i wake every morning with this guy meowing at the top of his lungs. he starts before dawn. it's when i roll out of bed half asleep to let him outside that i remember i don't have to go to work. i can stay in bed! i can do whatever i want. sleep. go to the park. drink coffee in bed. read.
some mornings i hop in my chariot and go cruising around.
today i drove around the old chavez ravine neighborhood which has an interesting & sad history you can read about HERE. i drove through parts of elysian park i've never been. it was cloudy and drizzly and the streets were shiny with water. roads snaked over hills mostly covered with dry timber, which i like to think was drinking in the rare summer drizzle.
high up at the top of the park were places with stunning views of the city, dodger stadium, elysian valley, and old chavez ravine.
down in the canyons it's a lush paradise with miles of walkways, old trees, and open fields.
if cities aren't your thing you may not find LA's oldest rambling city park interesting. but for me, it's fascinating & wild. full of ghosts & history. on a grey morning when everyone's headed to work it's a good time to go exploring.
you might enjoy comparing this 1941 south-bound shot of one of the 4 art deco figueroa tunnels, to my photo below. i took it (facing north) this morning from a bridge in elysian park that spans the freeway. you'll note the exact same red-roofed solano avenue schoolhouse in both pics. at the time of the photo above, this portion of the 110 freeway was under construction. figueroa street was still carrying people downtown from northeast los angeles right through these tunnels under elysian park.
as you can see from this 1937 photo, pedestrians also used the tunnels!
photos courtesy of the los angeles public library archive
over 70 years later. here's that freeway for southbound traffic that was being constructed in the photo. northbound freeway runs under the tunnels and along what was then figueroa street.
when i drove this portion of the 110 for the first time back in 1989, i still remember the thrill of these old narrow lanes and the cars whizzing past me as i struggled to keep up in my old pontiac. there are NO acceleration/deceleration lanes (then or now). no shoulders in case the jalopy you're in goes kaput. you enter the freeway from a dead stop and have to put the pedal to the metal in order to merge. i used every ounce of concentration to navigate out of that right hand lane so i didn't plow into any cars going 10 mph entering the freeway. if you live in LA, you can probably remember your first harrowing trip on this part of the 110 northeast of downtown.
as i've documented many times here, i never used the freeway on my way to the last 2 schools i was posted at. i stayed on good old figueroa till its end then zig zagged across till i hooked up with the broadway or spring street bridge which carry you over the LA river and straight into chinatown. but on the way home, when traffic had calmed i'd head north on this old freeway going under all 4 of the figueroa tunnels. nowadays, figueroa ends its southbound journey here by the home depot in lincoln heights. it picks up again a few miles south at alpine street in chinatown, which is where i'd climb back aboard most weekdays to head north back to highland park.
one of the views from high atop elysian park is of the 19th century elysian park reservoir. not as pretty as it sounds since it's sporting a giant black cover. (DWP is phasing out open/ uncovered reservoirs)
when i returned home from my historical jaunt i rummaged through my bookcases and found my old copy of the don normark book on chavez ravine.
i sat down and thumbed through the old photos. don normark was just a little old 19 year old kid when he took these photos. he died last year.
As a young photographer, barely out of his teens, Don climbed a hill just north of Downtown LA, looking for a perfect shot – and discovered hundreds of unexpected ones awaiting, just over his shoulder, in the hidden community of Chavez Ravine.
And just to make the legend more perfect, those photos had to wait a half-century to find their way into print, with the publication, by Chronicle Books in 1999, of Don's lovely book, "Chavez Ravine: 1949."
the quote above is from THIS excellent tribute to don normark on the occasion of his death.
if you live in LA or just love its history, it's a great book to add to your collection.