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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Silver Lake, Los Angeles's Gayborhood

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 8, 2010 09:33pm | Post a Comment


Silver Lake
is a largely gay and hilly neighborhood (one of its nicknames is "The Swish Alps") in LA’s Mideast Side. To vote for more Los Angeles neighborhoods to be featured in a future post, click here. To vote for LA County communities, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

 

INTRODUCTION TO SL

First things first… Silver Lake is two words! Don't believe me? Count 'em! There are fifteen Silver Lakes in the US, thirteen of which are two words (one of the offenders is in Texas, and therefore doesn't really count). It is supposedly the second gayest place in the Southland, after West Hollywood and in front of Broadway Corridor.

 
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Maps of the Mideast Side and Silver Lake*



Its neighbors are Los Feliz, Franklin Hills, Sunset Junction, Virgil Village, P-Town, Atwater Village, Frogtown, Elysian Heights and Echo Park. For this episode, I was joined by my traveling companion, filmmaker Diana Ward.

Constructing the reservoirs

EARLY HISTORY & THE RESERVOIR

The area that is now Silver Lake was once populated by the ancestors of the Chumash, who arrived around 13,000 years ago. The Tongva/Kizh arrived from the Sonoran Desert to the east some 3,500 years ago. In 1542, whilst exploring on behalf of Spain, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed all of California for the Empire after having set foot in San Diego Bay, Santa Catalina Island, San Pedro Bay, Santa Monica Bay, and a few other coastal points. Nevertheless, more than two centuries passed before Spain moved to protect their till-then mostly nominal possessions from the possible encroachment from the English and Russians.

Setting the stage for conquest part to secure California, in 1769 Spain sent explorer Gaspar de Portolà de Rovira on an overland exhibition of what’s now California. In 1777 a plan was put into place to establish civic pueblos to support the newly established military presidios. In 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles de Porciuncula (Los Angeles) was founded near the banks of the Los Angeles River. Los Angeles was granted four square leagues of territory, the northern border of which corresponded closely to what’s now Fountain Avenue and the western ran along what’s now Hoover Street. 


Detail of an 1887 map showing the Southerly portion of Ivanhoe

In the 19th century, Scotsman Hugo Reid named the area just north of Los Angles's northern border Ivanhoe and many streets still have Scottish names or names taken from Sir Walter Scott's famous novel, including Ben Lomond, Hawick, Herkimer, Kenilworth, Rowena and St. George. In the map above, the future site of the Silver Lake and Ivanhoe Reservoirs is merely designated as the LA City Res Site, which was before its development as a reservoir a seasonal wetland and part of the Ballona Creek Watershed.

Detail of a map from 1894, still showing the area as Ivanhoe

In 1906, the neighborhood’s two reservoirs were named the Ivanhoe Reservoir and the Silver Lake Reservoir, the latter after LA DWP commissioner Herman Silver.


Detail of 1913 Los Angeles map showing Silver Lake - Elza Ave is now Silver Lake Blvd 


Detail of 1945 Los Angeles map showing Silver Lake - Elza Ave was by then Silver Lake

The reservoir was first drained in 1951 and there was no sign of the infamous Sylvie, the Silver Lake Serpent.


The August House  


 The Canfield-Moreno Estate

 
The Burrows Residence


The Garbutt-Hathaway Mansion

THE SILENT FILM ERA

In 1909 William Selig and Francis Boggs established a film studio in Boggs' rented bungalow in Edendale, an historic Los Angeles neighborhood centered in what is now Echo Park and the eastern portion of what’s now Silver Lake. Soon, Edendale was the center of the burgeoning industry. Meanwhile, Monogram, Vitagraph and Walt Disney all established studios in another Silver Lake neighbor, Franklin Hills. Silver Lake, situated between the two, immediately attracted industry figures and creative types. With the silent film industry including many homosexuals, by the 1920s, Silver Lake also supported a thriving gay population which continue to reside in the neighborhood to the the present.

Silver Lake was also, like neighboring Echo Park and Elysian Heights (nicknamed “Red Hill”), a hotbed of Communism. Beginning in the 1920s and continuing into the 1930s, many real estate developers began to build up the neighborhood. One home, The August House, built in 1913, is one of the neighborhood's oldest. Antonio Moreno, was a "Latin Lover" who commissioned the development of the Moreno Highlands as well as his own Canfield-Moreno Estate (co-named after his oil heiress wife, Daisy Canfield, and also known as The Paramour Mansion and The Crestmount). There's also the Gaudi-inspired Burrows Residence, designed in 1921. Cinematographer Frank A. Garbutt had the Garbutt-Hathaway mansion built on top of a hill and it was a frequent shooting location since its completion in 1928.


The Avenel Co-Op 


The Droste House


The John R. Hunt House


A Neutra home


Another Neutra


Diana checking out another Neutra



The O'Neill Duplex   


Silvertop  


The Tierman Home