what it is today, a vessel for the rapid delivery of floodwater to the ocean.

So that is why LASHP no longer has a natural connection to the Los Angeles River and the historic floodplain. And it is why we relish the site of a lone pair of nesting Killdeer, where there were once Condors, and Cuckoos, Owls, and Vireos, deer and antelope roaming the region, along with mountain lions, foxes, coyotes, and even grizzly bears, coming down from the mountains to feast on steelhead trout that once filled the river. Looking at the river as it is today, it’s hard to image that less than a hundred years ago it probably looked much like this.

Santa Ana River -  Riverside County

Santa Ana River - Riverside County

But, concrete channel or no, the Los Angeles River remains an integral component of the past and future of LASHP. During the our planning process, the local community consistently emphasized the paramount importance of re-connecting the park with the Los Angeles River. Even amidst the doom and gloom of an economic meltdown, we’re still looking forward to making that connection and hope to see the northern end of the park return to a natural wetland and supportive wildlife habitat. For now, we’ll keep our eye on the Killdeer.

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Wild Mustard, A plant with a checkered past.

Non native Wild Mustard

Non native Wild Mustard

It’s a plant seemingly as ubiquitous as traffic in Los Angeles. Our urban landscape with its intermittent open space and roadside patches, comprised often only of mere handfuls of dirt, conspire to support the tenacious Wild Mustard plant. This plant is not native to California and was actually introduced by Spanish Rancheros to support the growing cattle industry. The wild mustard arrived to compensate for overgrazing of native grasslands fueled by increasing numbers of cows. No longer consumed by cattle, this invasive species has run wild in Los Angeles’ Mediterranean climate, consuming the landscape at any chance it is given.

Wild Mustard

Wild Mustard

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America’s Best Idea

Screening at Paramount Ranch

Screening at Paramount Ranch

Last Thursday, this California State Parks staffer joined a comrade from the National Park Service for a sneak preview of documentarian Ken Burns’ newest series set to air on PBS in September, “The National Parks – America’s Best Idea.” The evening was quite a treat beginning with a serendipitous brush with President Obama’s motorcade headed south on the 101 as we traveled north in the carpool lane through Burbank. An impressive show, for sure. But not to be outdone was the veritable NPS rangercade that escorted Burns through the crowd and into the screening at Paramount Ranch.

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg, Ventura County Star

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg, Ventura County Star

Part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Paramount Ranch is itself a National Park Unit and an ideal setting in the golden hour light to welcome visitors for park hikes, docent tours, and other activities prior to the screening.

NPS Display

NPS Display

KCET personality and friend of all California parks, Huell Howser, was on hand to moderate the evening’s events with the folksy enthusiasm we’ve all come to expect. But Huell also provided some insightful commentary. On Burns’ engaging view of history and unique storytelling he aptly stated that he “makes us feel better about who we are” as Americans. Burns, for his part was humble, thoughtful, and genuinely awed with regard to his latest subject emphasizing that preservation of land for public use and enjoyment is a uniquely American enterprise, calling it “democracy applied to the landscape.” In equal measure, he spoke appreciatively of those people, past and present, dedicated to preserving our most beautiful landscapes and endangered wildlife, making the National Park system what it is today. He spoke further of a commitment to life-long learning, service, and stewardship that is cultivated in tandem with a love of our National Parks and public landscapes reassuring the audience that “in difficult times, parks have thrived.”

Ghost Town at Paramount Ranch

Ghost Town at Paramount Ranch

From a State Parks perspective, it is notable that “America’s Best Idea” originated in California. In 1864 Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees was deeded to the State as a public trust in a land grant by President Lincoln “…to be held for public use, resort, and recreation…” a direct precursor to the modern California State Parks department and mission. Yosemite was the original California State Park and later incorporated as part of the National Park Service which was established in 1916.

dpr-logo-color-1in

California,with it its rich landscape, was also not surprisingly home to early environmental activism. In the 1880’s Ralph Sidney Smith, editor of the Redwood City Times and Gazette began writing about the need for preservation of California’s unique redwood forests. The Sempervirens Club, formed in 1900, carried on the crusade for preservation and their vocal advocacy led to the creation of the modern State Park system with the opening of the first modern park, “Big Basin” in Santa Cruz County in 1904.

Here at LASHP the legacy of that early activism is particularly resonant. In the same spirit of preservation, LASHP was rescued from pending industrial development by a coalition of thirty-five neighborhood, urban environmental, and social justice organizations. The Chinatown Yard Alliance pulled together in joint recognition of the site’s historical significance and its potential to fulfill a tremendous need for open space and possible reconnection to the Los Angeles river. Thanks to the vision and hard work of concerned Angelenos we have this lovely space and a neighborhood poised to transform around it as opposed to blocks of warehouses and more of the industrial same-old.

Photo by Joshua White

Photo by Joshua White

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Hamburger Stand, Or

Early 1950’s stripped-down vernacular urban fast-food roadside establishment?

Millie's

Millie's

If you are a State Park Historian, and the hamburger stand in question happens to be on an archaeological site then it is the latter. So, why such a mouthful for something so simple? It all goes back to the State Parks Mission:

To provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.

Because the entire 32 acres encompasing Los Angeles State Historic Park are designated as one archaeoligical site, we are mandated to carefully review any projects or activities at the park that may affect the below ground cultural resources. Underneath our park are the remnants of the Southern Pacific Railyard that was formerly a major passenger, and later, a freight depot. Remnants include an enormous turntable and roundhouse used to service trains, foundations of maintence shops, an old hotel, and passenger depot foundations.

Hungry shopworkers at the Southern Pacific River Station

Hungry shopworkers at the Southern Pacific River Station

With regard to our little “vernacular roadside establishment” we mentioned in an earlier post that big changes are on the way. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Urban Green for a modern, healthy take on roadside fast-food. Part of that process on our end involves a State Park review of proposed renovations to the structure and surrounding area to ensure that valuable resources are not damaged. And this is where the historian and all those descriptors come in, to evaluate the historical significance of the building and make recommendations for preservation.

Archaeologist examining paving stones near Millie's

Archaeologist examining paving stones near Millie's

Paving stone

Paving stone detail

Paving stones were used to prevent the wagons sinking into mud as freight and passengers were loaded and unloaded from the station. There’s more than meets the eye everywhere at LASHP.

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“Tornado Hits S.P. Yards”

“Freak Storm Does Damage Amid Shower of Rain and Hail”
Los Angeles Times January 13, 1937

Looking south  towards City Hall

Looking south from the future site of LASHP towards City Hall


Sitting on the site of the former Southern Pacific Rail yard – in a modular building, during inclement weather, and in front of a row of corn – we enjoyed revisiting this tidbit from the LA times thanks to Mike Davis “at precisely 3:10 p.m., residents along North Broadway were startled by a mysterious rumble which quickly increased to a roar. Looking skyward, terrified spectators saw the air filled with flying timber which had been picked up by a twister from the Southern Pacific freight yards. Some of the pieces were twenty-five feet long and as much as eight inches thick.”

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