Tag Archives: LA’S Greatest Landmarks

LA’s Greatest Landmarks: Colorado Street Bridge

Connecting  North East LA (Highland Park and Eagle Rock) with Pasadena is the beautiful Beaux Arts style Colorado Street Bridge.  (Colorado Street for the new to the area runs from Griffith Park on the west end to Monrovia, my little corner of LA on the east end).  Built in 1913 it is one of our older surviving landmarks still in use today.  The bridge has its fun stuff and sad stuff.

Sad stuff first…its better known local name is “Suicide Bridge” after the number (some say as high as 200) of tormented souls that ended it all with a jump to the rocky arroyo below. Weird California has some good information and tales of jumpers, ghosts and other bits of information to stimulate your already active imagination.  Urban Legend (my father-in-law gave it to me first) is that the bridge became a magnet for the forlorn who lost it all during the stock market crash that triggered the first great depression.  The most recent suicide was August 8, 2o1o according to the Pasadena Star News.

The fun stuff is the Annual Bridge party hosted by the Pasadena Heritage group.  This party takes place every July usually around the 2nd Saturday.  Pasadena Heritage and the city close down the bridge and turn it into a giant party.  Local Restaurants and brewery’s are there along with live music at various stops along the bridge.  The proceeds go to preserving Pasadena history and historical landmarks.  If you haven’t done this event yet, I’d highly recommend it as something to toss into your bucket list.  Nice evening out with friends on a piece of beautiful history can’t be beat.

This post is part of the LA’s Greatest Landmarks series currently running here on blogging.la, if we miss one of your favorites tell us about it!

Image from the Wiki and used under a wiki commons license.

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: The La Brea Tar Pits

Click to see the Original Painting.
Why would you do that?

Come for the Lush Scenery and Wildlife, Stay for the Hot, Molten Asphalt that won’t let you go!

I’m basically a little kid thinly disguised as an adult. Very thinly. So, when I go to write about The La Brea Tar Pits, my initial reaction is to jump up and exclaim, “Dey gots the Saber Toothed Tigers an’ dey goes, ‘Rraawrr!‘”

In fact, they are more properly known as Saber Toothed Cats, not Tigers, as they have far more in common with other of the Big Cats than modern tigers, and more than 2000 individual specimens of the Smilodon Californicus have been uncovered at the site. Evidence does, however, support the supposition that the beasts, indeed, did go, “Rraawrr!

The site is one of the largest sites in the world for uncovering Ice Age Mammalian fossils. The sheer volume of bones from the vast span of years has brought invaluable insight to scientists the world over about our planet and how the ecosystem has adapted and flourished (or not) over the centuries. William W. Orcutt was the first man to take a scientific interest in the tar pits, gaining permission to excavate in 1901 from Rancho La Brea’s owner at the time, Henry Hancock.

That’s the Hancock family that Hancock Park is named for, while W.W. Orcutt got the local species of coyote named after him, Canis orcutti. The word “Brea” literally means “tar” or “pitch” in Spanish, so Rancho La Brea itself simply means “Tar Ranch.” I gotta admit, it sounds way cooler in Spanish. (Most things do: Consider “Antonio Banderas” versus “Tony Flags.” Seriously, he’d have no career.)

Anyway, the place is pretty cool, and cheap. Seven bucks, lots of cool fossils, and “The Fish Bowl,” where you can watch actual Paleontologists get their Paleontology on; this is a working fossil site, kids. They’re still digging stuff up and putting more and more together.

There are huge Mammoths assembled, of differing varieties, American Lions, Dire Bears, thousands of Dire Wolves, (Which, apparently, are not just D&D monsters.) and, of course, our friend, Smilodon Californicus, the Official State Fossil. “Smilodon” sounds so friendly, doesn’t it?


Main image above courtesy of Ian Coleman, used with permission; tho’ it being turned into a “Saber Tooth LOL Cat” is entirely my fault. Don’t blame him for that! He was very kind to let me use his picture. Please visit his site to view amazing wildlife paintings at http://www.colemangallery.com/Welcome.html.

This post is part of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series – click here for the rest of the series!

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: Angels Flight

This past March, hot on the heels of Downtown’s years of resurgence and months of teasing, we welcomed back the “World’s Shortest Railway” – Angels Flight. What sat for nine years as a sadly locked-off, abandoned wonder that I yearned to experience (or at least climb onto like a kid whose city is her entire playground) on the north side of Angels Knoll park was finally real.

Angels Flight, archived image

Now I can really feel it – I feel the wooden seats that remind me of historic streetcars other cities have been spoiled to have. I poke at the hanging light bulbs I probably shouldn’t be touching. I feel the car rattling up the steep incline, and the California sun beating on my shoulders through the open windows. I drop a quarter into the old-fashioned fare box, save a souvenir ticket for my collage, and run my fingers along the woodwork outside the little building housing the operator, overlooking California Plaza.

I make sure to ride on each car – both Olivet and Sinai, whom I’ve come to know as individuals via their ridiculous Twitter Account.

The railway may have moved a bit from its original location 100 years ago, but it acts like a little time machine. Moreso than the new downtown skyscraper on the site of what once was, or a snazzy, remodeled loft inside an historic piece of architecture, the simple ride makes me feel as if I’m inside those black-and-white photos of Angels Flight I downloaded from library archives, and transports me to the Bunker Hill of yesteryear – when one might take the funicular to get back to work up the steep hill after a lunch date. I think of how I need to get around to taking this ride at sunset, who I need to bring along with me next time, and out-of-towners I should take here on their next visit. It connects us to the rich history of Downtown L.A., the kind you don’t get anywhere much further away from the river on which this city was founded.

And just like that, after a few brief moments, the ride is over. But it’s only a quarter, so why not take it back down the hill again?

Check out the rest of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series here.

LA’s Greatest Landmarks: Hollywood and Highland

HarshLight's HiHo photo used through Creative Commons License

It bears mentioning that Hollywood and Highland, the garish retail/ hotel/ entertainment complex on the eponymous HiHo corner, is the only landmark we b.la-ers argued about in developing a list of what to cover for this series–well, Rob and I argued about it anyway. Rob thought it was an upstart piece of the landscape, only opened in 2001, not seasoned enough to call itself a real landmark and living parasitically [I am putting words in Rob’s mouth, but this was the gist] off the bodies of Grauman’s Chinese and the Kodak. I myself love HiHo because it’s so vulgar it makes an art form out of grotesque. To me, it’s only too fitting that a mall so pretentious as to model itself after DW Griffith’s vision of Babylon, should emerge like the monster in Alien out of the stomach of old Hollywood. Is nothing sacred? Well, no, in fact, nothing is. Next question?

DW Griffith's Babylon set for Intolerance

First and foremost, there’s the architecture. Oh, the architecture! Really every time I drive down Highland into Hollywood and that neo-retro Egyptian/Babylon arch rises in front of me like a freaking spaceship of stage-set excess it makes me smile. The elephants! The columns! And to design the entire thing after a movie set in Babylon that cost about two million in 1917 dollars–such an expensive disaster it caused Griffith’s studios to go bankrupt–a movie about worship of false idols, no less! That’s inspired, people, truly. Anyone who criticizes LA for shallowness fundamentally does not understand the complexity of our shallowness. HiHo is a palimpsest text with so many layers of shallowness it’s got its own depth. And yes, it did win Curbed LA‘s ugliest LA building award in 2007. Hurrah! Even better, it cost $615 million to make and it was sold three years later for $200 million. When we do white elephant in LA, we do it big.

The three things you need to know about HiHo, in my opinion, are: 1. You can park there for 4 hours for $2 with validation (and $10 all day & night). 2. There is no better place to cultivate your disdain. Hootchie skirts, affliction shirts, and–yes still–Uggs abound. 3. There is a Beard Papa there, which is to say, you can have awesome cream puffs while you scorn everyone. Intolerance? You said it.

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: The Rose Bowl

There is nary a soul in this country that hasn’t heard of the Rose Bowl. Its probably one of the biggest landmarks in suburban LA as  it garners everyone’s attention with the Rose Bowl college football game played on New Years Day. For those friends and relatives visiting me its always on their “must see” list for when I play tour guide.

The Rose Bowl is a source of numerous other uses besides the “big game”. Throughout its history it has served as a home for LA Olympic games in ’32 and ’84, 5 Super Bowl games and Fifa Soccer tournaments. In 1982 it became the official home for the UCLA Bruins, and you can’t get much more LA than them.

My favorite event at the Rose Bowl has nothing at all to do with sports. It has everything to do with the 2nd Sunday of the month Swap meet, billed as the biggest in all of So Cal. It surrounds the Rose Bowl and fills one if its parking lots with more stuff than you can imagine having use for. My house is full of new stuff and antiques collected from the Swap Meet over the years.

Pasadena is already in the planning stages for a remodel of the Rose Bowl. Short of it is the old gal designed in 1921 is going to be brought into the new century and then some by the time it is complete. It will continue to be one of the landmarks that draw folks to LA for years to come.  More information about the Rose Bowl now and the future can be found HERE on the official site. (Of course there is the unofficial Wikipedia stuff HERE).

The Rose Bowl is part of the LA’s Greatest Landmark’s series currently running at blogging.la.  If we missed one of your favorites let us know!

Image by Sparrowman and used under the Wikipedia commons license.

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard…. The day I landed in Hollywood, just seeing the sign on the street sparked visions of entertainment, glamor and  fame. I was a very impressionable 20 year old filmmaker and I was  absolutely in love with this city.  Sunset Boulevard was smack dab in the middle of where I wanted to be.

It had it all:  Fame, celebrity, wild nights where anything could happen, gritty rock n’ roll… yes and sex, drugs and and and….yet there was also a dignity about it’s winding streets that led to the ocean.  It could be a lady and get dirty too.  I liked that.

So I rented a charming bungalow  just off the Strip in West Hollywood so that maybe, just maybe, some of all’ that’ could rub off on me.

And some of it did.  But like all fascinating women, (and Sunset Boulevard seems to me to be female in form) beneath the facade and glitzy make-up, lies her true depth and meaning..  Meandering 24 miles throughout a good part of Los Angeles, Sunset Boulevard is much more than the strip!

Put the top down, or at least open your windows for this part of the ride….

It all starts at the Pacific Ocean, giving you a taste of the wildness, of nature… and of the newly redone Gladstone’s Fish.  The boulevard winds up from the sand through the Pacific Palisades, past Will Rogers State Park, which by the way, was where Will Rogers lived in the 30’s.  He pretty much owned all of Pacific Palisades.  Eucualyptus sways in the breeze, and if it’s a Sunday between April and October, you can picnic in the park and watch the Polo players stampede around on their horses.

As we glide through Bel-Air, Century City and into Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard gets slightly more urbane.  We’re in the city now, granted a ritzy part of it, but we’ve arrived.  The Beverly Hills Hotel sits off it like an icon.  The pool and the Polo lounge a hot bed of industry activity back in the day and it’s not so shabby now, either.  Perfect martini’s.  And the Coffee Shop is not so bad either!  The “Hotel” as it’s called by locals, was the album cover and muse for the Eagles, “Hotel California”.

Meandering east on this winding road, we hit West Hollywood.  this mile and a half strip is home to the infamous Roxy, Whiskey A-Go-Go (now just the Whiskey) and the Viper Room. Best experienced at night, the lights beckon with promise of music.  The club legacy of this area goes way back, first to underground speakeasy’s in the 20’s then in the 30’s it was home to The Trocadero and Ciro’s, watering holes of Hollywood’s finest.  By the sixties she had gotten a bit down on her heels, but that suited the defiant rock and rollers just fine.  The Doors, Joni Mitchell, Van Halen… all played at the Whiskey.  It got it’s name when a DJ danced behind some bars and the patrons thought it was part of the act…. sexy go-go dancers were born and the rest is history!  Sunset Boulevard reflected the hippies of that era… and the boulevard seems to do that over and over.  Capturing what is happening on the street, defining a moment.

Sunset Boulevard then weaves into Hollywood proper, where the traffic usually gets a little more congested.  As a street, if you hit it just right, Sunset is wonderful.  You can sometimes whizz across town in a heartbeat.  Just not in rush hour traffic.

Sunset and Vine is the famous street corner, and with all the new clubs, restaurants, condos and boutiques now in Hollywood, it’s hot.  The Arclight is on one corner, the ONLY place to see a movie in my opinion and right across the street is “The Hungry Cat”.  One of the consistently best spots for a fabulous drink and some perfect eats.  Always a winner.  If you love music, Amoeba records is right there… and DJ’s beware, you can definitely get lost in there!

As the boulevard moves on, Silverlake appears, hot, hungry and forever cutting edge.  Sunset Junction is where Sunset and Santa Monica join together, and the corner houses Intelligentsia, (okay as much as I wanted to hate them… they DO have the best coffee in LA)  one of the best flower shops in LA, a great cheese store and a french restaurant.

As you wind east, Sunset now officially ends downtown at Figueroa.  It used to extend all the way to Alameda, near Union Station, but was renamed Cesar Chavez Boulevard around ten years ago.

All in all, Sunset Boulevard is a grande old dame.  An icon of Tinseltown, a wonderful working street, it passes through every type of neighborhood giving you a perfect snapshot of LA, now and then.