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Echo Park Historical Society

NEWS
Autumn 2007 Volume 11 Number 3

2007 Home Tour features Echo Park “Stairway Living”
Take a step back into the past by exploring our neighborhood’s unique network of public stairways that will be featured on the upcoming 2007 Historic Echo Park Home Tour. “Flights of Fancy: The Stairway Homes of Echo Park,” will highlight homes located on or near the public stairways that scale the hills of Echo Park, Angelino Heights and Elysian Heights. Find out what “stairway living” is all about by taking the tour on Sunday, Nov. , from  a.m. to 4 p.m. The approximately eight properties on this year’s tour range from a 920s era Spanish-Colonial compound overlooking Echo Park Lake to nearly century-old Craftsman bungalows in the hills of Elysian Heights. For the first time, the tour features a newly constructed structure, a post-and-beam house that is one of the few homes to be built on an Echo Park stairway in decades. The public stairways that scale Echo Park’s sometimes ridiculously steep hills are relics of the days before automobiles began to dominate the landscape and culture of Los Angeles. They reflect a time when most residents traveled either by horse and carriage, trolley or (gasp) on foot. (Please see pages 4 &5 for a stairway map and stories.) Now in its fifth year, the Historic Echo Park Home Tour is designed to generate interest in the preservation of old and historic homes as well as raise funds to support our ongoing preservation and historic-research programs. The self-guided tour starts at Williams Hall, 2000 Stadium Way. Tour visitors will pick up tickets, a program and map at Williams Hall and can then see the homes in any order. Admission is $20 general, $5 for EPHS members. During the month of October, the general public can purchase $5 discount tickets online and through the mail. See Page 6 for a ticket order form. For more information about the tour, headed by Holly Hampton, please visit HistoricEchoPark.org. More maps and information on Echo Park Stairways is available in the History & Landmarks section of HistoricEchoPark.org A Note on Access The nature of this year’s tour will make access extremely difficult for people with physical disabilities. In addition to being located on public stairways, some of the homes also have multiple steps and stairways. Also, because of restricted parking and our narrow streets, some of the homes will be located about .5 blocks or www.HistoricEchoPark.org
Get a cardio workout and history lesson on this year’s home tour.

EPHS Quarterly Meeting
Just Say “Tex”
The Story of L.A.’s Oldest French Restaurant
Wednesday, October 0, at 7 pm Barlow Library at Barlow Hospital 2000 Stadium Way

In 1927, Marius Taix Jr. opened a downtown restaurant featuring 50-cent chicken dinners served at communal tables (25 cents more got you a private booth). Eighty years later, Taix French Restaurant is still going strong under its third generation of family ownership at its “new” Echo Park location, which opened in 1962. Marius’ grandson, Michael Taix, will present the colorful story and vintage photos of this restaurant that has survived eight decades of intense competition and constantly changing tastes. This presentation, which is free and open to the public, is part of our quarterly meeting and includes updates and other news related to neighborhood history and preservation.

more from the nearest available parking space. See Page 6 for ticket order form. See Pages 4 & 5 for a stairway map and stories on “Stairway Living.” 

Calendar
OCTOBER EPHS Quarterly Membership Meeting Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. Please see front page for details. EPHS Board Meeting Monday, October 15 at 7 p.m. Our monthly board meeting is open to all members. Please call (323) 860-8874 for location information. Library Book Display Saturday, October 20 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.. Stop by the Edendale branch library, 2011 Sunset Blvd., and take a peak at the books on local history and historic preservation that we are donating as part of our Ron Emler Memorial Book Program (a similar display was set up at the Echo Park branch in October). EPHS volunteer Rowena Magana will staff a display of the books as well as historic photos and other materials. This year’s titles range from a book on watercolor artist Phil Dike to a book of bungalow blueprints. We would like to thank generous donations from the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council- District 3 and Carla Ballard for defraying the costs of purchasing the books. Elysian Park Walking Tour Saturday, October 27 at 10 a.m.. The Elysian Park Tour, which is co-sponsored by the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park, focuses on the lesser known but historically rich eastern edge of the park. Starting Place: Fremont Monument at North Broadway and Elysian Park Road. Reservations are required. Please call (323) 860-8874 or visit the Walking Tour section of www.HistoricEchoPark.org for more details. NOVEMBER Echo Park Library 10th Anniversary Saturday, Nov. 3. Stop by the Echo Park Branch Library, 1410 W. Temple St., to celebrate its 10th birthday in its current location. The EPHS will present a history slideshow from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.. 2007 Historic Echo Park Home Tour Sunday, Nov 11 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. See Page 1 for details. EPHS Board Meeting Monday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. See October events for details. Echo Park Stairway Tour Saturday, Nov. 24 at 10 AM The walk includes the Baxter Stairs (possibly the city’s longest) as well as Fellowship Park, Red Hill and the modernist Harwell Harris house. Starting Place: Elysian Heights Elementary 1562 Baxter St. at Echo Park Ave. Reservations are required. Please Call (323) 860-8874 or visit the Walking Tour section of www. HistoricEchoPark.org for more details.
CALENDAR continued on page 7

news/Updates
Paddle Boats in Dry Dock
There was a big splash around the paddle boats this summer when they were threatened with eviction from the newly renovated boathouse at Echo Park Lake. Councilman Eric Garcetti got creative and came up with some money to keep the concession going. He also announced at a lakeside press conference that as long as he was in office the boats would paddle for the public. But the paddle boat operation closed for the summer in early September and no reopening date has been announced. The Department of Recreation and Parks said the paddle boat program runs a $90,000 a year deficit it can no longer afford (though it’s not clear if other rec & park programs are supposed to pay their way). “The Council Member is looking into ways to make it a more financially sustainable operation,” said council office field deputy Kabira Stokes Hochberg in an email to the Chicken Corner Blog. “The boats will return, we are just not certain as to when.” In the meantime, Echo Park photographer Martin Cox is organizing a group photo exhibit featuring the paddle boats; she show is tentatively scheduled to be displayed in November. We hope this is not the last time we will see paddle boats in Echo Park. groups. The historical society has urged the church to preserve the two-story buildings, dating from the 920s and 930s, that create an inviting and pedestrian-friendly link between the Sunset Boulevard business district and the lake. Instead, the church wants to build a 60foot-tall parking structure with no storefronts or apartments at ground level.

One of Echo Park’s most significant residential homes, the Ross House designed by modernist architect Rafael Soriano, sold in late August after being on the market for less than two weeks. The International-style house, which is located at 223 Valentine St., was built in 938 and is one of Soriano’s best early works, according to the book Architecture in Los Angeles. The home was later occupied by the late movie art director Albert Nozaki and his family, who owned the home until its recent sale. The asking price for the ,700-square-foot home was $859,000.

What Real Estate Bust?

Echo Park Historical Society
P.O. Box 261022 - Los Angeles, CA 90026 (323) 860-8874 email: ephs@historicechopark.org www.HistoricEchoPark.org Founded 1995 The Echo Park Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of diverse cultural and architectural heritage of our community. Board of Directors President Kevin Kuzma Vice-President Mary-Austin Klein Recording Secretary Jim Schneeweis At-Large Scott Fajack, Jenny Burman, Christine Peters, David Schnepp Newsletter Staff Desktop Publishing: Terri Lloyd Company Editor: Jenny Burman Ad Manager: Rosie Betanzos Contributing Writers: Becky Koppenhhaver, Kevin Kuzma, Vanessa McGee, David Ptach

Church Wants to Override Demo Ban

Angelus Temple is seeking an exemption from the city to demolish the remaining apartment buildings it owns on Lemoyne Street south of Sunset Boulevard to build a giant parking structure. The city imposed a moratorium on new construction and demolition in the area as it looks to study the creation of a possible historic district around Echo Park Lake. The church had received two demo permits before the moratorium took effect. A spokesman for Los Angeles Councilman Eric Garcetti told the Garment & Citizen newspaper that Angelus Temple officials “plan to seek a waiver on the moratorium for additional demolitions related to the project.” In early September, church officials discussed the church’s plans with the historical society and other neighborhood www.HistoricEchoPark.org

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‘School of Success’ found good vibe in Echo Park
Before we had informercials, before self-improvement schemes were part of our city’s DNA, Los Angeles had the Segno School of Success – a dubious educational enterprise perched right atop a cliff above Echo Park Lake. In 902, A. Victor Segno began promoting himself as someone who could read palms and guide Angelenos in the ways of “Mentalism,” the practice of putting one’s brain waves on the right frequency – a practice that was sure to bring success. To get their brain waves in order, Segno promised to send out the right vibrations. But he also told his acolytes they could get the scoop on mentalism by mailing $ to -- who else? -- A. Victor Segno. By 903, Segno had 2,000 subscribers to his publications, a fact that infuriated an indignant Los Angeles Times. “It seems incredible that there should be even a thousand cheerful suckers for every month of the year who are clamoring for the opportunity to contributed $ ‘per’ for the support of a scheme so rank,” the Times wrote. Segno’s popularity took off in 904, when he built an elaborate two-story concrete building at Clinton and Bellevue avenues, directly above Echo Park Lake on the promontory he called Inspiration Point. With lecture halls, an octagonal reception room and distinctive domes, the building immediately grabbed the attention of anyone who walked around the lake, then only a decade old. The marketing schemes did not end with brain waves, either. With help from Segnogram Printing, Segno sold selfimprovement books like How to Possess a perfect head of Hair, Personal Magnetism and How to Be Happy Though Married. As it turned out, Segno wasn’t so happy about being married himself. In 9, he ran off with his (also married) secretary, abruptly leaving town in 9 to the consternation of the city. By 95, he found himself in World War I-era Berlin. A few years later, Segno was back in Los Angeles pursuing other schemes. But his popularity had peaked, even as his educational palace was sold off to others. The school of success, and the nearby Segnogram printing, were demolished

Top: American Institute of Mentalism and Home of the Segno Success Club. Bottom: Court and gardens, Inspiration Point, Echo Park. in the late 960s to make way for the complex now known as the Lago Vista. Although the complex now houses 48 condos, a tiny piece of the old success factory – a cupola -- can be seen in front of the red house across the street. To see more School of Success photos, please go to the History & Landmarks page of www.HistoricEchoPark.org. Click on “Echo Park People” and look for the Segno entries.

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Where do you live?
Echo Park’s more than 30 public stairways are concrete reminders of the days before the automobile began to dominate the landscape and culture of Los Angeles, when most Angelenos traveled by horse and buggy, trolley car and, gasp, even on foot. Many are small and practical in scale, helping link hillside residents with the streetcar lines and businesses below. But some, including the Laveta Terrace, Baxter and Clinton stairways, are impressive and stylish public landmarks that reward those who climb them with stunning views. In fact, at more than 230 steps, the Baxter Stairway is among the tallest in the city. For many Echo Park residents, the stairways are far more than historic curiosities. The stairways provide the only physical link between their homes and the rest of the world. It’s a unique environment, and the EPHS asked a few stairway dwellers to write about the ups and downs about stairway life: Stairway Makes For Good Neighbors The 30 steps of the Fellowship Park Stairway leads to the hilltop that Dave Ptach calls home. Living on a stair street is not for everyone. You have to hunt for street parking, schlep everything from groceries to refrigerators up countless flights of stairs, not to mention the logistics of getting a pizza delivered. Most stair street homes are small (current building codes make it very hard to build without off-street parking) with narrow yards, a bit of an anomaly in McMansion-friendly Los Angeles and the country as a whole, where we tend to overconsume everything from cars to food to housing. But to live on a stair street is to embrace the small home aesthetic. Each stair street has its own personality, its own ambience. Some are littered with trash and scarred by graffiti; others are a leafy bucolic paradise with panoramic views. Stair streets tend to foster a sense of community, as I see my neighbors walking past my house everyday. People from the neighborhood walk their
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Life on a stairway street has its ups and downs
dogs up the stairs as part of their cardio routine. On several evenings I have returned home to find a dozen or so neighbors Heather and Michan Conner relax on the Sunset Stairway while Dave Ptach stands at the Fellowship Park Stairway gossiping in my front yard, the kids playing in the we enjoy peace and quiet that few others hammock and the dogs rolling in the cool do. When the Gas Company technician grass. turned on our service four years ago, he I ended up living on a stair street said he’d “never known there was a house completely by accident. I was looking for up here.” a house while living on the Westside but Our staircase, unlike many in Echo was unable to afford anything on that Park, does not connect two streets, so it’s side of town. So, I headed to the Eastside. more akin to a cul-de-sac than a through With an Echo Park address in hand of street. We share a community with a one of the few homes in my price range, I few neighbors, but few others make the drove up and down a street, but was un- trip to the top. As much as we’ve come able to find the house listed. to love our place, our experiences pale in I returned to search for the house comparison to our closest neighbor, who two more times before I realized that the has lived across the staircase with her street ended and turned into a staircase, husband for forty years. She recalls many barely visible beneath an overgrown changes to the neighborhood and the city, thicket of bougainvillea. and landmarks of her youth in Bunker Intrigued, I climbed the staircase and Hill and Chavez Ravine that have been entered a magical, secret world. I couldn’t taken away by urban renewal. She’s seen believe that this oasis existed in the mid- the ups and downs of Echo Park, and is dle of this huge metropolis. I felt like Alice surprised by its recent boom. She’s been going down the rabbit hole and emerging approached by developers offering monin Wonderland. ey for her property, but she’s quite unNeedless to say, I bought the house derstandably proud to be able to say no. and have lived there happily ever since. She keeps an eye on things while we’re at To this day I meet lifelong Echo Park work, and often brings us baked goods residents who still do not know my street and holiday treats, which we’ve tried to exists, and that’s the way I like it: No one help pay back by hauling her empty garcan find me unless I want them to. bage bins back up the stairs, though she often refuses to let us, saying the exercise Steps Above A Busy Boulevard keeps her young. Neighbors at the BudHeather & Michan Connor live at the dhist temple below us on the stairs brings top of 60-step Sunset Stairway. us egg rolls and fried rice almost weekly Our house by itself is modest and after their celebrations. We try to recipsimple. It’s distinguished mostly by its rocate by trimming our trees so they don’t age (built in 904) and its bright lav- hang down on their property! ender hue. Yet, it is unique because it’s It wouldn’t be the same house if it insulated from one of the busiest streets weren’t located at the top of a staircase. in Los Angeles by a flight of sixty steps. Its location provides us with community, Though we have our minor struggles privacy, solitude, and (like it or not) plenwith the garbage bins and the groceries, ty of exercise! and budget for extra tips for deliveries, www.HistoricEchoPark.org

The Stairways of Echo Park To learn more about the stairways please visit the walking tours section of
www.historicechopark.org

1. Court Street Stairway 2. Bellevue Stairway 3. Clinton Stairway 4. Kent Stairway 5. Crosby Stairway 6. Sunset/Glendale Stairway 7. Effie Stairway 8. Ewing Staircase Sidewalk 9. Ewing Stairway West 10. Fargo Stairway 11. Cove Stairway 12. Oak Glen Stairway 13. Loma Vista Stairway 14. Peru Stairway 15. Landa Stairway 16. Fellowship Park Stairway 17. Donaldson West Stairway 18. Curran Stairway 19. Donaldson East Stairway 20. Baxter Stairway 21. Preston Stairway 22. Little Fargo Stairway 23. Ewing Stairway East 24. Avalon West Stairway 25. Avaon East Stairway 26. Delta Stairway 27. Lucretia Stairway 28. Fairbanks Stairway 29. Montana Stairway 30. Laveta Terrace Stairway 31. McDuff Stairway 32. Innes Stairway 33. Sunset Stairway

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2007 Historic Echo Park Home Tour
Flights of Fancy: The Stairway Homes of Echo Park
Sunday, November 11 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
(please detach this section and return with payment)

Orders Must Be Postmarked No Later than Nov. 3, 2007

Advance Purchase Tickets ..........................$15.00
Name ________________________________________________________________________ Address ______________________________________________________________________ City _______________________________________________Zip Code __________________ Phone ________________________________ Email _________________________________ Number of tickets @ $15 each _________________ Total Amount Enclosed $ ______________

Please make check or money order payable to the “Echo Park Historical Society”
Mail to:

EPHS / Attn: Home Tour P.O. Box 261022 Los Angeles, CA. 90026
* Pick up tickets at Will Call (Williams Hall, 2000 Stadium Way) on the day of tour. * Directions/map will be mailed with confirmation of your order. You can also purchase tickets online with a credit card on the Home Tour section of www.HistoricEchoPark.org. Contact us at (323) 860-8874 or ephs@HistoricEchoPark.org with any questions. A Note on Access:
The nature of this year’s tour will make access extremely difficult for people with physical disabilities. In addition to being located on public stairways, some of the homes also have multiple steps and stairways. Also, because of restricted parking and our narrow streets, some of the homes will be located about 1-/1/2 blocks or more from the nearest available parking space.
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www.HistoricEchoPark.org

perspectives

Stairways Reflect Echo Park History and Sensibility
Much ado about stairway. As you likely have noticed by now, we’re all over them in this issue. We’re all over the stairways this season, in fact. Not only do we conduct tours of the staircases but we are in the process of applying for historic landmark status for the public stair streets of Echo Park. They are part of our history here as well as being a distinctive feature that the neighborhood has used effectively in keeping the scale of homes, well, in scale. The Echo Park Historical Society cares more about history, scale and orientation than about preferring one architectural style of home building over

another. Most of us who honor the history of this complex neighborhood would rather see a small modern glass box next to a small prairie wood box nestled into a hillside than a faux-Craftsman jumbo container that bears no relation to the site or the neighborhood. Take the Landa stairs, for example. Developers are interested in building spec houses that would dwarf the cottage-like homes on the hillsides around them. The builders’ interest is not in honoring what is here in cultural/lifestyle terms, but in maximizing a profit on a neighborhood that is perceived as up-and-coming. But the people in the stairway bungalows, some of which are truly tiny, do not consider where they live to be up-and-coming. Quite the opposite if boxy, out-ofscale spec houses are allowed to squash the tucked-away atmosphere many people seek on a stair street, or almost any-

where in Echo Park. Our history is written all around us in real space. There are books and documents, words and what people remember, but in the most physical, direct way we experience the history of our neighborhood in daily terms, architecturally, as we move through the streets and walkways. It is meaningful that most of the stair street homes have doorways that face toward the steps. In stark terms, do you move to a neighborhood – or build a house there – because you want to be part of what you already find there, or because you can’t get what you want elsewhere, so you hope to create it in opposition to what’s already established? If the neighbors object, is it a question of “be like us?” Or is it a question of “don’t come in and squash us?”

Calendar
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DECEMBER Holiday Pot Luck Party Saturday, Dec 8 at 7 PM EPHS members and supporters are invited to attend our annual Holiday Potluck. EPHS members should look for an invitation in the mail in late November with location information and other details. EPHS Board Meeting Monday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. See October events for details. Echo Park Lake Walking Tour Saturday, Dec. 22 at 10 AM This tour features many of the neighborhood’s most prominent landmarks, including Echo Park Lake, Angelus Temple and Jensen’s Recreation Center. Starting Place: Echo Park Boathouse, 751 Echo Park Ave. Reservations are required. Please Call (323) 860-8874 or visit the Walking Tour section of www. HistoricEchoPark.org for more details.

Echo Park Landmarks
Think you might have a landmark on your block? The EPHS is planning to compile a list of neighborhood landmarks and needs your help in identifying buildings and sites that might be of historic interest. The list will help the EPHS identify the sites that would be worthy of being designated as official landmarks by the City of Los Angeles or other government agencies. Contact us at ephs@ historicechopark.org

with your nomination. Include an address or approximate location as well as an information you might have on the site’s historic significance. Read more about Echo Park landmarks and interesting places on our website, www.HistoricEchoPark.org.

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Your membership support and involvement makes possible our programs, mailings and educational activities. Please make your check payable to: Echo Park Historical Society - P.O. Box 261022 - Los Angeles, CA 90026 Or pay online using PayPal at www.HistoricEchoPark.org Name: _________________________________ Address: ________________________________ City: ________________________State:_______ Phone: _________________________________ Email: _________________________________
INDIVIDUAL................. $15.00 HOUSEHOLD.................. $25.00 BUSINESS/ ORGANIZATION............ $40.00 CORPORATE................ $500.00 LIFETIME (INDIVIDUAL)............ $250.00

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Echo Park Historical Society P.O. Box 261022 Los Angeles, CA 90026

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