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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Cypress Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 7, 2009 05:00pm | Post a Comment
In this installment of the Los Angeles neighborhood blog, we visit Cypress Park. To vote for the neighborhood you think I should visit next, go here or to vote for a Los Angeles County community you'd like to see covered, go here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

The western entry into the neighborhood

Cypress Park is a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles hemmed in by Mt. Washington to the northeast, the LA River on the southwest and Lincoln Heights to the south.
 
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Maps of Northeast Los Angeles and Cypress Park

At Division and San  Fernando, it shares a short border with Glassell Park. At Marmion and Figueroa, it shares an even shorter border with Highland Park.

A view of Cypress Park from Frogtown with Mt. Washington in the background

Cypress Park is sometimes refered to as Cypress Parque -- and as Chavala Park by silly haters. However, most Angelenos erroneously refer to it (when they do at all) as Highland Park. Nonetheless, Cypress Park has a unique history and is the location of several places of historical note.

 
For a city as famous for its murals as Los Angeles is, for the most part Cypress Park has very few. On the left is Tlaloc.

Cypress Park is located in the narrow lowlands between the river and the hills to the northeast and south. Some of the older houses are, not surprisingly, quaint, attractive and often feature well-tended yards. As with much of Los Angeles, there are also loads of hideous dingbats the color of dirty, faded band-aids and protected by security bars. Cypress Park's residents are 82% Latino (mostly Mexican) of any race, 11% Asian (mostly Chinese), and 5% white.


A typical street in Cypress Park




Shady Cypress Avenue

The Jeffries family were some of the earliest residents of note in the modern era. They were responsible for developing what was then known as the Jeffries-Highland. Their Victorian mansion was removed to build Florence Nightingale Middle School. Florence Nightingale's story has been the subject of several films and plays. Below is a clip from one featuring two of my favorite actors, Jeremy Brett and Jaclyn Smith.



The Arroyo Theatre today (image source: You Are Here)


Along San Fernando Road, in the western portion of the neighborhood, is a long industrial corridor, quite like most, with nameless, faceless manufacturers, collision repair specialists, &c.

 


Behind the corridor, where Isabel Street comes to an end (after an intersection with Bank Street) as a very narrow dead end, the so-called "Avenida Assecinos" [sic] became notorious when a white family was shot there around 3 a.m., looking for a shortcut or drugs, depending on who you believe. Although Cypress Park unfortunately has a fairly high crime rate, white people being killed there is rare and was serious enough that it resulted in Bill Clinton getting involved.


El Atacor #1

  
King Taco No. 1

To pretentious foodies for whom the most important aspects of restaurant choice are obscurity and authenticity, Figueroa Street is home to many Mexican restaurants that your friends haven't heard of. For those who aren't engaged in a game of one-upsmanship, Figueroa Street is also home to many trusty chains. Cypress Park is also noteworthy in culinary history as the home of the first El Atacor (located in Cypress Plaza) and the first King Taco (on Cypress).

Elysian Valley on the left, Cypress Park on the right (c. 1925)

   
Rio de Los Angeles Park

Back in the 1960s, the 247-acre freight switching facility known as Taylor Yard wound down. In the 1980s it was just used for storage and maintenance. Although there's still some train stuff over there, a large portion of the former yard is now the nicely done Rio de Los Angeles park, with multiple soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, and baseball diamonds.

Footsies

In the early part of the 20th century, Cypress Park was a mostly working class Italian neighborhood. Now, most of the residents are of Mexican or Chinese backgrounds. Nonetheless, a few guilt-plagued weddos have apologetically suggested that their going to the popular bar Footsies (not possessive) on weekends amounts to gentrification. Not to worry, when they head back across the river, the resultant white flight erases the unavoidable "damage" done by Caucasian migration.

Footsies is a bar owned or co-owned by Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers. Footsies is also notable for nearly always containing at least one Amoeba employee, whether drinking, DJing or bar-backing... (or all three). The video below immortalizes the bar, although it features no Amoebas.

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo



*****


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Heritage Day at the Heritage Square Museum

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 5, 2008 03:20pm | Post a Comment
This past Sunday at the Heritage Square Museum in Highland Park it was L.A. Heritage Day, which I checked out, accompanied by the always scintillating Ngoc Nguyen. The Heritage Square Museum is a "living museum" made up of some Victorian buildings saved from impending demolition that was begun in the 1960s. All the homes were moved from their foundations and transported to their current home in Highland Park. Some of the buildings are still pretty rundown and, as money comes in, are restored. My sister and I used to play a game on road-trips where we'd try to spot rundown houses with trees poking through the roofs and cry out, "That's your honeymoon house!"  The idea is that honeymooning in a run-down house would be rather humorously outrageous. Of us siblings, only my sister has been married so far and I don't think she did end up honeymooning in a dilapidated mansion. Anyway, our parents responded by creating the "Quiet Contest."


        One of the more colorful Victorian homes.                              A Victorian teenager posing in front of the chapel.

Because of fire code, so the story goes, all of the second (and third, in the case of the hexagonal house) stories of these fine buildings are off limits except to the volunteers. One of the costumed guides complained how silly that was since there is no danger of fire in the homes. However, another guide said that two of the original buildings burned down after being moved to Heritage Square. Probably some punk kids out for kicks, but who knows?


   A docent and I in my Zodiac shirt.       It's like a giant cable-knit sweater that someone keeps knitting and knitting and...

In addition to the Victorian homes, there's a church, a carriage house, a train station and some train cars. The museum has a myspace page and activist/actor George Takei is in their top 16. I was once on Olvera Street and I recognized GeorgeTakei's distinct, pleasant voice asking, "Should I stand here?" whilst posing next to a fake donkey for some tourists.

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