Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Militant's Epic CicLAvia Tour XLIV!!


Springtime is here! Dodger baseball is in full swing (pitch clock and all...), wildflowers are in bloom, our local transverse mountain ranges are significantly greener in color, and the second of eight CicLAvias in 2021 (the 44th iteration of Los Angeles' open streets event) is upon us this weekend, this time running four miles through the southern end of Central Los Angeles. It's not a new route - The "Mid-City Meets Pico-Union" alignment was last done on June 30, 2019, and the first "To The Sea" CicLAvia route on April 21, 2013 ran through the Venice Boulevard section of this route. Sandwiched between Hancock Park/Koreatown to the north and South Los Angeles al sur, the Mid-City neighborhoods feature a diverse mix of African American, Latín, Immigrant African, Korean and Caribbean residents.

It's an area that was an "urban suburb" of streetcar corridors (The Pacific Electric on Venice, the Los Angeles Railway on Washington), houses, shops and houses of worship in popular early 20th-century aesthetic styles, with well-defined artistic pockets, both historic and contemporary. As usual, see you or not see you on the streets this Sunday!

1. Powers Place - Shortest Street in Los Angeles
Powers Place and Alvarado Terrace, Pico-Union

You all know that the longest street in Los Angeles is Sepulveda Boulevard, right? But the shortest street in the city is right here! It's called Powers Place, a whopping 30 feet in length! Named after onetime Los Angeles City Council president (1900-1902) Pomeroy Powers, who spearheaded the effort to create a city park (originally named Terrace Park) at the neighborhood of Craftsman, Tudor and Victorian-style houses built in the early 1900s decade. All six historic houses along Alvarado Terrace were designated by the City as Historic-Cultural Monuments in 1971.

2. Iglesia Adventista Central/1st Church of Christ, Scientist
1366 S. Alvarado Street, Pico-Union

Currently the site of a 7th Day Adventist Church catering to a Spanish-speaking congregation, this 107-year old Mediterranean Romanesque Revival house of worship has changed owners - even denominations - and has had a long, and even dark, history behind it. Built in 1912 as the 1st Church of Christ, Scientist, it served its Christian Science congregation for six decades, before it became a Jewish synagogue for a few years. In the mid-1970s, it became the Los Angeles location of The People's Temple, the cult founded by Jim Jones, who infamously led over 900 his followers to live in a commune in Jonestown, Guyana, and consequently, to die in the largest mass-suicide in history (which spawned the euphemism, "Don't drink the Kool-Aid"). The current Adventist church has been there since the late 1970s, since, Jim Jones uh...couldn't really use it anymore. The church structure was inducted into the National Register of Historic Sites in 1984.

3. Hoover Street - Original City Boundary
Hoover Street, Pico-Union

The CicLAvia route begins/ends at this street, but note how all the streets east of Hoover run in a diagonal fashion, and all the streets west run perfectly east-west. Yes, Virginia, Los Angeles was not always big and sprawled. From 1850 to 1896, Hoover was the original western boundary of the City of Los Angeles, which meant that over 120 years ago, you'd be on the Westside. On April 2, 1896, the "Western Addition" was annexed into the City, extending the boundaries a few miles west to Arlington Avenue (more on this later...)

4. Loyola High School
1901 Venice Blvd, Byzantine-Latino Quarter

Founded in 1865 at St. Vincent Court off of 7th Street in Downtown (a spot on the "Heart of LA" CicLAvia Tour), this Jesuit-run Catholic boys' high school is the oldest continuously-running educational institution in Los Angeles. The school moved to its current location in 1917 after splitting from the affiliated Loyola Marymount University, and after Irish philanthropist Thomas P. Higgins (who owned the Higgins Building on 2nd and Main in Downtown) donated land in what was then the southwestern corner of the city. Home of the Cubs, the school celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2015. Famous alums include volleyball great Sinjin Smith, Vons grocery founder Wilfred Von der Ahe, broadcaster Stan Chambers and holy Homeboy Fr. Greg Boyle.

5. Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery
1831 W. Washington Blvd, West Adams

This 65-acre memorial park, originally established as Rosedale Cemetery, has been serving Los Angeles for nearly 140 years, and is the final resting place of a number of historic Angelenos, such as Port of Los Angeles founder Phineas Banning, the City of Burbank's namesake Dr. David Burbank, jazz legend Eric Dolphy, actress Hattie McDaniel and mayors George Alexander, Arthur C. Harper, Owen McAleer, John G. Nichols, Frank Rader and Frederick T. Woodman. One of the most notable graves is that of Catalina Island developer George Shatto, who is interred in a pyramid (pictured above)!

6. Westmoreland Heights Tract Gateway
Westmoreland Avenue and Venice Boulevard, Harvard Heights

In an era before cities erected standard street signs on corners, tract home developments established concrete or masonry gateway monuments bearing the name of the development as well as the street. This one bears the name of the Westmoreland Heights tract, established in 1899, featuring homes built in the Craftsman, Tudor/Craftsman and American Foursquare styles. Many of the residents were the owners of large local businesses. If you notice, the sign facing Venice Blvd bears the name "16th Street." West of Downtown, 16th Street is nowhere to be found on any maps (not even in La Guía de los Hermanos Tomas) - that's because 16th Street was re-named Venice Boulevard in 1932.

7. Ray Charles RPM International Studios
2107 W. Washington Blvd, Harvard Heights.

Just a few blocks south of the CicLAvia route, this 11,488 square foot, two -story building, designed by Joe Adams and Ray Charles himself, opened in 1964 as the legendary musician's personal recording studio and offices (he lived in nearby Leimert Park at the time). One of his biggest hits, "Georgia On My Mind" was recorded here, as well as his 2004 Grammy-winning swan song album, Genius Loves Company. It was designated as a Historic-Cultural Monument by the City of Los Angeles in 2004, just prior to Charles' death, and since 2010 functions as the Ray Charles Memorial Library, a museum dedicated to the singer's career, featuring free tours of the facility (by appointment) on Mondays thru Wednesdays.

8. Arlington Ave - Old City Boundary
Arlington Ave, Arlington Heights

Continuing the Los Angeles City Boundary history, Arlington Avenue was once the westernmost border of the City from 1896 to 1909, when the Colegrove Addition (which stretched north towards Hollywood) was annexed into the City. Note how the street dramatically widens west of Arlington - that, of course, was to accommodate both automobiles and the Pacific Electric Red Car tracks, which run the rest of the way along Venice Blvd.

9. Washington Square Market/Swap Meet
4060 Washington Blvd, Mid-City

This shopping center, built in the mid-1960s used to feature a Ralphs supermarket (hence the vestigal red oval sign) and local shops. Since the 1980s the shopping center has hosted an indoor swap meet, akin to the large Slauson Swap Meet in South Los Angeles, an indoor bazaar featuring clothing, shoes, sporting goods, repair/service stalls, salons and eateries owned by upstart immigrant entrepreneurs.

10. St. Paul's Catholic Church
4120 Washington Blvd, Mid-City

Originally established on the site of a convent in 1917 among bean fields and oil derricks, the current Romanesque church building (inspired by the Basilica Papale San Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome) was built 20 years later and designed by famed Los Angeles architects John C. Austin and Frederick Ashley, who also designed the Griffith Observatory (which opened two years earlier). Today, St. Paul's serves a Spanish, English and Korean-speaking congregation.

11. Wellington Square
Victoria Avenue, Wellington Road, Virginia Road and Buckingham Road (south of Washington Boulevard), Mid-City

Developed by M.J. Nolan on land formerly owned by George L. Crenshaw (Yup - that Crenshaw), this four-block neighborhood features over 200 Spanish Colonial, Tudor, French Norman, Craftsman and Revival-style residences. Today, the neighborhood is starting to get Capital "G," but you can check out their weekly Farmers' Market on the parking lot at Wellington Road and Washington Boulevard, also happening during CicLAvia Sunday (and every Sunday) between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

12. First Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles
1809 West Boulevard, Mid-City

This Presbyterian church community, which moved several times around Los Angeles in its 136-year history, settled at this location in 1924. The congregation became predominantly African American in makeup in the 1960s, which it remains today, although the church shares the building with a separate Korean church. This Gothic Revival church structure was also designed by John C. Austin and Frederick Ashley (architects of St. Paul's down the street, remember?), along with Frederic Roehrig, who designed Pasadena's iconic Hotel Green. Check out the old-school incinerator chimney facing Washington Blvd!

13. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center/Ebony Showcase Theater
4718 Washington Blvd, Mid-City

Named after the longtime African American Los Angeles city councilman (1987-2002), this City-owned facility, which opened in 2004, hosts community-based performing arts and arts education programs. It was built on the site of the Ebony Showcase Theater, the first African American-owned theater building in Los Angeles, which was founded in 1950 by actor Nick Stewart (who voiced Brer Bear in Disney's "Song of the South") and his wife Edna. That theater featured community-based performing arts programs which ran until the 1998, when the City's Community Redevelopment Agency took over the Northridge earthquake-damaged building by eminent domain.

14. Trabue Pittman Building/Willing Workers Building
4801 Washington Blvd, Mid-City

This Art Deco structure, built in 1931 at the northwest corner of Washington and Rimpau (where the Los Angeles Railway's W Line ended) was designed by celebrated architect S. Charles Lee. Owned by the Tabue Pittman Corporation, it was leased to various businesses over the years, including an F.W. Woolworth's store and a Bank of America branch. Today it is the home of Willing Workers, Inc, a non-profit that trains developmentally-disabled adults for workforce employment.

15. St. Elmo Village
4830 St. Elmo Drive, Mid-City

This unique artists community was founded by the late African American artist Rozzell Sykes and his nephew Roderick, who purchased several homes in the neighborhood to save them from demolition and create a multicultural artists' community as an urban experiment. The community organizes the annual St. Elmo Festival every May to celebrate the arts. Over 50 years later, now run by Roderick Sykes, the community is still going strong.

16. U.S. Post Office, West Adams Ray Charles Station
4960 W. Washington Blvd, Mid-City

This post office building, which opened in 1983 and serves the 90016 ZIP code, was dedicated as the Ray Charles Station U.S. Post Office in August 2005, in memory of the one of neighborhood's most prominent figures, whose RPM International Studios is located just a mile and a half east (See #7 on this guide). The post office joins other facilities named after legendary musical artists, such as Nat King Cole on Western and 3rd and Marvin Gaye, on Vermont and 35th.

Happy CicLAvia!


1. Dino's Chicken and Burgers
2575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

Get the Chicken and Fries. French fries, drenched in spicy grilled chicken grease. Served with cole slaw and tortillas. All for $7.95.

2. Papa Cristo's
2771 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

They're one of the reasons (along with St. Sophia's Orthodox Church and the annual Greek Festival) for the "Byzantine" part in the Byzantine-Latino Quarter. One of Los Angeles' iconic long-time eateries for a Hellas-good meal.

3. Pupusa Stand

S. Bronson Avenue, south of Washington Boulevard, Mid-City.

Nice neighborhood sidewalk pupusa stand. Not guaranteed to be here during CicLAvia, but they're usually there on Sundays to serve churchgoers from across the street. Stop by to check it out!

4. Gish Bac
4163 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018

A nice Oaxacan option in Mid-City to get your mole on.

5. Simply D'Licious
4641 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

If Soul Food is what you're craving on CicLAvia Sunday, this is just the place, but don't be surprised if it's crowded or there's a line forming at the door, as it's already a popular local spot on normal Sundays.

6. Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
1865 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019

The classic, well-loved, presidentially-endorsed Pico location may now be gone, but this modern replacement for it is right here if you're craving some 'Scoes.

7. Leo's Tacos Truck
1515 South La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019

The O.G. location of what is regarded as the best Al Pastor in town, long lines form at the parking lot of this Sinclair gas station every evening, but you just might have a chance to get your trompo with the piña on the top with a shorter wait during CicLAvia.

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