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Taste of the Mideast Side -- at the Los Angeles County Store

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 8, 2014 04:00pm | Post a Comment





If there are regular readers of my column here on the Amoeblog, they've probably seen some of the hand-drawn and hand-painted maps which I include in my series of Southland explorations I call California Fool's Gold. Right now a series of new maps are on display at the Los Angeles County Store in East Hollywood. None, except the Los Feliz map, have been the subject of Eric's Blog entries yet. 

Eric Brightwell Cartography Art Show Los Angeles County Store

The Los Angeles County Store is a great retail shop which features only goods designed and manufactured in Los Angeles County. The opening has already passed but the maps can still be seen in person if you head over there soon -- the show ends on 21 September


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of the Mideast Side (3rd Edition)

I refer to the set of paintings as Taste of the Mideast Side -- a reference to Taste of the Eastside, a four-year-old food event which despite its name never features restaurants from the Eastside unless you clarify that you're talking about the Eastside of Central Los Angeles (aka the original Westside). By the way, there is an older pre-existing event called The Taste of East L.A. which as its name correctly suggests, features restaurants from East Los Angeles -- a neighborhood actually located in the Eastside
Anyway, here are the maps included in the show (which you can vote for me to write about here). 

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Edendale

Edendale was subdivided around 1903. It was the original home of Los Angeles's film studios, before Hollywood. The first studio, Selig Polyscope Company, was demolished and the arrival of the 2 Freeway made the neighborhood decidedly less edenic. The old Mack Sennett Keystone Studio still stands behind a Jack in the Box -- utilized for public storage. Although the name has faded from most memories (a post office branch still bears it) there have been efforts to play up associations with it as with the Edendale restaurant and bar (in the Ivanhoe tract of Silver Lake) and the Mabel Normand Stage in Hollywood, which was recently renamed Mack Sennett Studios).


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Elysian Heights 

Elysian Heights was subdivided around 1890. The northern corner was home to the Semi Tropic Spiritualists, a 19th Century group whose beliefs mixed the progressive and supernatural. The neighborhood later became known colloquially as "Red Hill" for the many anarcho-communists who made it home. Perhaps the most famous resident of Elysian Heights was a gray tabby named Room 8, who reportedly visited Elysian Heights Elementary every school day for many years and became a national celebrity.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Franklin Hills

Franklin Hills seceded from Los Feliz around 1988. Its most iconic figure is the Shakespeare Bridge, the original which was built in 1926 (although it was rebuilt in 1998 after the Northridge earthquake). Beneath the bridge is the John Lautner-designed Midtown School. It was home to two twin homes owned by Roy and Walt Disney in the 1920s.  To read more about it, click here.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the Ivanhoe tract

The Ivanhoe tract was subdivided in 1877, when it was located just north of Los Angeles (the border of which then corresponded to Fountain Avenue). It was developed by Hugo Reid, a Mexican-American born in who claimed that it reminded him of Scotland, where he was born. The Ivanhoe name (a reference to Glaswegian author Sir Walter Scott's 18th Century novel, Ivanhoe) lives on in Ivanhoe Elementary, the Ivanhoe Reservoir, and the Ivanhoe and Scottish related street names like Kenilworth, Locksley, Rowena, Waverly, and others. 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Pico-Union

Pico-Union began as Pico Heights, which was subdivided in 1887 in what was then Southwest Los Angeles. It was originally an exclusive, white, Protestant neighborhood an was annexed by Los Angeles in 1896. In the 1910s a number of Japanese-Americans moved in and white flight began. Mexicans and Greeks followed and there are still vestiges of the latter population such as the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox CathedralPapa Cristo's, and the Los Angeles Greek Fest. The neighborhood was renamed Pico-Union in 1970 by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), who wished to remove any negative associations that Pico Heights was perceived to have acquired. Today it's mostly home to Central Americans, especially Salvadorans


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Solano Canyon

Solano Canyon was -- along with Bishop, La Loma, and Palo Verde -- one of the Mexican colonias of Chavez Ravine. The latter three were demolished and the displaced residents were promised public housing in the planned Elysian Park Heights which was to have been designed by great Modernist architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander. Unfortunately for the residents, Elysian Park Heights and all public housing came to a halt when a concerted Right Wing effort tarred such efforts to house the poor and returning war veterans as Communistic. The land was instead given to the Brooklyn Dodgers, who covered it with a massive parking lot and a tiny baseball stadium. 



Pendersleigh & Cartography's map of Victor Heights


Victor Heights has named after water baron Victor Beaudry, who subdivided the neighborhood around 1886. It is home to the Eastside Market Italian Deli, one of the few remnants of Little Italy (and which is named after the Eastside because it began in Lincoln Heights), wandering peafowl, the Teardrop Locos gang, the art deco Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center, Los Angeles Building, and the former headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District, designed by William Pereira. Because of its proximity to Chinatown and large Chinese-American population, many of the street signs are written in English and Chinese. To read more about it, click here.



Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Westlake

Westlake Park was originally the old Westside's counterpart to the Eastside's Eastlake Park. Eastlake was located in what was then called East Los Angeles but was re-named Lincoln Heights in 1917. Westlake Park was renamed MacArthur Park and although many will argue that the Westlake and MacArthur Park neighborhoods are one-in-the-same although in my experience, the name MacArthur Park is primarily applied to the immediate surroundings whereas, depending on whether or not one lives east or west of Alvarado, they're almost more likely to claim Downtown or Koreatown, respectively. It's the second most densely-populated neighborhood in Los Angeles (after Koreatown) and despite it's declined fashionability, there are many attractions to be experienced (some marked in red on my map).



The Artist and critic Alan "The Dingus" Gudguy having his paw treated like a stress ball


*****

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring The Byzantine-Latino Quarter

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 12, 2013 10:57pm | Post a Comment
WE ARE EACH OF US ANGELS WITH ONE WING 

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of The Byzantine-Latino Quater
Los Angeles's Byzantine-Latino Quarter is neighborhood and commercial corridor that straddles the larger neighborhoods of Harvard Heights and Pico-Union as well as the larger Midtown districts of Wilshire Center to the north and Mid-City to the south. The Quarter is centered along Pico Boulevard between South Hobart Boulevard to the west and South Alvarado Boulevard to the east.



EARLY HISTORY

The westernmost border of Los Angeles, as established by the Spanish in 1781, was along what's now Hoover Boulevard. The land to the west, through the Spanish and subsequent Mexican period were public lands. The land remained a mixture of pastures and farmland for decades after California became part of the US in 1848.


PICO HEIGHTS


Craftsman bungalows


One of the first neighborhoods to develop west of Hoover was the 280 acre Pico Heights Tract. In 1887, at the height of a land boom, the Electric Railway Homestead Association divided the land between Pico and 9th Street, and west of Vermont into 1,210 lots. Most of the lots along Pico were purchased by J.R. Millard and it quickly developed into a fashionable suburb characterized by stately Craftsman homes and a wealthy, white, Protestant population. Many of the new inhabitants were Downtown business owners and the short distance between work and home was a short ride on the newly-established Pico Heights Electric Railway, which also opened in 1887.

The growing community, sometimes referred to as Pico Heights Village with a bit of dreamy embellishment, was annexed by the city of Los Angeles in 1896. Along with Arlington Heights and The University District, it became a Southwest Los Angeles neighborhood (a region that vanished as the city expanded).

As Pico Heights aged, more and more of the wealthy residents moved further west and their void was largely filled by working class whites. By 1919 it was home to about 100 Japanese-American families, who though often wealthier and more educated than their white counterparts, were subject to racist, sometimes violent hostility. The Los Angeles County Anti-Asiatic Society formed the Electric Home Protective Association, a discriminatory group largely comprised of Germans and Austrians (under increased scrutiny and suspicion after World War I) and Catholics who were united by anti-Japanese racism.


VICTORIA THEATER


Victoria Theatre today (2012)


Around 1914, the 700-seat Victoria Theatre opened on Pico Boulevard. At some point around the 1960s it was gutted and converted into a dance hall. The theater appeared in the 1977 Rudy Ray Moore vehicle Petey Wheatstraw. In 1981, punk band Circle One and others played a concert there.


A mixed-use, multiple unit residency built in 1924


The discriminatory second California Alien Land Law passed in 1920, specifically to target ongoing Japanese immigration. Property in Pico Heights nonetheless (or because of anti-Japanese discrimination) continued to decline in monetary values. Eastern Europeans, Mexicans, and Japanese increasingly inhabited newly-constructed multiple family residences.


Bishop Conaty, Our Lady of Loretto High School


In 1922, a Japanese Methodist congregation attempted to build a new church in the area and crashed against white hostility. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Catholic Girls' High School opened in 1923 (later re-named Bishop Conaty, Our Lady of Loretto High School). One of the pleasing ironies is that Los Angeles was sold to WASPs as "The white spot of America" but is now quite possibly the most diverse city in the galaxy. Though I couldn't find statistics just for the B-LQ, the population of Pico-Union was, as of the 2010 census, roughly 85% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 8% Asian (mostly Korean), 3% black, and only 3% white.



Sunnyside Presbyterian Church


The diversity can not only be seen in the storefronts, signage and restaurants but the neighborhood's churches as well. In 1930, a church opened that is now The Sunnyside Presbyterian Church, a Korean-American church (as are Korean Evangelical Nah Sung, Korean Southern Presbyterian, and The Korean Sae Han Presbyterian Church). Another church in the neighborhood caters to Samoans (the Samoan Community Christian Church). Spanish speakers are served by Rios de Agua Via,  Iglesia Pentecostes El Ultimo, and Ministerios de Restauracion.


St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church

The oldest, and one of the prettiest church in the neighborhood is St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, built in 1905, and also known as Iglesia Santo Tomás Apóstol. Most well-known, probably, is Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral


GREEK TOWN

Along with Little Italy and largely Jewish Brooklyn Heights, or Little Mexico (Chavez Ravine); Greek Town is one of the now vanished ethnic enclaves of Los Angeles. In the early 20th century, Los Angeles's Greek population was focused around what's now the Fashion District (in Downtown) and Boyle Heights (in the Eastside). Around the mid-20th century, much of the Greek population was centered around the intersection of Pico and Normandie, an area still home to several Greek institutions.


C & K IMPORTING AND PAPA CRISTO'S




Papa Cristo's


Sam Chrys opened C & K Importing opened in 1948 with the focus on Greek imports. In 1968 (I believe) the business expanded into a restaurant by Sam's son, Cristo, with Papa Cristo's. I still haven't eaten there although I've picked up falafel mix, baklava, and restina from the market. Papa Cristo's Catering & Greek Taverna was established in 1990.


SAINT SOPHIA GREEK ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL


St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral

The other major remaining vestige of Greek Town is the aforementioned Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The church was built in 1952 by Charles P. Skouras (designed by Kalionzes, Klingerman & Walker), then head of the National Theaters chain. Charles and his brothers, Spyros Skouras and George Skouras were Greek-American Hollywood hopefuls who'd moved to Los Angeles from St. Louis, Missouri. Spyros eventually became president of 20th Century Fox. George became the head of United Artists. Earlier, in 1932, the Skouras brothers jointly took over the management of over 500 Fox-West Coast theaters. Charles repaid God for his intervention by erecting a cathedral to him in Greek Town.


GANGS OF PICO HEIGHTS


Playboys Malos   


 Jesús Malverde (patron saint of drug smugglers)  

     West Side 18th Street Hoover St Locos

Likely the oldest gang in the neighborhood is the Westside Playboy Malos. The gang's roots begin in the 1950s, when Southern Califas Latin Playboys Car Club formed at a home near the intersection of Pico and Fedora. Their tags and tattoos often include representations of the Playboy Magazine logo and they're sometimes referred to as conejos. The other main active gang in the neighborhood is the 18th Street Gang, who were established in Pico Heights around 1965. The local click, Hoover Locos, is one of the oldest.


PILGRIM TOWER


Pilgrim Tower for the Deaf & Elderly

In 1968, the Pilgrim Tower for the Deaf & Elderly opened. I find it worth mentioning because I'm a fan of low-rise architecture and its one of the few buildings in the neighborhood that's more than two stories tall.


PICO-UNION

Pico Heights was seen as having been in a decades-long decline by some and in 1970, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of the city of Los Angeles decided to give the neighborhood a fresh start by changing its name to "Pico-Union." The Pico-Union Neighborhood Council (PUNC) was formed the same year.


LITTLE CENTRAL AMERICA





In the 1970s, the US-inflamed Central American Crisis made life for tens of millions of Central Americans. As a result, thousands of Guatemalans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorans fled the appalling violence in their homelands and resettled in Pico-Union and nearby Koreatown and Westlake. By 1996, Pico-Union was heavily Salvadoran and the area was often referred to as "Pequeño Centroamérica" or "Nuevo Cuscatlán."


MASSIVE ATTACK'S "UNFINISHED SYMPATHY" VIDEO



In 1991, singer Shara Nelson walked from the intersection of South New Hampshire Avenue and Pico to the intersection of Pico and Dewey Avenue for the filming of Massive Attack's music video for "Unfinished Sympathy." 


BYZANTINE-LATINO QUARTER

Pico-Union was one of the areas hardest hit by 1992 LA Riots outside of South Los Angeles. Increasingly seen as a Central American barrio, in 1995 a coalition of local churches, schools, residents, and merchants from the western portion of the neighborhood met to address their concerns. The product of their efforts was the 1997 creation and designation of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter, a nod to both its Latino majority and Greek period.



Byzantine-Latino Quarter neon sign

The Byzantine-Latino Quarter Business Improvement District installed a large, "Byzantine-Latino Quarter" neon sign atop one of the neighborhood's only other low-rise building (then a public storage facility) in 2001. There are faded banners along Pico and public art advertising its new name. A former Pacific Bell building is now home to Jane B. Eisner Middle School and a Byzantine-Latino Quarter Community Center.


L.A. GREEK FEST


Since 1999, the Byzantine-Latino Quarter has hosted the annual L.A. Greek Fest in September, an event which attracts some 40,000 people.


BLQ EATS AND DRINKS


Dinos' Chicken and Burgers



Guatemalteca Market


There are several places to eat in the Byzantine-Latino Quarter: Acapulco TortilleriaCafe Las MargaritasCanaan Restaurant, El Colmao, Conchitas Restaurant, Dino's Chicken and Burgers, Graciela's, El Grullense Restaurante, Guapo's Market, Guatemalteca MarketHuicho's Bakery, Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars, El Nuevo Picasso, Pan Victoria, the aforementioned Papa Cristo's, Paqueteria King Express, Pollos El Brasero, Restaurante El Mirador, Las 7 Regiones, Texis Restaurant And Entertainment, and El Valle Oaxaqueno. There are a couple of bars too; Mike's Hideout Bar and Pulgarcito Sports Bar.


Inside Tiendas de Mariposa mini mall


To 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


*****

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California Fool's Gold -- A Mideast Side Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 16, 2011 05:00pm | Post a Comment
As regular (and probably irregular) readers of Eric's Blog know, a big part of my focus is writing about the culture, character and history of the many diverse communities of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Although so far there have been around 800 votes from readers, I thought it would be fun (and hopefully entertaining) to focus on the regions and provide a brief summary of them with the hope of encouraging informed voting for the neighborhoods within. In this entry I'd like to focus on what I refer to as the Mideast Side.

 



IDENTITY CRISIS

The Mideast Side is a name that I made up. Like most of my clever ideas, I was probably beaten to it by someone else because it's natural to want a label for one's region and the Mideast Side doesn't have one besides being part of the larger Central Los Angeles area. The Los Angeles Times covers the Mideast asi part of Central Los Angles -- which it is -- but the other regions of Central Los Angeles (Downtown, Hollywood, and Midtown) having their own recognized identities, the Mideast's has long been (in the words of Phil colli a land of confusion.

Meanwhile, Hollywood secessionists want to claim parts of the Mideast for their town, all the local gangs represent the Westside (since it's on the Los Angeles River's west bank, not east), the cops consider most of it to be in the Northeast Division, downtowners and developers claim parts of it as Central City West


ALTERNATE NAMES

When Los Angeles was founded in 1781, The area that's now the Mideast Side was the original westside, with Hoover Street corresponding closely to the pueblo's western border. As they began to be developed, neighborhoods Los Feliz and Ivanhoe (Silver Lake) were considered to be in Northwest Los Angeles whereas those around Pico Heights (Pico-Union) were considered Southwest Los Angeles.

When the city began expanding north, south, and west, its center of gravity relocated and all of those regions became commonly thought of as Central Los Angeles. Within Central Los
 Angeles, Downtown, Hollywood, and Midtown arose as widely recognized multi-neighborhood districts whereas the neighborhoods of the old westside existed in some sort of identity limbo. When neighborhoods like Los Feliz and Silver Lake began to be seen as fashionable in the 1990s, many developers began referring to them as The Eastside, hoping to commodify some of that region's "grit," "funkiness," and above all, "authenticity." Since there already is a region with a two-century-old claim on the Eastside, eastsiders were understandably outraged. Although today some people -- whether callously or cluelessly -- still refer to the Old Westside as the Eastside, some of us have proposed new names that we can get behind which are less colonial in nature. Here they are:

NORTH CENTRAL - Some have suggested calling the region "North Central," meant to be a counterpart to South Central. However, South Central's name is derived not from its geographic location within the city but from the neighborhood which formed along South Central Avenue. That long street become North Central Avenue, for the record, in Glendale -- which is not located outside of Los Angeles.

THE NEAR EASTSIDE - I sort of like the sound of "The Near Eastside" but it's as geographically relativist and problematic as European concept of The Near East. It's only nearer if the user is from the Westside, Hollywood or Midtown, really. If one is in the actual Eastside, the "Near Eastside" is really the "Near Westside"... which actually has more precedent. After all, the neighborhood of Westlake was named as such to compliment Lincoln Heights, which used to be known as Eastlake.

THE WEST BANK - "The West Bank," of course, will forever be associated with Israel and the Palestinian territory. Imagine the results you'd get if you were trying to do an internet search for a decent mechanic or restaurant in the West Bank. Your Central Los Angeles results wouldn't even make the top 10,000. 

The Mideast Side is clearly the best, if not yet widely recognized. Think about it though, doesnt "Mideast Side" provide a nice compliment to Mid-City West, an area located on the other side of Midtown? Doesn't it strike a nice geo-linguistic chord between Midtown and the Eastside without making an colonial claims to either? Doesn't it capture, without using the term "Middle East," the contentiousness of the area's identity?

If you're on board, there is now a Mideast Side Facebook groupMideast Side art print(available from Echo Park's 1650 Gallery), and a Mideast Side Foursquare page. In other words, it's a concept whose time has come.


THE NEIGHBORHOODS OF THE MIDEAST

So now that we're in agreement, let's move forward. The Mideast Side is a region of varied neighborhoods, with working class populations dominating the southern end and richie riches in the northern hills. It has significant populations of Armenians, Chinese, Filipinos, Guatemalans, Koreans, Mexicans and Salvadorans. And now a little about the individual neighborhoods. 
 
  
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's 2nd and 3rd editions of the Mideast Side maps (2nd edition sold)
 

ANGELENO HEIGHTS


One of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Angeleno Heights has a number of absolutely beautiful Craftsman and Victorian homes. It used to have four grocery stores but three have been converted to residences. To read more about Angeleno Heights, click here.
 

THE BYZANTINE-LATINO QUARTER