Elysian Park and NorthEast Los Angeles


Elysian Park Northeast Los Angeles

The best way to enter into Lincoln Heights, our first stop in our tour of Northeast LA is through the abandoned train yard on Spring St also known as The Cornfields. Just recently the old Zanja Madre (Mother Ditch) was discovered here. This was the irrigation system used by early LA settlers to bring in water from the nearby Los Angeles River. Despite this historic and rare discovery, this huge expanse of land artfully landscaped by nature with bushy grasses and graceful Aztec tobacco trees, will soon be turned into acres of boxy warehouses. Such is the process of city planning in LA, business interests take precedent over everything, despite the protests of local citizens who would much prefer a park or green lands connecting to the river. We citizens hardly count for much in this city, especially here in Northeast LA. So enjoy this vista while you can, your next trip to Lincoln Heights will be through a corridor of cement, cinder blocks and fuming trucks.

Most of the bridges over the Los Angeles River have recently been remodeled. If you decide to enter Lincoln Heights through Broadway you might want to walk across the newly outfitted bridge Buena Vista Bridge and check out the concrete sewer, oops I mean river below.

The many undeveloped hills surrounding Northeast LA give the area a feel of a nonurban environment. In fact, many environmental groups such as The Audubon Society and Northeast Trees have set up shop in the area. The area is also graced with a number of greenways and parks that follow the path of the Pasadena Freeway. Sycamores, oaks and Black Walnut trees grow here. Trap door spiders, coyotes, owls and falcons all call this area home.

One of the last open spaces near downtown this 575-acre park is rich with activity and history. When Los Angeles was still a pueblito, Los Californios of the time would come and bury their belongings in the hills, a very common Mexican practice. Who needs banks? To this day, treasure hunters continue to look for the lost loot the old Californios left behind. On the weekends the park is filled with picnickers, families and cruisers. The park is also home to Dodger Stadium and The Los Angeles Police Academy who according to the book "City of Quartz" have been squatting the park since the academy's inception. Imagine that?

El Parque de Mexico Main/Valley intersection

Across the street from Lincoln Park, a small lot of bronze busts can be found. The Mexican government to the city of Los Angeles donated these busts of long gone Mexican dignitaries. While this part of the park is rarely visited, nearby are other more interesting statues... Looming large over the stopped traffic below is Emiliano Zapata riding grandly on his horse. This very popular statue is honored with a ceremony and parade every year. Aztec dancers, Chicanos, Mexicanos and Anarchists all come together every year to celebrate one of Mexico's most loved revolutionaries.

Across the way, stands Cuatemoc, one of the last great Aztec warriors. Aztec dancers from all over Southern California join together yearly to commemorate the spirit of Cuatemoc. If you haven't had your fill of Aztec Dancing yet, the event can be quite awesome. One statue that gets no such fanfare, despite having created the consummate lyric of Mexican romance is Agustin Lara. Leave a flower and sing a few bars of "Solamente Una Vez," for a simple tribute.

Eastlake and Broadway

This is the sight of the infamous 1995 Lincoln Heights riots, a result of -you guessed it- police brutality. In this case, an officer known for a history of misconduct shot a young boy Antonio in the back. Many of the neighbors claimed a gun was planted near the scene in order to justify the shooting. If this didn't upset the community enough the police came around the next day and heckled a group of Antonio's friends and family while they attempted to raise money for the funeral by having a car wash. Needless, to say this callous action was received like a slap in the face. Anger erupted with fists of rocks being thrown at the police followed by full-on street battles. Some of the uprisers hid and attacked from the hills surrounding Lincoln Heights, others blocked the streets with burning trashcans, some young women argued passionately with the police until they were arrested and taken away. The community had control of the streets for at least 24 hours. Eventually, the police came in with ominous riot squads and begin to arrest anyone who looked at them the wrong way. Despite this incident and continuing questioning of the police and their tactics by the community, nothing significant was done to the police officer who shot Antonio and killed him.

Museums of the Arroyo Southwest Museum 234 Museum Drive (323) 221-2164

One of the few museums we highly recommend, this museum (also founded by Charles Lummis) is dedicated to the preservation of American Indian culture. Located halfway up Mt. Washington, the 1907 building provides a picturesque vista as you travel up Figueroa. Exhibit Highlights include a replica of a Santa Susana Mountains Chumash Indian Rock Art Site and an 18-foot Southern Cheyenne Tipi. Climb the steep stairway up for the best view in Northeast LA. Admission is $5.

Heritage Square 3800 Homer St.

This collection of frilly and colorful Victorian homes and churches began as a homage to Los Angeles' rich architectural heritage. It's hard to believe most of these gorgeous buildings were slated for demolishing; this disregard for historical monuments is not uncommon in Los Angeles. Only open on the weekends, the $5 entrance fee entitles you to a tour of the buildings by a friendly informed guide.

Lummis Home & Garden 200 E. Ave 43 (323) 222-0546 (in Highland Park)

Charles Lummis is mostly known for being the editor of the LA Times in the "old" days and for walking across the United States, reporting on his travels. Whatever. The one thing I do like about him is the house he built by the Arroyo Seco river, made out of river stones and designed to fit into the local environment, as opposed to the lavish Victorian homes that were popular at the time. There are some cool old pictures inside the house (some of the Indian workers he surely exploited) and all the door frames were designed smaller than usual so that he could feel big in his temple. The gardens are kick ass because they are drought tolerant, perfect for this area. It's a nice place to see, and it's FREE!

Highland Park and surroundings

Another interesting stop on the Arroyo Seco corridor, Highland Park is home to well preserved turn of the century buildings, friendly bars and an eclectic mix of residents.

Ernest Debs Park On Griffin near 43rd Ave.

This vast park, over 200 acres of semi-wilderness provides native and migratory birds some of the last natural arroyo woodlands existent in Southern California. Trails are woven throughout the park and there are plenty of shaded spots to rest. The last Saturday of the month The Audubon Society hosts bird walks. Just be aware of shaking bushes, lots of men come up here to do fun things with each other!

Folliero's Pizza 5566 N. Figueroa Ave. (323) 254-0505

You want pizza? You don't have much cash but still want that Old Italian atmosphere? Follieros is the place! The food is amazingly inexpensive, the staff is quite nice and the food pretty tasty. A large cheese pizza only costs $8.66!

Mr T's Bowl  5621 1/2 Figueroa Ave 

This is a super place to see local independent bands, chat with old barflies or get down to some funky Karaoke. Sometimes there's a cover but if you look like a local you might be able to sneak in free. It really is an old bowling alley; take a peak behind the curtain! As their ads say "You can Rock, you can Roll but you can't Bowl at Mr. T's!"

Arroyo Seco Library

This is by far, one of the best libraries in the LAPL system. The staff is knowledgeable the video selection is excellent (lots of classics and foreign language films)' and books are promoted over computers. Pick up a free paper like the LA Weekly and head out to the park next door for a pleasant afternoon.

L.A. River Center  570 West Ave 26 (323) 441-8634

Located at the former Lawry's Restaurant, this small museum is dedicated to once vibrant and flowing Los Angeles River. We can all thank The Army Corp of Engineers for turning the river into one huge sewer. Fortunately, there are still sections of the river with a natural bottom that continue to thrive and attract wildlife. After visiting the museum, a quick walk to Riverside Drive will take you to the entrance of the river path where you can stroll or bike upstream to see the last natural remnants of the once mighty watershed.

General Hospital (USC Medical Center) 1200 N. State St. in Lincoln Heights

Hopefully you won't need to see this place where people go to die, but if you are in desperate need of medical attention you can get free or reduced cost "care" here. Be warned, if you walk in under your own power it will take longer for them to see you. If you can't wait, go across the street and call 911 to have an ambulance pick you up.

Lincoln Heights

Broadway is the main street and thoroughfare in Lincoln Heights. All places of interest can be reached from here. On the corner of Ave 26 is a Transit Store where you can find most MTA bus schedules for the area. If you prefer personal service, an attendant can also help you figure out how to get where you're going.

Daly Check Cashing Corner of Daly and Broadway

Around the first of the month, the Daly check cashing outlet is buzzing with activity. One of the few outlets for the retrieval of welfare checks and foodstamps, you can also wire money, purchase bus tokens/passes, change your money into pesos and make travel arrangements.

Anita's Restaurant 2528 Daly Ave (323) 225-6113

A quick walk up Daly will lead you to our favorite cafe Anita's. The Mexican food here is delicious, served speedy and best of all, cheap! Lots of veggie alternatives but not much for vegans. I would recommend Enchiladas Verdes, Chile Rellenos and Chilaquiles. Don't forget to try the fresh aguas! Breakfasts are about $3 and dinner plates about $5

La Llamarada 2622 Pasadena Ave (323) 221-2259

For an even faster and cheaper alternative, walk a little farther up the street to La Llamarada another excellent choice for burritos and tortes (sangwiches for ya Engleesh speakers). Don't be intimidated by the menu which has no prices and a seemingly poor selections. Just ask for "burrito vegetariano" or "torte vegetariana." The price is usually $1.50-$2.50 but remember to smile real nice while you order.

Department of Water and Power  Daly and Broadway

Heading back down Daly make sure and check out this exquisite example of Art Deco architecture. The building just recently has been refurbished and now hosts offices for non-profit groups. Check out the bronze door and green iridescent glass facade. Beautiful!

Lincoln Park Library 2530 Workman (323) 226-1692

This building was designed to resemble Villa Papa Giullia in Rome. It's not a great place for checking out books or doing any research but it does have 10 very busy Internet computers.

Lincoln Park Main/Mission intersection

Located at the edge of Lincoln Heights, this historic park is filled with items of interest. The park once was the sight of the first zoo in Los Angeles, The Selig Zoo. Lots of old silent movies were filmed here also. A congregation of buildings sitting in the middle of the park is Plaza de La Raza, a community neighborhood arts and music school. If they are open, check out the newly remodeled boathouse. Unfortunately, it houses no boats but you might encounter an interesting art exhibit. Lincoln Park Lake is one of the many urban ponds stocked with fish but the rules say you need a license. Instead of fishing, why not hang out with the many ducks and geese preening themselves on the lake's concrete shores? They smell a little but are fun to watch. Just like us locals!

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