This week, yet another great historical photo uploaded to the Metro Archive flickr Stream showing the W car coming down Figueroa at York Blvd heading towards Downtown Los Angeles in 1948.
On the right are houses where the strip mall and former Boy’s, then Ralph’s, then 99¢ Only Store will be, and on the spot where Penny’s Burgers will be, some sign I can’t make out. In the background on the corner of Figueroa and Garvanza, Good Sheppard Lutheran Church can also be seen.
On the left is The Arroyo Seco Bank Building as Bank of America at the time. (Some time between when it was built and today, the bank building lost the ornaments on top of the columns, likely due to earthquake.) In the corner of the building there is a barbershop. Outside the barber shop are some highway signs that likely say “Highway 110″ and “Route 66.” The photo also shows a genuine Acme Semaphore Traffic Signal on the corner of York and Figueroa.
In December of 1956, the last one of these type of traffic signals from 1928 was ceremonially removed from the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Main Street. According to this little History of LA Traffic Signals LADOT put together, these type of signals were prone to failure, and as quaint as a bell sounding every time a signal changed may seem today, in practice it must have been really annoying. (Kind of annoying like the cross walk signal outside the Highland Park Metro Station that beeps all day, and all night. (As they say: The more things change…)
As mentioned elsewhere, there is a campaign to Re-Light two of Highland Park’s historic rooftop signs on Figueroa Street. North Figueroa Association, recently was awarded a matching grant from the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to restore and re-light the Highland Theater sign AND the Manning’s Coffee Store sign on top of what is currently Las Cazuelas. (When those signs went up on Figueroa Street, it was part of The Mother Road, Route 66.)
The matching grant gives the public the opportunity to contribute to the restoration by making a tax-deductible donation through purchasing a bulb, a letter, or an arrow on the signs.
A bulb on the Highland Theater sign is $19.24 (there are 502 bulbs), entire letters go for $500 to $1000. On the Manning’s sign an opal glass letter is $66 each, a neon letter is $99 each, and the two neon arrows go for $660 each. Most of the letters on the Highland Theater Sign have already sold! (e.g., E for Eat at Good Girl Dinette, D for Northeast Democrats, H for Highland Park Heritage Trust, G for Uptown Gay & Lesbian Association, or A for Arroyo Apartments.)
The bulb replacement program is welcomed news. The sign on top of the 1924 Highland Theater (Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument Number 549) is the last working bulb theater sign in Los Angeles. With neon signage being introduced to America only the year before (Packard dealership at 10th & Hope in Downtown L.A.), all the other illuminated theater signs at the time were lit by incandescent light bulb. While everyone else updated, thanks to Highland Park’s knack for passive preservation, ours outlasted them all.
Since the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department restored the sign in 2005, the bulbs have slowly flickered out, and the timer used to illuminate it stopped being reset so that it was rarely on during business hours. Instead turning on after 1 AM. (Except for when TV Show Criminal Minds filmed out front in 2009 and were kind enough to reset the timer for their film shoot.) And why Highland Theater’s Hovig Babayn won’t maintain the sign? I’d guess that has a lot to do with those DIRT CHEAP admission prices of $3, $4 and $6! –OK, keep it cheap and we’ll keep the lights on.
All the excitement over a few lines painted on York Boulevard for bicycles last week, and Mark Vallianatos’ article on Eagle Rock Patch yesterday, reminded me of a time over a hundred years ago when bicycles ruled the day, and highways were being built just for them.
The Great California Cycleway opened in Pasadena around July of 1900. (Some sources say 1890, but its creator, Mr. Horace Dobbins didn’t start the Cycleway Company until 1897, and the only photos available of the cycleway date to 1900, likely when it was being shown.)
The California Cycleway was an elevated wooden bicycle highway that was designed to go from Hotel Green in Pasadena down the Arroyo, past Highland Park and into Downtown Los Angeles, ending at the Plaza on Olvera Street. Part of the design was to be a completely uninterrupted path by bridging over obstacles like creeks, roads, train tracks, and maintain only the slightest of grades (no more than 3%) over the 9 miles of smooth wooden track over an elevation of 600 feet. The entire project would have cost an estimated $187,500 at the time, and included a casino called, “Merlemount” to be placed midway in Arroyo Seco Park. (On top of where Debs Park is today??)
At the time of its opening there were an estimated 30,00o cyclists in the region. Which is quite impressive, considering the total population at that time was less than 500,000. The toll to use the bicycle super highway was 10¢ each way or 15¢ for a round trip. Part of the plan was to have bicycle rental available so that users could leave their bikes at either end of the cycleway. If Cycleway users wanted to forgo the climb back to Pasadena, they could take one of the 4 trains and trolleys adjacent to the cycleway.
While many portions of right-of-way were secured for the Cycleway along the Los Angeles Terminal Railroad and Arroyo Seco, the grand plan was never completed. The only section of the Great California Cycleway to be built was the 1.25 mile section that went to South Pasadena from the Hotel Green. “Progress” stepped in. (Or should I say drove in.)
By the late 19th century, the bicycle craze met the driving craze of the 20th century, and the cycleway was abandoned to become forgotten paths, alleyways, and roadways. (A popular belief is that the Cycleway became the Arroyo Seco Parkway / Pasadena Freeway. However, most of its path was east of the Arroyo Seco, whereas the parkway was built on the west bank and on area that was reclaimed by WPA flood control projects of the 1930s.)
The cycleway isn’t completely forgotten. In the years before his death, bicycle activist, Dennis Crowley, had tried to revive this dream of connecting Pasadena and Los Angeles with a New California Cycleway. Here in 90042, the sorely missed Cycleway Cafe honored the historical connection by naming their cafe after the utopian concept.
I’ve created a Google Map that shows part of path of the California Cycleway as best as I could guess it. (There must be a better map from 1900 out there somewhere.)
In the meantime, continue to enjoy the ever-increasing new bicycle lines in the pavement and please share the road.
The photo above is by “West Coast Transitphotography King,” Salaam Allah, who I have to thank in-part for inspiring this Train/Trolley series of posts. When we were stuck behind the wheel on the 110 thinking this is how it would always be, he was out documenting the future of Los Angeles Transit. Like Alan K. Weeks, and other transit geeks before him, Salaam Allah’s photos document the changing landscape of Los Angeles through the lens of public transit.
The photo above comes from his set of photos that documents the construction and operation of the Metro Gold Line. When this photo of Marmion Way in Highland Park was taken, construction in Highland Park had yet to begin. Where the station is today was an empty lot, and the project was still being called the Pasadena Metro Blue Line.
Just like the railroads that created Highland Park over a hundred years ago, since opening in July of 2003 the Gold Line has brought new life into the area and created a better sense of place. Where we were just four exits along the Pasadena Freeway, we became literally a destination on a map. And while drivers are stuck inching along Figueroa Street traffic from being detoured around the 110 ¨Parkway” construction, thankfully we have this close-by alternative serving our community from 4 AM to 1 AM seven days a week.
Bonus video!! by Salaam Allah:
If you have ever wondered how many toys you can carry on a bicycle, this Friday night at 8:30 is when you can find out. Friday, December 10th is the 5th Annual Midnight Ridazz All City Toy Ride.
The 5th Annual All City Toy Ride marks a milestone for the loosely knit Midnight Ridazz bicycle consortium. It was the first All City Toy Ride in 2006 that really established Midnight Ridazz as something more that just a monthly party ride. And every year since then, cyclists have gathered around the county to ride like spokes on a wheel to the heart of Los Angeles at the Plaza on Olvera Street. This year there are 13 gathering points, including one for Northeast Los Angeles at our Highland Park Metro Station.
The N.E.L.A. All City Toy Ride rides at 9pm for Olvera Street, then heads to an undisclosed location with a thousand or so other ridazz to drop off toys for The Alliance For Childrens’ Rights, then followed by a parté. Bring a toy ($25 or less), lights, and a lock. No rain expected this year, but Santa(s) are.
If that wasn’t enough opportunity to give to less-fortunate children, (because giving is awesome!) Locally, 90042-based punk zine, Razorcake and Zocaloc are having a Toy Drive at Highland Park’s American Legion Post 206 on Saturday, December 11th (NELA Art Night) starting at 8pm. Bands, food, drinks, and toys to be given to needy kids.
Then on Sunday, December 12th, from 12:30 to 5pm, The Echo Park Yacht Club throws its 2nd Annual Toy Drive and Dodgeball Spectacular at The Glassell Park Rec Center, located at 3650 Verdugo Road, Los Angeles 90065.
Good times, good causes, good weekend.
Figueroa Street was once the longest street in Los Angeles until it was truncated in Cypress Park by the construction of the Arroyo Seco Parkway. Before that, it was called Pasadena Avenue (the main road to Pasadena) and before that it was called Calle de las Chapules, or Grasshopper Street. A grand avenue with homes, businesses, colleges, and the Pacific Electric Railway that ran in the middle going to Slauson Junction in South Los Angeles.
USC has a wonderful on-line digital archive with gems like the ones above. Here we have a 1905 picture showing Figueroa Street (Pasadena Avenue) looking North at Avenue 51. The baby palm trees have now become giants, and all the telegraph, telephone, electrical and rail lines are gone. So too are many of the houses, and thankfully the rutted dirt road.
Gone too is the Occidental College in its 1908 Highland Park heyday, now replaced with auto repair shops, apartments, and a strip mall.
Remember this feature? Supposed to be weekly. Dominated the month of October, barely made a showing since then, well it is back this week with the front yard of Highland Park artist, Terri Lloyd.
Lloyd’s front yard consists of water-wise cacti, various succulents, and hundreds of her miniature doll head sculptures. A fine example of Highland Park’s eclectic artistic homesteading.