Echo Park is a 31-acre public park located in the city of Los Angeles, California. It is also the name given to the community that surrounds the park and its famous 16-acre lake, which contains the world's largest stand of lotus flowers outside of Asia.
The land where the park now resides was originally an arroyo that occasionally filled with water from a spring located at Baxter Street. The spring created a small stream that flowed down what is now Echo Park Avenue. The arroyo was dammed in 1868 to power a textile mill and to create a reservoir that would help irrigate walnut orchards and vineyards to the south. The immigrants that worked harvesting nuts and grapes settled in the vicinity of the reservoir (which supplied their water needs), and built small homes along Sunset Boulevard, between Echo Park Avenue and Lemoyne Street.
The reservoir land, known at that time as the Montana tract, was put up for sale in 1875 after the reservoir's berm failed, destroying the neighborhood and closing the textile mill. At some point during the early 1880s it was purchased by two prominent businessmen for a joint venture. However, their business agreement fell through, and in 1888 the land was donated to the city specifically for the purpose of creating a public park. Development began in 1891, and was directed by Los Angeles' first Superintendent of Parks, an English immigrant named Joseph Tomlinson. Tomlinson was somewhat homesick for his favorite park in Derbyshire, England, and decided to model this park after it.
The spring at Baxter Street was capped, and the reservoir was converted into a man-made lake, filled with city water. When the lake was completed, planting of vegetation began on the remaining 15 acres of the park. One day while supervising the labor force, Tomlinson heard the sound of his workers talking while they were on the other side of the park. The echo of voices across the lake inspired the name for Echo Park, and while the growth of trees, shrubs and flowers eventually eliminated the echo, the name remained. Construction was completed in 1895, and the park was dedicated and opened to Los Angelenos that year.
The enormous lotus beds that grow in the lake at the northwest end of the park first appeared around 1923 or 1924. One of the most interesting aspects of their presence is that no one is certain exactly who put them there, although many theories abound. Regardless of their origin, they have inspired the city of L.A. to host an annual Lotus Festival, celebrating the flower along with Asian and Polynesian cultures.
The neighborhood surrounding Echo Park is one of the oldest in Los Angeles, and many of the existing dwellings date back to the early part of the 20th century. The residential area nearest to the park was a popular dumping ground for bodies during L.A.'s crime-ridden "Dirty 30s", and is home to a few roads with as steep an incline as any to be found in Southern California. The community's other high-profile landmark is Aimee Semple McPherson's Angelus Temple of the Foursquare Gospel Church, located on Glendale Avenue.
If you should find yourself living in the Echo Park neighborhood, fear not: It is convenient to many sources of household food. C-Dawg reminds me that the Pioneer Market is a great place to buy groceries in Echo Park. While not particularly picturesque, the store has one of the finest produce sections I've ever seen, but Igloowhite (who once lived in Echo Park) says that this is typical for SoCal. To quote Mr. White, "Pioneermart is amazing and CHEAP AS HELL." It is located a few blocks away from the Angelus Temple. Other grocery options include Glendale Whole Foods and Erewhon. These are somewhat pricier, but their produce selections are better.
My memories of being there
Igloowhite and C-Dawg
Last update: July 24, 2003
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