Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour XVII!

View larger map here!

The 17th CicLAvia is upon us this Sunday, and it takes us to Watts and the historically industrial cities of southeaster Los Angeles county. First off, for those who haven't been to the area before, this map might not make sense; only a quarter of the route falls within the city of Los Angeles, but it made a lot more sense once you see that it ties together several pedestrian-oriented retail corridors: Pacific Boulevard in Huntington Park, South Gate's Tweedy Mile and Lynwood's Plaza Mexico shopping center. And unlike the last CicLAvia in the San Fernando Valley, this one is accessible by both the Metro Blue (Firestone and 103rd St stations) and Green (Long Beach Blvd station lines.

The Militant visited the area last weekend for his Militant research and discovered this region is the land of historic movie theatres, formerly the home of several large industries (which, though have been gone for over 30 years, their effect on the area is long-lasting) and a local burger chain called Bobo's Hamburgers. But there are other great places to eat along the route, as you'll see below.

The Militant creates these guides to give the CicLAvian a deeper understanding of the history and the living community along these streets, so if you learned something (or have something to add), please share in the comments below or share via a tweet.

You know you've been waiting for it, so here's The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour XVII!

1. California Theatre
6528 Pacific Blvd, Huntingron Park

This CicLAvia route is full of historic theatre buildings, and the first stop on the Epic CicLAvia Tour is definitely one of them. Built in 1925 as the 1,500-seat Fox California Theatre, it was designed by architects George Lindley and Charles Selkirk, who also designed Glendale's Alex Theatre. The cinema screened Fox pictures from the 1920s on. In the 1980s, the cinema became a three-plex, and later became a two-screener, finally closing in 2006.

2. Eastern Columbia Building
c. 1930s
6604 Pacific Blvd, Huntington Park

Most of you are familiar with the emerald-colored Eastern-Columbia Outfitting Company's onetime flagship store building in Downtown Los Angeles along Broadway, but the California store chain also had a location right here in Huntington Park. And like its famous Downtown mother, this one had a pyramid-shaped roof and a clock. Today, the building houses a jewelry store and a clothing outlet.

3. Warner Theatre
6714 Pacific Blvd, Huntington Park

This next historic theatre was built in 1930 as part of the cinema chain owned by Warner Bros. Pictures to showcase their latest releases (which included the Warner Beverly Hills, San Pedro's Warner Grand Theatre and the Warner (now Wiltern) on Wilshire. Architect B. Marcus Priteca, who also designed the San Pedro and Beverly Hills Warner theatres, as well as Hollywood's Pantages Theatre, drew up this 1,468-seat movie palace, which eventually became part of the Pacific Theatres chain. In the 1980s, the cinema became a two-plex, specializing in peliculas en Español, eventually closing down in the 1990s. In the 21st century, there has been a move to restore the theatre to its former glory, especially after the city of Huntington Park designated it a historic building, but the current owner has adaptively reused the venue as a retail space.

4.  Underground Arcade
C. 1980s
6901 Pacific Blvd, Huntington Park

Deep within the recesses of Huntington Park lies a subterranean arcade, usually open from 11 a.m. yo midnight every night that offers unlimited play of its video, pinball and billiard games for just $3 ($2 after 6 p.m.). Yeah the place is all tagged up, maybe 20% of the video games don't work, and you wouldn't want to go near the restrooms, but there's no place like it anywhere in Southern California (props to Erick Huerta @ElRandomHero for the tip).

5. Los Angeles Railway Right of Way
Pacific Blvd, Huntington Park

The northern leg of Sunday's CicLAvia route was once traversed by the Yellow Cars of the Los Angeles Railway, our more urban-centric streetcar system of the early half of the 20th century. The Los Angeles Railway's "J" line ran from Jefferson Park in the west through Downtown Los Angeles and down into Huntington Park, The line terminated a few blocks from here, turning east on Florence Avenue before zig-zaging south again on Seville Avenue down to Santa Ana Street. The line ran from 1920 to 1963 and was one of the last Yellow Car lines in operation.

6. Bobo's Hamburgers
7300 Pacific Blvd, Walnut Park

In the mood for a burger round these here parts? You might want to forego an In-N-Out, a Fatburger or any burger joint using a variant of the name "Tom" for one of the Bobo's Hamburgers (no, not Bob's Burgers) locations, which are native to this area. The family-run chain opened in 1975 and in addition to this location on Pacific Blvd, you can find two other Bobo's Hamburgers on this CicLAvia route on 2709 E. Firestone in South Gate, 1220 E. Firestone in South Los Angeles, and one just a few blocks east of Long Beach Blvd, on 3390 Imperial Highway in Lynwood. This is Bobo's Country. You cannot escape the wrath of Bobo's Hamburgers.

NOTE: If heading west on Firestone Avenue, skip to #18.

7. Elizabeth Bakery
8903 Long Beach Blvd, South Gate

At this first junction of CicLAvia legs at Long Beach Blvd and Firestone Ave is this South Gate institution that has been baking up cakes, bread, pan dulce and pastries since 1977. In addition to baked goods, they also sell bionicos, juice, raspados, sandwiches, tamales, and also will bake whole turkeys to order during the holiday season.

8. Teatro Los Piños (Vogue Theatre)
8903 Long Beach Blvd, South Gate

This Art Moderne-style cinema, originally called the Vogue Theatre (strike a pose) was built in 1937 and designed by celebrated and prolific architect S. Charles Lee, who designed 250 theatres in the Los Angeles area, and also crafted the Los Angeles Theatre and Tower Theatre on Broadway in DTLA, The venue, now known as Teatro Los Pinos still functions as an active teatro today, hosting concerts, comedy shows and occasional movie screenings.

9. Site of General Motors South Gate Assembly
2720 Tweedy Blvd, South Gate

Much like the last CicLAvia in Panorama City, South Gate's economy largely revolved around a General Motors automobile factory, which employed as many as 4,000 workers and operated from 1936 to 1982, churning out Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs throughout much of its history. There were also two other auto factories in the area - a Studebaker plant in Vernon and a Willy-Overland facility in Maywood. After the 1960s, the GM factory made Chervrolets and Cadillacs before closing down for good in 1982 due to lower American car sales and air quality concerns. The site was later razed and is now the site of the LAUSD's South East High School complex.

NOTE: If heading east on Tweedy Blvd, please skip to #14.

10. Sushinaloa
10350 Long Beach Blvd, Lynwood

Imagine if there were a food truck out there on the streets that sold Mexican-style fusion sushi. Now imagine that there's no food truck but an actual brick-and-mortar eatery in Lynwood, right along the CicLAvia route, no less. Enter Sushinaloa, the best Mexican-Japanese fusion in the Los Angeles area since Fernando Valenzuela met Hideo Nomo. But apparently Sinaloan-style sushi is an actual thing, and The Almighty Jonathan Gold has given this place his imprimatur, so, hit up this place before everyone else does.

11. Plaza Mexico
3100 E Imperial Hwy

This massive suburban-style retail center is a re-creation of Mexican plazas (sort of like the Plaza del Valle (from the March CicLAvia) on steroids), with a layout inspired by the ancient city of Monte Alban, is part-outdoor mall, part-tourist attraction. And in a total So Cal twist, the owners of the mall are San Gabriel Valley-based Korean real estate developers. Donald and Min Chae owned the former Lynwood Marketplace and Lynwood Town Center and, dictated by demographics and dollars, decided in 2001 to invest $20 million into transforming their shopping centers into a Mexican-themed marketplace.

12. Pacific Electric Lynwood Depot
3780 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Lynwood

Originally built in 1917 on 11453 Long Beach Blvd to serve the Pacific Electric Railway's Santa Ana Line, the Mission Revival-style station was moved in the 1980s and later restored to make way for construction of the 105 Freeway. Now the offices of the Greater Lynwood Chamber of Commerce. Contains plaque dedicating building to former Lynwood mayor John D. Byork.

13.  Weird Al Yankovic's Childhood Home
3636 Burton Ave, Lynwood

A short bike ride south of the CicLAvia route will take you to the childhood home of Lynwood's greatest product, parody rocker "Weird Al" Yankovic. This video confirms that he grew up in this modest home next to Lynwood Middle School on Burton Avenue, where he lived here from 1959 to the early '70s, when he went off to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It was here where he started to learn the accordion, after a door to door salesman offered music lessons to a six year-old Alfred Yankovic. And the rest is music history. Note: This is a private residence, please do not bother the current occupants.

14. Tweedy Mile
Tweedy Blvd between State St and Hunt Ave, South Gate

The city of South Gate, as you might remember, was named after the South Gate Gardens of the old Cudahy Ranch. The old downtown of South Gate evolved into Tweedy Mile, the main drag of the town, featuring shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and civic and cultural institutions. The street was named after the Tweedy Family, headed by patriarch R.D. Tweedy, who came here from Illinois in 1852. The family soon owned about 2,000 acres in the area. Tweedy Mile is also home to the city's two biggest annual events, the Tweedy Mile Classic Car Show in March and the Tweedy Mile Festival in June.

15. Allen Theatre
3809 Tweedy Blvd, South Gate

Yet another historic cinema along the CicLAvia route, this single-screen 673-seat movie house opened as the Garden Theatre (a reference to the old Home Gardens tract it was located on) in 1924, and was remodeled in 1936 when it was renamed the South Gate Theatre. In the 1940s, it was purchased by the Allen Brothers, who ran several cinemas in the area. It was showing films until the 1980s, and later became a live music venue. It was closed in 2007, but recently undergone renovation, and some of the South Gate locals have told The Militant that the theatre will re-open this October as an arts venue. Even better, the Allen will give a sneak preview this Sunday and reportedly be open during CicLAvia with live music performances!

16. South Gate Veteran's Memorial Fountain
Tweedy Blvd and Walnut Ave, South Gate

Located on the south end of South Gate Park, this memorial fountain, originally dedicated to South Gate's World War II and Korean War vets, and later dedicated to veterans of all wars since, features an eternal flame (how cool), while a memorial marker lists the names of local vets. Also of note is the U.S. Army M60A3 Patton tank on display, located a few yards west of the fountain.

17. Legacy High School Complex
5225 Tweedy Blvd, South Gate

The eastern terminus of Sunday's CicLAvia route is along the campus of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Legacy High School Complex, which opened in 2012 after a quarter century of planning. Originally the site of a pesticide factory and other heavy industrial properties, the 36-acre plot of land was the center of controversy as the ground was heavily contaminated, mirroring the LAUSD's more (in)famous toxic campus project site, the Belmont Learning Complex just west of Downtown Los Angeles.  It took an entire decade and $22 million to excavate the land 30 feet deep and import uncontaminated soil into its place to build the school campus.

18. Firestone Tire & Rubber Factory
2525 Firestone Blvd, South Gate

One of South Gate's largest industries was this Firestone Tire and Rubber factor, built on a former 40-acre bean field y along Firestone Ave (hence the street name) between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue. Company owner Harvey Firestone (no, not Harvey Fierstein) made the first tire himself, which rolled out of the assembly line on June 15, 1928. The Firestone factory was also followed up in the region by other large tire factories, such as Goodyear and Uniroyal, and for a time Los Angeles was the largest tire-producing region in America. The plant closed down in 1980 when the plant's 2,000 workers were laid off. Coupled with the GM plant's closure in 1982, that ended an era of heavy industry in the city of South Gate. But unlike the GM plant, the Firestone tire factory's building still stands today (East Los Angeles College has been eyeing it as a satellite campus).

19. Alameda Corridor
Along South Alameda Street

Adjacent to Alameda Street is a set of below-grade freight railroad tracks -- both the street and the tracks form the Alameda Corridor, a ground transportation system opened in 2002 that allows trucks and trains to easily access the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach -- important gateways for importing and exporting for not just Southern California, but the entire United States. Toys from China and cellphones from Korea pass through the Alameda Corridor in the form of intermodal shipping containers en route to Chicago or other U.S. destinations. The corridor began construction in 1997 as a way to consolidate the Union Pacific and BNSF railroads onto a unified, high-capacity, mostly grade-separated track to and from the port area. North of here, the tracks run directly to railroad yards southeast of Downtown Los Angeles.

20. Col. Leon H. Washington Park
8908 S. Maie Avenue, South Los Angeles

There are many parks that line the Blue Line route, but this one is unique for two reasons. As you head southbound and depart the Firestone Station, look immediately to your right and you'll see a park and recreation center. It's a Los Angeles County-run park called Colonel Leon H. Washington Park, named after the founder of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper (originally called The Eastside Shopper), the city's premier publication in the black community. The other reason is that the rec center here is a popular spot for NBA stars such as Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Kevin Durant and others to play pick-up games and compete in the Nike-sponsored Drew League, a weekend summertime program where the biggest stars in basketball play with and against locals from the community.

21. Ted Watkins Memorial Park
Dedicated 1995
1335 E. 103rd Street, Watts

Originally built in the 1930s to memorialize Western actor Will Rogers, this 28-acre Los Angeles County park was re-named in 1995 after the late Ted Watkins, a local community activist and the founder of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, which he started in 1965, just months before the Watts Riots. The aftermath of the rebellion heightened the purpose of his nonprofit agency, which dealt with social services, community development and empowerment for the Watts area. The park also features a youth baseball field built by the Los Angeles Dodgers, a newly-built community swimming pool and gym with basketball courts.

22. Hawkins House of Burgers
11603 Slater St, Watts

Forget those lame-ass newbie overpriced East Coast transplant burgers. Forget even In-N-Out, Tommy's or Fatburger. You might even need to forget Bobo's. Because Hawkins House of Burgers might just be the king of them all. The Hawkins family has been operating malt shops, markets and this eatery since 1939 (though the current hamburger business opened in the mid-1980s). They make all their burgers to order, use fresh angus beef, real smoked bacon (none of that supermarket stuff) and fresh ingredients, all at real decent, unpretentious prices.  You might have to wait as long as 20 minutes, but it's all worth it. Hawkins House of Burgers is perhaps the biggest institution in Watts after Simon Rodia's steel towers, and some of the burger stacks are probably just as tall.

23. Pacific Electric Watts Depot
1686 E. 103rd Street, Watts

Adjacent to the Blue Line's 103rd St/Watts Towers station is a mustard-colored building that was once the Pacific Electric's Watts depot. A popular stop along the old PE Long Beach Line, the building survived not only the PE's abandonment, but was the only wooden structure that was not set on fire during the 1965 Watts Riots. After a renovation project in the 1980s, the Watts Station has functioned since 1989 as a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customer service center.

24. Watts Towers
1727 E. 107th St, Watts

You all know the story by now: Italian immigrant Sabato "Simon" Rodia collects scrap reinforced steel bars (using the adjacent Pacific Electric Santa Ana Line tracks as a fulcrum to bend them) and other found scrap material from rocks to broken glass to bottle caps, and builds 17 structures on his property over a period of 33 years. Then in 1955, he up and left for Northern California and never came back. Now that you know the story, see them up close for yourself. You don't deserve to call yourself an Angeleno if you've never visited the Watts Towers before.

25. Locol Watts
1950 E. 103td St, Watts

LocoL, the affordable healthy fast food venture from Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, opened here in January and had lines around the block. Things have settled down since them (The Militant ate here last Saturday and was the only one inside when he ordered), but no doubt the joint's proximity to CicLAvia would no doubt start those lines up again. Get your Burgs, Foldies and Yotchays and wash it down with some Apple Line agua fresca.

Enjoy CicLAvia, see you or not see you on the streets this Sunday and STAY MILITANT!


Bike tour in Seville said...

The bike is the best vehicle!!!

User1 said...

Thanks for the excellent write up! Looks like I'll be getting there early and staying late.

I might add that the Ciclavia route is also on the route that us two-wheeled travelers use between LA and LB. This is the route taken late at night when the train has stopped. And no, using the LA River trail is not a better option late at night.

Eric Brightwell said...

Great preview -- you should add the Watts Coffee House though, don't you think?

Unknown said...

tip of the cap from a born and bred Gater...

Dale Day said...

Took me back to places I visited decades ago as a kid. Thanks.

Waltarrrrr said...

Epic as always Militant!

On the route I re-stumbled on part of forgotten Los Angeles bike history that as far as I can tell, everyone from CicLAvia, to LADOT, to even THE MILITANT! missed. I'm talking about the FIRST and at this time, the ONLY cycletrack in the City of Los Angeles.

The cycletrack is easy to miss. Located next to this South East CicLAvia route on the corner of Century Boulevard and Central Avenue, kitty corner to Ted Watkins LA County Park. It is just a pathetic block long, and the markings of what were lanes have all been washed away by the 25+ years it may have been there. But there are curbs still in place and signs calling it a "Bike Route" instead of a "Bike Lane." The cycletrack is dedicated to African American world champion cyclist, Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor who set a world record in 1899 for riding one mile in 1:41.4. Which means he could ride this entire namesake cycletrack in ten seconds.