Of the official list of things found at the bottom of Echo Park Lake during the rehabilitation project (which we published last November), some of the stranger items included a payphone and a parking enforcement boot, along with a couple of guns and knives. But during the past few months of the Lake rehabilitation project, construction workers have been digging up the bottom of the mucky lake bed, and moving enough dirt that they’ve unearthed something from Echo Park’s history.
From the Sunday LA Times, a fascinating story on the uncovering of a rusty 1880s-era wagon wheel by a construction worker digging with a backhoe last May. Now, Echo Park Lake was established as a park in the 1890s, but the lake had been there for some time and served as a reservoir for the surrounding farms and ranches. In the LA Times story, experts determined – after some speculation about its authenticity, and if it was from a farm wagon or a stagecoach wagon – that it was indeed a farm wagon wheel.
It may not be the most ground-breaking thing to find buried in the lake, but it is incredibly fascinating. It’s a glimpse into the history of Echo Park, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and what it was like before the roads were paved, before the neighborhood was built, and before we were a city.
It would be great to have all of the items pulled from the lake bed up for display!
You wouldn’t know by just looking at them, but the 100+ year old palm trees, a rare species of wild date, that make up “The Avenue of the Palms” on Stadium Way are dying.
Planted in 1895, the palms are now dying from a “combination of disease spread by using uncleaned chainsaws,” as well as old age.
The Citizen’s Committee to Save Elysian Park is addressing the issue, and will be discussing replanting the trees during their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday.
Echo Park resident, historian, and contributor to The Eastsider LA Rory Mitchell explores the history behind the sandstone cliffs that make up the west end of Echo Park as you drive into Silver Lake on Sunset.
Apparently this section has a pretty interesting history – in 1887 an ostrich farm decided to build a railway to its new Griffith Park location. Apparently the landowner of the section they blew threw, who knew about the project and initially supported it, was left “unsatisfied” with the work, sued the railroad company, and won. This landowner was lawyer George H. Smith, former Colonel in the Confederate Army and the grandfather of General George S. Patton.
Here’s a little video about the project, via the Echo Park Historic Society:
The Cut is now home to some unique vendors selling various items on the weekends, and is often plagued by landslides, especially after the “big” rains we had a couple of years ago.
Click here to read the entire write-up by Rory on the My Historic LA website.
Related articles to also read:
Despite all the negative aspects of the Echo Park Lake rehabilitation project (the length of closure, the loss of a park, the sights and smells of the construction process), it’s fascinating to witness how thoroughly documented this entire process is. A lot of in-depth research online (we are limited… we admit) brings up little photographic evidence from past lake drainings prior to the 1980s, but we were excited to see images on a recent The Eastsider LA article displaying a very empty lake bed during the draining prior to the 1984 Olympics. Not only had the story’s contributor Rory Mitchel dug deep into the LA Times and Los Angeles City records, but Echo Park resident Gloria Sohaki had also contributed these photos from that last draining.
Additionally, every day it seems there are more images of the status of the Echo Park Lake draining – this one today from a resident with a higher up view, and a whole website of daily images documented by resident Conor Collins. Add in the hundreds of tweets we’ve seen since the start of the lake rehabilitation project in August, and a webcam on EchoParkLake.com capturing hundreds of images every day, and we’ve got stellar documentation of the draining for the history books.
We’ve also been keeping a close eye on things, uploading photos to our Flickr page, and even joined up with the Odor Monitoring Committee to help with the process. In October we’ll learn about all the things they’ve find in the lake, so stay tuned!
Want to contribute? Feel free to share your photos on our Facebook page!
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:
Both very, very large maps are made available for download on the Big Map Blog. See if you can find your house!
Walking out of Masa tonight after dinner, I look up and was thrilled to see some light shine on the top of the historic Jensen’s Recreation Center in Echo Park. The 1924 Jensen building is a great piece of Echo Park history and architecture, and the 28 feet wide x 17 feet tall sign has 1300 red, green and white incandescent light bulbs (which not many existing signs in the area have any more since neon became popular in the 1920s).
In 1997, after 50 years of neglect and the sign unlit, it was restored and re-lit 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 re-lit again in 2005. However, that lasted only one month, and the sign has been dark ever since.
The relighting you see now is a part of some testing being done to check what needs to be repaired, according to an article Monday on The Eastsider LA. The relighting has been made possible by a $5,000 LA County Historic Preservation Society grant through the Echo Park Historical Society. 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 in October 2010, Greater Elysian Echo Park Neighborhood Council approved the allocation of $2,500 to the Historical Society for the restoration.
With this new development comes the question: When will the Jensen’s Recreation Sign lighting officially happen?
Hopefully we’ll find out soon, and the fundraising continues! Visit the Echo Park Historical Society website for more information and to donate.
Also, a comment on The Eastsider LA article intrigued us: “What a waste of tax payer dollars we can’t afford to throw away!!!!! Way are we the public paying to improve a privately held commerical building.???? how is the public or community being helped out. ????”
I suppose technically the money allocated by the GEPENC is technically tax-payer, but, like most funds allocated by the neighborhood council, it was put to a vote. In addition, we do appreciate historical parts of our community here in Echo Park, and this building is officially Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument No. 652. There’s even remnants of an Egyptian themed mural in what once was the bowling alley of Jensen’s Rec Center that still exists (the Historical Society gave a tour in March).
But it can’t be done without grants and donations from community members and organizations, and for those we say hooray.