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.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Echo Park Holiday Gift Guide: Room 1219 and the unsettling story of film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

One of the most unsettling tales to emerge from early Hollywood is the story of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, the silent film star who first made his major work in Edendale, the movie-making hub that encompassed part of present-day Echo Park. Arbuckle's career came to an abrupt end after he was implicated in the death of aspiring actress Virginia Rappe in 1921.

That story is the subject of Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe and the Scandal That Changed Hollywood, published earlier this year. Author Greg Merritt revisits the circumstances that led to the meeting of Arbuckle and Rappe in a San Francisco hotel on a Labor Day weekend and tries to learn just what happened.

"My aim has been to peel away the accumulated fictions and present the true story of one of the neglected giants of cinema, an unfairly pilloried woman, and the greatest of all Hollywood scandals. This is a mystery story, but it's much more than that."

Merritt shows us the business of early Hollywood while retracing the lives of Rappe and Arbuckle. Although he inaccurately puts Keystone Studios in present-day Silver Lake instead of Echo Park, Merritt gives a fine overview of Arbuckle's days in Edendale -- first at Selig Polyscope, then under director Mack Sennett at Keystone -- before he moved on to the big time with Paramount Pictures.

Room 1219 introduces us to others in Arbuckle's orbit: Arbuckle's wife, the silent movie actress Minta Durfee; Arbuckle's nephew, the silent film performer Al St. John; and rising star Buster Keaton, who started his movie career in Arbuckle comendies and became one of Arbuckle's most ardent defenders.
Those stories are interwoven with the drama that plays out in San Francisco: a horrific death after an impromptu party; a prosecutor's decision to file murder charges; the newspapers that had a feeding frenzy over the case -- and reached a verdict long before a jury; the sudden ban on screenings of Arbuckle's movies.

Room 1219 can be ordered from such book sellers as Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park and Skylight Books in Los Feliz, as well as online company Amazon.

To get a taste of Merritt's work, here's a fine Q and A from the the classic film blog Out of the Past.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Colonel Griffith's Observatory

On December 16th, 1896, Griffith J. Griffith donated 3,015 acres of the Los Feliz Rancho to the city of Los Angeles, creating the largest urban woodland park in the country.

Today, Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory are popular destinations for the people of Los Angeles, but the story of their donor is largely unknown to the millions of visitors who make use of his gifts.

In the latest installment of our ongoing video series about the History of Echo Park and Los Angeles, we venture afield to tell the story of "Colonel Griffith's Observatory."

Featuring Mike Eberts, author of "Griffith Park: A Centennial History"

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Echo Park Holiday Gift Guide: Chavez Ravine, 1949

Chavez Ravine, 1949: A Los Angeles Story
If you have lived in Echo Park for a serious length of time, you probably long for some kind of time capsule, one that holds dozens, maybe even hundreds, of photographs of our neighborhood: its people, its buildings, its landscape, its mementos. Those images would reveal the things that have disappeared over the decades that we can't quite remember clearly or missed out on entirely.

Chavez Ravine, the area next to Elysian Park where Dodger Stadium now stands, was obliterated in the 1950s. But it has lived on as a sort of symbol of the cruelty of mid-20th century urban renewal. Fortunately for L.A., a time capsule from that community does exist, one created by a 20-year-old from Seattle.

In 1949, photographer Don Normark spent months taking pictures of the working-class, largely Mexican-American neighborhood of Chavez Ravine. The already talented photographer, who went on to work for Sunset Magazine and other publications, had no idea at the time that the village of around 300 families would soon be erased. In 1997, Normark showed a stack of 100 photographs to the former denizens of Chavez Ravine, allowing them to reacquaint themselves with a neighborhood that lived only in their memories.

The result was Chavez Ravine, 1949: A Los Angeles Story, a captivating book of interviews and black-and-white photos on the neighborhood that was razed, first to make way for housing projects, then a major league sports stadium.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Echo Park Holiday Gift Guide: A slapstick comedy featuring The Three Stooges and our neighborhood's hilly streets

Throughout Hollywood history, Echo Park has been a sometimes gritty, sometimes beautiful, backdrop for filmmakers. Gang members stood outside Magic Gas in Mi Vida Loca (1994). Jack Nicholson's boat skimmed the surface of Echo Park Lake in Chinatown (1974). And of course, there are the scores of locally shot film shorts cranked out at the start of the 20th century by Keystone Studios, Bison Studios and other movie companies on the corridor now known as Glendale Boulevard.

Could there be a gift along these lines for a friend or family member buzzy about local history? Absolutely! In fact, there are quite a few. For today, we will focus on a delightful stocking stuffer: Three Little Beers (1935), a comedy short by the legendary Three Stooges that makes Echo Park's hilly streets a big part of the laughs.

Three Little Beers is directed by Del Lord, who turned to the Stooges after years of making silent comedies in Edendale (now part of Echo Park) with Mack Sennett's Keystone. The comedy short begins at Panther Brewing Co., where the trio is hired as beer barrel deliveryman, then moves to the Rancho Golf Course, where the Stooges offend and appall everyone around them. They are chased off the links in their beer truck, which is when this zippy little short reaches its frenzied finale.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A holiday gift guide for that history-minded Echo Park shopper

With the holidays lurking just around the corner, Echo Park shoppers find themselves faced with that yearly dilemma: just what will I buy my history-minded loved ones this year? Fortunately, the EPHS has a few ideas. Starting today, we will share some of them!

In today's gift-buying installment, we suggest one of the more extravagant gifts on tap for our neighborhood: Maynard L. Parker: Modern Photography and the American Dream, a gorgeous 280-page appraisal of the noted architectural photographer.

Maynard Parker made a long and successful career showing off idyllic scenes of residential California in the postwar era. The longtime Echo Park resident produced sumptuous images of domestic perfection for House Beautiful, Sunset, Architectural Digest and other publications, depicting of tidy gardens, ranch-style homes and mid-century modern designs.

Edited by Jennifer A. Watts, the book starts with Parker's early work, including photographs of art deco buildings that graced L.A. in the 1930s. Soon it offers many samples of Parker's signature residential photography, produced during  World War II and afterward: a backyard barbecue in Encino, a gleaming kitchen in La Canada Flintridge, a model home in rapidly growing Pacoima.

The book gives full-page treatment to the 1943 cover of House Beautiful that showed off the Parker family home on Lemoyne Street in Echo Park, right off Cerro Gordo. There's a short essay by author Charles Phoenix on Parker's home movies, accompanied by stills of the Echo Park residence -- built by Parker himself.

Here's a fabulous mini-video to whet your appetite for the topic, courtesy of the The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

Published by Yale University Press in tandem with The Huntington Library, this hardbound edition can be ordered from such booksellers as Stories in Echo Park, Skylight Books in Los Feliz and Hennessey & Ingalls in Hollywood. At $65, it also can be purchased online from The Huntington Library, which houses the Maynard L. Parker Collection. It's definitely a treat!

You can buy and order books through our local book stores and online: