History & Landmarks
The Presence of the Past
At the end of the 19th century, a horse-drawn trolley rambled up a dirt road that is now Echo Park Avenue, which lead into hills covered with “luxuriant” fields of native grasses and “scores of varieties of beautiful wild flowers.” The small farms and ranches that dotted the hills and canyons of Echo Park, and its sister neighborhoods of Elysian Heights and Angelino Heights, eventually gave way to Victorian mansions, Craftsman bungalows, Spanish Colonial style homes and brick storefronts. By the Great Depression of the 1930s, there were few empty lots to build upon. Echo Park may have changed dramatically over the past century, but it has managed to retain the historic character and strong sense of identity that sets it apart in a modern and sprawling metropolis.
Echoes of the Past
Legend says the lake got its name after workers building the original reservoir said their voices echoed off the canyon walls.
If one person could be said to be the founder of Echo Park (1892), Thomas Kelley would come close. In the late 1880s, the carriage maker turned real estate developer teamed up with other investors to purchase about 70 acres that included Reservoir No. 4—what is now Echo Park Lake. Kelley and his business partners sold off pieces of what they called the Montana Tract to individuals who built the business district along Sunset Boulevard and the densely packed homes and apartments that surround Echo Park Lake.
Spanish is Spoken Here
But so is Chinese, Italian, French and English (of course). Echo Park has long served as gateway to immigrants. An Italian family, the Angonas, crushed grapes at a winery just north of Sunset Boulevard. Swedes ran the Elysian Heights Improvement Assn. more than 100 years ago. The city’s first Jewish cemetery was created near what is now Dodger Stadium.
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