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Winter 2006 History Matters
Don't Trash Echo Park History In what was a big pile of trash, Luiza Mavropoulos found a small historic treasure. Luiza, a longtime Echo Park resident and EPHS member, spotted a dumpster near her home filled with the debris of a house undergoing renovation. After a little poking around (some would call it dumpster diving), Luiza found a small orange and yellow pamphlet: “1953 Silverlake Sunset - Echo Park Welcome Book.” You probably could not get much cash for this 36-page booklet, a directory of local businesses, on ebay or the Antique Road Show. But in the pages of this relatively well-preserved pamphlet are some details that help tell the story of the neighborhood’s past. In its pages are ads for long departed stores, like Jay Leslie’s “The Smart Shop for Smart Women” at 1731 Sunset Blvd. or the French Hand Laundry at 1415 Echo Park Ave. But you will also be surprised to discover listings for existing businesses such as Par Paint and the Brite Spot (“Just Good Food”). The listings reveal the old telephone exchanges: MUtual 5903 for the original Echo Park Branch library or MIchigan 5908 for Marcy’s Health Club. Today’s residents might be surprised to discover that Fred’s Texaco Service operated at the intersection of Echo Park Avenue and Avalon Street and that you could see a drive-in movie near Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher Drive at Donnely’s Drive-In. Luiza allowed us to make copies of the pamphlet for our archives. Her initiative and curiosity is a good example of how residents can help us rediscover the interesting bits of our neighborhood history that get tossed out every day.
HISTORY MATTERS continued on page 4
Volume 10, Number 1
EPHS Quarterly Meeting & Featured Presentation
Beyond Batchelder: A Primer on Southern California Vintage Tile
Save the Date!
Wednesday, February 15 7 PM Wells Antiques 2162 Sunset Blvd.
Many of Echo Park’s old homes are graced with beautiful decorative tiles created by some of the region’s legendary tile manufacturers, including Batchelder and Catalina. Scott Wells, a nationally recognized expert on tile and owner of Wells Antiques in Echo Park, will help you better understand the history, beauty and value of vintage tile in a special presentation that will be held amid the museum-quality treasures displayed in his store and showroom. The quarterly meeting, which will also include an update on EPHS events and issues of interest to members, is free and open to the public.
Barlow plans to sell portion of grounds
Housing developers show interest in parks landmark site
The future of one of Echo Park’s most significant historic landmarks, 103-year-old Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Elysian Park, is uncertain after the owners announced they have put the landmark compound up for sale. The 25-acre property at the corner of Scott Avenue and Stadium Way has attracted interest primarily from those involved in housing development. However, the Los Angeles school district has also eyed the site as a possible location for a new middle
continued on page 6
Echo Park Lake:
A renewal begins
Final part of lake series page 3.
9A residents served with vacate notices
Coalition, Garcetti step up efforts to save homes, businesses
In recent months the EPHS has been involved in the effort to save 54 neighborhood homes and businesses, which the Los Angeles Unified School District proposes to raze in order to make way for a new elementary school. As many of you know, the EPHS believes that the 9A site – as the project has been named by the LAUSD – was chosen hastily, without concern for the real needs of our neighborhood. In the meantime 200 people are faced with losing their homes; an entire swath of the neighborhood may be wiped out to make way for a school the neighborhood does not appear to need. The project has long faced community opposition, including the strong
9A Update continued on page 4
Calendar of events
FEBRUARY Echo Park Lake Walking Tour: Saturday, Feb. 11 at 10 AM This tour features the historic heart of the neighborhood and many of its 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. Call (323) 860-8874 or email ephs@HistoricEchoPark.org to reserve a spot. COPera: A Dance Opera in 4 acts at the historic Police Academy Feb. 9 -12 and Feb. 16 - 19 at 8 PM EPHS members are invited to attend a one-of-a-kind performance on the historic grounds of the Los Angeles Police Academy in Elysian Park featuring the Collage Dance Theatre and members of LAPD’s special units. The dance company has staged performances at other historic locations, including the Ambassador Hotel and the Subway Terminal Building. For prices and show information, please visit www.collagedancetheatre. org or call 818-784-8669. EPHS Quarterly Meeting: Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7 PM The quarterly meeting will feature a presentation on vintage tiles by Scott Wells. (Please see front page for details) EPHS Board Meeting: Monday, Feb. 20 at 7 PM The monthly board meeting is open to all EPHS members. Please call (323) 860-8874 for location information. MARCH Echo Park Lake Walking Tour: Saturday, March 11 at 10 AM Please see February events for details. History Happy Hour: Monday, March 13 at 7 PM The History Happy Hour is back! Our casual get together that is open to EPHS members anad supporters will now take place at different homes around the neighborhood. This month's History Happy Hour will be hosted by Mark Johnson at his home at 2226 Lemoyne St. Please R.S.V.P. to (323) 860-8874. Are you interested in hosting a Historic Happy Hour in your interesting Echo Park house, duplex or apartment? Please contact us for details. EPHS Board Meeting: Monday, March 20 at 7 PM Please see February events for details. Elysian Park Walking Tour: Saturday, March 25 at 10 AM This tour, which is co-sponsored by 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. Call (323) 860-8874 or email ephs@ HistoricEchoPark.org to reserve a spot. APRIL Echo Park Lake Walking Tour: Saturday, April 8 at 10 AM Please see February events for details. Echo Park Stairway Tour: Saturday, April 22 at 10 AM Explore some of the city’s steepest stairways and streets on this tour, which begins at the southeast corner of Echo Park Ave. and Baxter St. Reservations are required. Call (323) 860-8874 or email ephs@ HistoricEchoPark.org to reserve a spot. EPHS Board Meeting: Monday April 17 at 7 PM Please see February events for details.
Lake wins landmark vote
The City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission on Dec. 1 voted unanimously to approve naming Echo Park Lake a historic cultural monument. As of mid January, when this newsletter was being prepared, the nomination was before the city council’s Planning & Land Use Committee. If approved, the nomination would then go to the full council for final review and approval. The EPHS submitted the landmark application in September, and has collected more than $2,500 from members and supporters to defray the cost of researching the lake’s history. The nomination is supported by several community groups and elected officials, including the Greater Echo Elysian Neighborhood Council, the Echo Park Improvement Assn. and the office of Councilman Eric Garcetti. Copies of the landmark application can viewed in the History & Landmarks section of www.HistoricEchoPark.org. Click on the Echo Park Lake link. Landacre home On January 5th, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously to declare the Paul Landacre residence a City of Los Angeles Cultural-Heritage Monument. Located at 2006 West El Moran, the home is perched on an oak and eucalyptus shaded hillside near the intersection of
News continued on page 5
Echo Park Historical Society P.O. Box 261022 - Los Angeles, CA. 90026 (323) 860-8874 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.HistoricEchoPark.org Founded 1995
The Echo Park Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the diverse cultural and architectural heritage of our community.
Board of Directors
President Kevin Kuzma Vice-President Mary-Austin Klein Secretary Jim Schneeweis At-Large Scott Fajack, Jenny Burman, Danny Muñoz, Christine Peters
Quality Tree Care Since 1981 (626) 844-9010 • (323) 664-9473 www.theurbanlumberjack.com Insured • Bonded CA License #740167 2
Desktop Publishing: Terri Lloyd Company Editor: Jenny Burman Contributing Writers: Dave Ptach, Kevin Kuzma, Becky Koppenhaver, Jim Schneeweis, Jeremy Rosenberg
9A residents ordered to vacate
9A Update continued from page 1 HISTORY MATTERS continued from page 1
opposition of Eric Garcetti’s office, and dedicated efforts by the Right Site Coalition, which has urged the LAUSD to consider a different site, half of which is already for sale. The city’s Department of Transportation opposes the school’s plan to close Marathon Street. On November 23, the Right Site Coalition filed a lawsuit against the LAUSD, charging that the LAUSD’s plan lacked recognition for cultural historic resources; ignored transportation and traffic conditions; conflicted with the Echo Park-Silverlake community plan; and did not take into consideration population, housing and rapidly declining student demographics in the area and potential environmental hazards directly adjacent to the site. The LAUSD’s response to the lawsuit was to charge ahead at full speed. On January 14, people who live in homes marked for eminent domain seizure received notices that they must sell their homes (to the LAUSD) within ninety days or face eviction by the Sheriff. In some cases, three generations of the same family were served with notices. On January 20, representatives of the EPHS, the Right Site Coalition and other concerned community groups, along with residents, met with Eric Garcetti to ask what the councilman’s position was and what he could do to help. Garcetti’s response was that the
city council persons very rarely oppose school sites (as he has in the case of 9A, as has the Los Angeles Department of Transportation) and in this situation they feel strongly that they are on the right side of the issue in their opposition to the 9A site. Garcetti committed to doing the following: 1 – Contact the City Attorney to explore what recourse the city has in enforcing its opposition to the street vacation. 2 – Recontacting LAUSD’s boardmember David Tokofsky (whose district includes the proposed site). 3 – Contacting LAUSD Superintendent Roy Rohmer to discuss the matter. 4 – Research further the feasibility of a site the community has proposed as an alternative. Christine Peters, of the Neighborhood Council and EPHS, has led efforts to redirect the LAUSD’s energies. Says Peters, “This is the last hurrah to save these homes. It is time to make a big push, make a stand and show that when a community at large comes out strongly against a project it proves the sincerity and the seriousness of the issue. We recognize the potential for a new school — but we don’t accept the LAUSD’s finding that it needs to be here in this place and at this time.”
We encourage others not to “trash Echo Park history” when they go through old belongings or items. These bits of information can serve as valuable elements that help create a vibrant picture of the neighborhood’s past.
EPHS board member and restoration consultant Kevin Kuzma answers questions on fixing up your old home. You can ask questions and read his reply and those of others on the Preservation Bulletin Board at www.HistoricEchoPark.org Back to Brick We own 1200-1204 N. Alvarado in Echo Park. We would like someone to remove paint on an existing brick wall on the north side of the building adjacent to the new library . Do you know someone who can do it at a minimal price? —Abe Oheb Reply: It’s very important not to get talked into sandblasting. It will forever damage the brick. Cheapest alternative might be to repaint the wall (perhaps with a period-looking sign like, “Welcome to historic Echo Park,”). —Kevin Kuzma
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Simons' legacy lives in trails and meadows of Elysian Park
As EPHS marks the 110th anniversary of Echo Park Avenue. Lake, we also honor the 40th anniversary of a sister In 1965, Simons and a group of neighborhood resiorganization: the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian dents and supporters from across the city banded toPark. CCSEP was founded by a group of local activists, gether to fight a city plan to build a giant convention which was led by Grace E. Simons, who – perhaps more center in the park near the intersection of Scott Avenue than any other individual – played a role in protecting and Stadium Way. That group became the Citizens Elysian Park from the best-laid plans of developers and Committee to Save Elysian Park. in providing a template for activism that informs many As one of the founders of the committee, Simons of us to this day. spent the last twenty years of her life devoted to preUnder Simons’ watch CCSEP successfully fought off serving Elysian Park. Simons died in 1985 at the age encroachments such as oil fields, an airport, a conven- of 84; her husband died in 1987. But Simons’ achievetion center, condominiums and ments have a way of extending numerous other construction efthemselves: A monument to Siforts that would have chipped mons and Glass designed by ceaway masses of the park. At about ramicist and sculptor Peter Shire, 550 acres, Elysian Park is unique is a significant feature of the landin offering a real experience of the scape. Simons also helped fosoutdoors to hundreds of thouter the spirit that led Echo Park sands of hikers, soccer players, neighbors to fight for preservabird-watchers, picnic-ers, wantion of walkers-only zoning for derers, dogs and the occasional park trails, which are heavily used horse. In its present, hard-won by local residents, not to mention form, the park offers solitude, the major effort of fighting off a community and beauty to the enproposed football stadium in the tire surrounding area. Simons’ 90s. The lodge that is named for most significant loss was in a Simons is the location of an anbattle to halt the expansion of the nual event that helps to bind the police academy. neighborhood and raises funds to Like an earlier neighborhood help preserve an asset to the enprogressive, Estelle Lawton Lindtire city. She inspired others to say, Simons worked as a jourfollow in her footsteps. nalist before devoting herself The simplicity of Simons’ ethos full-time to political activities. was described in a 1985 Los AngeRaised in Chicago, she traveled to Grace E. Simons les Times article by Sam Hall KaPhoto: The Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park Archive, USC Libraries Regional History Collection. Shanghai, where she worked for a plan: "In order to protect the city’s French news agency, and where she also met her hus- parks, neighborhoods and quality of life," Simons told band, Frank Glass, who was an organizer for the Com- him,"‘you must be vigilant and you must organize.’” munist Party. She also worked in New York. Simons Sallie Neubauer, a current committee board memand Glass moved to Los Angeles in 1939, and for a time ber and former president, says Simons “was very intelSimons worked as an editor and reporter for the Cali- ligent and well-read and had a very sharp wit. She had fornia Eagle, the city’s famous African-American news- an amazing strength of will and an amazing mind and paper. follow-through on everything she did, and so she was Simons is said to have won the respect, and ultimate- extremely effective and well-spoken. [Neighborhood ly the friendship, of Malcolm X, who was impressed by activist] Geneva Williams always said that when Grace Simons’ sharp questioning of him concerning his atti- got up to speak, people listened.” tude toward women’s rights, during an interview for the It was Simons, Neubauer says, who first introduced Eagle. According to Abie Robinson, Simons’ colleague her to grassroots activism, later taking her under her at the Eagle: In the midst of a press conference Mal- wing. On Neubauer’s first day in a new apartment, colm X held on the periphery of the 1963 peace march “here she is this elderly slim lady with this bright red in Washington, D.C., Malcolm X reportedly pointed to hair. And she comes down the driveway and says, Simons’ and said she was the best journalist he knew. ‘hello my name’s Grace, and would you like to come In Echo Park, Simons and Glass settled on Morton GRACE SIMONS continued on page 6
continued from page 1
Barlow grounds for sale
million to build a new hospital complex that will meet the state’s new earthquake safety standards. The new building could be located on part of the existing site or an entirely new site. In a January 16 Los Angeles Times story, Crane said the hospital will close the bidding on the property in about two weeks. Any developer would also have major hurdles to clear before being able to develop the site, including a change in zoning and the protections given to the city’s cultural and historic monuments. City Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes the Barlow property, told the Times that a potentially desirable development on the Barlow site would be one that preserves the most historically important buildings but includes a portion of low-income housing. Finding a solution “will require a lot of pain and a lot of engagement,” he told the Times.
news continued from page 2
school. The potential destruction of Barlow for other uses would be a major loss for the neighborhood and the city, and would face major opposition from the EPHS, preservationists, park advocates and other residents. Ken Bernstein of the Los Angeles Conservancy told EPHS board member Scott Fajack that the citywide preservation group considers Barlow a very significant historic site and that this will be a major preservation battle if significant demolition is proposed. The hospital, which is listed on the city’s register of historic and cultural landmarks, was founded by physician W. Jarvis Barlow and his wife, Marion, to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. The couple solicited donations from many of Los Angeles’ prominent families, including the Lankershims and the Van Nuys, to build and expand the complex, which includes scores of Craftsman and Spanish-Colonial style buildings scattered across the grounds. Perhaps the most familiar building to local residents and EPHS members is Williams Hall, the rustic Craftsmanstyle building that has served as a community meeting place for many years. In addition, the Spanish-Colonial style Barlow Library on Stadium Way features numerous stained glass windows that honor many of the institution’s donors. Barlow Hospital Administrator Margaret Crane said the institution’s trustees voted to put the property up for sale to raise funds to build a new medical facility. Barlow estimates it needs $60
Allesandro and Riverside Drive. In an effort spearheaded by neighbors concerned about a potential sale, the Echo Park Historical Society helped find and hire consultant Charles Fisher to draft and submit the nomination. For approximately 40 years, from the 1920s through the 1960s, woodcut artist Paul Landacre and his wife lived in this rustic cabin which often featured the artist’s work. The home is in remarkably original condition, still featuring the faded “Landacre” lettering on the mailbox. The proposal still faces final approvals before the Planning and Land Use Committee and the City Council. Echo Park resident Michael Dawson, whose bookstore and gallery have highlighted Landacre’s legacy, was instrumental in providing biographical information about the artist that was included in the landmark nomination.
Chicken Corner bungalow move scratched
continued from page 5
to a meeting for the park?’ She took me by the hand and showed me the ropes, and I learned from her how to navigate at meetings with Parks and Recreation and City Hall.” In a city notorious for its lack of public green space, Elysian Park stands as a monument to the farsighted efforts of Simon and others who have fought to preserve it. — Jenny Burman
The fortunes of the Delta Ave. bungalow – on the lot known as Chicken Corner — have taken yet another abrupt turn as plans to move the home to Echo Park Avenue have fallen through. The property owner who was going to move the house has instead decided to cash in on Echo Park’s recently increased land values, selling the Echo Park Avenue lot that was to receive the house. According to EPHS’s agreement with the developer of the Chicken Corner parcel – across the street from Chango Coffeehouse on Delta Street – the bungalow was supposed to be moved by February or March, but in light of recent events, the developer has extended the deadline about two more months.
Holway twins share unique view of Echo Park History
The year was 1922. Thomas Lynch and Dorothy Leigh the 1920’s and 30’s Echo Park was the hub of the city’s motion were newly wed and living in the small, cozy cottage at 2501 picture industry. The area was a frequent filming location Preston Street. Dorothy was pregnant with twins and suffering for many of the early comedy shows like Laurel and Hardy, from uremic poisoning. Her doctor told her she would and The Three Stooges. “ I remember hearing that Laurel probably nor survive the birth of her babies. On the evening and Hardy were in the neighborhood shooting a movie,” of February 2, 1922, Dorothy died while giving birth to her says Dorothy, “and I remember walking up the street with daughters, Dorothy and Elenore. Devastated and grieving, my mother to see if we could see them—they were filming all Thomas Lynch feared he would not be able to care for his over.” Across from Echo Park Lake, the preacher Amy Semple newborn daughters. As it turned out, Dorothy’s aunt, Bertha Holway and her husband, Arthur, lived behind the newlyweds McPherson was preaching salvation at Angelus Temple. “We in a small house at 1916 Vestal Street. They immediately never actually attended any of her services,” says Dorothy, “but I remember seeing her working in the garden outside adopted the twins and raised them as their own. As children, Dorothy and Elenore spent their days playing of church.” Elenore laughs at the thing she remembers most in the yard of their small house on the corner of Vestal and about McPherson’s radio broadcasts, “we would hear her on the radio, and one thing that sticks in Baxter Streets, and on the staircase my memory is hearing Amy say, “don’t that runs from Baxter up to Preston want to hear the jingle of coins, ma Street. Arthur Holway had purchased Kennedy needs a new fur coat.” the vacant hillside in 1912 and then After graduating from Conaty High built four small houses on the property, School, both the girls attended Los two of them facing Vestal, the other two Angeles City College and then found behind them facing Preston Street. jobs. Dorothy worked downtown at “One of my earliest memories of Bank of America in what was then and our house was when we were little, we still is the garment district. Elenore would sit out in the yard and watch the worked for an insurance company model T’s try and make it up the hill to at 7th and Olive streets. They both Lemoyne from Vestal,” said Dorothy, continued to live in the house on Vestal “a lot of the model T salesmen would with their parents until they married, drive their customers to Echo Park, Dorothy in 1952, Elenore in 1953. They they would speed up the hill from both moved with their new husbands Echo Park Avenue to Vestal, but they to what was then considered the usually couldn’t make it to Lemoyne, suburbs. “West Covina in the 1950’s and they would slowly roll backwards, was all orange groves and new houses,’ back down the hill.” Sometimes the says Dorothy, “ you could get a new, big twins would walk up the Baxter Street house for a good price.” Arthur Holway stairs with their mother to walk their died in 1952. Bertha left Echo Park for dog in the park. “ Back then, there was Bottom: Elenore , left, and Dorothy nothing up on that hill, no houses, no Top: Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Shades of LA Collection West Covina in 1956. The twins inherited the property paved street, there was nothing but the in 1971 after Bertha Holway died. Since then, the four small park up there,” says Elenore. The small former storefronts along Echo Park Avenue bungalows on Baxter and Vestal have been the homes of many, used to be a place to stop in for a quick lunch, for eggs or but the care and upkeep of the bungalows by the twins has milk, or even to get a haircut. “ We used to walk down (Baxter remained steady. Until recently, you could often find Dorothy Street) to Shore’s Market to buy bread, it used to be on the and Elenore pruning trees, or pulling weeds from the hillside, corner of Baxter and Echo Park, but for most of our shopping but combined, they have 15 grandchildren and they’ve finally we took the Redline downtown, that’s where everything was begun to let them share the responsibility for the upkeep of back then, stores, theaters, restaurants,” says Elenore. “Later the properties. On a recent afternoon, Dorothy and Elenore had driven on, we started going to USO dances during the war.” As children, the girls were rarely given a chance to in from West Covina with Dorothy’s sons Tom and Joseph, explore the neighborhood alone. Many of the roads in Echo and one of Elenore’s grandchildren, to clear some brush from Park were unpaved and many of the hillsides that are now around the property and sweep the stairs. Dorothy put her populated with houses, were barren. “Our mother was very hands on her hips and looked satisfied as she surveyed the hill protective of us,” says Elenore. “We didn’t know a lot of kids that has been in her family for nearly 100 years. “ We don’t in the neighborhood because we weren’t allowed to [wander] try to do everything ourselves anymore, “ she says, “ after all, far from the house without her. We went to Catholic school it will be theirs’ someday.” Dorothy recently underwent surgery for breast cancer. instead of Elysian Heights where most of the kids in the She is now going through chemotherapy and she says she is neighborhood went.” Dorothy and Elenore were witness to a period that doing well and feeling good. The twins will celebrate their most Echo Park history enthusiasts have only read about. In 84th birthday on February 22. — Becky Koppenhaver
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