Los Angeles’ First Park
Elysian Park is the city’s oldest public park and, at 575-acres, the second largest after Griffith Park. It is home to numerous historic sites, including the Los Angeles Police Academy and Barlow Hospital, that are linked by miles of walking trails.
In 1769, Gaspar de Portola and Father Juan Crespi camped on the river bank opposite Buena Vista Hill near the North Broadway Bridge entrance to Elysian Park. Yang-Na Indian villagers from the creeks of Solano Canyon and the current location of the Los Angeles Police Academy greeted the Spaniards with native refreshments.
In 1781, the Pueblo of Los Angeles was officially established by Spanish California Governor Felipe de Neve with the Royal Grant of 4 square Spanish leagues translated into 28 square miles or about 17,000 acres) of Pueblo Lands. Of this public land grant, the approximately 575-acre Elysian Park is the last remaining large piece. All else has been auctioned off or given away. Los Angeles even had to buy back the site of the present City Hall.
One of the first American official acts was the Ord Survey of 1849 to record the boundaries of these Pueblo Lands so they could be auctioned to produce city revenue. Elysian Park was then known as Rock Quarry Hills for the building stone mined in the area. But instead of being sold, the Rock Quarry Hills area were “reserved” for public purpose and withdrawn from public auction.
In 1886, the Mayor and City Council of Los Angeles dedicated the Rock Quarry Hills as a city park forever, and renamed it Elysian Park (Elysian is derived from the Greek word paradise). Subsequent city charters have protected dedicated park lands and their use for park purposes in perpetuity.
These are rare charter provisions, as city charters go, and have given parkland protectors a firm legal base for organized support of dedicated park land in the City of Los Angeles. It is upon this legal base that the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park has fought for two decades to retain park lands for park purposes.
Every effort is being made to establish the historical significance of this public park in order to conserve it for future generations as a part of the Santa Monica Mountains system of urban open space vital to the survival of the human, animal and botanical denizens of these historic parklands.
Elysian Park Historical Significance
Yang-Na village was located at the Aliso Street crossing of the Los Angeles River and Shoshone (Gabrielinos) bands congregated in the Rock Garden area of the Police Academy within Elysian Park.
1769 Portola and Crespi diaries recorded the Elysian Park site enroute to claiming Alta California for Spain.
1771 San Gabriel Mission was founded by Father Junipero Serra.
1776 Juan Bautista de Anza crossed Rio Porciuncula at the junction of Arroyo Seco on way to founding Northern California’s San Francisco, following the Portola Trail along the Santa Monica Mountains to Ventura
1781 El Pueblo de Los Angeles was founded by edict of Carlos III of Spain.
1835 Pueblo status was granted by the Mexican Government, still recognizing the 4 square leagues as city land. Secularization of missions brought the first great land rush to split mission lands into individual rancho grants.
1849 American Military Government ordered E. O. C. Ord Survey of Los Angeles City Limits, setting off the first city real estate boom1883. Mayor C.E. Thom signed enabling ordinance to preserve remaining Pueblo Lands for public park purposes.
Park Named Elysian
1886 City Ordinance Number 218 signed April 5 by Mayor E.F. Spence, dedicated Rock Quarry Hills in the following words: “That the real property located in the city of Los Angeles and owned by the city of Los Angeles hereinafter described, is hereby set apart for the use of the public as a Public Park, and is forever dedicated to the Public as such park.”
The Committee on Parks authorized and named Elysian Park and purchased the first planting of gum trees for $200.
Parks Department Created
1889 Los Angeles first Freeholders Charter, Section 113, protected dedicated park lands in perpetuity. This Charter also created the Parks Department, which was consolidated with the Recreation Department by Charter Amendment in 1947.
1893 Los Angeles Horticultural Society established the Arboretum and extensive botanical gardens in Elysian Park. The Chavez Ravine Arboretum, Elysian Park, was declared City Historical-Cultural Monument Number 48 in 1967.
Avenue of the Palms
1895 The Avenue of the Palms, rare specimens of wild date were planted, on what is now Stadium Way north of Scott Avenue.
1928 Los Angeles’ second, current Freeholders Charter, Section 170, reaffirms protection of parklands in perpetuity.
1971 The Elysian Park Master Plan was adopted.
Santa Monica Mountains Zone
1982 The Santa Monica Mountains Zone of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy was extended by the State Legislature to include Elysian Park and El Pueblo as eastern extremity of the Zone, thereby reinforcing Elysian Park status as a regional park.