Zip Codes: 90026, 90012, 90031, 90039
The site of the city's first housing boom in the 1880s, and subsequently the center of the emerging movie industry, Echo Park has quite a storied past. Largely working class and a haven for artists, its eclectic character has continually evolved for over 120 years into a dynamic blend of cultures, incomes, business activity, and social activism making it a truly unique neighborhood that is cherished by its residents. All of these factors, combined with its historic architecture and magnificent hills, contributed to it being named one of “the top 10 great neighborhoods” in the country by the American Planning Association in 2008.
LOCATION AND HISTORY
The boundaries of Echo Park are not formally defined they’ll vary depending on the source that you reference. However, a commonly accepted map is one that follows Alvarado Street and Allesandro Street on the west, the Los Angeles River to the north, the 110 freeway to the east, and the 101 freeway to the south.
The commercial strips of Echo Park are filled with trendy cafes, boutiques, restaurants, and bars providing a lifestyle that is an extension of its neighbor Silver Lake. However, the thing that draws a new generation of bohemians with eastside dreams to Echo Park is the home prices. The area is populated primarily with modest sized homes and a good bang for the buck can still be had here, although the demand has been growing steadily.
Although many people might name Hollywood when asked where California’s film industry began, in truth it was centered in the Echo Park. Although, at the time, the area was known as “Edendale”. In 1909, the first silent film studios began operating along a four-block stretch of Allesandro Street (now part of Glendale Boulevard) including Selig Studios and Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studios. The latter is currently functions as a storage building but is a Los Angeles historic monument. Among the talent who saw their stars rise here while working their craft in converted cottages and barns were Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Tom Mix, Gloria Swanson and the Keystone Kops. The name survives today through the Post Office Edendale branch and the Edendale brank of the Los Angeles Public Library.
In the wooded hills at the north end of Echo Park is a residential area known as Elysian Heights. Bordered by Elysian Park on its east and graced by breezes and breathtaking views, it can feel like the city is a hundred miles away. Since the early 1900’s it has been the landing place for many counter-culture types - writers, artists, political radicals, architects and filmmakers. From the ‘30’s to the 50’s, children of many progressives were raised and schooled there. For baby boomers of area, one of the most beloved residents was “Room 8 the Cat”, an extended member of the classroom at Elysian Elementary for over 20 years. Through the years, Room 8 became immortalized in books, songs, and even a documentary.
Situated on a hill just east of east of Echo Park Lake is Angelino Heights (formerly Angeleno Heights), a well-preserved pocket of a genteel, upper-middle class Victorian era Los Angeles from the late 1800’s. It contains some of the best remaining examples of Victorian architectural styles in Los Angeles, as well as later examples of Craftsman and Mission Revival styles. Angeleno Heights was the first neighborhood in Los Angeles to be adopted by the City Planning Commission and City Council as an Historical Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). The 1300 block of Carroll Avenue, which is listed in the National Register or Historic Places, is a veritable drive-thru museum. The meticulously restored manors along this street draw camera toting visitors and film crews on a regular basis.
Frogtown / Elysian Valley
Some consider the area of Frogtown to be part of Echo Park, while some consider it to be part of Silver Lake. And yet others don’t even know it exists. But this little-known area isn’t likely to remain a secret for long. Following the camelback curves of the Los Angeles river on one side and Riverside Drive on the other, this sliver of a community is comprised of small single family homes and quite a bit of industrial, mixed-use space. The affordability and character of the area have caught the attention of many artists and artisans who have turned it into the latest up-and-coming eastside neighborhood. A fun time to experience the neighborhood is at the annual Frogtown Art Walk , a free, self-guided tour of studios. Begun in 2007, the art walk has also featured river tours, environmental installations, outdoor movie screening and drum parades.
DINE, HANG OUT, SHOP
If you’re a Chicago transplant and have a hankering for deep dish pizza that can match up to your personal hometown favorite, Masa may stand the best chance at meeting that challenge. Located at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Lemoyne Street, Masa features charm and sidewalk seating. “Masa” means dough, and theirs is made fresh daily. Ditto for the sauces, which are all made from scratch. If you’d rather chill at home with a movie, Masa delivers.
Sage Vegan Bistro
Vegans cheered at the opening of Sage. Located in the corner space of the beautiful 1920’s Jensen’s Recreation Center building on Sunset and Logan, this bistro offers high quality, affordable and delicious food in an open, airy space that is filled with light from the windows that rise up to the ceiling. The owners are not new to the food biz or the area – they also own Millie’s and Naturewell just up the street in Silver Lake. The space is shared with KindKreme raw ice cream, so be sure to save enough room for dessert.
Think global, eat local. Mohawk Bend restaurant and bar uses only California ingredients to create brick oven pizzas, seasonal salads, and what they describe as “elevated” pub food. They menu has it covered meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike. And beer lovers can rejoice at the 72 taps of craft beer from small scale breweries. And if you choose a place for atmosphere as much as the food, Mohawk Bend is a great choice because you can choose from open-air patio, booths, or the sky-lit atrium of the Ramona Room. Having just opened in 2011, it’s quickly become a favorite of locals.
If you enjoy cooking, prefer to use fine ingredients and like the idea of supporting small businesses, Cookbook is the place to go. Located in small-footprint storefront, everything about it feels like a grocery shop from decades past. It’s the kind of place that you can’t help but love from the moment you walk in the door. They carry responsibly grown, organic produce, an assortment of freshly prepared gourmet foods, herbs, and cut flowers (to complete your table setting). And of course, cookbooks.
Echo Park Film Center
In a city that attracts and breeds some of the best film makers in the world, it’s only fitting that there exists within it an organization whose purpose is to bring the power of film to the underserved and at-risk youth. Since 2002, the not-for-profit Echo Park Film Center has been providing equal and affordable community access to film/video resources in a variety of ways. They offer a neighborhood micro-cinema space, free and low-cost education programs, a comprehensive small format film equipment and service department, a green-energy mobile cinema & film school, and a touring film festival showcasing local established and emerging filmmakers. They are located in the Alvarado Arts building at the corner of Sunset Blvd and Alvarado Street.
Parks and Recreation
Echo Park Lake
Echo Park Lake (photo at top of page) is a scenic icon of the area that functions primarily as a detention basin in the City’s storm drain system, while also providing recreational benefits and wildlife habitat. Echo Park Lake also plays host to community events, such as the Lotus Festival at Echo Park. The lake was originally constructed in 1868 as a water supply reservoir (#4), fed by the Los Angeles River. By 1892 plans were underway to beautify it for public benefit, and by 1895 the park and accompanying boathouse were competed. Green space continued to be added and by 1907 the park included an extensive network of playing fields and courts for tennis and croquet. In modern times it has offered visitors the opportunity to enjoy paddle boating, catch-and-release fishing, model boating, jogging, and strolls around the perimeter pathway. Over the years the lake and its environs have been featured in countless photographs, movies, murals and postcards. A $65 million rehabilitation was completed in 2013 and the park is as beautiful as ever.
Elysian Park is the second largest park (575 acres) in the city after Griffith Park. Its dedication in 1886 also makes it the oldest. The paths of the park are filled with neighborhood hikers daily and its steep hillsides and canyons contain many landmarks, including Southern California’s first botanical garden ( 1893) and the Los Angeles Police Academy, Barlow Hospital (1902), one of the area’s oldest continuously operating medical facilities, and Dodger Stadium (1962).
Beginning with Camden Yards in Baltimore, the trend in Major League Baseball has been to tear down old stadiums and replace them with new “throwback” stadiums recalling the style of a bygone era in baseball. In it’s 50th year, the “modern” design of Dodger stadium, with the iconic wavy roofs above the outfield pavilions, has stood the test of time and is among the best venues in baseball for watching a game in person. It’s currently the third oldest stadium in the majors behind Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox) and Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs). The stadium was designed by architect Captain Emil Praeger (USN) in consultation with legendary former Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, whose ideas for the new home of his transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers were influenced by journeys to Japan and Disneyland. You may not think of baseball as romantic, but with views of downtown to the south and the tree-lined hills of Elysian Park to the north, sitting in the stadium as the sky turns pink at sunset can be a magical experience in sports.
Fargo Street Hill Climb
Measured at a 33% grade by city engineers, Fargo Street is the steepest hill in the city of Los Angeles. And so, like climbers drawn to Mt. Everest, bikers are drawn to Fargo Street. And each year throngs of them turn out for the famed Fargo Street Hill Climb to ascend the street in a serpentine fashion. Although there are many who don’t conquer it, others prove their mettle by ascending it multiple times. The record is 101 times set in 2008. The trickiest ascent on record, though, may be the one on a unicycle.
Echo Park residents are zoned to the following schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District:
· Castelar Street Elementary
· Betty Plascencia Elementary
· Solano Avenue Elementary
· Rosemon Avenue Elementary
· Logan Street Elementary
· Clifford Street Elementary
· Elysian Heights Elementary
· Dorris Place Elementary
· Allesandro Elementary
· Thomas Starr King Middle
· Florence Nightingale Middle
· Virgil Middle
· Washington Irving Middle
· John Marshall High
· Belmont High
· Abraham Lincoln High
NOTEWORTHY ECHO PARK ARCHITECTURE
With its history as one of the earliest Los Angeles suburbs, it stands to reason that the area contains some historically and architecturally significant homes. And it does.
Sessions House - 1330 Carroll Ave. 1888 Joseph Cather Newsome
Among the string of Queene Anne homes on Carroll Avenue, (see photo carousel on home page) the residence designed for dairyman Charles Sessions stands out thanks to the elaborate and unusual Chinese and Moorish features in its design, including the “moongate” opening on the second floor balcony.
Phillips House - 1300 Carroll Ave. 1887 Architect Unknown
Almost a pure Queen Anne, this is one of the most ornate and beautifully maintained homes along Carroll Ave. The house’s first owner was Aaron Phillips, an Iowa hardware merchant who came to Los Angeles in 1887. It stayed in the family until 1942, when it was sold. The second owners still own it today.
J. Haskins House - 1344 Carroll Ave. 1888 Architect Unknown
The last Victorian built on Carroll Avenue and one of the few "Gay Nineties" houses remaining in Los Angeles, this quintessential Queen Anne vividly illustrates the height of late Victorian exuberance.
Weller House - 824 East Kensington Rd. 1894
Just as elegant and magical as the homes along Carroll, the Weller house carries the dual distinction of a larger than average front yard, and having been moved 3000 feet from its original location. It was built by Zachariah Weller, a hardware businessman turned oilman. Tired of oil wells in his yard (literally), Wells sent the family to Catalina Island for a brief vacation and when they returned, they found he’d moved the house.
Southhall House - 1855 Park Dr. 1938 Rudolf Schindler
Built on a steep lot next to Elysian Park is a home designed by Schindler in the middle of his career for Mildred Southall, a composer and music teacher. The house served the dual purpose of home and studio and included a living room that's large enough to comfortably accommodate two grand pianos.
Ross House – 2123 Valentine St. 1938 Rafael Soriano
This two story glass and stucco home, designed in the International Style is considered to be one of Soriano’s best and certainly among the most architecturally significant homes in Echo Park. It later became the residence of renowned movie art director Albert Nozaki. It was most recently sold in 2007.
Salkin Residence - 1430 Avon Terrace 1948 John Lautner
Known as the “Lost Lautner”, this is one of Lautner’s earliest works. He reportedly did not even have his architect’s license yet when his plans for the house were submitted. So, he had another architect sign them, which might have contributed to it becoming “lost” over time as one of his works. When it came on the market in 2014, a bidding war ensued. Thankfully it was purchased by buyers with a deep appreciation of architecture, who performed a painstaking restoration with the aid of Barbara Bestor Architects. In 2018 the home won a Los Angeles Conservancy preservation award.
Atwater Bungalows - 1431 Avon Park Tr. 1922 Robert Stacy-Judd
Another interesting work of architecture atop a hill next to Elysian Park is Robert Stacy-Judd's Atwater Bungalows. One of the more unusual styles to be found in the area, these bungalows combine the Pueblo Revival style with a bit of surrealistic whimsy. Stacy-Judd was an expert in Mesoamerican architecture and very inspired by Indian Kivas.
2006 W. El Moran – Paul Landacre Cabin and Grounds
Though may not be an architectural gem, but it is a historic one. This oft-visited cabin was home to Paul Landacre, a highly celebrated wood engraver and block artist who lived here from 1932 until his death in 1963. It’s registered with the city as a Historic Cultural Monument. It also happens to be accessed via one of the secret stair walks (Allesandro Loop), making for a fun way to see it.