Today is yet another May Day in Echo Park, and so we bring your attention to a post we published one year ago that brings you back 100 years in the neighborhood. Here goes:
Today is May Day, and 1910 in Echo Park saw 3,000 gatherers at the Echo Park Playground where they crowned Miss Ethel Pruett Queen of May.
“Three thousand men, women and children were present. As many came back for the evening’s part of the program. It was one of the most notable affairs that has ever been recorded in the history of Los Angeles, where children have taken apart.”
The Playground mentioned in this L.A. Herald article refers to a park that used to stretch from Bellevue Avenue south to Temple street, now bisected by the 101 Freeway.
From the Echo Park Historical Society website: “Huge May Day celebrations occupied the outdoor playground, and by 1912 the playground had thousands patrons in a single year, some of whom arrived from downtown on the Pacific Electric streetcar that moved up Glendale Boulevard (then known as Lake Shore).”
Thanks to LAHistory Twitter page for the link to this fun, historic newspaper article!
Today (Friday, January 28) is the last day to submit your comments for public record on the Sunset Flats project planned for Sunset and Rosemont in Echo Park. I have written extensively about this project both on Echo Park Now and in an opinions piece on Echo Park Patch, but there’s a new concern by at least one resident that there might be an historical element to one of the soon-to-be destroyed homes.
Resident Rory Mitchell found out that one of the homes on Sunset Blvd. does indeed have some historical value, regardless of whether or not it’s an official historic monument (which it’s not – yet!). Rory, a writer and historical consultant, wrote on his website that 2231 Sunset Blvd. is a 1910s home built for Stefan Zacsek, a Hungarian immigrant.
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!
The photos below show the construction of what is now the southbound 110 freeway lanes through Elysian Park in the early 1940s – the lanes were opened in 1943. It took me a while to exactly picture the freeway here now, and with Dodger Stadium things look a lot different than they did back then. The 1930s era Figueroa Street tunnels are still there, then with no graffiti.
Photo caption reads: “Rushing the work to relieve the bottleneck of the Figueroa tunnels for traffic on the Arroyo Seco freeway that runs between Los Angeles and Pasadena, crews are shown building the new parallel road through Elysian Park. In one section a whole mountain is being moved to fill in dirt for the new relief road for the heavy traffic.” Photo dated March 7, 1941.
Photo caption reads: “Construction of the $2,437,000 Arroyo Seco freeway through Elysian Park, a section of which is shown above, today entered the national defense picture. Frank W. Clark, state director of public works, has asked federal authorities for priorities on steel and cement to complete the project on the grounds that it is of strategic value in the national defense program around this city.” Photo dated August 11, maybe 1941.
Notice the beautiful Solano Avenue Elementary School to the left of the freeway (and no Dodger Stadium yet!). The scaffolding could possible be for a Red Car?
FYI, the interchange that connects the 110 freeway and the 101 in downtown is the country’s first “stack interchange” in the world, opened in 1953.
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?
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.
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.
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.