A Walk Through the Birthplace of Los Angeles

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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's hard to believe at times that a major metropolitan city like Los Angeles was once a small town of a few hundred. But every city has its beginnings and the "City of Angels," as its residents affectionately call it, is no different.  It all began in an area now known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park.  On September 4, 1791, eleven families from Mexico settled in the area to establish a pueblo or village which eventually became the city of Los Angeles.  Walking through this 44-acre park, which was designated a historic monument in 1953 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, one can almost imagine how life must have been like for the early settlers. 

One must-see stop is the Avila Adobe House, which gives you a glimpse into the early settlers’ way of life.  Built in 1748 by Francisco Avila, it is now considered the oldest existing home in Los Angeles.  Many of the walls are originals, nearly two centuries old.  Today, it is a museum with antique furnishings and preserved to look as it did in the 1840s. 

Yet another historic building is the Pelanconi House, the oldest brick house in L.A.  Built in the mid-1800s by an Italian vintner, Giuseppi Cavacciand, it served as a wine cellar in the past.  Since 1930, however, it has been a popular restaurant for visitors and locals alike.  Stop by at La Golondrina Café for a bite of fine Mexican fare and people watching while you dine al fresco.   

Another point of interest is the Biscailuz Building (1925-1926), which housed the Mexican General Consulate for 30 years and now the site for the Mexican Cultural Institute.    Be sure to check out the large mural by Leo Politi that depicts the Blessing of the Animals, a traditional event held annually at the historic park on Easter Sunday.   

 Across the street and a short walk away is the Simpson Jones Building, built in 1894 on land formerly owned by Mayor Cristobal Aguilar and Governor John Downey.  It was built for light industrial use and has been used to house Moline Engines, Diamond Shirt Company, Soochow Restaurant and a Bank of America branch.  Today, you can stop by Café de Camacho for a cup of coffee, tea or light snacks. 

Last but not least is La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles (The Church of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels), a Catholic church founded in 1814.  Designated as a California Historical Landmark, it is the oldest church in L.A. and still draws in crowds of worshippers to its hallowed grounds.   

Of course, a visit to this historic part of LA wouldn’t be complete without a walk through Olvera Street, a street best known for vendors selling everything from Mexican treats to pińatas.  A large wooden cross stands at one end of the street commemorating the founding of El Pueblo.  It reminds all of this great city’s humble beginnings and its cultural past which still has a lasting influence today. 
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