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Development History of Highland Park
Craftsman homes on York Blvd.
Highland Park is a community rich in historic lore
and architectural resources. Highland Park as we
know it today was settled by the Chumash Indians,
a migrant relative of the Shoshone tribe of Oregon,
Montana, and Wyoming. In 1781, the City of Los Angeles,
known then as the Pueblo de la Reina de la Margen
Del Rio de la Porciuncula, was founded and incorporated
by Spain. Around this time, in 1784, Jose Maria Verdugo,
a retired military soldier and rancher was granted 36,000
acres of land which he named "Rancho San Raphael". He built
a small pueblo, using the balance for cattle raising.
Almost 100 years later, part of this Rancho would become
the community of Highland Park. Alfred B. Chapman,
an attorney, and his partner Andrew Glassell purchased
32,500 acres of this land in 1869 (approximately
50.7 square miles) 3,500 acres of which remained
with the Verdugoes. Chapman and Glassell
immediately sub-divided and categorized the
land into 31 parcels, one of which was later to
become Highland Park. Jesse Hunter, Albert H.
Judson and George W. Morgan, a group of developers,
purchased and subdivided what became the Highland Park
parcel into several tracts in 1885. Some of these early
tracts were named "Highland Park", "Hunter-Highland View",
"Ramirez Homestead" and "Montezuma". They were generally
located adjacent to Figueroa Street, which was formally
named Pasadena Street, initially called Grasshopper Street.
This arterial (Figueroa Street) served as the primary
connector between the cities of Los Angeles and Pasadena.
The arrival of the railroad in the late 1870's connecting
Los Angeles with the east was to further change the pace of
life and growth in this emerging area. As the street network
improved connecting adjoining communities and the downtown
Los Angeles area, development accelerated.
The rapid development around this time resulted in
inflated property prices as evidenced by a 500 percent
increase in one year, when demand for commercial and
residential property exceeded the supply. The real
estate boom lasted into the 1890's with the arrival of
the Los Angeles Pacific Railway in 1893. The highlands
emerged as a vibrant independent community,
requiring even more homes, goods and services.
The people of Highland Park formed a volunteer neighborhood improvement
association to supply some of the greatly needed community services
such as refuse collection, landscaping and road repair. Two issues,
water supply and police protection were problems the volunteer
association could not adequately resolve. Both the water supply
and rowdy saloons of the area's central Sycamore Grove district
prompted the community's need for the strength of a larger
city that could help it to address these problems. In the
latter part of the 1890's they sought annexation to the City
of Los Angeles to receive both water and adequate police protection.
In 1885, Charles Lummis, poet, writer, and visionary
who later became the L.A. Times editor, came to Highland Park.
In 1893, Lummis bought three acres of land along the Arroyo Seco,
at what is now Avenue 43 to build his home. His home named
"El Alisal" meant "Place of the Sycamores". It took Lummis over
15 years to build his concrete and Arroyo stone eclectic craftsman
style residence with the help of Indian youth. The house is preserved
now as a cultural monument and headquarters of the Southern California
Historical Society. "El Alisal", not only served as the Lummis'
residence, but it was also a gathering place for writers, artists
and luminaries of the era. Lummis also recognized the value of
preserving the natural setting along the Arroyo and was instrumental
in the creation of the Arroyo Seco Park.
Other important figures in Highland Park community history were
William Lees Judson and Clyde Browne. William Lees Judson was a
landscape painter and founder of the Los Angeles College of Fine
Arts and Architecture located at 200 So. Avenue 66 (later to become
USC's School of Fine Arts in 1920). When the school moved south to
its current University of Southern California campus site,
the building became the meeting hall for the Arroyo Guild of
Fellow craftsman; and later the Judson Studio, the "Tiffany's
of the West", where fine art glass was fabricated.
The original building of the Judson Studio still stands today,
although missing the top floor which was destroyed by a fire in 1910.
The architects Train and Williams set forth a sort of
Craftsman interpretation of Moorish architecture.
Like Lummis' El Alisal, Judson was the head of a
group of artists, sculptors and architects that were
part of the emerging Arts and Crafts movement in
Southern California. The "Arroyo Guild of Fellow
Craftsman" as they called themselves, were an
offspring of the American and English Arts and
Crafts movement headed by Gusta Stickley and William
Morris, respectively. Borrowing Morris' tenets, the
Guild pledged a return to nature and artisan crafts,
believing that this was a means of rescuing man from
the emerging machine age. It was this democratic
ethic that found virtue in the simplicity and the
beauty of natural material honestly applied.
Clyde Browne, a printer who approached printing as a fine art form,
used classical typography and detail. Clyde Browne's home,
"The Abbey", as it was commonly known, was an Eclectic
Mission-Gothic Revival styled structure and a gesture to
the California Spanish heritage complete with bell tower,
cloister, patio, and refectory. It was built between 1912
and 1915. Like Lummis' "El Alisal", his home the
"Abbey San Encino", located at 6211 Arroyo Glen Street,
served as a residence, printing shop and gathering place
for the local literary circle.
The Arroyo Craftsmen, among them Lummis, Judson,
and Browne left a legacy that gives Highland Park
its own architectural and historical identity.
In the early 1900's the Craftsmen ethic became
popular with local residents and the California
bungalow translated this ideal into the predominant
style and influence of homes in the Highland Park area.
Local builders, such as John W. Scott prospered in building
bungalows for Highland Park residents. Bungalow court
(a series of small detached residences on a parcel
normally arranged in a "L" or "U" plan) which began
to appear in Highland Park at the turn of the century.
In the 1920's and the early 1930's a new architectural style
known as the Revival period was introduced. The Revival
period was basically the incorporation of foreign and romantic
architectural styles into the American fabric. These revival
styles included: English Tudor, Spanish Colonial, Mediterranean
and Streamline Moderne examples. Ideas for the revival period
styles came from fantastic architectural structures shown in the
movie houses, generating the first new breeze of architecture since
the Craftsman. As a result, the new architecture incorporated 13th
century and earlier period architecture into this late 19th and
early 20th century emerging community with its Queen Anne,
Turn of the Century, American Foursquare, and Craftsman buildings.
In 1929, the Depression hit and development began to slow down.
It came to a complete stop in 1932. In 1939, the Pasadena Parkway,
later known as the Pasadena Freeway was constructed.
This spurred continued during the war years although not
as rapidly as in the early 1900's. The 1950's saw new
development activity to the northern and southern suburbs,
primarily the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys.
In 1979 the Northeast Los Angeles Plan created a
land use dilemma for Highland Park, whereby single family
homes were being demolished and replaced by
multi-family structures. This has led to the
demolition of many of the early century styled
single-family homes and their replacement by rectangular
shaped box apartment buildings, which were out of scale,
density and character with the earlier Highland Park community.
Thus, these actions lead to a proposal for the establishment
of a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone for Highland Park in
the 1980's and 90's.