Historical Hijinks: Echo Park


Get ready for Chapter 2 tomorrow with this quick little history lesson!

“It’s a stone’s throw from Chinatown, a short bike ride from downtown L.A., Silver Lake and Los Feliz. It’s also surrounded by four, count em, four major freeways.”

LA Weekly, 2013

Perhaps the most recognizable feature of the Los Angeles neighborhood known as Echo Park is its palm tree lined lake, which actually began as a commercial venture for viable drinking water built in the late 19th century, simply christened “Reservoir no. 4.” In fact, it is said that the highly populated Los Angeles neighborhood gained its name from the workers and parks superintendent/landscape architect (Joseph Henry Tomlinson) who helped build the place, claiming their voices would echo off the canyon walls. However, the reservoir would prove to be a commercial failure until the last decade of the century.

In the 1890s, a simple carriage maker by the name of Thomas Kelley–along with a team of investors–bought up 70 acres of the land, which included the reservoir. He and his partners then sold off the land to the developers who would go on to build the housing surrounding Echo Park Lake and business district on Sunset Boulevard. In the spring of 1891, the Los Angeles Canal and Reservoir Company designated the site as a park for the city. The following winter, the city finally bestowed the iconic name of Echo Park upon it.

The aforementioned Tomlinson would spend eight years converting the place into an actual park by converting the reservoir into a recreational lake while populating the barren landscape with a plethora of beautiful botanical specimens such as sprawling lawns, willow trees, California fan palms, and thousands of blooming annuals. It was developed around the same time as the adjacent Elysian Park, which is home to the Los Angeles Police Academy.

In 1896, a writer for the Los Angeles Herald wrote the following: “Echo Park will be one of the most beautiful spots in Los Angeles.”

This statement could not have been more prescient and it is here, in Echo Park, that our story truly begins…







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