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Coral Trees

Coral TreeCoral Tree Coral TreeCoral TreeEven though “Hollywood” montages of Los Angeles show palm trees galore, the official tree of Los Angeles is the Coral Tree.  I always assumed we called it “coral” because of the color of its flowers, even though that never really made sense because the flowers are red, not coral.  My second guess, still related to the flowers, was that because they are clustered in inflorescence, it kind of looks like sea coral.  Wrong again!  The name comes from the fact that their branches look like sea coral.  But, when a tree has such vocal flowers, who’s paying attention to the branches?

Perhaps the most impressive stand of Corals in the area is along San Vicente between the VA and the beach.  There are about 120 trees planted along 5 miles of the ex-Red Car median.  They were planted sometime after WWII.  In 1976, they became a historic-cultural monument.  In 2013, Brentwood residents are fighting to raise funds for the trees’ maintenance.  Learn more about their campaign here: 

The Garden of Oz

The Garden of Oz The Garden of Oz The Garden of Oz The Garden of Oz

In 2nd grade, I played the lion in my elementary school’s version of The Wizard of Ozzzzzzzzzzz wherein we relayed information about insects via the timeless tale of Dorothy’s exceptional search for Kansas in a land of bees and termites.  We were in good company of word play based on the 1900 novel/1939 film.  The Garden of Oz is among said company in nomenclature, but it’s distinctly Los Angeles in experience.

Like Simon Rodia of Watts Towers, Hollywood Hills resident, Gail Cottman, has mosaicked her garden with glass and other found objects.  Like the mélange of heritage in Los Angeles, the Garden of Oz has multiple thrones paying homage to various figures from Duke Ellington to Hiroshima survivors.  And, like the Angelino sensibility of public life, the garden is closed off behind locked wrought-iron gates and is unassuming to the driver-by.

From the outside, one has access to “The Wall of Toys,” designed by Arthur Sellers  (one of 75 contributing artists), “A Throne of Your Own,” and a mail box where one can deposit letters to Oz.

Crestwood Hills

Crestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood HillsCrestwood Hills

This Brentwood canyon community started with cooperative aspirations.  An original vision wherein residents would share a bus to work was never realized.  This was not the only glitch in the cooperative design.  Only 160 of the 500 homes in the original plan were built.  60 homes were destroyed by wildfire in 1991.  Several homes have been lost to alterations.

Personally, if I lived in an A. Quincy Jones house, I would want to make sure it stayed the way he intended. It turns out I’m not alone in my sentiment.  Residents banded together and got 17 of the 33 remaining homes to be designated as historic-cultural monuments. Even if you’re not into modern architecture, the views from Crestwood Hills is still worth the trip.

For more info on the Mutual Housing Association, check here:

The Munch Box

The Munch Box, ChatsworthThe Munch Box, ChatsworthThe Munch Box, Chatsworth

In 2003, this became the first fast-food stand to be placed on the list of Historic-Cultural Monuments. But, the Munch Box doesn’t need preservationists to protect it. The term “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” definitely applies to this 1956 hamburger shack where nothing costs more than 3 dollars and the beverage of choice is still the root beer float.

The Menu

Hamburger – chili, onion, pickle, tomato                                                                                                                Hickory Burger – smoked patty, chili, onion, pickle, tomato                                                                      Mushroom Burger – mushroom, dressing, onion, pickle, tomato                                                                  Large Double Burger                                                                                                                                                      Western Hot Dog – chili, mustard, onion                                                                                                        Midwestern Hot Dog – relish, mustard, onion                                                                                                    Eastern Hot Dog – sauerkraut, mustard, onion

Andres Pico Adobe

Andres Pico AdobeAndres Pico AdobeRomulo Pico AdobeRomulo Pico AdobeRomulo Pico AdobeRomulo Pico AdobeRomulo Pico AdobeRomulo Pico Adobe

If I ever made the mistake of sneezing in front of my grandmother, she would insist I drink some orange juice.  It was either citrus immediately, or persistent nagging and then the inevitable surrender to citrus later.  The welcoming party from the San Fernando Valley Historical Society (SFVHS) went to the same school of perseverance as my grandmother.  But instead of orange juice, they really wanted me to eat a hotdog.  “Well if you won’t have a hotdog, at least have some cookies,” they followed.

After it was understood I wanted nothing to do with processed meat and nothing to do with refined sugar, a darling woman named Midge rose from the table to be my guide.  She was an 82-year-old Burbank native with a true love for the Andres Pico Adobe.  “You know what the best part is?” she asked. With little hesitation, she continued, “We own it.  It’s public property.  This building belongs to you and me.”

Though Midge was a wonderful tour guide, I will cordially disagree with her.  The best part is how the house tells its own history because all of its owners have left a mark.  Enslaved Indians of the San Fernando Mission built the original structure in 1834 as a lodge for travelers along the El Camino Real.  A man named De Celis moved in and built North and South wings. Soon after, Andres Pico came into ownership.  He handed it off to his adopted son, Romulo, who built the second story in 1873.  Then a man named Mark Harrington moved in around 1927.  Harrington added plumbing.

The SFVHS moved in 1968. They’re my favorite tenant because the adobe now houses all their stuff.  It seems they get donations and then just plop them somewhere in the home.  There’s a piano, a player piano, an organ, AND a melodeon.  There’s a chest filled with belongings of the great bandit, Vasquez, and a pennant from the official opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.  There’s a California history research library, a room filled with hats, and we cannot forget, lots of hotdogs.

Loyola Theater

Loyola TheaterLoyola TheaterLoyola TheaterLoyola Theater

St. Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus.  While the Loyola Theater has undergone a transformation from its original purpose, it has never been used for religion.  Likely named for Loyola Marymount University down the block, this Streamline Modern theater was designed by Clarence J. Smale.  Smale designed 9 theaters in the Los Angeles area, but none of them are in use for their original purpose.  The Loyola building has been converted into medical offices.

Breed Street Shul

Southern California Jewish Historical SocietySouthern California Jewish Historical SocietySouthern California Jewish Historical SocietySouthern California Jewish Historical Society

According to the LA Times Neighborhood Mapping Project, 52.4% of the Boyle Heights community is foreign born.  This trend of being foreign born has largely defined the Boyle Heights community, earning it the slogan “All Roads Lead to Boyle Heights.” While this currently means it’s 94% Latino, in the early half of the 20th century, Boyle Heights largely provided a home for Russians and Jews.  Canter’s, the famed West Hollywood Jewish deli, opened its doors in Boyle Heights in 1931. It may have even provided meals for members of, what was then, the largest Orthodox Synagogue on the West coast- Congregation Talmud Torah of Los Angeles.  That congregation built the brick, Breed Street Shul in 1923, near the intersection Breed St. and Brooklyn Ave.(what we now call Cesar Chavez Ave.).  Though Congregation Talmud Torah officially closed in 1996 and underwent serious vandalization, it’s being repaired by the Southern California Jewish Historical Society and will soon open its doors as a community center.  To learn more about the project, check here:

The Cascades

Los Angeles AqueductLos Angeles Aqueduct

“The grass is always greener” is no infallible phrase.  In the Owens Valley circa 1913, the grass was green and its residents wanted to keep it that way.  Unfortunately for them, Southern California’s relentless demand for water was driven by wild population growth and a rather profitable agricultural industry.  Not to mention LA’s politicians had an upper-hand over the ranchers of the Owens Valley in the art of deceit.

Over 30,000 folks drove out to Sylmar on November 5th, 1913 to watch water roar down the cascades for the first time.  William Mulholland, engineering mastermind behind the 223 miles of the new Los Angeles Aqueduct, famously exclaimed, “There it is.  Take it.”

As a kid, what I wanted so badly to be a waterslide was not the part of the original project from 1913.  There’s a second Owen’s Valley aqueduct completed in 1970.


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