California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Eagle Rock

California Fool's Gold
Eagle Rock from above

This entry of the Los Angeles neighborhood blog series is about Eagle Rock. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be featured in the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here.  To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

Eagle Rock Mural

Eagle Rock Baptist Church

Eagle Rock is a neighborhood situated in Northeast Los Angeles whose neighbors are Pasadena to the east, Garvanza to the southeast, Highland Park and Mount Washington to the south, Glassell Park to the southwest and Glendale to the West.

Map of Eagle Rock

Pendersleigh & Sons‘ Official Map of Eagle Rock

Its name is derived from the Eagle Rock, a giant boulder that vaguely resembles an eagle’s head which someerroneously assume gives the neighborhood its name. However, Eagle Rockers and others who’ve seen the eagle-like shadow cast on its face at the right time of day know instantly that that is what gives the neighborhood its name, not the rock’s vaguely avian shape.

Eagle Rock 1900
Eagle Rock in 1900

The Tongva were the aboriginal inhabitants of the area and lived there for centuries till they were displaced by Spaniards in the 1700s. In 1870, after passing from Spanish hands to the Mexicans and ultimately the USRancho San Rafael was divided into 31 parcels. The one given to Benjamin Dreyfus became Eagle Rock.

In 1903, the Women’s 20th Century Club was founded in a rather large Craftsman home to contribute to the betterment of what was then mainly a farm town.

Eagle Rock City HallEagle Rock became an independent city and was incorporated in 1911. The Eagle Rock City Hall serves as a reminder of the era before its annexation by its larger, thirsty neighbor in 1923.

Occidental College

A highly-regarded liberal arts college, the Myron Hunt-designed Occidental College campus, was opened in 1914. That same year, a library was built in the Mission-revival style built with a chunk of Andrew Carnegie‘s money. Since the 1920s, Eagle Rock has attracted artists, filmmakers and writers. So artsy is Eagle Rock that even many of the waste bins are adorned with art commemorating Eagle Rock’s history and culture.

Cultural Center, Eagle RockCultural Center, Eagle Rock

The aforementioned Carnegie library is now home to Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, which is responsible for much of the community’s arts programing. The center puts on several notable events and offers cheap or free art classes. The next big event is the 8th Annual Art Auction, on Sunday, April 25th.

The biggest event the Arts Center puts on is the Eagle Rock Music Festival. On October 2, the 12th such festival will take place. Last year about 60,000 people showed up to see a lineup of largely NELA bands play at various businesses and buildings along Colorado Blvd, including several Eagle Rock acts like The IgnorantThe Mormons and The AM/FM Band, as well as works of video art.
Colombo's
Colombo’s
Eagle Rock Italian Bakery
The Eagle Rock Italian Bakery
Casa Bianca
Casa Bianca

Prior to the 1930s, Los Angeles’ sizable Italian population had been centered in Little Italy, located north of downtown. After the 1930s, Italians largely began to fan out to nearby neighborhoods like Echo ParkEl SerenoFrogtownLincoln Heights and Eagle Rock. Eagle Rock maintained a strongly Italian character for years and there are still several vestiges from that era, including Colombo’s (which opened in 1954 and features live jazz) and the Eagle Rock Italian Bakery (opened around 1961). There are several alternatives to bland chain pizza with several local pizzerias and Italian restaurants including BrownstoneCapri and Corner — but none is more well-known than Casa Bianca, which opened in 1955.

Larry Shinoda Trompers of Eagle Rock

In the 1940s, Eagle Rock was known for its hot rod culture. Wide, gently curving Colorado Boulevard — the main thoroughfare — was part of the famed “Main Street of America,” Route 66 and an undoubtedly an ideal strip for hot rodding. The Trompers of Eagle Rock began in 1945 and is still active today, as are the Eagle Rockin’ Rodders.

Islander Motel
The Islander Motel
Eagle Rock Fire Department
The fire station
Street in Eagle Rock
A typical Eagle Rock street


Eagle Rock is home to many beautiful buildings, mostly done in the Craftsman, Georgian and Mission Revival styles. There are also some Art Deco buildings and several fine examples of Streamline Moderne. The houses along the shady tree-lined streets are mostly (if not entirely) without fences but I get the feeling that if there were, they’d be white picket.

Panang and Piller's
Panang and RenArts
The Oinkster
Oinkster
Pete's Blue Chef
Pete’s Blue Chef

In Eagle Rock, people proudly hoist American flags year round, not just on Fourth of July or after we invade some tiny, developing nation. There are a lot of motels (which tend to fill up around the time of the Rose Bowl game) and most of the other businesses, regardless of their changing inhabitants, maintain the look of the drive-thrus and malt shops that they were built for. For example, a Bob’s Big Boy is now Panang Thai. An old burger joint is now The OinksterPiller’s department store became the Renaissance Arts Academy.

Stained Glass Supplies
Inside Stained Glass Supplies
Tritch Hardware
Tritch Hardware

Eagle Rock is still home to many mom and pop businesses like Stained Glass Supplies, which offers classes and lovely stained glass objects, and Tritch Hardware, which many Eagle Rockers view as the heart and soul of the neighborhood. Of course, in all Norman Rockwell-esque towns lies the proverbial severed ear and in the 1970s and ’80s, some of Eagle Rock’s small town sheen was tarnished when it became a hunting ground for the serial killers known as the Hillside Strangler as well as the Night Stalker. However, despite the occasional protestations of some nostalgiac Eagle Rockers, the neighborhood is still pretty safe, quiet and charming.

Seafood City and Pinoy Blockbuster
Seafood City and Pinoy Blockbuster

Today, the population of Eagle rock is roughly 40% Latino, 30% white and 24% Asian. The majority of the latter are Filipino and the majority of Latinos are of Mexican descent. In addition to Pinoy favorites like Barrio FiestaPhilippine VillageRadio Manila, the Filipino American Library and Golden Ribbon Bake Shoppe, there’s the Eagle Rock Plaza. It’s gone through several name changes but has unofficially, since the ’90s, been known to many as “the Filipino Mall.” In between a Macy’s (on life support) and a busy Target, there’s a GoldilocksJollibeeBenchChow King, GameStop, PNB Remittance Center, HB Beauty Shop and Seafood City (largely responsible for the mall’s fishy odor) which cater to a mostly Filipino clientele. It also serves, like all healthy malls, as a hang out, although there are as many parents napping in recliners and reading the paper as there are your more traditional, young mallrats.

To many Pinoys, the Filipino Mall is the true Little Manila, a cultural and commercial center for Filipinos more beloved than Historic FilipinotownCarsonCerritosPanorama CityWest Covina or even the parking lot of Point-Point Joint in East Hollywood. Although Amoeba has small Filipino music and movie selections, even with our massive size we don’t come close to the selection of the mall’s Pinoy Blockbusterkiosk. Avril Lavigne‘s music video for the uber-annoying (and maddeningly catchy) “Complicated” was mostly shot in the Filipino Mall although the parties involved seem to have gone to great lengths to ensure that the mostly Filipino and Latino shoppers were replaced by an exclusively white cast.

Pinoy Rock pioneer Gary Perez playing at Barrio Fiesta

Eagle Rock is a popular destination for foodies in SoCal on account of the aforementioned spots and in addition many more quality joints (including a lot of diners, coffee bars, Mexican and Thai places) like Fatty’sDave’s Chillin’-N-Grillin’Fred’s Taco TruckCoffee Table Lounge, Sicha SiamAuntie Em’sPat and Loraine’s Coffee ShopSenor FishPot ThaiJerry’s Mexican GrillMediterranean TriangleOK Chinese FoodTaco SpotBlue HenPete’s Blue ChipClassic ThaiCafé BeaujolaisLe Petit BeaujolaisCacao MexicatessenErnie Jr’s Taco HouseThai Spirit and Swork CoffeeBeyond the eateries there are a number of nightlife attractions like All Star LanesEagle Rock Undergroundand The Black Boar (formerly The Chalet and before that, the much missed Toppers.)

Eagle Rock’s hip reputation amongst the music set goes back a ways. In the 1970s, Australian singer Daddy Cool recorded “Eagle Rock” based only on its reputation (he’s never been). In addition, Gorillaz are supposed to play a secret show on, I think, the 16th before playing Coachella on the 18th. It became a popular location for former Mideast L.A. musicians a few years back (or so I’m told).

not not fun records

Eagle Rock is also the home of Not Not Fun Records and the highly regarded Eagle Rock High School Jazz Band. The neighborhood is also home to In the Red Records [Thanks Eric Branscum for that tidbit].Eagle Rock was mentioned in Little Village‘s song “The Action.”

Virginia Weidler Cindy's   Virginia Wiedler                                                                    Cindy’s

 

A lot of film stars have moved to Eagle Rock over the years but as far as I’ve found, only actress Virginia Weidler was born there. The neighborhood has been used as a filming location in several films and TV shows. Cindy’s has been used as a filming location approximately a billion times.

Eagle Rock was Tasty Meadows in The Incredible Shrinking Woman. The neighborhood also appeared inBeverly Hills 90210, The Day of the Locust, Hunt for Red October, The OC, Record City, Reservoir Dogs, Star Trek III, Teen Wolf, Top Gun and The Unwed Father. In Days of ThunderTom Cruise‘s character Cole Trickle states that he’s from Eagle Rock.

If art is your thing, Eagle Rock is home to Apartment 2Cactus GalleryJose Vera Fine Arts & AntiquesThe Land of Odd GalleryMullin Studio & Art GalleryToros Pottery.

Special thanks to Maryam HosseinzadehRenee Dominique and Steve Shimbles for their incomparable assistance in my efforts to blog about Eagle Rock. As always, any additions or corrections are welcome!

*****

Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities; however, job offers must pay more than slave wages as he would rather write for pleasure than for peanuts. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles Magazine, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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