California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Happy Valley

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 5, 2013 10:56am | Post a Comment

There are at least four places in California named Happy Valley. This blog entry is about the small neighborhood on Los Angeles’s EastsideTo vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here

The first time I became aware of a place in Los Angeles called Happy Valley was after glancing at an online map. I ascertained that it was apparently located somewhere in the vicinity of Montecito Heights, an area of Los Angeles that strikes me as one of the most obscure areas of the city. One day whilst driving down the Arroyo Seco Parkway (when it was still the Pasadena Freeway) I caught sight of a couple of Victorian structures which I turned off the road to see -- only to find that it was Heritage Square, a sort of living history museum in Montecito Heights. Another time, passing through a scenic cut and cresting a hill along Monterey Road I entered a small, secluded village... but that turned out to be Hermon.

It wasn’t until I was house (and dog and cat) sitting in El Sereno last year that I caught site of a Happy Valley neighborhood sign on Lincoln Park Avenue, just north of Broadway. When I found myself resuming my responsibilities in El Sereno last month, I decided to explore as many neighborhoods of the Eastside as I could. Together, Dooley (the dog) and I rambled through Arroyo View Estates, East Los Angeles, El Sereno, City Terrace, Garvanza, Hermon, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Rose Hill, University Hills, and on the final day, Happy Valley

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Happy Valley -- my first water color and bird's eye... go easy on me

Most Angelenos have likely never heard of Happy Valley. Not being in the Westside, Central Los Angeles, or Downtown it’s completely off the radar of most Los Angeles media. If people have heard of Happy Valley, there’s a good chance that they’re either associated with the neighborhood gang’s enemies (i.e. Eastlake Locos, East Side Clover, 18 Street, or El Sereno Rifa) or fans of Charles Fleming’s book, Secret Stairs.

Mural of Mary in Happy Valley dating from the 1970s (at least) -- The Jesus is newer

Walk #10 of that book involves walking along the public stairways and stair streets of Montecito Heights and Happy Valley (difficulty rating 5 out of 5) and it seems that numerous bloggers have undertaken it (e.g. Climbing LA, Postcards from Beverly, stairwalkinginla, and probably others). The story of a couple of Happy Valley murals was also told by LA Bloga in a piece that includes some great photos.


Looking down Happy Valley along Lincoln Park Avenue from the hillside

Happy Valley emerges from the southern face of Montecito Heights around the north end of Sierra Street, just north of Glen Alta Elementary. From there it continues south between Paradise Hill on the east and Mount Olympus II (locally known as Flattop or Flat Top) on the west before opening up into a flat area at Broadway.

Paradise Hill from Happy Valley

To the south is Lincoln Heights proper – specifically the Lincoln Heights Business District. Happy Valley is often considered to be a barrio of Lincoln Heights yet on many maps it’s included within Montecito Heights.

Montecito Heights neighborhood sign at Happy Valley's north end

View of Downtown Los Angeles from Happy Valley

The population of Happy Valley today is 79% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 13% white, and 6% Asian (mostly Chinese). In the hours that I spent walking around, nearly everyone that I encountered appeared to be part of one of those populations and the languages that I heard, in addition to English, were Spanish and Chinese. There were some white Anglos in the north end of the valley.


Southern California was inhabited by humans as many as 13,000 years ago. Roughly 3,500 years ago the ancestors of the Tongva arrived in the Los Angeles Basin. The area that includes Happy Valley is located between the sites of two Tongva villages, Yaanga to the west and Otsunga to the east. In 1769, the first Europeans passed through the area, led by Gaspar de Portolà on behalf of Spanish Conquest. In 1771 they established Mission San Gabriel Arcángel ten kilometers east. In 1781 the Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was established four kilometers to the west. Per the Laws of the Indies, the Pueblo’s lands included four square leagues of land, including what’s now Happy Valley.


Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Los Angeles was thus a Mexican city until 1848, when the US conquered California. In 1850, Los Angeles incorporated. The lands east of the Los Angeles River that now include Happy Valley remained relatively undeveloped until 1874, when then city health inspector and county coroner Dr. John S. Griffin and his nephew, Hancock Johnston, began selling lots to new homeowners in what was then called East Los Angeles.

Detail of Pierce’s Los Angeles Birdseye View showing Lincoln Heights and Happy Valley (1894)*

In 1886, most of what’s now known as Happy Valley was developed as the Ela Hills tract. The sale of new lots was announced in the 14 March edition of the Los Angeles Herald. The small, folk Victorian homes from that era still dominate the neighborhood, although they’re joined today by not-as-old crackerboxes and the expected assortment of stuccoed houses and apartments. The lots and homes situated on them are quite small. Many of the first inhabitants of them were immigrants from Germany.

Lincoln Heights was renamed Eastlake in 1901 and Lincoln Park in 1917. There’s still a small park nearby on Eastlake Avenue called Ela Park as a reminder of its earlier identity. During that period, many Italian and Mexican-Americans moved to the neighborhood. However, as business flourished along Downey Avenue (now Broadway), Happy Valley seems to have remained a fairly isolated, mostly residential neighborhood.

Victorian home behind a home that appears to have been a shop

Happy Valley apartment complex


detail of Electric car and bus routes in L.A. (1934)*

From 1901 until 1963, the Los Angeles Railway’s yellow cars traveled down Downey and Lincoln Park Avenue (originally Prichard Street). Today the area is served by Metro 252 and the DASH Lincoln Heights/Chinatown lines.


In the 1910s, a department store, library, bank, movie studio, and hospital all operated nearby in Lincoln Heights. In 1913, Avenue 21 Grammar School moved to the current site of Abraham Lincoln High School at the mouth of Happy Valley. Before the completion of the new building, the students and faculties met across the street and up the hill on the former mansion property of Charles Woolwine.

Lincoln High has a long list of famous and locally notable alumni. The great architect Gregory Ain, who designed Silver Lake’s Avenel Homes and Mar Vista's Mar Vista Housing went there. Another alumnus is Gaylord Carter,an organist who accompanied silent films in at Inglewood’s Seville Theatre, Downtown Los Angeles’s Million Dollar Theatre, Grauman's Metropolitan, and others. He also played organ on old time radio shows including Suspense and The Whistler. Former Black Panther leader and author Eldrige Cleaver attended Lincoln too. In 1978’s Soul on Fire he referred to Happy Valley as “one of these old, proud Chicano communities.” Lincoln was also attended by modern dancer José Limón as well as several film folks including directors John Huston and Moctesuma Esparza; and actors Jeanette Nolan, John Conte, John Doucette, Robert Preston, and Robert Young.


From 1910 until 1920, many Mexican refugees from the Mexican Revolution moved to Los Angeles, joining those who already settled in barrios like SonoratownDogtown, the Flats (in Boyle Heights), Alpine (in Victor Heights), Belvedere Gardens and Maravilla Park (in East Los Angeles), and Happy Valley. Some of the young pachucos of these neighborhoods coalesced into neighborhood clubs, including Happy Valley.

Happy Valley Rifa tagged pay phone!

When the US entered World War II in 1941, many men of fighting age went off to war – in many cases never to return. Not coincidentally, the barrio cliques comprised of young teenagers morphed into street gangs. Around the same time, many Italian-Americans moved east to San Gabriel Valley towns including Rosemead, San Gabriel, and Temple City. In 1946, Beatrice Griffith referred to Happy Valley in her novel American Me, when it first appeared in serialized form in Louis Adamic’s magazine Common Ground two years before it was published as a book. 

Happy Valley Rifa 1975

Whatever you think of gangs, it does seem to me that in the decades when many Angelenos seemed to aspire to suburban anonymity, disassociation, and interchangeable placelessness, street gangs were probably the most visible expressions of neighborhood identity. I’m not suggesting that would-be community boosters join gangs – I can think of better ways of showing your neighborhood pride than warring with rival gang members – but they do historically keep the flame of neighborhood pride burning when others turn their backs. While not exactly an ancient pictograph, seeing a Happy Valley placa dated “1975” on a sidewalk is kind of cool (and way more permanent and less ugly than a spraypaint tag, I might add).


Los Angeles was torn apart by riots in 1992. It seems that afterwards one of the ways people sought to heal the wounds was to re-embrace the notion of community. In 1993, the LA DOT began installing the now-familiar neighborhood signs around the city, in many cases reviving forgotten identities on what had become huge, faceless swathes of land (often in South Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and Midtown). In 1995 Happy Valley was officially recognized when the blue sign went up amid fears that it would trigger a negative response from Happy Valley Rifa’s enemies but nothing of the sort seems to have happened. Instead, it just put Happy Valley back on the map… even if it is still hard to find.


Happy Valley today is overwhelmingly residential, possibly more so now than ever. In fact, there are several residences that appear to have formerly served as stores. There are very few non-residential buildings in the neighborhood today. 

Pomona Market

Apparently the building that houses Pomona Market was constructed in 1922. It is one of several liquor stores in Los Angeles with a sign claiming that it sells the coldest beer in the city. While good beers taste best at a range of temperatures, macroswills are less disgusting the closer they are to freezing. 

Fernando Auto Repair doesn’t even show up in any directories that I saw. I can assure you, however, that it’s there if you need it, housed in a structure constructed in 1946.

Iglesia en el Valle

Iglesia en la Valle seems to have become the current inhabitant of this church (constructed in 1939) much more recently, in 1984.

Near the north end of the neighborhood is Glen Alta Elementary, which opened in 1965.

There was business taking place elsewhere – it was Small Business Saturday after all. A man in a football (soccer) jersey played salsa music from his van and presided over an listless sidewalk sale. Down the street, at a house flying the flag of Texas, a group of women set up some tables and chairs. Having recently dined in the garage of a private residence in El Sereno that sells Mexican food on Sundays I thought that maybe something similar was going to happen here but no food was served during the time of my visit. There were other sidewalk and yard sales too but for the most part it was a pretty relaxed valley.

At one point Dooley and I just stopped, looked, smelled and listened. Ranchera music seemed to drift from a house to the south. A car passed us playing the Young Rascals’ 1967 hit “Groovin’.”


In the other direction (in more sense than one), another vehicle passed bumping merengue. A cloud of weed smoke floated in from the east. Meanwhile, the crowing of roosters echoed throughout the valley – as did the barking of dogs. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Happy Valley is the doggiest neighborhood in Los Angeles – perhaps five times doggier than even El Sereno (which I’d previously thought was the doggiest neighborhood).

Looking up the staircase at the north end of Lincoln Park Avenue

The people of Happy Valley may be friendly (I counted four “hellos,” one “buenos dias, and one “good morning”) but the dogs almost invariably seem insane. Nearly every small yard seemed to either be patrolled by a Pitbull and Chihuahua combination or the five small dogs variety pack. Dooley and I had pretty tense confrontations with three dogs (two of them rather large) that simply squeezed through the gates of their yards to nip and bark at us. None of them actually bit us, however. 

Not all of the homes were being used as minimum security dog kennels. There was also quite a lot of front and back yard gardening too. Especially prominent and surprising to me were the many banana trees, which provide shade, privacy, and best of all, bananas with actual flavor (unlike the supermarket ones suitable only as smoothie filler). Besides getting your hands dirty doing something besides maintaining a silly, thirsty, green grass carpet, gardening can yield unexpected rewards. It was on the side of Flat Top above Happy Valley in 1984 that a whale skeleton was discovered when one Mr. F. W. Maley uncovered vertebrae whilst digging in irrigation trench on for Ms. L.W. Blevins’s orchard.


If you know of any musicians, filmmakers or other creative individuals from Happy Valley, please let me know in the comments. And please share your stories, knowledge, and experiences involving Happy Valley. There’s so little official history of this neighborhood so I’m relying on readers to help flesh it out. There is no Wikipedia article and it’s not even included as a neighborhood in the LA TimesMapping LA project.

*image source for both map detail: The Big Map Blog


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Lincoln Heights, The Pueblo's Bedroom

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 8, 2012 09:09pm | Post a Comment

Lincoln Heights one of the main neighborhoods of LA's Eastside. Across the LA River it's neighbored by Downtown's Chinatown, North Industrial District (Dog Town), Civic Support, and the Mideast Side's Elysian Park and Elysian Valley to the west and northwest, respectively. It's neighbored the NELA's Cypress Park and Montecito Heights to the north; and fellow Eastside neighborhoods Boyle Heights, El Sereno, and Happy Valley, to the south, east, and north, respectively.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's maps of Lincoln Heights and The Eastside

For this blog, I was accompanied by Genevieve Liang, making her second appearance after her season 6 debut in "Pasadena - The Crown City of Roses."


Present day neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, like all of Los Angeles, was for thousands of years home to the 
Tongva, later conquered by the Spanish, part of Mexico
after its independence, and ultimately the USA.

For its first fifteen years, Lincoln Heights was merely known, along with it's east-of-the-river neighbors as East Los Angeles. In 1863 there was an outbreak of smallpox. Then city health inspector and county coroner Dr. John S. Griffin, was offered 2,000 acres of land at the reduced price of 50 cents an acre instead of his normal $3,000 salary by the cash-strapped city. In 1874, the Virginian doctor and his nephew, Hancock Johnston, began selling the land to LA's first suburbanites. 

The Albion Cottages were built in 1875 (the Milagro Market was added later) to serve workers on the Southern Pacific Railroad.


Along with Angeleno HeightsBunker Hill and Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights was one of LA's first suburbs. In its earliest years most of the residents were English and Irish-Americans, who nicknamed the budding community "The Garden Territory." The downtown was laid out along Broadway, which begins there and ultimately runs 28 kilometers south, finally terminating in Gardena.

Residence at 2054-2056 Griffin Avenue built in 1887 

Not pictured historic home of the era: Residence at 3110 N. Broadway built in 1880 (now HM 157) 



A portion purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company was left undeveloped and instead set aside as a park in 1881. It was first named East Los Angeles Park and subsequently re-named Eastlake Park in 1901 as an Eastside counterpart to Westlake (now known as MacArthur Park). It quickly became one of the city's major attractions and, due to a petition, was renamed Lincoln Park in 1917. (Click here for KCET's excellent history of the park).

It was at the park that Charlie Chaplin filmed A Woman (1915), Harold Lloyd filmed Haunted Spooks(1920), and in 1921, Laurel and Hardy appeared, not yet as a team, in The Lucky Dog, their first cinematic appearance together.


The Church of the Epiphany was built in 1883. In 1913, it was expanded and a large window designed by Tiffany Studios was installed. Decades later, in the 1960s and '70s, it was an important center in the Chicano Rights movement. The Brown Berets routinely met there and the newspaper, La Raza, had its offices there.


The 1890s saw an influx of immigrants from Germany, many of whom worked as bakers. One such company, Mrs. Cubbinson's, still manufactures Cubbison's Croutons and other products today. The East Los Angeles Church of the Brethren was built on Broadway and opened its doors to mostly German-American worshippers in 1896. As Lincoln Heights filled up with more immigrants, some of the wealthy citizens of the neighborhood began to decamp to Arroyo Seco and Hollywood communities. 

Lemberger - Sigler Residence (2800 Manitou Ave.) built in 1897

Historic homes of the era (not pictured) include: Stoltenberg Residence (2901-2907 Manitou Ave.) built in 1890, Foyen Residence (2242 Workman St.) built in 1895, Clark-Doody Residence (2139-2141 Parkside Ave.) built in 1896, Schliebitz Residence (2063 Griffin Ave.) built in 1903, Binford Residence (2200-2212 Eastlake Ave. & 3201 Baldwin St.), Nicol Residence (2309 Hancock St.), Todd Residence (2808 Manitou Ave.), Olin Residence (2622-2624 Mozart St.), and Girard-Vai Residence (2113-2113½ Parkside Ave.) 



Around the turn of the 20th Century, the area of and around Lincoln Heights developed in an increasingly industrial direction. As land values decreased, an influx of Italian-Americans arrived from across the river, where a Little Italy had been established in the 1880s. Many of the Italians were involved in wine-making, which had first been established by French immigrants across the river in the 1830s. Wine-making would later peak with some 20 wineries operating in the area. 

One newly-arrived Sicilian-American family in Lincoln Heights was the Capras, who bought a home at 240 S. Ave 18 in 1904. Their son, Francesco Rosario, would late pursue a career as a film director, debuting with 1922's The Ballad of Fisher's Boarding House. Calling himself Frank Russell Capra, he later achieved fame with It happened one night, Mr. Deeds goes to town, Lost horizon, Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Arsenic and old lace, and especially It's a wonderful life.


The John B. Parkinson-designed Los Angeles No. 3 Steam Power Plant was built for the Edison Electric Company in 1903. The site later became a Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery. It's somewhat fitting that the place that once brewed the swill enjoyed ironically by hipsters is now a live-and-work artists' colony. The space itself is impressive but isn't without controversy. Unneighborly efforts have been made by some to distance the colony from the Lincoln Heights neighborhood and art scene and instead forge an association with the Downtown Arts District, located on the opposite side of the river and several kilometers away. 


Following the lead of America's first ostrich farm, Cawston Ostrich Farm, which opened in not-too-distant South Pasadena in 1886; the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm opened in Lincoln Heights in 1906. Located opposite Eastlake Park, the farms visitors gawked and posed with the large birds and rode in ostrich-drawn carriages. Ostrich Parks were quite the rage back then Rancho Los Feliz (now Griffith Park) was home to the Ostrich Farm and the Ostrich Farm Railroad.

Next door to the Ostrich Farm and operated by the same owners was the Los Angeles Alligator Farm, which opened in 1907. As with the ostrich farm, vistors gawked and posed with the large crocodilians... and yes, were pulled along in alligator-drawn carts! Both existed until 1953, at which point the alligators relocated to Buena Park. I'm not sure what happened to the ostriches -- leather and steaks?


Lincoln Heights' Neher & Skiling-designed Federal Bank Building was built in 1908 and is now (possibly) the nation's only Italian Renassance El Pollo Loco. The Broadway Street Clock was erected in 1910. Frieden's Department Store is possibly the oldest family-owned department store in Los Angeles.
Lincoln Heights Library (1916)

The Lincoln Heights Branch Library was built in 1916, inspired by Michelangelo's design for Rome's Villa Guilla, and is the second oldest library in LA.

The Art Deco Light and Power Building was built in the 1930s.


Selig and a chimpanzee sharing a smoke

In 1913, pioneering West Coast film director William Selig acquired 32 acres of land in Lincoln Heights, two years after his partner Francis Boggs was murdered by their janitor at their film studio in Edendale/Echo Park. The old studio was sold to William Fox, founder of Fox Film. At his new property, Selig erected a zoo for the use in his jungle serials at the former site of a previous tourist attraction, the Indian Village (which opened around 1909). The Lincoln Heights Carousel was added in 1914. It was designated an historic monument in 1976 but was gutted by fire and demolished the same year. In 1925 the zoo was sold and re-named Luna Park Zoo. Soon afterward it closed and the animals were sold to Los Angeles, which had opened a zoo in 1912.


Construction of Los Angeles County Hospital (formerly located on Marengo Street) began in 1913. Today the old administration building still stands and is the home to the LA County Coroner’s office. When the hospital still stood it served as a filming location for Charlie Chaplin’s Police (1916), Hank Mann’s The Janitor (1919), Stan Laurel’s Detained (1924), and Laurel & Hardy’s The Hoose-Gow (1929).


The most famous winery in Lincoln Heights is the San Antonio Winery, established in 1917 by Santo Cambianica, an immigrant from Lombardy. After Prohibition was enacted in 1920, other wineries sold "wine bricks", legal grape concentrates that helped fuel the bootlegging industry as well as alcohol with supposed health benefits like North Cucamonga Winery's "Padre's Wine Elixir Tonic" and "Padre's Bitter Wine." Lincoln Heights and Little Italy were notorious for their bootlegging and Avenue 19 was nicknamed "Shotgun Alley."

The San Antonio Winery, on the other hand, survived by producing communion wine. In 1966, it was listed as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Nowadays the winery relies on grapes grown in in Monterey, Napa Valley and elsewhere.

Bank of Italy - Now Bank of America (1924)

At the turn of the century, large numbers of Mexican-Americans began to make their homes in Lincoln Heights, many having relocated from other Eastside neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights/Boyle Heights and East LA. Still more arrived as refugees from the Mexican Revolution. However, through the 1920s the predominant ethnic group continued to be Italian-Americans and some nicknamed Lincoln Heights "Little Sicily," a cross river neighbor to LA's Little Italy neighborhood (now the site of Chinatown). The combined Italian population of Little Italy and Little Sicily reached around 8,000 people at its height. 


Walter Collins (left) and Arthur Hutchins (right)

In 1928, a series of kidnappings and murders of young boys rocked Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Then nine-year-old Walter Collins disappeared from his Lincoln Heights home (located at 217 N. Ave 23) on March 10, 1928. A twelve-year-old from Iowa, Arthur Hutchins Jr, pretended to be Collins, primarily motivated by his desire to come to LA and meet cowboy star Tom Mix. The events were retold (with the names changed to protect the innocent) in the 1951 Dragnet radio series episode, "The Big Imposter" and a 1952 TV episode of the same name. The events were also depicted in 2008's Clint Eastwood film, The Changeling. Eventually, Canadian serial killer Gordon Northcott was caught, confessed to the killing (and several others - although he was suspected of more) and hanged.


Fire Station No. 1 - a classic Streamline Moderne built in 1940

After the conclusion of World War II, many of Lincoln Heights' established Italian-American and Mexican-American residences moved east into the suburban San Gabriel Valley, particularly towns like Alhambra, Rosemead, San Gabriel and Temple City. Those that stayed behind were mostly less-wealthy and as a result Lincoln Heights grew increasingly working class.


Accounts of when gangs first appeared in Lincoln Heights vary, with dates routinely being pushed back decades further and further and are hard to verify. By some accounts, East Side Clover and Varrio Lincoln Heights date back to the first decade of the 20th century. Clicks include Parkside Locos, Calle Sichel Locos, Thomas Street, 28th Ave/Calle 28, and Workman Street. Other active Lincoln Heights gangs include East Lake Locos, and Happy Valley Rifa. Whenever they formed, it's generally accepted that most were active by the 1940s.


  Jalopy pit, 1951, Lincoln Park Stadium

I couldn't find the exact dates of Lincoln Park Stadium's operation but it at least existed between 1946 and 1952 (by which point it was renamed "The New Lincoln Speedway"), when it hosted both midget car and jalopy races. It was located on the grounds of the former Zoo, which closed in 1933 after damaging floods. 


The Lincoln Heights Jail that still stands opened in 1931. As early as the 1850s there had been jail buildings there. Charlie Chaplin’s Police (1916), Harold Lloyd’s Take a Chance (1918), and Laurel & Hardy’s The Second Hundred Years (1927) were all filmed at earlier incarnations of the jail.

In 1950, Chief William Parker was appointed Los Angeles's chief of police. One of his primary obsessions was with LA's gay community which he antagonized with raids of gay bars and entrapment -- paying aspiring Hollywood actors to serve as bait for cruisers. An entire wing of Lincoln Heights Jail was reserved for those guilty of being gay and was nicknamed "The Fruit Tank."

One such criminal, Nancy Valverde, was a Lincoln Heights barber who, due to her short hair and habit of wearing pants, was routinely dragged in on charges of "masquerading."

In 1951, a group of young Mexican-American men (Danny and Elias Rodela, Raymond Marquez, Manuel Hernandez, and Eddie Nora) were picked up at the Showboat Bar bar in nearby Frogtown, dragged back to the jail and severely beaten by a large group of drunk cops in an incident that came to be known "Bloody Christmas" and inspired the book and film LA Confidential. The cops were responding to a call about underage drinking. All of the victims were of legal age and produced valid ID. Unfortunately, LAPD had a tradition of getting rip-roaring drunk on Christmas and the victims suffered paralysis, ruptured and punctured organs, broken bones and in one case required three blood transfusions.

The jail was closed in 1959 but some businesses have operated in parts of it. The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts began operating out of it in 1979. Later portions of Nightmare on Elm Street and Night Train (as well as the Blink-182 video "Feeling This") were filmed there. In 1993 it became the home of the no longer-extant Aztlan Cultural Arts Foundation. It was closed to filming in 2010 but parts were reopened in 2012. 


Daniel Lewis James, was an Irish-American former Communist who grew up in Kansas CityMissouri. Though having left the party in '48, he was blacklisted in 1951 after being called before HUAC. He and his wife moved to Lincoln Heights where they became active in the formation of theater groups and youth activities. He died in 1988. For decades, beginning in the 1950s and employing the pseudonym "Danny Santiago," he wrote Eastside fiction that was widely praised for it's authenticity. 1983's Famous All Over Town, won the prestigious 1984 Rosenthal Award for literary achievement. After he failed to claim his $5,000 reward, James revealed the truth.


In 1953, the California Highway Commission proposed building the 5 Freeway through the Eastside. Not surprisingly, Eastsiders reacted with resistance. Then-city council member Edward R. Roybal chaired the Boyle-Hollenback Anti-Golden State Freeway Commission but in 1956, the freeway cut through, displacing families and encouraging the accelerating departure of many of their neighbors. By the 1960s, the middle class had departed, leaving Lincoln Heights a thoroughly working class, mostly Latino, barrio, albeit one with a significant Chinese-American minority, due to the neighborhood's location next to Chinatown, which had opened in the 1930s.


Lacy Street Studios occupies a former textile mill built in 1885 that became a shooting location in 1976. Nowadays it's a frequent stand-in for New York and other 19th century metropolises. One of the building's claims to fame is that the TV show Cagney and Lacey was shot here, as were the TV series Alien Nation, Mafiosa, and Scream Play. 

The films The Addams Family, Ballistic, Beethoven, Cage II, Cobb, Dark Wolf, Dead Presidents, Don't Look Up, A Gothic TaleThe Girl from the Naked Eye, Gridlock'd, Hollywood Kills, JadeLA Confidential, Little *ucker, Lord of Illusions, My Family, Out for JusticeRadio Free AlbemuthSaw, Sparks, Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, Torture Room, Tumbleweeds, Twin Falls Idaho, and Winning London were also filmed there in part or in whole.

On the day of our visit, Genevieve and I walked into the sprawling, 88,000 square foot property and didn't see anyone for some for a bit -- turns out there are only five employees. After we were asked if we were scouting for locations, we were directed to an office. Operations Manager Tony Churchill kindly took time out of his day to talk with us about the history of the building, and the company. He also told us about his days as Tyne Daly back in the Cagney & Lacy days. He also showed us regaled us with humorous tales about his days in the 1970s funk band New Birth, whose roots go back to Kentucky's The Nite-Liters, which he co-founded in 1963.


Nowadays the population of Lincoln Heights is roughly 71% Latino (mostly Mexican), 25% Asian (largely Hoa Chinese) and 3% white. Subdistricts include the Auto Glass District, Clover Heights, The Hills, and Lincoln Heights Estates.


In addition to the aforementioned film and TV series Lincoln Heights has appeared in many others. For an in depth feature on silent films shot in Lincoln Heights, click here.


Sacred Heart Church

Albion Street School

Lincoln Heights, being as old as it is, is home to numerous, beautiful old buildings including many private residences. It's also home to the Sacred Heart Church (2210 Sichel St) and the Albion Street School - designed by T. Beverly Keim Jr. (322 South Avenue 18) and built in 1924 and 1936.


Los Angeles Baking Company

Lincoln Heights is home to numerous highly-regarded restaurants, especially Mexican ones. El Huarachito is rightfully famous for their breakfasts. Lanza Brothers Market is one of the few culinary vestiges of the neighborhood's Italian past. On the day of our visit we ate at LA Bakery which I thought was decent.

Other local establishments include Armex Kabob Restaurant, Ave 26 Taco Stand, Boda Restaurant, Cafe in the Heights, Cake Girl, Carnitas Michoacan, Champion Donuts, Chinatown Express, Corn Man, Dino's Burgers, Honey Donuts, Kacin's Tulip Cafe, King Taco, La Estrella Mexican Food, La Morenita Restaurant, La Naranja Taqueria Restaurant, La Playita, Lencho's Mexican Restaurant, Llamarada, Los Paisas Taco Truck, Los Tres Cochinitos Restaurant, Maracas Cafe, Maya's Restaurant, Mom's Tamales, Mr Steve Donuts, Natural Fruit Los Reyes, Pablo's Fruit Stand, Palace Bakery, Rancho Meat Market, Raspados Nayarit, Tacos Chapalita, Takoyaki Tanota Truck, Troy's Burgers No 10, and Wendy's Tortas.


Chicano Time Trip

Lincoln Heights has a vibrant art scene. There are purely artistic and commercial murals adorning many building walls. One of the best known is Chicano Time Trip, painted by Los Dos Streetscapers (Wayne Healy and David Botello) in 1977.

The Brewery includes the I-5 Gallery, the LA Artcore Brewery Annex, Arts Refoundry, Bruce Gray Gallery, Mia Gallery, RAID Projects, and Salerno Michael. It also hosts the Brewery Artwalk.

The Lincoln Lawyer

Statue of Florence Nightingale

In Lincoln Park, the Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for Arts and Education has served the community since 1970. Also in the park is Julia Bracken Wendt's sculpture, The Lincoln Lawyer, made in 1926, and David P. Edstrom's statue of Florence Nightingale, done in 1937.


Nearby, at the Parque de Mexico, there are even more sculptures of figures associated with Mexican history, including Efren de los Rios's El Cura Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1938), Ernesto E. Tamariz's Lazaro Cardenas del Rio (1970), an anonymous Benito Juarez (1976), an anonymous Pancho Villa (around 1980), Ignacio Asunsolo's Emiliano Zapata (1980), Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon's Julian Martinez (1980)...

...Victor Gutierrez's Venustiano Carranza (1980), Francisco Zuniga's General Ignacio Zaragoza (1981), an anonymous Emperor Cuauhtemoc (1981), Humberto Peraza's Agustin Lara (1984), Ayda's J. Jesus's Gonzales Ortega (1987), Francisco Zuniga's Ramon Lopez Velarde (1988), Velarco's Dona Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez (1994), and an anonymous Guadalupe Victoria (1997).

Pieter Performance Space

The Airliner

Other, newer cultural institutions include Lincoln Heights the Pieter Performance Space (since 2009) and HM157. The neighborhood also puts on an annual Christmas (or alternately "Community") parade. Another well-known local venue is The Airliner (which used put on the popular Low End Theory). 


Figuring out what the temple on Broadway is known is is surprisingly challenging.  The sign on the building next door says America Vietnam-Chinese Friendship Association. Other directories list the place's name as Kwan Ying Vietnamese Buddhist Association. Some of the confusion can probably be chalked up to the use of Vietnamese, Chinese, and romanized Chinese. The sign at the entrance says, "Chùa Quan Âm," Vietnamese for Quan Âm Pagoda. Quan Âm is one of the bodhisattva venerated in East Asian Buddhism. Look up "Chùa Quan Âm" and the nearest result is the temple of that name in Little Saigon (specifically Garden Grove. I've actually been the that temple, incidentally). Perhaps it's changed its name even though I believe it only opened in 2003. In front of the temple, I once encountered a guy selling barrel cacti, who assured me that they were the best I'd ever see. They looked fine.

There's also the Ultra Violet Social Club and The Office Club. One place that I've long been curious about but never seen the inside is the bunker-like California Nigth [sic] Club, the sign on which is constantly shedding more and more letters.


Aright! Until next time. Hope you enjoyed this one and check again for the next one (right now it's looking like El Monte). To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of future blog entries, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here.


California Fool's Gold -- An Eastside Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 30, 2011 04:11pm | Post a Comment


People are weird about Los Angeles' Eastside/Westside thing. The same wannabes from Midtown, HollywoodSilver Lake and Echo Park that throw up "W" hand signs and exaggeratedly say, "West-side" when they're ironically enjoying rap music are the same jerks that claim, despite the fact that they live in Central Los Angeles, that they live on The Eastside. If you call them on it, they usually claim that the real Eastside (the communities east of the Los Angeles River) are all East Los Angeles -- which is incorrect but more likely a sign that they've never been to the region that they claim -- and not some willful act of subterfuge. 


To be fair to these noobs, ill-informed Westsiders, transplants, and weirdos who insist on dividing the entire city or county into just two regions (I count 20) -- there is more than one Eastside... sort of. The other Eastside is sometimes referred to as the Black Eastside (even though it's currently mostly Latino) and has a long claim to the Eastside name. To many black Angelenos and South Los Angeles residents,  the traditional division between the Eastside and Westside is the 110 freeway (and before that freeway's existence, Main Street).  However, when "The Eastside" is used in this respect, it's implied (and usually understood) that one is talking about the Eastside of South Los Angeles.


Outside of South LA, the communities east of the Los Angeles River have historically been considered The Eastside -- communities like Atwater Village, Boyle Heights, Brooklyn Heights, City Terrace, Cypress Park, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Happy Valley, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Montecito Heights, Mount Washington, Rose Hill, Tropico,  and yes, East Los Angeles (which, of course, isn't actually part of the City of Los Angeles). I'm not sure why, but Eagle Rock seems to be alone in Los Angeles neighborhoods ever considered to be part of the Eastside -- but I could be wrong. Maybe its because even long after its annexation by Los Angeles it still feels like its own municipality (perhaps because it still has its own city hall).


An Arroyo Seco regional affiliation distinct from that of the Eastsdie  first began to emerge in the 19th Century when the river and surrounding hills were home to a handful of later-annexed-by-Los-Angeles communities. It was only around the 1970s, however, that a separate Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) identity began to emerge that was referred to thus. It seems that eager to disassociate themselves with the negative associations of "the Eastside" (gangs, barrios, working class Latinos, &c), homeowners, real estate developers, and others jumped on board the NELA bandwagon in the 1980s and it NELA became a widely accepted and popular identity. In fact, I've found examples of people claiming every single Los Angeles neighborhood traditionally considered to be part of the Eastside to be part of NELA at some point or other -- leaving me wondering what they think that the Eastside is!


Jump ahead twenty years and a new crop of developers began to market the very things the previous generation had shunned (albeit with a different vocabulary) as selling points of a new Eastside -- albeit an Eastside now located on the west side of the river. As with the real Eastside, these neighborhoods were working class (authentic), gritty (less likely to receive city services), and primarily Latino... but also heavily (and historically) gay and more primed for gentrification than the real Eastside. Also, they didn't have a widely-recognized designation. Angeleno Heights, Echo Park, Elysian Heights, Elysian Park, Elysian Valley, Franklin Hills, Griffith Park, Historic Filipinotown, Los Feliz, Pico-Union, Silver Lake Solano Canyon, Victor Heights, and Westlake are located in Central Los Angeles along with Hollywood and Midtown but aren't really part of either. People will keep having East Side Mondays in Westlake, Taste of the Eastside in Hollywood, and call themselves Mr. Eastside Cool because they own venues in Silver Lake and Echo Park unless people inside and outside embrace an identifier. I favor the Mideast Side. If NELA can create an identity, so can the Mideast!


Justifiably annoyed that "the Eastside" was being pulled away first by NELA and then Central Los Angeles, many real Eastsiders continued to embrace The Eastside with a sense of pride. In the 2000s, some fought back by slapping up stickers around the west bank stating "THIS IS NOT THE EAST SIDE!." In my capacity as an explorer of Los Angeles neighborhoods I was asked, along with DJ Waldie, to speak on the issue on KCRW's Which Way, LA? (listen here). Someone from the station told us that we were to represent the Eastside. Waldie, a lifelong resident of Southeast Los Angeles who has famously written about Lakewoodand me, a longtime resident of the Mideast Side, both informed them that we weren't Eastsiders... which seemed to confuse the Westsiders on the other end.

Anyway, now that we're all clear...

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