Category Archives: History

At the west edge of Brentwood hides a Nazi past

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murphyranch1

Murphy Ranch, located off the Rustic Canyon Trail, was a Nazi commune in the making until the man behind it all was arrested during WWII by the FBI.

Summertime at Camp Josepho in Topanga State Park might be filled with Boy Scouts honing their BB-gun-slinging skills, fine-tuning their eye for archery or earning an equestrian merit badge.  But less than a mile south of the youth camp lies a more sinister history.

Murphy Ranch, just off the Rustic Canyon Trail at the west edge of Brentwood, was supposed to be a safe haven for Nazis and the future of the Fourth Reich.  But its founders’ plans went sour after it turned out Nazi Germany was not going to bring about the New World Order in the United States and would eventually be defeated by the Allied powers of WWII.

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City to celebrate new efforts in documenting L.A.’s historic places

Los Angeles Central Library by mental.masala on Flickr

A celebration will be held at the Los Angeles Central Library to mark the city's new SurveyLA project, which is encouraging citizens to recommend historical sites in their communities. Photo courtesy of mental.masala at Flickr.

Every community has it: that bizarre house at the corner known for its strange architecture and perhaps even stranger occupants.  Angelenos can now report that odd abode, whether it’s someone else’s or their own, as a historical place of Los Angeles.  As part of a new preservation program to document the city’s historic resources, officials are encouraging citizens to suggest oft-ignored areas of their neighborhoods for their new SurveyLA project.

The city is throwing a kick-off celebration at the L.A. Central Library, located at the corner of 5th and Flower downtown, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 4.  KPCC Air Talk host Larry Mantle will host a panel of community organizers, city officials, developers and preservationists discussing the survey from 1 to 2:30 p.m.  Reservations are recommended for the panel discussion and can be made at http://www.lfla.org/aloud/index.php.

Among the 11 communities to be surveyed include the 210-freeway cities of Sunland-Tujunga, La Canada, La Cresenta, Lake View Terrace and Shadow Hills.

Got a suggestion for the survey? Visit http://preservation.lacity.org/survey/historic-identification to help out.

To get to the April 4 event car-free, take the Red Line subway and get off at Pershing Square, located at 4th and Hill and walk west to 5th Street.  If you’re driving, parking is only $1 all day during library hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays) with a validation.

Unfortunately, this blogger will be unable to make it – she’ll be playing a real tourist as she explores Paris and London for two weeks (stay tuned for special out-of-LA posts during those travels!).

Before Wilshire Boulevard and rush hour, there were mammoths

In this undated photo, a worker holds a pickaxe at the bottom of one of the tar pits located on Rancho La Brea. Land owner Henry Hancock (for whom Hancock Park is named after), excavated the area for its tar content, and carloads of bones (which turned out to be prehistoric birds, mammals & plants) not then known to have a scientific value were burned as rubbish. Photographer: E.S. Cobb. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library historical photo archives.

On the first day of almost all of my anthropology courses, the professor usually began with, “How many of you have heard of Indiana Jones?  Do you think that’s what all anthropologists do?  Well it’s not!”

If I weren’t curiously poking around town and writing about it, I’d settle for…curiously poking around town and digging things up (True story: as kids, my younger brothers and I found coral while shoveling dirt around in the back yard as we tried to build a fort with plywood.  We lived 30 miles north of the closest beach.).  As a result, I’m jealous of the folks who discovered a goldmine of Ice Age fossils beneath an old May Co. parking lot near La Brea Tarpits.

Listen to NPR‘s story about the find here, or read the L.A. Times’ article, “Major cache of fossils unearthed in L.A.

The above photo shows the La Brea Tarpits area in an earlier time in more recent history.

On this day 100 years ago…

On Feb. 6, 1909, the L.A. Times ran the following story:

ABOVE THE CLOUDS

BALLOONS TO SAIL

ON PLEASURE TRIP

The two large balloons, the United States and the American, are to make a short flight from Chutes Park Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock.  Ordinary gas is being used, and the work of inflating is progressing satisfactorily.  At a late hour last night the American, which will be piloted by Capt. A. E. Meuller, was nearly filled, and the United States, which is to be handled by Roy Knabenshue, was more than one-half full.

The flight will in no way be a race, as it is expected that the large bags will be in the air for only a few hours.  The trip is to be made for weather observations, and to arouse interest in the sport of ballooning.

Each of the balloons is to carry four men, including the pilots.  They are to be Capt. Meuller, Roy Knabenshue, W. D. Fuller of the Weather Bureau, Lieut. C. K. Currie of the United States Corps of Engineers, a reporter from each of the morning papers, and a representative of the Associated Press.

Fifteen or twenty of the Chutes Park homing pigeons are to be taken along, and will be used to send back messages of the location and conditions of the balloons and men.

Chutes Park was amusement park south of downtown L.A., spanning from South Grand Avenue and South Main Street between Washington Boulevard and West 21st Street.  See LAist’s  LAistory on Chutes Park and Downtown News’ “The Short Life of a Downtown Amusement Park” for more detailed stories of the attraction, which existed from 1887 to 1914; today, it’s the site of a parking lot for the home furnishings store, L.A. Mart.

 View of the Washington Gardens Amusement Park (also called Chutes Park), which shows the Chutes water ride and Chutes Theater next to it.  Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library historical photo archives.

View of the Washington Gardens Amusement Park (also called Chutes Park), which shows the Chutes water ride and Chutes Theater next to it. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library historical photo archives.

Today, Washington & Grand is also the site of a Metro Blue Line stop, and L.A. Mart can be seen in the background.  Courtesy of tommyhenrich at Panoramio.com.

Today, Washington & Grand is also the site of a Metro Blue Line stop,
and L.A. Mart can be seen in the background. Courtesy of tommyhenrich at Panoramio.com.

The Trail To Echo Mountain

The front of Echo Mountain House, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

The front of Echo Mountain House. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library historical photo archives.

The remains of Echo Mountain House are seen from its former south side.

The remains of Echo Mountain House are seen from its former north side.

In memory of a friend and fellow adventurer, Dan Zembrosky, whose time to explore this earth was cut short too soon.

A little over one century and a decade ago, one could could take the Mount Lowe Railway up to Echo Mountain House and spend the night in the $65,000, 70-room Victorian Hotel for only $5 (or in today’s currency, the approximate cost of a burger at any given fast-food joint).

In 1900, exactly 109 years and three days ago, a kitchen fire destroyed the hotel, and in 1938, the scenic railway that took riders up to Echo Mountain was abandoned after floods destroyed the mountainside.

The foundations of the once-luxurious, turn-of-the-century hotel, its incline railway and other surrounding buildings can be seen at the top of a 2.7-mile uphill hike on the Sam Merrill Trail in Altadena.  The trail starts at the Cobb Estate where Lake Avenue ends at the mountain.  The estate, built by  lumber tycoon Charles H. Cobb, is also the site of trails leading to former mining sites (another subject for a future post!).  Round-trip, the hike is about 5.4 miles and takes about 2 & 1/2 to 3 hours, plus time to explore the top.

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A New Day, A New Flight

Angels Flight has history...After closing in 1969, re-opening in 1996, and closing again in 2001, the landmark is ready for a comeback.

Angels Flight has history...After closing in 1969, re-opening in 1996, and closing again in 2001, the landmark is ready for a comeback. (Full disclosure: My father worked at the architectural design company for Angels Flight's '96 re-opening)

Upon first glance, the roughly 300-foot-long – or short, depending on how you look at it – Angels Flight Railway looks like an oddity in the midst of Downtown L.A.’s Bunker Hill district at 4th and Hill Streets.  Surrounded by glass and metal skyscrapers, concrete buildings and some greenery here and there, the funicular’s two orange and black cable cars, Olivet and Sinai have shuttled many Angelenos throughout the decades.

The railway was built in 1901 by Colonel J. W. Eddy, a teacher, Civil War veteran, Illinois State Representative and miner, according to records from the Historic American Buildings Survey.  Eddy moved to L.A. in 1895 and saw a need for an easier way for residents to go up the hill “other than by foot or horse and buggy.”  On its grand opening on December 31, passengers rode free all day on Olivet and Sinai (which were painted white back then) and “punch was served by the ladies who resided nearby on Olive Heights.”

Angels Flight was designated as a landmark on August 6, 1962 by the Cultural Heritage Board of Los Angeles because it was “the last remaining cable railway” in L.A.; sadly, it was closed seven years later in 1969 as Bunker Hill became more commercial and less residential.   In 1996, Angels Flight was finally re-opened, and (full disclosure!) because it was one of the projects of the architectural design company that my father worked for, me and my family were among the first to ride the railway.   However, it was shut down again in 2001 due to an accident in which the operating mechanisms failed, killing 83-year-old rider Leon Praport.  It was the second death in Angels Flight’s history; in 1913, “damage to the cable allowed one of the cars to go careening back down the incline.  Passengers were badly shaken” but one woman died after she jumped out of the car.

Last week, passersby may have seen Sinai and Olivet running up and down their tracks for the first time in 2009 (the first test runs had taken place in early November of last year), and according to Angels Flight Railway Foundation President John Welborne.  One man even waited eagerly to pay the 25-cent fare and be shuttled up to California Plaza at the top of the hill,  but the ready passenger had to be turned away because the landmark’s final testing and safety certifications are still in process, said Welborne.

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Boyle Heights’ Linda Vista Community Hospital

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Linda Vista Community Hospital, Boyle Heights

We couldn't get inside of the hospital, but I took this photo of the building's front. Another visit will happen soon!

Update: Check out the second post on the hospital, which includes an interview with the location’s manager and photos from the inside.

According to the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Linda Vista Community Hospital, formerly known as Santa Fe Coast Hospital, was built in 1937 and used to treat Santa Fe Railroad employees.  After closing in 1991, the hospital was named as a historical building in 2006 by the U.S. in their National Register of Historic Places (NRHC) and is now only used as a filming location (its website is www.lindavistalocation.com).

There have been claims that the hospital is haunted by its past doctors and patients; unfortunately, the doors were locked and we could not get inside to investigate.  There were a couple trucks of firefighters training on the east side of the building, and after asking the groundsmen about the location, we were told we could come back the next day after the firefighters were done training – not too sure what that meant, but in any case, another trip is due soon for interviews.  See under the cut for more photos  taken at the site.

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