Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Five Fascinating Facts About The Baldwin Hills

Earthquakes on the Newport-Inglewood Fault can give us pretty tragic events, but they can also give us beautiful things, like mountains and hills -- such as the ones towards the western end of the Los Angeles basin named after Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin, the businessman and landowner who gave us Santa Anita Racetrack and owned the land where Arcadia and Monrovia now sits.

After doing some Militant research, the Militant Angeleno paid a visit to them hills on Tuesday and found a five fascinating facts:

1. Enjoy the view. The Baldwin Hills is the home of Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area which gives a place for Westsiders and Southsiders alike a place to picnic, BBQ, hike, fish, mountain bike or most of all - enjoy the view. The hills, which rise to heights between 300 and 500 feet in elevation, afford a beautiful view of Los Angeles, and from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, you can see views of the Pacific Ocean, Miracle Mile, Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles.
Admission to the park is free on weekdays but be prepared to pay a $6 entrance fee on weekends and holidays (but you're free to bike there (even better next year when the Metro Exposition Line opens nearby) or take Metro Local 439 on non-weekdays). The park entrance is accessible from La Cienega Blvd.

2. Enjoy The View, Too! There's not just one but two places to get a wonderful view. On the Culver City side, there's the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, also a state-owned parkland, which grants you a vista of LAX, an uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean, Century City, the Miracle Mile and parts of Hollywood.

The Militant drove up here on Tuesday after a tip from an operative some months ago. The park's entrance is on Jefferson Blvd and Hetzler Rd, which leads you up the hill. All was cool until he saw a sign reading, "PARKING $6.00." WTF?!?

There was no parking attendant, but rather a gravel lot (you pay $6 for parking and not on a paved lot?!?) with a box where you drop your money in. In other words, the honor system. Periodically, a Mighty Morphin Park Ranger would check to see if cars have paid or not (you leave a receipt stub on your windshield).

Of course, the gravel $6 parking lot was totally empty, and the Militant only stayed around long enough to enjoy the view for a couple minutes and take some pics. Of course, you can park for free at the bottom of the hill on Jefferson and walk up the hiking trail for free, which is what most park visitors do.

Though the Militant couldn't help but wonder whether the $6 thing is a deterrent to make this park, made for Westsiders (you know what the Militant's talkin' about), not so accessible to Southsiders (you know what the Militant's talkin' about).

3. A Dam Shame. Back at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area lies a bowl-like area with grass and trees called "Janice's Green Valley." And yes, it was named after the daughter of the park's namesake, who is now Los Angeles' 15th District Councilwoman (and currently candidate for California Lieutenant Governor). But there's more to that patch of land than the name. On that site once stood the Baldwin Hills Reservoir, which, on the morning of December 14, 1963, developed a crack in its dam, and hours later caused devastating flooding to the area below. 250 million gallons wiped away 277 homes and claimed five lives. The dam rupture was caused by land subsiding due to the nearby Inglewood Oil Fields.

Here's a KTLA clip of the disaster:

4. Drill, Baby, Drill? You've no doubt seen it while driving through La Brea, Stocker or La Cienega en route to LAX, or in movies like L.A. Confidential. It's big, it's bad, it's ugly, and even other-worldly. It's the Inglewood Oil Fields, which has been producing black gold since 1924 and is by far the largest remaining vestige of Southern California's once-immense oil production industry. Formerly operated by Stocker Resources, Inc (hence the street's name) and now merged into Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP), the field has produced some 350 million barrels of oil. These days, most of what is pumped is groundwater, and the majority of the pumps are inactive, albeit connected to sensors that will activate them once oil has reached pumpable levels. For the most part, production has gradually declined for parts of the oil field, and the nearby Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area has expanded out into no-longer pumpable areas. The oil fields are also linked to pumps adjacent to Beverly Hills High School and The Beverly Center, which PXP also operates.

In the future, when the oil fields eventually dry up, look for an expansion of Kenneth Hahn park and perhaps the most-sought-after undeveloped parcel of land in all of Los Angeles.

5. It Takes An Olympic Village. The Baldwin Hills were not only the site of the 1932 Olympics athletes' village, but the first formal Olympic Village ever. Some 1200 male athletes lived here for the duration of the Games of the Xth Olympiad. The 126 female athletes roomed in the Chapman Park Hotel (now demolished; the 34-story Equitable/Center Bank building stands in its place) in Mid-Wilshire).

Thing is, although it's been well-documented the 1932 Olympic Village was in the Baldwin Hills, just like the Lost City of Atlantis, no one can agree on its exact location. This web page devoted to the '32 village mentions two locations: Blair Hills in Culver City (nestled in between the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and Kenneth Hahn Park) or an area west of Vernon and Crenshaw. The page seems to settle on the latter, which bears streets named "Olympiad Drive" and "Athenian Way."

The Militant went to Olympiad Drive but found the area to be rather hilly. The painting of the village above, however, shows obvious flat terrain. And another web site seems to point to the village's location as Leimert Park, which is flat, but is still a noticeable distance from the actual Baldwin Hills.

Does anyone know where the 1932 Olympic Village was located? Surely this sounds like another Militant reconnaissance mission in the works!


J said...

I live in Baldwin Hills, and spent a while trying to find the location of the Olympic Village. I agree that there isn't really anywhere that looks like the image in the picture. I've search old editions of the LA Times and failed to find anything.

I think that there were houses at Leimert Park at the time, so it can't be there. Most of the houses in View Park were built from the late 1930s on (our house was one of the first, built in 1937), which fits. The actual buildings were all removed almost immediately and sold as summer houses / garden sheds. (There was a picture of one in the LA Times shortly after the Olympics).

According to Wikipedia, Ike and Tina Turner used to live in View Park, although I've never worked out where, or known anyone who knew. Ray Charles also lived there, on Southridge Avenue, and Michael Cooper (formerly of the Lakers) on Homeland Drive.

J said...

Also, there's a Kenneth Hahn area Flickr group that might interest you. http://www.flickr.com/groups/1248068@N25/

Militant Angeleno said...

j: Thanks for the insight! Why is the location so mysterious? Surely there would still be people alive who would remember where it was (Then again, they're like totally old, so they might not...).

The Militant also thought about Village Green, located on the north slope of the Baldwin Hills. It is flat, it is located between Rodeo Rd and Coliseum St. -- both of which lead straight to the Coliseum a few miles east, and it was built 10 years after the Olympics. And why else would it be called a "Village"?


J said...

Hmmm... I like the Village Green idea. Looking at Google Maps with terrain, it looks about right.

UCLA library has an archive of 1932 Olympics stuff, but it's not very accessible (it's stored offsite somewhere).

Militant Angeleno said...

J: According to this page: http://tclf.org/content/baldwin-hills

Village Green was constructed between 1935 and 1942 - still consistent with the Olympic Village's timespan. Although there's no reference anywhere to Village Green/Baldwin Hills Village being the site of the Olympic Village.

Anonymous said...

2 issues -- Hahn Park is accessible on foot from South of the Park if you are willing to brave walking up a narrow strip on the W. side of LaBrea. There is a fence with a gate off of Cloverdale that some homeowners have the key to. It seems incredibly unfair to me that some people have easy access walking into the Park, but most people don't.

Village Green was not the site of the Olympic Village. If you search the Olympic Village on the LAPL website's photo collection you will see 2 different images that document the Olympic Village at elevation, unlike Village Green.
Peace & Love!

Militant Angeleno said...


J said...

And what's LAPL?

Militant Angeleno said...

J: [L]os [A]ngeles [P]ublic [L]ibrary. They have a great historic photo archive here:

Put keywords in the "Search For" box and change the "In:" pulldown to "Photo Library." Voila -- Instant Militancy!

Anonymous said...

The following website lists a couple of possibilities for the location of the Olympic Village:
http://www.baldwinhillspark.info/olympicvillage.html -- View Park or Blair Hills. The search continues!

Today is a gorgeous view from Hahn Park!

J said...

Historicaerials.com has aerial shots of the area from 1948. It should be possible to see a landmark on the LAPL photo and relate it to the historic aerials shot.

Militant Angeleno said...

Anonymous: Um, you *obviously* didn't even bother to read this post. That link was already referred to. READER FAIL!

-n said...

It's obviously stylized and not to scale, but this tourist map from 1932 shows the Olympic Village just north of a road that is probably Olympiad or Angeles Vista. So I'd say that's a pretty good indication that it was in View Park.

Anonymous said...

I have spent some time on this and have come to realization the village was at the top of View park where it flattens out and the most of the modern style ranch homes are. Athletes would run from the coliseum, up Vernon to where Olympiad is now. Once in the hills they would go above what is now the apex, around Athenian Way and voila, the village street would circle along Mount Vernon to the north and through the flat housing tracts in the south.

Anonymous said...

The LA public library has some photos of the village and its was not flat. It was built against the natural topography of the terrain. In addition, I looked in the LA Times archives which indicates multiple articles about the village which put it at what would be today, olympiad drive intersecting with valley ridge drive, and vista del oro. The article even mentions that the entrance to the village was off of vernon place, which is now olympiad drive and looked down onto the leimert park area, and culver city.

Also, remember many of the current streets like stocker didnt cut through the hills. if you drive the street you can tell that if left alone the hill height between view park and baldwin hills on stocker was not that great.

hope that helps.

I live in viewpark and walk this area all the time. The

Coach Chris said...

I live in and have searched the area and compared it to pictures as well. I agree , the village probably sat on top of the hills where Olympiad, Fairway and Mt. Vernon flaten out. However, looking at the tourist map that is posted here (I do realize its just a rough, not to scale). The entrance appears to be off of Angeles Vista, Im thinking right about where Presidio and Enoro come together and then spanned out in a North Westerly direction. I cant beleiev they tore down every single building. Ive try to see if any of the houses, back houses, garages anything may have been an original building, just wishful thinking I guess. Also, my Father is notorious for mis-information but he syas he was told Monteith (Triangle) park was a training area for the athletes and that the street surronding was a small warm up track. The only I reason I may beleief this is because alot of the houses surrounding the park are of that old Spanish styly and closely resemble some of the pictures ive seen of the Olympic Village buildings??? Just some food for thought

Anonymous said...

here is some more info on the Village that I found- from the one aerial photo I image it can be pin pointed exactly.


Anonymous said...


Militant Angeleno said...

Anonymous: THANK YOU!!!

Anonymous said...

coach chris is accurate.

i located an archived article from the la times that indicates the entrance was at the top of olympiad drive and the floresta way. at the time, olympiad was a one-way street to enter the village and floresta way was the exit taking you back to mullen and angeles vista drive. montieth park however, wasnt used for training, it was simply a greenspace to force olympiad traffic off of angeles vista to the right and returning cars off of floresta to mullen back down olympiad to angeles vista.

after the games, when the la investment company continued to develop the area, it was turned into a green space. That particular section around montieth park up to valley ridge is known as the olympic village section of view park according to supporting real estate listing within the la times between 1934-1940.

the map rendering misses the mark on topography, however the design is accurate. the village area was vast, however, the actually facilities ended at the top of overhill, stocker, and la brea currently intersect. the other areas, where the oil fields are located and kenneth hahn park were open spaces where runners would venture out all the way the western bluffs of blair hills, looking down on the west la college site.

so there was no possibility the village was in plain, flat late as previously thought off (village green).

Anonymous said...

There were actually two seperate villages one where the officials and dignitaries lived (view park area) Olympiad etc., and the male athletes village probably in the Baldwin Village/Village Green area. you might note there is a street called Coliseium which either begins or ends there depending on your direction of travel

Anonymous said...

There were actually two seperate villages one where the officials and dignitaries lived (view park area) Olympiad etc., and the male athletes village probably in the Baldwin Village/Village Green area. you might note there is a street called Coliseium which either begins or ends there depending on your direction of travel

Anonymous said...

Yes View Park is right. The entrance was off of Olympiad Dr. That's what the palm trees along Angeles Vista were planted for! I live here in View Park.

Anonymous said...

It was above stocker. See photo bottom of page 238


masgaviota said...

One of the comments I have know about the village is that from the top of the compound one could see the ocean as well as downtown LA. That location has to be in the playground area of Windsor Hills Charter School. Coach Chris is right on with the location.

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