Griffith Park is known as for a man who shot his spouse — and oth…


Picnic basket — examine. Sunscreen — examine. Trashy novel — examine.

Now, the place to park your self for a summer time day on the park?

Effectively, there’s Ernest’s or Griffith’s place. Or Seily’s, or Virginia’s. There’s Jack’s in Lengthy Seashore, or Jackie’s in Pasadena.

We don’t usually marvel concerning the names of the locations the place we disport ourselves. However how did some parks get named for some individuals? The heroes and pioneers you realize already. All through the town and county of Los Angeles, parks are named for Jesse Owens and Cesar Chavez, George Washington Carver and Ritchie Valens, Mary McLeod Bethune and Jackie Robinson, together with dimly recalled politicians and builders.

Let’s take a skip round a few of Los Angeles’ metropolis and county parks, lets?

Griffith Park

Start with the most important. If not for Griffith Park’s 4,200-plus acres, L.A.’s rating amongst cities’ parklands could be way more dismal than it’s already. It was not, as some imagine, named for D.W. Griffith, the silent movie director who created a lot of the vocabulary of movie, in addition to the often-offensive “Delivery of a Nation.”

No. It was named for the person who gave it to L.A., the Welsh immigrant and mining magnate Col. Griffith Jenkins Griffith. Griffith was a kind of self-mythologizing frontier characters, a self-promoter of choleric mood and roller-coaster fortunes; the “colonel” title itself is of murky origin, maybe from some transient spell with the California Nationwide Guard. An acquaintance known as him “a midget egomaniac.”

Within the Eighteen Eighties he purchased up Rancho Los Feliz land with a watch to income, however there have been no patrons; the rumor of a curse nonetheless clung to the land.

So at Christmas 1896 he offered the town with 1000’s of acres, together with the pious sentiment that will wind up on his statue in Griffith Park: “Public parks are a security valve of nice cities . . . and needs to be accessible and enticing, the place neither race, creed nor coloration needs to be excluded.” The pioneer and writer Horace Bell, who cherished to deflate Griffith’s pomposity in print, made it clear he thought the reward was merely a tax dodge. Nonetheless, the town took it.

However in 1903, Griffith badly blotted his copybook. He and his spouse, Christina, a landowning, Catholic descendant of the founding Verdugo household, have been staying within the presidential suite on the Bandini Resort in Santa Monica when the very sozzled Griffith, in a fury of what the sentencing choose would name “revolting, gross, unmanly and degrading” conduct, burst in on his spouse, held a gun to her head, and accused her of mad issues like being in league with the Pope to poison him.

As Mrs. G begged on her knees for her life, Griffith fired. Mrs. G fortuitously flinched, and the bullet went via a watch as an alternative of her mind. She leaped from the window however lived to inform the story a 12 months later in divorce court docket, her blind eye and scarred face hid behind a veil. It could have been the unique quickie divorce: It took 4 and a half minutes. Her ex — nonetheless within the hoosegow in Los Angeles — was tried and sentenced to a two-year stretch at San Quentin.

As soon as he was out of jail, Griffith sought to purchase his method again into civic favor with the reward of cash to construct a planetarium and Greek theater. Town balked. Not till Griffith’s will made the reward posthumously was it accepted.

About 10 million individuals go to the park every year. So too do filmmakers who agree with long-ago silent movie producer Abe Stern’s recommendation to administrators longing to make their films in distant and expensive places: “A rock is a rock. A tree is a tree. Shoot it in Griffith Park.”

Maggie Hathaway Golf Course

Now, in Jesse Owens Group Regional Park, a county park within the 9000 block of South Western Avenue, there’s a nine-hole golf course that bears the title of Maggie Hathaway.

In one among her life’s incarnations, Hathaway was a stand-in for Lena Horne in “Stormy Climate,” and — so says IMDb — she reduce fairly a rug onscreen as a jitterbugging maid in a musical brief, and as a dancer within the Marx Brothers’ comedy “On the Circus,” and in “Cabin within the Sky.”

However her title is on the golf course as a result of she held the very white sport of golf to account. She took her first swing at a golf ball in 1955 on the Griffith Park course, the place she had gone to offer Black boxing champ Joe Louis a chunk of her thoughts for taking part in in a pro-am event when “actually glorious Black golfers” have been barred from professional golf.

She discovered him on the eighth gap, and as he hit the ball onto the inexperienced, she scoffed, “Anyone might do this.” Louis wager Hathaway a set of golf golf equipment that she couldn’t. She did — her first-ever golf swing — and battled for Black {golfing} ever after.

Utilizing donated and cut-down golf equipment, she taught children to golf, and wrote a golf column for the Los Angeles Sentinel. Masking the 1971 Masters event, she fainted useless away when Black golfer Lee Elder broke the colour barrier on the first tee. The girl had type and she or he had moxie, and deserves a full 18 holes to be sometime named for her too.

Eugene A. Obregón Park

The title of a teenaged struggle hero from East L.A. seems on a number of memorials round L.A., and on a park near residence. Marine PFC Eugene A. Obregón was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions in Seoul, Korea, in September 1950.

Obregon noticed his buddy, a Texas child named Bert Johnson, get hit. “Dangle on, Bert, I’m coming to get you!” he hollered. Obregon dragged Johnson right into a ditch with one hand and fired on the approaching North Korean platoon with the opposite. Because the enemy closed in, Obregon emptied his pistol whereas shielding Johnson. He picked up Johnson’s carbine and fired till that too was empty. “Bert,” he advised his buddy, “if we’re happening, we’ll go down preventing like Marines.” Obregon yanked a grenade from his belt and threw it into the knot of North Korean troopers, simply as he was hit with machine gun fireplace.

Nineteen years after Obregon’s loss of life, the seven-acre park was the place Chicano moratorium marchers gathered on the finish of their demonstration towards the inequities of the Vietnam Conflict.

Different parks, too, are named for many who died younger. The Eastside Eddie Heredia Boxing Membership is a county facility memorializing a promising 17-year-old boxer who died of leukemia. Seily Rodriguez Park in Hollywood was renamed for an 8-year-old woman killed by a automobile in 2005 as she walked to highschool. And in North Hollywood, the primary metropolis park created with privately raised cash was inbuilt reminiscence of Jaime Beth Slavin, a 16-year-old Woodland Hills woman who died in 1983 of Reye’s syndrome.

Explaining L.A. With Patt Morrison

Los Angeles is a fancy place. On this weekly characteristic, Patt Morrison is explaining the way it works, its historical past and its tradition.

Virginia Robinson Gardens

The county park that made the neighbors go “Eek!” was the reward of a lady who moved to Beverly Hills earlier than it was, you realize, Beverly Hills. Harry Robinson was inheritor to the division retailer fortune. Starting in about 1912, he and his spouse, Virginia, turned six acres that had been grazed bald by sheep right into a type of botanical zoo for his or her assortment of exotics, tropicals and palms. He was skilled in ferns, and she or he in roses.

Virginia Robinson left the place to L.A. County in 1974 for an arboretum, and visits are restricted to 100 individuals a day. From the get-go, Beverly Hills regarded the gardens’ public standing “with some apprehension,” as the town supervisor stated.

When the county final 12 months proposed doubling the customer restrict and opening the gardens to occasions like weddings, one Metropolis Council member prompt that the town may reply by limiting avenue parking all the best way across the property.

Runyon Canyon Park

To the east lies the town park of Runyon Canyon, the place the attractive individuals get extra stunning by dint of strenuous mountaineering and dog-walking. Runyon Canyon rises steeply from Franklin Avenue to Mulholland Drive. Its title comes from the twentieth century, however its story started lengthy earlier than that, when the Tongva individuals camped and hunted there.

The exact geography is hazy, however within the 1860s, the federal government deeded about 160 acres, possible together with Runyon Canyon, to the person recognized to historical past as “Greek George.” George Caralambo had helped the Military wrangle camels in a comically ill-starred strive at adapting camels to army makes use of. Thereafter, Caralambo wandered east, via San Bernardino, the place he shot a person who cheered when Caralambo’s horse misplaced a race, and thence to New Mexico, the place he killed the governor’s son, and faked his personal suicide.

He got here again to L.A. and in 1867 took possession of his new acreage.

Detour to Vasquez Rocks

On stated acreage, Caralambo welcomed a visitor: Tiburcio Vasquez, the swashbuckling bandit chief who defended his crimes as a easy justice for his individuals towards the Yankee invaders. Vasquez’s girlfriend, it appears, was additionally the sister of Caralambo’s spouse. And it was at Greek George’s home that Vasquez was captured, in 1874, and despatched to San Jose, the place he was convicted and hanged, behaving, the papers marveled, “extra like a gentleman than a knave.”

Visitors walk among the jutting rock formations at Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks, shaped by seismic exercise, was a preferred filming location for “Star Trek.”

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Instances)

Vasquez has his personal namesake park, the spectacular Vasquez Rocks, his onetime hideout — a whole lot of acres with fabled, other-worldly sandstone formations in Agua Dulce. It was already a vacationer attraction 100 years in the past, and Hollywood was not far behind. Vasquez Rocks performed “unusual new worlds” so usually on “Star Trek” that the park ought to get residuals. Within the Fifties, a movie crew utilizing the rocks as a stand-in for Crimson Rock Canyon in Nevada painted them pink for vermilion verisimilitude. The pink ultimately light to pink and again to tan, however ever since, the county has policed film crews, and fined and banished people who alter a lot as a pebble.

Again to Runyon Canyon

The twentieth century could be hard-pressed to match the Greek George story, however it tried. The canyon was purchased in 1919 by coal millionaire Carman Runyon. His second spouse was Winifred Kingston, the widow of Dustin Farnum. That title doesn’t resonate right this moment, however Farnum was the star of “The Squaw Man,” the movie Cecil B. DeMille made when he arrange store on the flats of Hollywood.

An Irish tenor named John McCormack purchased the land in 1929. When McCormack was on tour, his property turned a high-end AirBNB for film folks like Marie Dressler and Charles Boyer. In later years, Errol Flynn moved into the property’s poolhouse on the invitation of his host and the following proprietor, Huntington Hartford, inheritor to grocery retailer thousands and thousands.

Within the Sixties, Hartford supplied the land as a flat-out reward to the town, however for some motive, Mayor Sam Yorty turned him down. In 1984, the town was lastly capable of purchase the land. By some means, of the entire landowners, it was the title “Runyon” that caught.

After I first heard somebody point out “Debs Park,” I imagined that in some wild, giddy second, county officers had kicked over the traces and named the park after Eugene V. Debs, a passionate labor chief and five-time Socialist candidate for president who was despatched to jail for talking out towards the U.S. participating in World Conflict I.

Alas, no. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park is the steep hillsides alongside the east facet of the Arroyo Seco. After World Conflict II, the land was chosen for a giant federal public housing mission. Then somebody in contrast the federal government plans to the topography, and noticed that the neat grid structure was inconceivable within the precise pitch-and-drop hillsides recognized in a single half as Monterey Hills and the opposite as Rose Hill.

So in a fancy collection of offers, the town bought the land from the feds. Within the meantime, Walter O’Malley, who moved the Dodgers to L.A., purchased up privately owned land between Rose Hill and the Arroyo Seco, and swapped it with the town for acreage in Elysian Park, the place he would construct Dodger Stadium.

The neighbors, led by a former Sierra Membership president known as Nathan Clark, had saved builders at bay, and by the late Sixties, county Supervisor Ernest E. Debs managed to get the land devoted for a county park. In 1974, as he retired, his colleagues voted unanimously to call the park for him.

The place’s creepiest second? The night time of Sept. 8, 1924.

Some schism was breaking apart the state’s Ku Klux Klan, a not inconsiderable drive within the Twenties, even right here, and members have been cut up over — properly, who is aware of? Perhaps how pointy the hoods needs to be.

Anyway, beneath a gibbous moon, virtually 200 members of the ladies’s auxiliary, the “Kluxerettes” — cute, eh? — gathered in a circle on the Montecito summit and buried the structure and bylaws of the guardian klan. About 150 klansmen, likewise robed and hooded, stood there to assist them. The neighbors, alarmed by a automobile convoy of individuals swaddled in mattress linens, twice known as the cops, however as The Instances advised it, “the officers left after studying that nothing greater than a klan assembly was in progress.” Nothing to see right here, transfer alongside.

Carlin G. Smith Recreation Middle

Throughout the arroyo, in Mt. Washington, a ravine park is known as for Twenties subdivider Carlin G. Smith. He ran for mayor in 1929, however he bought larger headlines when he sued the writer of a political weekly for libel. The person had known as Smith’s “child milk fund” charity a “racket.” Smith misplaced the case. Curiously, he’d created a “Carlin G. Smith Group and Recreation Middle Company” and when he donated the land to the town, voila, it got here to cross.

Pershing Sq.

An aerial view shows the lush grounds of Pershing Square before the 1950s.

Pershing Sq. has had many names, together with Central Park and St. Vincent’s Park. It’s seen right here on a classic postcard from Patt Morrison’s assortment, with the Biltmore lodge at left and Metropolis Corridor peeking above the Pershing Sq. Constructing to the appropriate.

Now we flip to the dismal story of Pershing Sq.. These 5 acres have been a metropolis park since 1866, and over the a long time, the park has shed its completely different names like a slow-mo stripper: St. Vincent’s Park, sixth Road Park, Los Angeles Park, Central Park.

“Pershing” is Basic John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who pursued Pancho Villa’s forces alongside the U.S.-Mexico border a number of years earlier than occurring to the “massive present,” World Conflict I. He led the American Expeditionary Forces on Europe’s Western Entrance in 1917 and 1918. In a patriotic temper, the town renamed the park for him in November 1918, one week after the armistice ended the struggle.

The park’s best hours have been within the Twenties, ‘30s and ‘40s, when its lush tropical foliage and prosaic rosebushes invited downtown staff to lunch al fresco. Within the Thirties, the general public library set out books on tables for borrow-and-bring-back noon studying. The most well-liked matters — sociology, economics, and faith — could have been analysis materials for the haranguers and bloviators who took to the park’s “audio system’ nook” to spiel on the passing audiences.

The park as soon as designated women-only benches to guard women from mashers. Then a few of these women complained about being harassed by pesky actual property saleswomen.

Title Guarantee building is in the background of a scene at Pershing Square, with lush foliage and people around a fountain.

Pershing Sq. used to have far much less concrete, as evidenced by this classic postcard from Patt Morrison’s assortment.

After World Conflict II, the greenery was shaved to the roots to unseat the rats who hid on the market, and as a part of a vice marketing campaign towards naughty trysting.

Within the early Fifties, the town added “-ing” to “park” and controversially dug out a subterranean storage beneath the park. It made the park really feel elevated and remoted from the lifetime of the road. By way of a collection of makeovers, designers have needed to keep in mind the homeless individuals who occupy its acreage too.

The web site Curbed Los Angeles as soon as requested, “Can we dislike Pershing Sq. as a result of it’s ugly, or is Pershing Sq. ugly as a result of we dislike it?” I don’t know, however perhaps we can provide it one other new title, one which at the least consists of the phrase “park.”

Amelia Mayberry Park

Just a little nosing round turns up a large number of parks named for politicians and builders, however every so often, civic sentiment prevails. Whittier’s Amelia Mayberry Park was named for the librarian-newswoman-PTA chief who made free lunches for native schoolkids, and when that bought to be too massive a job, persuaded L.A. to open one of many state’s first faculty cafeterias.

Jack Dunster Marine Organic Reserve

In Lengthy Seashore, the Jack Dunster Marine Organic Reserve honors the work of the native man who cobbled collectively a working experience in engineering expertise and marine life to create a flourishing ecosystem on the Los Cerritos Channel.

Bette Davis Picnic Space

My favourite, as a result of the title makes me snigger, is the Bette Davis Picnic Space, alongside the Los Angeles River. Sure, Bette Davis labored close by, at Warner Brothers; sure, she lived not far-off and rode her horse alongside the bridle paths; and sure, she’s buried up the hill in Forest Garden. However the dissonance of “Bette Davis” and “picnic”? A extra city actress I can’t conjure.

Davis is all mink stoles and martinis. Even in “Darkish Victory,” within the scene the place she’s open air, gardening as she is aware of she’s dying, she stabs her trowel on the flower mattress like she’s eviscerating a treacherous lover. No, certainly. Bette Davis is not any picnic.





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