A new year for looking forward — and back

Welcome to 2015! This mostly new year has special meaning for the Echo Park Historical Society. That’s because the EPHS has reached its 20th year as a community organization. I have to say, where did the time go?

For those of you who are new to these parts, the EPHS was formed in 1995 by residents who saw something special in many of the neighborhood’s historic features: the lake, the hills, the brick storefronts, the modest bungalows. EPHS volunteers researched old buildings and collected stories from some of Echo Park’s longtime inhabitants. At community events and in promotional brochures, the EPHS talked up Echo Park’s history and its noteworthy places –and the need to preserve them.

In those days, people in Echo Park had big worries about crime, especially the kind that involved gangs. They wanted more street trees, a challenge taken up by the Echo Park Improvement Association. And they wanted more restaurants and amenities. If you can believe it, there was a time when it was difficult to get a take-out cup of coffee in Echo Park.

Now there are plenty of places to find coffee, of course. Talk in the neighborhood has shifted from worries about stuccoing over wood siding — an EPHS pet peeve — to enormous development projects that can wipe out a handful of historic homes in a single swoop. But the EPHS is still kicking, working to highlight the people, places and natural spaces that have made our neighborhood such a great and interesting place.

So how will we celebrate our 20th year? One way will be to remind you of some of Echo Park’s historic places and stories. We’re not just talking about the big ones, like the Jensen’s Recreation Center, which became a historic-cultural monument in 1997 at the recommendation of the EPHS. We also mean that modest cottage on a side street, with an interesting story or just an extra lovely exterior.

And so, onward into 2015.

Jim Schneeweis
Echo Park Historical Society