Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chasing Arbor Vitae

The Militant had to drop off one of his unspecified siblings at LAX on Wednesday afternoon, and although the Militant was bike-less, he nevertheless couldn't pass up an opportunity to go on a Militant adventure.

The Militant firmly believes that the streets of Los Angeles and its environs tell stories, whether you read up on the history or not. All you got to do is pay attention.

So on Wednesday, he decided to follow a particular street that's stuck in his mind for years: Arbor Vitae St., which runs 2.4 miles from Airport Blvd in Los Angeles to Prairie Ave. in Inglewood, where the Hollywood Park racetrack property separates the street from a non-contiguous half-mile stretch to the east of it, where it turns into 92nd St. east of Van Ness Ave.

When the Militant was a kid, watching TV during the middle of the day, with a certain trade technical school advertising its services, and listing one of its locations at some "Arbor Vitae" place. Even as a kid, Lil'Mil was curious about an mysteriously-named street in Los Angeles that wasn't named after a local historical figure, a saint, a part of town or a number. Much less one named in Latin.

But you don't have to be the Pope to know that "Arbor Vitae" means "Tree of Life" (which sounds like something those Na'vi Avatar people would wanna hang out in).

The street runs in a straight line and cuts through industrial, commercial and residential areas, (in that order) from west to east. Unfortunately not much historical background onj the street could be found via online Militant research. There is such a species of tree as an "Arborvitae" which is a member of the cypress family. The Militant thought he had one of these trees on the grounds of his compound, but it was only an Italian cypress, which are pretty ubiquitous here in So Cal. On the other hand, most arborvitaes are found in colder climates such as Canada.

But alas, pay attention to the surroundings. Eventually the Militant stumbled on various Inglewood cross-streets with arbolesque nomenclature: Ash, Oak Cedar, Eucalyptus, Fir (and they weren't even in alphabetical order, like most cities are apt to do). And looking at a map, he also found other streets parallel to Arbor Vitae with such names: Magnolia, Elm, Lime, Olive.

So there you go, mystery solved. Arbor Vitae fits in with the theme. Inglewood isn't just the (once-upon-a-time) City of Champions, or The City Without A Mayor, but a City Of Streets Named After Trees.

2 comments:

Jerry said...

Did some urban exploring of my own in that area a while back. I had always been intrigued by the defunct pedestrian bridge that crosses the 405 just north of Arbor Vitae. Looks like it was closed off because the sidewalk on the La Cienega side was removed at some point-- presumably to add another traffic lane. Talk about a bridge to nowhere.

Militant Angeleno said...

Jerry: Hmm, the Militant isn't familiar with that pedestrian bridge, he'll have to take a look sometime.

Many pedestrian bridges are purposed-out due to crime or perception of crime. They were meant to mitigate the effect of the freeway physically dividing a community, but they don't quite solve the problem.