El Sereno, Los Angeles

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El Sereno
Neighborhood of Los Angeles
El Sereno is located in Los Angeles
El Sereno
El Sereno
Location within Central Los Angeles
Coordinates: 34°04′52″N 118°10′37″W / 34.08111°N 118.17694°W / 34.08111; -118.17694
Country United States
State California
County Los Angeles
City Los Angeles
Government
 • City Council José Huizar
 • State Assembly Jimmy Gomez (D)
 • State Senate Ed Hernandez (D)
 • U.S. House Xavier Becerra (D
Area[1]
 • Total 4.1 sq mi (11 km2)
Population (2000)[1]
 • Total 43,766
 • Density 9,826/sq mi (3,794/km2)
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 90032, 90063
Area code(s) 323,
Website El Sereno Historical Society [2]

El Sereno (/ˌɛlsɨˈrn/; Spanish [el seˈɾeno] "the tranquil/serene one") is the oldest community in Los Angeles, California. El Sereno's history dates back 10 years before the City of Los Angeles is established.[3] El Sereno is also Los Angeles' easternmost neighborhood.[4]

Geography and Transportation[edit]

El Sereno, located in Northeast Los Angeles,[5] is in the San Rafael Hills, that separate the Los Angeles Basin from the San Gabriel Valley, and is the easternmost district in the city of Los Angeles.

It is bordered by Monterey Hills, Hermon and South Pasadena on the north, Alhambra on the east, City Terrace on the south, Boyle Heights on the southwest, Lincoln Heights on the west, and Montecito Heights on the northwest. Principal thoroughfares include Huntington Drive; Valley Boulevard; Eastern and Alhambra Avenues; and Soto Street. The district lies within ZIP code 90032.

History[edit]

El Sereno (/ˌɛlsɨˈrn/; Spanish [el seˈɾeno] "the tranquil/serene one") is the oldest community in Los Angeles, California. El Sereno's history dates back 10 years before the City of Los Angeles is established.[3] El Sereno is also Los Angeles' easternmost neighborhood.[4]

Geography and Transportation[edit]

El Sereno, located in Northeast Los Angeles,[5] is in the San Rafael Hills, that separate the Los Angeles Basin from the San Gabriel Valley, and is the easternmost district in the city of Los Angeles.

It is bordered by Monterey Hills, Hermon and South Pasadena on the north, Alhambra on the east, City Terrace on the south, Boyle Heights on the southwest, Lincoln Heights on the west, and Montecito Heights on the northwest. Principal thoroughfares include Huntington Drive; Valley Boulevard; Eastern and Alhambra Avenues; and Soto Street. The district lies within ZIP code 90032.

History[edit]

Native American era[edit]

The El Sereno area was in the homelands of the Tongva people. Their village of Otsungna was located on the banks of a stream here. Later named Arroyo Rosa de Castilla, the stream runs east of present day Guardia and Farnsworth Avenues. A trail connected Otsungna to the village of Yangna on the Los Angeles River, then on to the village of Sibagna, near the future second and final site of the Mission San Gabriel. The trail route was later to became Mission Road.

Spanish Period (1769—1821)[edit]

The El Sereno area was first visited by Europeans in 1769, when the Spanish overland Portola Expedition passed through just south of present day El Sereno and camped near present day Elysian Park. Two years after the Portola Expedition, the fourth of the twenty-one Franciscan missions of Alta California was founded in 1771, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. The El Sereno area of its lands was used for cattle grazing and for vineyards, and an adobe was constructed in here in 1776 by Mission neophytes.[6]

A decade after the mission, in 1781, the pueblo known as Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles and now the City of Los Angeles was founded near the village of Yangna, and incorporated some of the mission lands. The areas currently known as Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, Echo Park, and a portion of Silver Lake all fall within this four square league parcel (36 square miles) of the original City of Los Angeles.[6]

In 1784, three years after the pueblo was founded, Spanish Governor Pedro Fages granted all the lands between the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco to Jose Maria Verdugo. The Rancho San Rafael as it was known, covered approximately 36,000 acres. The El Sereno area was not included in either the pueblo or Rancho San Rafael. El Sereno was later part of the Mexican Rancho Rosa Castilla land grant.[6]

Around 1810, a New Spain government's adobe toll house was built next to the road from the Mission to the Pueblo (present day Valley Boulevard/Alhambra Avenue), near present day Warwick Avenue and Martin Street, just north of Alhambra Avenue.

Mexican Rancho Period (1831 to 1847)[edit]

After Mexican independence from Spain (1821), the Rancho Rosa de Castilla (Rose of Castile Ranch) was granted to Juan Ballesteros in 1831. He was the Regidor of the Pueblo of Los Angeles from 1823 to 1824. The rancho was named after the stream running through the area. This stream was called the Arroyo Rosa de Castilla because of the roses growing on its banks. It included what is now El Sereno and parts of Lincoln Heights, South Pasadena, Alhambra, City Terrace, and Monterey Park. After the secularization of the missions in 1833, the ranch passed to Francisco (Chico)Lopez. He had a home in Paredon Blanco (now Boyle Heights), but kept his cattle on the ranch. In 1840, he expanded the adobe on the ranch, which had been built by workers from the Mission in 1776. This adobe was located in what is now the City of Alhambra, near Westmont Drive and Jurich Place. In the later 1840s, he obtained title to a ranch near Lake Elizabeth in northern Los Angeles County and moved his cattle from Rancho Rosa de Castilla to this ranch.

American Ranch Period (1848 to 1901)[edit]

The Rancho Rosa de Castilla was acquired around 1850 by Anaclet Lestrade, priest of Our Lady of the Angels Church on the Plaza. In 1852, Jean-Baptiste(Juan Bautista) Batz and his wife Catalina Hegui Batz, who had arrived in California from Argentina in 1850, acquired the adobe ranch house from Lestrade, as depicted in Figure 8. Jean-Baptiste engaged in farming and sheep ranching until his death on December 6, 1859. Under the Homestead Act, Catalina Batz received official title to the 160 acres upon which the adobe stood in 1876. She proceeded to purchase land from the surrounding owners. The ranch eventually encompassed a total of 3,283 acres of land. It included the later communities of Ramona Acres (City of Alhambra), Sierra Vista(El Sereno), Sierra Park (El Sereno), West Alhambra (Alhambra and El Sereno),and Bairdstown (EI Sereno) west to EI Sereno Avenue (now Eastern Avenue). She survived him until February 22, 1882. The land portion of the estate was then divided between six of her eight children. The southern most 700 acres passed to the third oldest son, Jose Domingo Batz.

In 1894, Martin Lifur, brother of Josefa Lifur Batz (wife of Jose Domingo Batz), purchased 310 acres of the Batz ranch in the area of Sierra Park from Domingo Batz,eldest son of Juan and Catalina Batz. This included another old adobe near the present Navarro Street and Lifur Avenue (just south of Huntington Drive), which had been built by Antonio Jauregui, another Basque sheep rancher, prior to being purchased by Catalina Batz about 1880.

About 1870, Captain Jacob Colvin Newton purchased a 160-acre L-shaped ranch stretching from the present Eastern and EI Sereno avenues on the west to Guardia Avenue on the east. In the late 1880s, he purchased the northern portion of the Batz Ranch from Francisca Batz Echeveste, a daughter of Catalina Batz. On the ranch was a modest cottage on the north side of what is now Huntington Drive at Van Horne Avenue. Captain Newton grew hay and raised horses that would race at his racetrack, just south of Roses Road (now Huntington Drive)and east of Farmdale Road (now Eastern Avenue). Captain Newton and his family lived near Mission San Gabriel from 1870 to 1882, when they returned to their native Erie County, New York. After Newton serve done term as County Supervisor, he returned to Los Angeles with his family about 1884. Later they moved their primary residence from the West Adams area of Los Angeles to South Pasadena.

A ranch west of what is now Eastern Avenue was owned by the Smith family. Their home and well existed about 1885, just south of what is now Huntington Drive at Paola Avenue. The Smith Estate was partitioned in 1885.George Hugh Smith, who retained a parcel of the family estate after partition,was a prominent attorney in Los Angeles, a State Senator, and a Judge of the Second Appellate District. The Cornwall family built a house about 1885 on part of the former Smith property, near present-day Eastern Avenue and Harmony Lane. Most of this ranch was later bought by Evan Evans. He was a trustee of the Farmdale School, the first school in the area. The northeastern corner of this ranch became the Los Angeles Military Academy in 1910.

Around 1870, the residence of Jesse Yarnell sat on a hill in what is now Rose Hill, at the western boundary of present EI Sereno. Mr. Yarnell was one of the earliest news paper editors and publishers in California. Hewas co-founder in 1873 of the Los Angeles Mirror Company, which later merged with the Los Angeles Times. A ranch house on the south side of Valley Boulevard, near the junction of present day Eastern Avenue, was owned by the Hirigoyen family, who had a saloon and boarding house on Ducommun Street in Los Angeles. They raised chickens, ducks, and pigs.

A large acreage in the vicinity of present Monterey Road and Collis Avenue was owned by Hancock M. Johnston, one of the owners of the Los Angeles Herald and co founder of East Los Angeles (now Lincoln Heights). This land later passed to Marcos A. Forster of San Juan Capistrano, a nephew of Pio Pico, who subsequently subdivided the parcel.

Sheep and cattle ranching was gradually replaced by agriculture and stock raising. The farmers grew hay and barley, raised pigs and chickens, and ran dairies. After 1858, the Butterfield stages ran east of Los Angeles along Valley Boulevard. A stop was at The Five Mile House Saloon and watering trough located just south of Valley Boulevard, adjacent to the present Long Beach Freeway. The saloon was owned by Glenn and Heller, and later by Simon Maier, President of Pacific Coast Beef and Provision Company.

By 1869,what is now Mission Road/Collis Avenue proceeded from the western end of the present El Sereno through a pass in the hills to the Rancho San Pasqual. Roses Road was established by 1873, beginning at the present intersection of Huntington Drive and Collis Avenue and proceeding east. Later known as Los Angeles-Pasadena Road and East Los Angeles Road, it passed approximately where Huntington Drive is today.

The Southern Pacific Railroad was built through the El Sereno area in 1876. Catalina Batz purchased the majority of the excess lands adjacent to the tracks after the railroad was completed. Because of Southern Pacific's high rates, development of this area did not follow.

Competition soon followed with the advent of the Santa Fe Railroad, which built trackage to Los Angeles in 1887. A fare war between the two railroads lowered rates, bringing many immigrants from the East and Midwest to Los Angeles. During the subsequent real estate boom, the Yorba and Paige Tract, at the western edge of El Sereno, was recorded in October 1887. A few years after the bust of 1888, the adjacent Omaha Heights Tract was recorded in 1892.

The area of present-day El Sereno, south to Twining Street, was included as part of the City of South Pasadena during incorporation on February 29, 1888. A vote taken on September 28, 1889, however, excluded from the city limits all land south of West Alhambra Road (effective October 2, 1889). A majority of the voters within the revised city limits wanted to prohibit alcoholic drinking establishments within the borders of the city. All the voters in the excluded territory were in favor of exclusion, as they did not want to be in a "dry" town.

This same year saw the establishment of a new Farmdale School District and the building of the Farmdale School. This area, as well as South Pasadena, had been part of the Pasadena School District. The Prohibitionist sentiments of Pasadena and South Pasadena may have been the impetus for the creation of the new school district.

Water sources for the area were the Arroyo Rosa de Castilla and another arroyo that ran north to south just west of present-day Eastern Avenue. The small Ascot Reservoir, being used by 1894 to store water, did not have the capacity to meet the needs of the many subdivisions that were soon to bring new residents to the area.

The reasons the present El Sereno area did not develop between the 1870s and 1900 were not limited to a lack of local transportation and adequate water sources. Magnets for residential, commercial, and industrial growth developed by powerful men of the era encircled the area. To the west was the community of East Los Angeles (later Lincoln Heights), subdivided in 1873 by Dr. John S. Griffin and his nephew Hancock M. Johnston. To the southwest was Boyle Heights,subdivided in 1876 by W. H. Workman. To the east was the town of Alhambra, subdivided in 1874 by Benjamin D. Wilson,and Ramona/Shorb founded by James de Barth Shorb. To the north were the community of Pasadena subdivided in 1874 and the first subdivisions, platted 1885, in the future South Pasadena.

The sheep herding and farming business of Catalina Batz and her surviving children was successful and afforded them an affluent lifestyle. Other landowners were involved in agriculture or stock raising and thus depended on the land for their livelihood. There were also landowners who lived in the city and kept horses at their country ranches in this area. Unlike the real estate promoters of the surrounding territory, none of these affluent and comfortable owners had an incentive to develop their land.

Pacific Electric Railway and Real Estate Subdivision (1902 to 1911)[edit]

The pastoral setting of this area changed with the development of rail transportation lines through this area. On May 1, 1895, the first inter-urban rail route in Southern California opened from Los Angeles to Pasadena along the Arroyo Seco, spurring subdivisions along that route. In 1902, the Pasadena Short Line was opened along Los Angeles-Pasadena Boulevard, now Huntington Drive. Los Angeles was recovering from the slump that had followed the boom of the late 1890s. The new economic climate and the rail line were the impetus for the subdivision of tracts.

By 1915, 11 tracts had been subdivided in the Bairdstown area centered at Farmdale Avenue (now Eastern Avenue)and Huntington Drive. The eastern most central tract was the Navarro Tract owned by the Janss Company. Recorded in March 1909, it was later known as Sierra Park. At the southern end of Bairdstown, between EI Monte Road (now Valley Boulevard) and the Covina Line of the Pacific Electric, was Grider and Hamilton's Floral Park, a subdivision of large lots recorded April 1906. This subdivision remained vacant, however,until the 1940s.

The only subdivision lots designed to draw affluent buyers were those on a hilltop in the Baird Park Tract and in Baird's Pasadena Short Line Tract. With the exception of a few scattered houses,these subdivisions did not generate the building of upscale homes.

At the farthest eastern end of what is now El Sereno was the Short Line Villa Tract, subdivided in August 1906. It was adjacent to two previously subdivided tracts in the City of South Pasadena: (1) Oneonta Park Addition No.1,owned by Huntington Land and Improvement Co., recorded February 1904 and (2)Valley View Heights, owned by Valley View Heights Co., recorded March 1906. The expense that Henry Huntington incurred to build the Oneonta Park Pacific Electric Railway Station indicates that these adjacent subdivisions were designed to attract an upper-middle-class resident.

The influx of new residents created a need for community facilities, such as churches, schools,and a social center. A small Presbyterian church was erected in 1908 on a lot donated by the Baird Park Trust Company. Episcopal services were held at the Bairdstown Hall after 1911. The second school in the area, Rose Hill School (now Huntington Drive School), was built in 1909 at the western end of what is now El Sereno. The third schoolhouse to be built in this area was the Lincoln School. Architect Frederick Noonan designed the eight-room Mission-style building. Built in 1911, it was located in Newton Park and later known as the Bairdstown School and the EI Sereno School. In 1910, the Los Angeles Military Academy was established by Ida B. McKinnon at the southwestern corner of Farmdale Avenue(Eastern) and Huntington Drive. The architect for the dormitory was A B. Benton. A social center, which met at the Lincoln School Auditorium, was established in 1911.

This social center was named the Bairdstown Social Center, Farmdale Social Center, and Lincoln Social Center, respectively, within the first 5 years of its existence, indicating that the community was in search of an identity. The Bairdstown Improvement Association, formed that year, also met at the Lincoln School Auditorium. A community library was established in 1915, but a permanent library building would not be erected until 1959.

Llewellyn Baird, a brother of early subdividers, was a booster for this area. He was able to attract commercial and industrial concerns to the community. The Blomquist and Lindquist Nursery opened to supply the local residents with trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers. The California Metal Enameling Company and the Dillingham Printing Company built large brick factories in Bairdstown,providing modest local employment opportunities. The main commercial block with a grocery, meat market, and general store/post office was established within a few years of the first central subdivision in 1903. From 1900 to 1915, the area that later became EI Sereno did not have a unified identity. There was no coordinated plan for the community as a whole. Subdivisions were platted haphazardly by each property owner,resulting in four distinct neighborhoods, each with its own school as a focal point. Known as Rose Hill, Bairdstown, Farmdale, and Sierra Vista, they were grouped together under the name "Bairdstown" for lack of a better name. Since there were only a few commercial amenities, residents would travel to Los Angeles, Lincoln Heights, Alhambra, or South Pasadena for many of their basic needs. A true sense of community did not develop in the area until after the annexation to Los Angeles in 1915.

Los Angeles Annexation and Community Establishment Period (1912 to 1929)[edit]

The Short Line Villa Tract was annexed to the City of Los Angeles as part of the Arroyo Seco Annexation on February 9, 1912. This annexation also included the Yorba and Paige Tract, Grider and Hamilton's Rose Hill Tract adjacent to Monterey Road,and Pasadena Villa Tract, a local subdivision that extended south from the Arroyo Seco. Designed in the Craftsman style, the Sierra Vista School was built in the Short Line Villa Tract in 1913, shortly after annexation. The funds for construction came from the Los Angeles City school system.

Soon after Bairdstown was annexed to the City of Los Angeles on June 10, 1915, the Bairdstown Improvement Association changed its name to the Northeast Los Angeles Improvement Association (1916). One year later,the name of Bairdstown was changed to "El Sereno" meaning serene, quiet, unruffled place. With annexation to Los Angeles, El Sereno's population began to grow, resulting in the establishment of many community facilities. During the 1920s,churches, theaters, and banks were built. Schools were expanded. Many new middle-class subdivisions were built in Period Revival styles.

A small Catholic Chapel was established in El Sereno in 1921. By 1926, the parish had grown large enough to establish a small frame church at 3728 Rosemead Avenue. A new Presbyterian church was built in 1923 at Portola Avenue and Navarro Street. One of the two lots upon which the church was built was donated by the Janss Company; the other was purchased. The architect for this Mission Revival-style church was Henry Pierce. In 1928, the El Sereno Evangelical Lutheran Church, designed by architect Walter Hagedohm, was dedicated. Services, previously held at the Cameo Theatre, now moved to the new building at the comer of Eastern Avenue and Twining Street.

Two new theaters provided local entertainment. A one-story theatre and brick store building, erected on Huntington Drive in 1922, was designed by architect A. Godfrey Bailey. The Cameo Theatre, along with stores and offices, was built in 1924, with J. T. Payne as the architect. Young families with growing children required more classroom space. The El Sereno School was enlarged in 1924 by the architectural firm of Monaco & Bordeaux. An addition to the Farmdale School also was built that same year. A small statement of civic cohesion and local pride was the fire station and municipal building. Built in 1927, it was located on the northwestern comer of Rosemead Avenue and Huntington Drive.

A branch of the Bank of Alhambra, designed by architect Lester Squire, was built at 4900 Huntington Drive in 1924 to serve the needs of depositors in the area of primary residential development. This development was centered along Huntington Drive, between Collis and Farnsworth avenues, from the hills on the north to Gambier/Allan Street on the south. Other areas of concentrated development were the Rose Hill/Omaha Heights and Pasadena Villa areas adjacent to Lincoln Heights and the Sierra Vista area. A one-block-deep development strip on the north side of Huntington Drive tied Sierra Vista to central EI Sereno.

Clubs and organizations also developed in EI Sereno. By the mid-1920s,the Masons, Eastern Star, Knights of Columbus, El Sereno Athletic Club, Odd Fellows,and Garfield Study Club (founded 1924) were providing opportunities for social interaction and philanthropy. The Van Horne Improvement Association was holding meetings at the El Sereno School,while the EI Sereno-Farmdale Improvement Association held its meetings at the Farmdale School.

Depression Years (1930 to 1938)[edit]

The economic downturn was felt in El Sereno, where no subdivisions were recorded from 1930 to 1939. A new All Saints Catholic Church, completed in 1931, was a major undertaking for EI Sereno's Catholic residents. This large Mission-style church required large donations from its parishioners, as Catholics were a very small minority in the community. The majority of El Sereno's residents were Protestants from Northern European backgrounds.

This decade also saw the building of the first high school in EI Sereno. El Sereno High School was built in 1936 on Eastern Avenue, on the site of the old Farmdale School. The old schoolhouse, minus its tower, was moved to the back of the lot, to be used as classroom space for woodworking. In 1937, the name of the high school was changed to Wilson High School.

Physically separated from the rest of town, the Sierra Vista neighborhood considered itself a separate community until the late 1930s. Evidence of this sense of community was the Sierra Vista Community Church on Maycrest Avenue, the only local church not located in central EI Sereno. The neighborhood, anchored by the Sierra Vista School, expanded westward from the Short Line Villa Tract. The separate community identity also was engendered by the Sierra Vista Pacific Electric Railway Station, which served the community.

Wartime Boom and Growth (1939 to 1945)[edit]

El Sereno's population rose markedly as the country prepared for the war. Due to the rationing of gas and rubber,communities along the Pacific Electric routes received the majority of new residents who came to work at the aircraft and munitions factories in Los Angeles. EI Sereno experienced major industrial growth during these years. Many of the families who moved here during these years were Italian-American. The rise in population led to the construction of the El Sereno Theatre, the third such establishment in the community. Built in 1940 at 3333 Eastern Avenue, the structural engineer was William Bostock.

Post-War Period (1946 to Present)[edit]

Restrictive covenants had prevented Mexican-American families who lived in the adjacent communities of Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights from purchasing homes in EI Sereno. After restrictions were lifted by a 1948 Supreme Court decision (Shelly v. Kraemer), many Mexican-American families moved to EI Sereno. The demand for housing after World War II was satisfied by the construction of new neighborhoods in the southern end of EI Sereno.[7]

Government and infrastructure[edit]

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services operates the Central Health Center in Downtown Los Angeles, serving El Sereno.[8]

Los Angeles Fire Department Station 16 (South El Sereno) and Station 47 (El Sereno) are within the community.

Education[edit]

Public schools[edit]

The community is within the Los Angeles Unified School District and is served with over a dozen schools in the area. Residents are zoned to schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Elementary Schools:

  • Cesar Chavez Elementary School, opened in 2006
  • Farmdale Elementary School
  • Huntington Drive Elementary School
  • Multnomah Elementary School
  • Sierra Park Elementary School
  • Sierra Vista Elementary School
  • El Sereno Elementary School

Middle schools:

LAUSD High Schools:

Non-Public Schools[edit]

  • All Saints Catholic School
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe School-Rosehill [10]

Local University[edit]

Public libraries[edit]

El Sereno Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library is located at 5226 S. Huntington Drive.[11]

Landmarks (present and former)[edit]

Local community newspaper[edit]

Currently, the "Community Beacon" a volunteer-run newspaper reports on local news that affects this community. 90-100% of all articles are submitted by members of the community.

Previously the El Sereno Star had filled the void for local news, followed by "The Voice".

Local community websites[edit]

El Sereno has several regions. One region is University Hills, Los Angeles that has had University Hills Neighborhood Association serve. One website serving that region of El Sereno is UniversityHills90032.com; walkways and staired walkways have attracted visitors to the hilly neighborhood.[12]

Local community magazine[edit]

"Our Town-El Sereno" was launched in 2010. The community magazine focuses on local community and school events, businesses, and residents of El Sereno.

El Sereno Historical Society[edit]

"El Sereno Historical Society" was established in April, 2012. Its mission is to share the history of El Sereno with residents and the public. The history of El Sereno and information about the El Sereno Historical Society can be at: www.ElSerenoHistoricalSociety.org and on their Facebook Page.

Popular culture[edit]

  • El Sereno was a filming location for The Mars Volta's music video "Goliath".
  • Was a location for filming scenes in Stephen King's Christine
  • The Mars Volta recorded their 2008 Grammy Award Winning album, Bedlam in Goliath, in El Sereno.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Coordinates: 34°04′52″N 118°10′37″W / 34.08111°N 118.17694°W / 34.08111; -118.17694