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Mt. Washington: A Hillside Community In Northeast Los Angeles
Nature's gift to an area called Mt. Washington was the abundant array of vegetation and wildlife, highlighted by the dazzling colors of the black-eyed Susans, forget-me-nots, purple iris, and sunflowers, the fleeting sightings of coyotes and deer, and the more frequent observance of bluebirds, doves, hawks, owls, quail, roadrunners, and woodpeckers.
It is an exceptional mixture of city and country, in relative close proximity to the downtown business district of Los Angeles, and a very treasured area of the northeast part of the city to those who call it home.
Originally a part of the huge, sprawling rancho San Rafael, the area was only sparcely settled owing to its initial lack of accessa bility. A school was built, however, in 1906, near the top of the hill, to accommodate students from a wide area of hillside territory. When the school first opened for instruction, the first through eighth grades were taught in the building of Mission style architecture. There were two teachers.
A spectacular view, which included ships at sea (with the use of binoculars) afloat in the ocean at San Pedro Bay and Santa Monica Bay, some 25 to 30 miles away, was afforded from the upper portion of the hill.
The Mt. Washington Inn, built in 1908 near the 1,000 foot elevation of the hill to take advantage of the panoramic vista, flourished during the early years, and catered to the more affluent members of society. One of the greatest tennis matches played at the time occurred on the 4th of July, 1910, on the cement courts of the hotel. May Sutton, former tennis champion of the United States and England, defeated, in a thrilling sea- saw battle, Hazel Hotchkiss, the current champion of the United States. More than 3,000 spectators filled the grandstands to over-flowing, and completely surrounded the playing field. The hotel was easily reached by a cable railway, franchised by the Los Angeles & Mt. Washington Railway Company, which operated two cars named Florence and Virginia. The Self Realization Fellowship purchased the Inn and grounds in 1925, for use as its international headquarters.
Situated on a steep rise, near the northeast part of the hill, is the Southwest Museum, conceived and developed by Charles Lummis as an institution to explore, research, house, and display the artifacts and treasures of the native inhabitants of an area covering both north and south American continents. The museum opened for public use in 1914, and contained four main exhibit halls, displaying such items as Indian art, blankets, clothing, cooking utensils, hunting equipment, dolls, and jewelry. An extensive library of papers and photographs, including those of Lummis and George Wharton James, were preserved and catalogued at the site.
Affiliated with the museum was the Casa de Adobe, an early Spanish home, located on Pasadena Avenue (Figueroa Street), across the street from Sycamore Grove. Built by the Hispanic Society of California in 1918, the pre-1850 rancho type house, composed of several rooms, surrounding a central patio, was donated to the museum in 1925.
Prehistoric whale bones have been excavated at a site located near the top of the hill.
An auto road, meandering from Marmion Way up to the top of the hill, was built about the time that the hotel was opened.
Further development of Mt. Washington remained at a slow growth rate from the 1920's into the late 1940's -- usually one house being built at a time, on one lot at a time -- allowing for the area to maintain its natural state.