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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring University Hills

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 7, 2014 10:26pm | Post a Comment
AS I LOOK BACK ON MY EDUCATION -- UNIVERSITY HILLS


In the fall of 2012 I had a stint house-sitting in El Sereno and I spent much of that time exploring said neighborhood with a dog named Dooley. This past fall I again returned to the Eastside and Dooley I again resumed our epic walks. This time around we explored Arroyo View Estates, City Terrace, East Los Angeles, El Sereno, Garvanza, Happy Valley, Hermon, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Rose Hill, and one warm, sunny morning, University Hills
(University Hills is home to Los Angeles's longest public stairway -- the 234 step "Heidleman Stairway").



Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of University Hills

University Hills is a small neighborhood in Los Angeles's Eastside. University Hills is, like Hillside Village, often (perhaps even usually) considered to be a district of the greater El Sereno neighborhood by some and a separate entity by others. To its west is Hillside Village, to its south are East Los Angeles and City Terrace, to the southeast is Monterey Park, and to the east is Alhambra


EARLY HISTORY OF THE AREA

The earliest known inhabitants of the area that's now University Hills arrived there some 13,000 years ago. About 10,000 years later the ancestors of the Tongva arrived from the Sonoran Desert, ultimately establishing the village of Otsungna, meaning "The Place of Roses," near the banks of a stream later named Arroyo Rosa de Castilla.

The Tongva's reign ended shortly after Spaniard Gaspar de Portolà's overland expedition passed through the area in 1769, an event which set the stage for Spanish conquest. In 1771, the conquerors constructed Mission San Gabriel Arcángel -- first in Whittier Narrows. In 1776 the mission was moved to its present location in San Gabriel, seven kilometers to the northeast of what's now University Hills. A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded eight kilometers to the west.

The area that now comprises University Hills was located in lands owned and controlled by the mission until Mexico gained independence in 1821 and the missions' holdings were later subsequently secularized. In 1831, the land containing what's now University Hills was granted to Juan Ballesteros by Governor Manuel Victoria. Ballesteros named his ranch “Rancho Rosa de Castilla.” Mexico's rule would prove even shorter than Spain's and ended in 1848 when California was conquered by the US. In 1850, California entered the union and Los Angeles incorporated as a city.

In 1850 the rancho was acquired by Anacleto Lestrade. In 1852, the title passed to a Basque couple, Jean-Baptiste Batz and his wife, Catalina Hegui. The family patriarch passed away in 1859 but it wasn't until 1876 that Catalina acquired the title to the land and purchased surrounding areas. After her death in 1882, the land was inherited by six of the eight Batz children. Their adobe, built in 1776 and gradually expanded upon over the years, was destroyed by a fire in 1908.


UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD


Freight rail along Valley Boulevard

The northwestern border of the University Hills is generally formed by a Union Pacific freight train line, acquired from Southern Pacific in 1996. Southern Pacific was the first transcontinental railway to reach Los Angeles, back in 1876. I don't believe (but I'm not sure) that this section of the rail was part of the original route connecting the city to San Francisco (since it seems to be heading in the wrong direction) although I believe that I read somewhere that it was installed no later than the 1880s. Back then the train also carried passengers to Los Angeles and in 1885, when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad broke their rival's monopoly, a rate war saw trips from Kansas City, Missouri temporarily drop to just $1 per passenger.

By 1888, the San Gabriel Rapid Transit Railroad passed through the area, linking Monrovia with Los Angeles. The local stop was listed simply as "Batz." Portions of the railway were incorporated into the Pacific Electric Railway, which traveled along the route of the modern Metrolink line to San Bernardino. The train carried passengers from 1914 until 1941 and ceased to run freight in 1950. The tracks continued to be used by Southern Pacific and Amtrak until 1990, when the line was sold to LACTC (the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission), which established Metrolink in 1992. Cal State LA Station opened in 1994.


GRIDER & HAMILTON'S FLORAL PARK


By 1906 or so, a small part of the area that's now University Hills was subdivided as Grider & Hamilton's Floral Park, who promoted their tract in the Los Angeles Herald with an ad that read, “Acres and Half-acres. Whole acres for the price of town lots just beyond beautiful Eastlake park. Close In. Wait for it. It will pay you to do so.” Grider was Leroy M. Grider, a real estate developer who'd moved to Los Angeles in 1857 and started his first company, L. M. Grider & Co., in 1886.

Grider was described by some as being the first developer to sell neighborhood's via the “excursion method,” which saw him ferry potential homeowners via streetcar to then-new "toonervilles" where they would additionally be plied with free BBQ. Grider also served on City Council but after retiring from both politics and real estate, opened a pet store called Birdland.  

California Fool's Gold -- An Eastside Primer

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

ACROSS THE RIVER -- THE EASTSIDE

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. 


THE OTHER EASTSIDE 


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.


THEE EASTSIDE

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).


NELA's SECESSION FROM THE EASTSIDE

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!


RE-APPROPRIATION OF THE EASTSIDE

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!


RE-RE-APPROPRIATION OF THE EASTSIDE



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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