Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lady of the Lake: Echo Park's beloved statue

With the EPHS marking its 20th anniversary this year, we’re using our blog to celebrate some of our neighborhood’s finest landmarks. One of the most beloved is the Lady of the Lake, the statue produced in the depths of the Great Depression by Los Angeles sculptor Ada May Sharpless.

The Art Deco statue, with its gently curving features and Egyptian styling, stands on one of the choicest spots at Echo Park Lake: surrounded by rose bushes, and with a backdrop of the lake and the downtown skyline.  The Lady of the Lake -- originally known as Queen of the Angels -- also stands on a base that pays loving tribute to L.A.'s landmarks and locales.

Take a closer look: One side has a relief of Los Angles City Hall, which would have opened not too many years before the statue was completed. A second side depicts shows the city at work: agriculture, factories, a railroad line, oil derricks and ships in the L.A. harbor. A third depicts natural spaces: the ocean, hills and mountains. The fourth shows off the Hollywood Bowl, the San Gabriel Mission, the Central Library and glorious sunshine.

The Lady of the Lake has traveled a bit over the years. When the EPHS was formed in 1995, the statue was sitting in a city storage yard, damaged and hidden from public view. Four years later, then-City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, some persistent neighborhood activists and the EPHS successfully pushed for the statue to be restored and relocated to a spot near the boathouse.

When the lake’s $45 million renovation was completed in 2013, the Lady of the Lake moved again, to a peninsula not far from the lotus bed. That's where she first appeared in 1935, the year the Municipal Arts Commission agreed to place the Art Deco statue at Echo Park.

Sharpless, born in Hawaii and raised in Orange County, created the Queen of the Angels at a studio at 2970 London Street * in Silver Lake, according to a report in the June 1,1934 issue of the Los Angeles Times. The work was one of many commissioned as part of the federal Public Works of Art Project, part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, which put people back to work during the Depression.

The statue was completed in May 1934 and displayed months later along with the works of nine other artists by the Ebell Art Club. Although it was the centerpiece of the show, it failed to win over one prominent critic: Times art writer Arthur Millier.

Five years earlier, Millier had lavished praise on Sharpless, saying she had submitted the “star piece” of California Art Club’s annual exhibition. But after visiting the Ebell Club's art salon, he informed readers that Sharpless’ piece lacked much needed subtlety. “It is not her happiest work,” he sniffed. . Perhaps he didn't like the statue's deferential posture?

Sharpless, a USC graduate who studied in Paris during the 1920s, soon defended her work in a letter to Millier, who agreed only to publish tiny excerpts in the Jan. 27, 1935 edition of his “Brush Strokes” column. In one passage, she accused Millier of engaging in “superficial and destructive criticism." She also declared that the Queen of the Angels was "one of the best pieces of work I have done so far.”

Despite those rough early days, the Lady of the Lake went on to captivate visitors to Echo Park lake for decades. On her perch, she is an attraction for park goers looking to rest, relax and maybe capture a few photographs. Although the neighborhood has gone through many changes over the past 80 years, the Queen of the Angels stands tall, surveying the park and its many visitors.

To learn more about the Lady of the Lake:

* An LA Times story from 1933 said Sharpless lived at 1142 1/2 Seward St.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A new year for looking forward -- and back

Welcome to 2015! This mostly new year has special meaning for the Echo Park Historical Society. That's because the EPHS has reached its 20th year as a community organization. I have to say, where did the time go?

For those of you who are new to these parts, the EPHS was formed in 1995 by residents who saw something special in many of the neighborhood's historic features: the lake, the hills, the brick storefronts, the modest bungalows. EPHS volunteers researched old buildings and collected stories from some of Echo Park's longtime inhabitants. At community events and in promotional brochures, the EPHS talked up Echo Park's history and its noteworthy places --and the need to preserve them.

In those days, people in Echo Park had big worries about crime, especially the kind that involved gangs. They wanted more street trees, a challenge taken up by the Echo Park Improvement Association. And they wanted more restaurants and amenities. If you can believe it, there was a time when it was difficult to get a take-out cup of coffee in Echo Park.

Now there are plenty of places to find coffee, of course. Talk in the neighborhood has shifted from worries about stuccoing over wood siding -- an EPHS pet peeve -- to enormous development projects that can wipe out a handful of historic homes in a single swoop. But the EPHS is still kicking, working to highlight the people, places and natural spaces that have made our neighborhood such a great and interesting place.

So how will we celebrate our 20th year? One way will be to remind you of some of Echo Park's historic places and stories. We're not just talking about the big ones, like the Jensen's Recreation Center, which became a historic-cultural monument in 1997 at the recommendation of the EPHS. We also mean that modest cottage on a side street, with an interesting story or just an extra lovely exterior.

And so, onward into 2015.

Jim Schneeweis
Echo Park Historical Society

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Join us for an End of Summer Movie Night at Echo Park Lake

Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and the Echo Park Historical Society will present  the film noir classic  "Sunset Boulevard" - compliments of Paramount Pictures - on Saturday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. at Echo Park Lake. Before the film begins, the EPHS will hold a  meeting and history discussion starting at  6:00 p.m.   

Bring a blanket, chair and your own picnic and enjoy a movie under the stars. The film will be screened in the northwest corner of the park near the Glendale Boulevard and Park Avenue. 

The Echo Park Film Center will screen some short student clips

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sharing Echo Park memories and photos at the Lotus Festival

 Logan Elementary circa 1970. Photo courtesy Eddie Barajas
EPHS volunteers have been busy at this weekend's Lotus Festival, where our booth and its display of historic photographs and info have attracted a lot of attention. Many newcomers have come by to learn about Echo Park history while many long time and former residents have also stopped to talk about what the neighborhood was like back in their day. In fact, one resident, Eddie Barajas, returned to share a photo taken of Logan Elementary School around 1970  shortly before the building at Logan and Montana streets was torn down and replaced with a new structure.

The photo shows his sister and brother posed by the street sign. Barajas, who has lived in Echo Park for about 50 years, said he remembers that the Logan playground was shut down one time for  the filming of Adam-12.  Thanks for the photo and memories, Eddie!

The booth will remain open until 6 pm today, Sunday, July 13, for the remainder of the Lotus Festival.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Join us at the Echo Park Lake Lotus Festival

The Lotus Festival returns to Echo Park Lake this month, and the Echo Park Historical Society will be there with a display of historic photos. Please be sure to stop by. But, better yet, please help us staff our booth. We are seeking volunteers who can donate two or three hours of their time during on either Saturday or Sunday, July 12 & 13.

Shifts  run from 9 am to 6 pm on Saturday and from 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. If you can help, please send an email to Let us know what times and dates you are available.

Also, the EPHS will host a 90-minute walking tour on Sunday, July 12 at 2 pm that will include the lake, Angeleno Heights, and some large stairways. See you there!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Party like it's 1913: Helping an Echo Park bungalow celebrate its 100th birthday

A reproduction of a vintage menu rests on a plate rail inside a 1913 bungalow on Lemoyne Street.
Talia and Daniela moved into an Echo Park home, not long before it reached its 100th birthday. They graciously agreed to write about the celebration held in its honor. Here's their story! -- EPHS News

By Talia Inlender and Daniela Gerson

Our Echo Park bungalow turned 100 on Dec. 15, or sometime thereabouts. The two-bedroom home on Lemoyne Street, built for Mrs. W.M. Rowland in 1913 at a cost of $1,656.50, still has many features from its earliest days: wood windows and clay tiles, wainscoting in the living and dining rooms; a built-in pantry with leaded glass.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Become a member of the Echo Park Historical Society!

Over the past few weeks, the EPHS presented a few of its gift suggestions for the 2013 holiday season -- books, music and videos to stir lovers of history and design.

We showed you glimpses of early Hollywood, from the whimsical location choices of the Three Stooges to the tragic tale of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. We told you about amazing photographs -- some depicting the working class lives of Chavez Ravine, others showing the domestic scenes created by Maynard L. Parker.

The holiday season is almost behind us. But there's always time to provide a much needed gift to the EPHS: a yearly membership with our volunteer organization! The EPHS turned a few years ago from a quarterly newsletter to an email notification system and an online blog. But although we no longer pay out for postage and printing, we still rely on membership dues.