In the fall of 2012 I had the opportunity to house-sit in El Sereno. During my stint in Los Angeles‘s easternmost neighborhood, I spent much of that time exploring that neighborhood with a good-natured dog named Dooley. This past fall I again returned to the Eastside to house-sit once again and Dooley and I resumed our epic explorations. This time around we explored more than just El Sereno, extending our rambles into the nearby neighborhoods of Arroyo View Estates, City Terrace, East Los Angeles, Happy Valley, Hermon, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills,Rose Hill, University Hills, and on one warm autumn afternoon, Garvanza.
Garvanza is a neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles often considered to be part of Highland Park. To its north are Arroyo View Estates and the city of Pasadena, to the northwest is Annadale (even more often considered to be part of Highland Park than Garvanza), to the west and south is Highland Park proper, to the southwest is Mount Angelus (yet another neighborhood almost always considered to be part of Highland Park), and across the Arroyo Seco to the east is the city of South Pasadena. The population is of Garvanza today is roughly 61% Latino, 24% white, 12% Asian, and 2% black.
The original borders of the town were Crescent to the north Figueroa to the west, Arroyo Glen to the south, and the slope east of Avenue 66 to the east. Soon after its foundation, however, the northern border was moved to Meridian and other tracts, such as Cheviotdale, Eleanore, Garvanza Vista, Lindsay Olive Orchard, Morrison’s Floral Glen, Nithsdale, Parkdale, Parkdale Heights, San Rafael Terrace, Singer, Lewis, and The Chites, Myers, and Kulli Tract soon expanded the community’s borders.
EARLY HISTORY OF THE AREA
The earliest human inhabitants of the what’s now Los Angeles were the Paleoamerican ancestors of the Chumash people, who lived in the area at least as early as 13,000 years ago. A mere 10,000 or so years later a band of immigrants arrived from the Sonoran Desert to the east and either displaced or were absorbed into the indigenous population. These people, now usually referred to as the Tongva, established major villages nearby including Hahamongna, Otsungna, and Yangna.
SPANISH & MEXICAN ERA
The Tongva’s reign ended shortly after Spaniard Gaspar de Portolà‘s overland expedition passed through the area in 1769, an event which set the stage for the Spanish Conquest. In 1771, the European conquerors constructed the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel — first in what’s now known as Whittier Narrows. In 1776 the mission was moved to its present location in San Gabriel, nine kilometers to the southeast of what’s now Garvanza. A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula was founded ten kilometers to the southwest. The land that now is part of Garvanza was part of a huge 36,000 acre territory granted in 1784 to Spanish soldier José María Verdugo, who named the land “Rancho San Rafael.” Verdugo died in 1831, ten years after New Spain became part of the new nation of Mexico. After his death, Verdugo’s land holdings passed to his son and daughter.
EARLY AMERICAN ERA
It wasn’t America conquering Alta California in 1848 that dispossesed the Verdugos of Rancho San Rafael but a rather a defaulted loan. In 1869, nineteen years after California became one of the United States, a portion of the rancho was purchased at a sheriff’s auction by Albert B. Chapman and Andrew Glassell Jr. The two leased the land to shepherds, whose animals must’ve grazed the supposedly-once-prevalent chickpeas rumored to have been planted by Verdugo (and from which Garvanza supposedly got its name) out of existence.
BIRTH OF GARVANZA — OR GARVANZO
In 1885, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway arrived in the area via an Arroyo Seco-spanning bridge built for the recently-acquired Los Angeles and San Gabriel Railroad, a move which at once both ended Southern Pacific‘s monopoly on the area and instigated a rate war which saw ticket prices from Kansas City, Missouri drop to just $1. That, in turn, helped fuel a housing boom and demand for land.
Highland Park was established in 1885. The following year, Ralph and Edward Rogers established “The Town of Garvanzo” because why not name your town after a legume that was rumored to have grown there in former times? The first home built in Garvanzo (or Garvanza — early spelling variations seem to have quickly settled on the latter) was Andrew Glassell’s, built in 1885 at the corner of Avenue 64 and Roble Street. After the subdivision of the land, a few more followed. The grandest new structure was the Garvanza Villa Hotel — a Victorian-stlye lodge designed by Boring and Haas. The short-lived real estate boom went bust in 1888 and residential development in the tiny village ground to a halt — although Garvanza’s handsome two-story schoolhouse was completed in 1889.
Highland Park was annexed by Los Angeles in 1895. In 1898, the Garvanza Improvement Association formed to promote the paving of streets and planting of trees in community. Garvanza remained its own town until 1899, when it too was annexed. After that, Garvanza became the northeasternmost corner of Northeast Los Angeles until 1912, when the Arroyo Seco Addition added a small buffer to Garvanza’s north and east.
In a sense, Garvanza was annexed for a second time in 1922. That year the community joined Annandale, Hermon, Sycamore Grove, and York Valley in joining the Greater Highland Park Association and therein surrendering their individual identities. Their efforts to advance their lot by banding together behind Highland Park came to little against the onslaught of the Great Depression.
Not all construction stopped during that era, however, as two major public works were completed in the 1930s. The Arroyo Seco below Devil’s Gate Dam (built in 1920 by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District) was paved and channelized, between 1935 and 1940, by Works Progress Administration crews. At the same time, the adjacent Arroyo Seco Parkway was under construction and opened in 1940.
After the Depression and World War II ended, many of the original residents of Garvanza and their descendants moved away to newer suburbs — particularly those in the San Fernando Valley and Orange County. With their departure, the Garvanza name seems to have almost vanished from daily use — although it was kept alive by institutions like Garvanza Elementary, Garvanza Foursquare Church, Garvanza Hardware, Garvanza Park as well as by historians, who when writing about the area, sometimes included phrases like “in what was formerly Garvanza.” Thanks to the efforts of The Highland Park Heritage Trust, Garvanza was officially recognized as a neighborhood once more by the City of Los Angeles in 1997.
GARVANZA ART SCENE
Northeast Los Angeles and the communities along the Arroyo Seco have long been known for their vibrant arts scene, which was in its early years dominated by plein air painters of California Impressionism and members of the California Arts & Crafts Movement. The Garvanza Circle included Carl Oscar Borg, Elmer Wachtel, Fernand Lungren, Granville Redmond, Hanson Puthuff, and Maynard Dixon. In 1906, a group of local artists organized The Painters’ Club of Los Angeles. In 1909, that organization was disbanded and its members formed the California Art Club, which remains active today. From 1909 until 1915, Garvanza was home to The Arroyo Guild of Craftsman.
JUDSON STUDIO and the LOS ANGELES SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS
A beautiful building standing near the intersection of Avenue 66 and Roble Avenue houses Judson Studios. The building and others associated with the Judson family business have a somewhat complicated history that I will attempt to delineate as clearly as possible.
In 1895, Mancunian-American painter William Lees Judson was chosen to head USC‘s art department. In 1901 he became dean of the College of Fine Arts which met in an Islamic-inspired building (pictured above) in Garvanza that unfortunately burned to the ground in 1910. Beginning in 1909, Judson had additionally headed the Arroyo Guild of Fellow Craftsmen, whose nearby guild hall survived the fire unscathed. After the fire until 1920, when USC moved to University Park in South Los Angeles, the building was home to the USC’s School of Fine Arts.
In 1897, after his father William Lees Judson convinced him to move west from St. Louis, Missouri,William Horace Judson founded The Colonial Glass Company in Downtown Los Angeles. In 1906 the company changed its name to the W.H. Judson Art Glass Company. In 1920, the glass company relocated to Garvanza, where it remains (although the company’s name was shortened simply to “Judson Studios” in 1931). In 1969 the building faced possible demolition and saved by being named a Historic-Cultural Landmark (and later listed on the National Register of Historic Places).
OTHER GARVANZA STRUCTURES OF NOTE
Though small, Garvanza is simply home to too much interesting architecture to mention it all here. The Highland Park-Garvanza Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (the largest in Los Angeles) includes examples of Mission Revival, Shingle, and Tudor Revival homes as well as quite a few Queen Anne and Craftsman structures as well. I will mention just few of my favorites, then:
The Dr. Williams Residence – The folk Victorian known as the Dr. Williams Residence was apparently built as a “speculation house” in 1886. It’s named after the doctor who purchased it in 1936. It was originally owned by a Dr. John Lawrence Smith, one of the founders of the Garvanza Improvement Association. Back in November, Una and I toured the renovated home and it was pretty cool.
The Dr. Franklin S. Whaley Residence – Franklin Whaley was the first physician in Garvanza. His Italianate home was built in 1887. The Dr. Franklin S. Whaley Residence (not pictured) was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 528 in 1991.
The McClure House – The McClure House is, at least from the outside, one of the real gems of Garvanza. Its architect was James H. Bradbeer (of Bradbeer and Ferris). William F. McClure was a civil engineer and director of both a railway and the Garvanza Land Company. The home was completed in 1889.
The Pisgah Faith Home – The Pisgah Home movement was a faith healing cult led by Finis E. Yoakum in the early 1900s. Yoakum was injured in a buggy accident in 1894 and the following year moved to Los Angeles to recuperate. In 1897 he claimed to have discovered a way to prospect for gold using x-rays and subsequently offered stock in his new mining company. After first speaking in tongues whilst pursuing mining interests in Mexico, Yoakum began referring to his Garvanza home as Yoakum’s Sanatorium, where he purported to reform “drunkards and outcasts.” In 2000, the Pisgah Home received a preservation grant from the Getty Trust and in 2007 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Abbey San Encino – Clyde Browne was an Ohio-born printer/typographer. Around 1902, Browne and his wife moved to Los Angeles where he began working for the Los Angeles Examiner in 1904.After leaving the paper, he co-founded the printing firm of Browne and Cartwright in 1910. For more than thirty years they printed USC‘s The Daily Trojan and The Occidental Weekly.
In 1915 Browne began building the Abbey San Encino on his property out of found and scavenged materials. He even built a small-gauge rail to carry stones from the Arroyo Seco. It was mostly completed by 1921 but the family didn’t move in until 1926.
Clyde Browne’s son, Clyde Jack Browne, continued to work in the newspaper business — although he developed an interest in jazz and was apparently a talented musician. Browne was stationed in Germany during the 1940s on a job assignment with the Stars and Stripes newspaper and it was there that his wife gave birth to their sons, Jackson and Edward Severin Browne. The two brothers, who grew up to be musicians of note, were raised alongside their sisters, Roberta and Gracie, in Abbey San Encino. The cover of Jackson Browne’s second album, For Everyman, is a photo of the courtyard of the Abbey which, on the day of my most recent visit, appears to still be undergoing repairs.
As Dooley and I explored tiny Garvanza, we occasionally found that we’d strayed into other neighborhoods. First we crossed into Arroyo View Estates — a neighborhood of 1960s ranch homes that looks quite unlike Garvanza. Thinking that we were back in Garvanza, I approached the Church of Angels as its bells chimed 3:00. The charming church was built in 1889, when the area was associated with Garvanza. However, it was long ago annexed by Pasadena — as part of the Cheviotdale Heights Annexation of 1923.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church – Dooley and I found ourselves standing in front of The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church when the bells chimed 3:30. Built in 1932, it’s the oldest of the English District‘s (a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod thing) churches in California.
Hansammul Church – When Dooley and I arrived at Hansammul Church it was 4:00 but no bells chimed. The church was built in 1940.
Garvanza Foursquare Church – The Garvanza Foursquare Church, also known as “The Lighthouse,” was was built in 1908.
Garvanza Park – The main park in Garvanza is Garvanza Park, a fairly small park that’s dominated by a baseball diamond and the old Garvanza Pumping Station and Highland Reservoir, which was designated Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #4112 in 1989. In 2007, a skate park opened within the park.
San Pascual Park – There’s also San Pascual Park. Though located on the west bank of the Arroyo Seco, it’s mostly located within South Pasadena. As Dooley and I explored the park, we passed a group of day-drinkers on the Garvanza side of the park and after crossing into South Pasadena, saw a group of people playing baseball. Closer to the Arroyo Seco, along which the park is situated, we encountered a seemingly friendly hermit living in a lean-to.
Highland Park Adult Senior Citizens Center – There’s also the Highland Park Adult Senior Citizens Center, the name of which begs the question — are there senior citizens who aren’t adults? A banner proclaims “seniors welcome” which I assume means that junior citizens are not so all I could do was stare through the fence at the rose garden, a sign reading “Shuffleboard Club,” and an auditorium that hosts bingo.
MUSIC & FILM OF GARVANZA
Other than Jackson and Severin Browne, my research didn’t turn up any Garvanza-associated musicians. Walking in Los Angeles one is constantly exposed to all sorts of music from Chinese Opera, to Armenian dance music, banda, trival, and hip-hop. As I walked along I encountered a man sitting on a porch listening to La Ranchera 930 — Los Angeles’s only ranchera station (it’s my belief that Los Angeles’s AM band is vastly more interesting than the FM band). Other signs of music included a skater in an AC/DC T-shirt and a woman walking a bulldog rocking a Notorious B.I.G. T-shirt depicting the rapper wearing a golden crown. None of these talents are Garvanza natives, though. So as usual, if any readers know of and filmmakers, actors or musicians born in Garvanza, please let me know in the comment section. Same goes for films or television set in and/or filmed in Garvanza.
Update: Daniel J. W!shington (né Daniel Joseph), Surprise Vacation, Stalefish‘s Daniel Wong, and Gimme Gimme Records owner Dan Cook are all based in Garvanza although I’m not sure if any, besides apparently Surprise Vacation, are actually from the neighborhood originally.
GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND
Being as small as it is, Garvanza is easily walkable and bikeable. Walkscore gives the neighborhood a walk score of 75, a bike score of 68, and a transit score of 41. It’s served by Metro‘s 81, 176, and 256 lines as well as LA DOT DASH Highland Park/Eagle Rock line. Exploring the neighborhood I spied some of the old Los Angeles Railway tracks that once brought Yellow Cars and their passengers to and from the area. Although today the Metro Gold Line passes through the neighborhood, its nearest stop is Highland Park Station (located less than a kilometer outside of Garvanza).
There are also public stairs, which have become popular destinations in and of themselves since the publication of Adah Bakalinsky and Larry Gordon‘s Stairway Walks in Los Angeles in 1990, Bob Inman‘s A Guide to the Public Stairways of Los Angeles in 2008, and Charles Fleming‘s Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles, in 2010. The Hough Street Stairs were long ago artistically tiled by students from San Pascual Elementary.
There are also efforts by Caltrans and Metro to extend the 710 freeway north to either the 2 or 134 Freeways. In 1997 a group of activists prevented the 710 from extending beyond its northern terminus at the intersection of Alhambra, El Sereno and University Hills. Two of the options that are being considered would extend the 710 through Garvanza. As I walked around I counted 8 “Stop the 710” banners and none in its favor.
GARVANZA EATS (AND DRINKS)
Early in its history, Gavanza was promoted with (among other methods) all-you-can-eat BBQs. There’s still BBQ today — at Bro’s BBQ. Highland Park Din Din a Go-Go is a rally of food trucks that takes place in the neighborhood. There’s also Donut Star, Italiano’s Pizza, La Perla Bakery, Mando’s Family Restaurant,Martha’s Mexican food truck, My Taco, OK Chinese Restaurant, Penny’s Burgers, and Super Panda.
There are also a few markets including A’s Market, Cali-Mex Family Market, Hi Ho Market, and Uno Produce Market No. 5. There’s only one bar that I know of that’s located in Garvanza — Dusty’s Sports Bar. There’s also one liquor store, York Square Liquors.
For those eager to get involved in Garvanza, there are at least two neighborhood organizations: Highland Park Heritage Trust (established in 1982) and Garvanza Improvement Association (revived in 1985)
For those interested in reading more about Garvanza, a neighborhood newspaper called The Garvanzan debuted in 1887. After it was acquired by the improbably-named Winfield C. Hogaboom in 1888, it was renamed the Garvanza Gazette but ceased publication after just seven months, in February of 1889.
More modern histories include several books in the Images of America series. They include Charles J. Fisher and the Highland Park Heritage Trust‘s Garvanza (2010) and Highland Park (2008). Rick Thomas‘s The Arroyo Seco (2008) also includes some interesting history and photography from Garvanza.
Back in 2007, LAist undertook a series called The Neighborhood Project, which covered Angeleno Heights, Baldwin Hills, Chinatown, Franklin Village, Miracle Mile, Northridge, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Watts, and Garvanza. Some of them are quite thorough for blogs — far more than my own neighborhood pieces which I began at almost the same time. To read Lindsay William-Ross‘s piece on Garvanza, click here.
There’s also a great Facebook page called Historic Garvanza, Rose Hills, & Highland Park in Northeast Los Angeles.