The Heritage Parkscape will link the Los Angeles State Historic Park at the Cornfield, the Río de Los Angeles State Park at Taylor Yard, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the
Los Angeles River, the Great Wall of Los Angeles, and over 100 other recreational, cultural, historical and environmental resources in the heart of Los Angeles. Public art projects including murals, photo exhibits, and installations on the ground and on the web, school art projects, oral histories, and theater will be part of this living legacy. Public transit will take children and their families and friends from the Heritage Parkscape to the beach, forests, mountains, and other wilderness and recreation areas. “They should not be treated as isolated, separate parks but as one continuous parkway system,” Robert García told the Daily freeze. “This is a wonderful opportunity. Los Angeles is hungry for its history.” Gordon Smith, Refurbishing L.A.’s Soul, Daily Breeze, Dec. 6, 2006.
The Heritage Parkscape will serve as a “family album” to commemorate the struggles, hopes, and triumphs of the Native Americans, settlers, and immigrants who entered Los Angeles through this area.
Have fun and learn about the history of Los Angeles by taking a tour of the Heritage Parkscape! You can tour the sites live by foot, bike, or car, or . . . on the web. Click on the map or link above and explore — click on the balloons, zoom in, click on the pictures, search by key words . . . enjoy!
The Heritage Parkscape is inspired in part by the Olmsted Vision, by the Cornfield Advisory Committee Report, and by plans for a greenway along the Los Angeles River. The Parkscape reflects a frank recognition of the need to build great urban parks by linking smaller, non-contiguous parcels together because few large parcels are left in urban areas. This is the example set by the Gateway National Recreation Area linking the parks of New York Harbor, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area linking natural public places in Northern California, and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California.
UCLA Prof. Judy Baca and SPARC (the Social and Public Art Resources Center) are working with The City Project to produce interpretive stations about the Heritage Parkscape along the Los Angeles River, and to restore and extend the Great Wall of Los Angeles. Nicolas Garcia produced the Flickr Mashup of the Heritage Parkscape based on an earlier online edition by Robert Garcia, UCLA Prof. Fabian Wagmister and REMAPPING – LA, Nicolas Garcia, Taylor Fitz-Gibbon, and Alejandro Wagmister, with additional text and research by Erica Flores Baltodano and Julie Ehrlich.
Read more about the Heritage Parkscape and the history of Los Angeles in Robert García, Erica S. Flores, Julie Ehrlich, Policy Report, The Cornfield and the Flow of History (2004).
The Heritage Parkscape is made possible in part by the generous support of the Ford Foundation, John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Whole Systems Foundation, and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
Here is a more detailed discussion of the Heritage Parkscape, with sample images below. The Heritage Parkscape is reviving the forgotten history of Los Angeles. The birthplace of El Pueblo de Los Angeles lies at the heart of the Heritage Parkscape. El Pueblo was born near the Native American Tongva village of Yangna, a site marked today by nothing more than a center divider on the Hollywood Freeway. The first settlers of El Pueblo, the Pobladores, were Spaniards, Catholic missionaries, Native Americans, and Blacks. Mexicans and Californios further established the city before statehood. Biddy Mason, a former slave freed in the 1850s, became a major landowner downtown and a founder of First AME, a major Black church in Los Angeles. Chinese began arriving in 1850 in search of gold and worked on the railroad and in domestic jobs. The site of the Chinatown massacre of 1871, which first brought Los Angeles to national and international attention, is now a traffic light. The city forcibly evicted the residents and razed Old Chinatown to build Union Station in the 1930s, and new Chinatown was created at the site of old Sonoratown. Mexican-Americans, including U.S. citizens, were deported from the Cornfield during the Great Depression as a result of discrimination and competition for jobs. Blacks were forced to move away to South Central by discriminatory land use policies in the early 20th Century. Japanese who arrived because of the labor shortage caused by the Chinese Exclusion Act settled in Little Tokyo were forced into concentration camps at Manzanar and other places during World War II. The area became known as Bronzetown when Blacks arrived from the South to fill the Japanese vacancies. Sailors and soldiers stationed in Chavez Ravine drove across the Los Angeles River to beat up Mexican- mericans and African Americans during the Zoot Suit riots while the police arrested the victims and freed the assailants. The City destroyed the bucolic Latino community in Chavez Ravine with promises of affordable housing, then sold the land to the Dodgers, who buried the site for 50,000 places for cars to park and no place for children to play. The Woman’s Building that provided space for women artists starting in the 1970’s is near the Cornfield. Italian and French immigrants, some of whom planted vineyards that graced the area, assimilated into the broader culture.
Below are selected sites from the Heritage Parkscape.
Ascot Hills Park: The next great urban
park in Los Angeles is Ascot Hills in East Los Angeles. The
Olmsted Report recommend a park there in 1930. The Ascot
Hills are named for the former Legion Ascot Speedway, Los Angeles’ most
popular auto racetrack during the 1920s and 1930s. The largest
open space in East Los Angeles today is Evergreen Cemetery. This
sends the wrong message to our children: If you want open space,
you have to die first.
Avila Adobe: This home, built on Olvera Street
in 1818, is the city’s oldest residence. Once home
to Francisco Avila, one of the founders of Los Angeles (the Pobladores),
and his family, the residence fell into disrepair in the early
20th century. Today the Avila Adobe is a museum that captures
pueblo life during the rancho period of the 1840s.
Biddy Mason Homestead, Park and Memorial Wall: Born
a slave in Mississippi in 1818, Biddy Mason walked behind her owner’s
wagon, first to Utah then to Los Angeles. A federal judge freed
her in 1856, the same year the United States Supreme Court held
that slaves were not people protected by the United States Constitution
in the Dred Scott case. Ms. Mason became a midwife,
entrepreneur, landowner and philanthropist on Spring Street in
downtown Los Angeles, and a founder of the First African Methodist
Episcopal Church, a major Black church.
Boyle Heights: Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles
emerged in the 1880s as a streetcar suburb for Los Angeles’s
white collar workers. Throughout the twentieth century, Boyle
Heights was one of the most diverse communities in Los Angeles
because of the absence of racially restrictive housing covenants
prevalent in the rest of the City. Before World War II, Boyle
Heights had a disproportionately Jewish population. Since
the late 1940s, the neighborhood has been heavily Mexican-American.
Calle de los Negros (“Nigger Alley”): Old
Chinatown was centered around Calle de Los Negros on the southeast
side of the Plaza in the 19th Century. The Chinese Massacre
took place here in 1871 (see below). Calle de Los Negros later became
Los Angeles Street.
Chavez Ravine: Today the location of Dodger Stadium,
Chavez Ravine was a bucolic Latino community through the 1950s
named for Julian Chávez, a Mexican pioneer and member of
Los Angeles’s first County Board of Supervisors. The
Olmsted Report recommended regional sports fields there in 1930. The
City of Los Angeles instead forcibly evicted the residents with
promises of affordable housing. The City razed the community
and destroyed their way of life, then broke its promises to the
people and sold the land to the Dodgers. The Dodgers drowned
Chavez Ravine in a sea of asphalt to build Dodger Stadium and a
parking lot for 50,000 cars and not a single place for children
Chinatown (Old and New): Chinatown’s first
location in Los Angeles was around Calle de los Negros (“Nigger
Alley” – see above), a rundown street that was home
to brothels and plagued by crime. The earliest inhabitants began
arriving in 1850 in search of gold. By 1900, Old Chinatown
was a mostly-male ghetto because the Chinese Exclusion Act prevented
immigration of women. In 1933, the City forcibly evicted
the residents and razed Old Chinatown to build Union Station. The
Chinese then relocated to New Chinatown, a few blocks northwest
and across from the Cornfield.
Chinatown Massacre of 1871: On October 24, 1871,
a mob of 500 lynched 19 Chinese men on Calle de Los Negros in El
Pueblo. The massacre brought the first national and international
attention to Los Angeles. The site of the massacre is now
Chinese American Museum:. Located in El
Pueblo, the museum includes two of the city’s oldest buildings:
423 N. Los Angeles Street (the Garnier Building) and 425 N. Los
Angeles Street. The museum aims to foster a deeper understanding
of America’s diverse heritage and of the Chinese culture
and history in Los Angeles. The Chinese American Museum is
the first museum in California celebrating Chinese culture and
Cornfield: The site of the new Los Angeles State
Historic Park, the Cornfield galvanized community support to create
a park in the last vast open space in downtown Los Angeles and
stop 40 acres of warehouses. The Los Angeles Times called
the Cornfield “a heroic monument” and “a symbol
El Pueblo: The 1781 birthplace of the City, El
Pueblo de Los Angeles is today a 44-acre historic park. Originally
a small community near the Los Angeles River centered around a
central plaza – La Plaza de Los Angeles – El Pueblo
is home to La Placita Catholic Church, Olvera Street, the Chinese
American Museum, and other landmarks. The State began buying
property at El Pueblo in 1953, but abandoned the project in 1990. The
1982 General Plan for El Pueblo has yet to be carried out.
Evergreen Cemetery: Founded in 1877, Evergreen
Cemetery is the City’s oldest recognized burial ground, and
the largest, with over 300,000 people interred there. Evergreen
was one of the few integrated cemeteries in Los Angeles in the
20th century. Former slave and early African American civic
leader Biddy Mason is buried there. Major sections were set
aside for Chinese and Japanese. Evergreen Cemetery is the
largest green space in East Los Angeles. The major running track
in the area is around its perimeter and is called R.I.P. – “Run
La Placita Catholic Church: Completed in
1822, La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles
is the only structure in El Pubelo that is still used today for
the purpose for which it was originally intended. The church
remains one of the most active Catholic churches in the region.
Little Tokyo: Located on 1st Street between San
Pedro Street and Central Avenue, Little Tokyo was home to the first
Japanese residents of Los Angeles. The Japanese began arriving
in the 1860s to fill the need for labor when the Chinese Exclusion
Act prevented Chinese from migrating to the United States. By
World War II, Little Tokyo was home to 30,000 Japanese, most of
whom were deported to internment camps in 1942. Today the
Little Tokyo Historic District features a public walking tour and
public art that interprets the social, political, and commercial
history embodied there, and serves as a model for the Heritage
Los Angeles River: The 51-mile Los Angeles River
flows from Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley through the heart
of Los Angeles to the ocean in Long Beach. The Olmsted Report
proposed a parkway along the River in 1930. The Army Corps
of Engineers instead buried the River with cement starting in the
1930s for flood control purposes. Activists today are greening
the River to restore a part of the lost beauty of Los Angeles and
to link diverse communities.
Mural: Mexican muralist David Alfaro
Siqueiros began the mural era in Los Angeles in 1932 with his painting
of “America Tropical” on the facade of
Italian Hall on Olvera Street. The mural depicts a native
person crucified on a double cross, with what the artist called
an “American imperialist eagle” stretching out its
talons above him. Siqueiros stated that the mural represented “the
destruction of past American national cultures…by the invaders
of both yesterday and today.” The mural was quickly
whitewashed and is yet to be restored.
Sonoratown: Located along North Main and
North Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, this was a residential
neighborhood in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Named
for the province in Mexico from which many residents immigrated,
Sonoratown was characterized by low white-washed adobes and anchored
by the Plaza Church.
Southwest Museum of Native Cultures of the Americas: The
Southwest Museum, located on Mt. Washington in Highland Park, was
founded by Charles Fletcher Lummis. Construction began on the Mission
Revival style building in 1910, and, though the building remains
dedicated solely to the museum, there is space for only 5 percent
of the vast collection to be on display at any given time. The
museum specializes in Native American artifacts and arts and
crafts and remnants of the Spanish and Mexican colonial periods
in the Southwest. The Southwest Museum was recently acquired
by the Autry Museum of Western Heritage.
Taylor Yard: The site of the new
El Río de Los Angeles State Park, Taylor Yard is a Union Pacific
rail yard that opened in the 1920s and lies about two miles up
the Los Angeles River from the Cornfield. A community coalition,
drawing on the lessons of the Cornfield, stopped an industrial
project to create a 40-acre park as the first step towards a 103-acre
William Mead Housing: Sandwiched between the
men’s jail and the Cornfield, the William Mead Housing Project
is one of the largest public housing communities in Los Angeles. Opened
in 1943 atop an oil refinery, William Mead is home to more than
1,400 residents, many of them Latino or Vietnamese immigrants.
Yangna: The main village of the Tongva, or Gabrieleño,
Native Americans, Yangna was home to about 200 Tongvas, and was
first encountered by Portolá during his 1769 expedition. Destroyed
in the mid-1800s, it likely stood on a site that is now marked
by nothing more than a center divider on the Hollywood Freeway. The
Tongvas, who had lived on and near the Cornfield for three millennia,
were decimated by succeeding onslaughts of Spaniards, Catholic
missionaries, Mexicans and Yankees.
Zanja Madre: The Zanja Madre, or “mother
trench,” was the lifeblood of early Los Angeles that brought
water for domestic, agricultural, and industrial use from the Los
Angeles River to El Pueblo until the 20th Century. The path
of the Zanja Madre is marked on Olvera Street with bricks.
Suit Riots (1700 Block of North Main Street): From
June 3 to June 13, 1943, servicemen stationed at the Chavez Ravine
naval station randomly beat up young Mexican American and Black men
throughout Los Angeles. The sailors brutalized their victims
and left them lying in the streets; police and sheriffs then arrested
victims instead of their attackers.
The Heritage Parkscape illustrates the power of place: “the power of ordinary urban landscapes to nurture citizens’ public memory, to encompass shared time in the form of shared territory . . . . And even bitter experiences and fights communities have lost need to be remembered – so as not to diminish their importance.” Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History 9-10 (1995).