Echo Park is a neighborhood in Los Angeles northwest of downtown. According to the website “Historic Echo Park” the neighborhood has no official boundaries or borders. Generally, it is east and southeast of Silver Lake, north of Westlake/MacArthur Park, west and northwest of Chinatown and southwest of Elysian Park. Echo Park itself consists of the neighborhoods of Echo Park (the area immediately surrounding the lake and extending approximately a mile north on Echo Park Avenue), Angelino Heights, Colton Hill, Edendale, Sunset Heights, Temple-Beaudry and Elysian Heights. Dodger Stadium lies at the eastern edge of Echo Park. On October 8, 2008 Echo Park was named one of America’s “Great Communities” by the American Planning Association.
The community was named after a park laid out by the city to surround a water reservoir that was turned into a recreational lake, with a boathouse and fishing opportunities.
Echo Park is in zip code 90026.Contents [show]
At the end of the 19th century, when the hills were still covered with native plants and grasses, a horse-drawn streetcar line served the dirt road that is now Echo Park Ave. The community of Echo Park was founded by Thomas Kelly, a carriage maker turned real estate developer. In the late 1880s Kelly teamed up with a group of local investors, selling off pieces of what they called “the Montana Tract.” Legend says that the lake got its name after workers building the reservoir remarked that their voices echoed off the canyon walls.
Echo Park was named Edendale before the construction of the park itself. The original name survives through the U.S. Post Office Edendale branch and the Edendale branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.
The Los Angeles film industry was centered in Echo Park before the studios moved to Hollywood, just before World War I. Mack Sennett’s studio was in Echo Park until the end of the silent era, and a large number of silent comedies were shot in the neighborhood, as were several Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Our Gang, Ben Turpin, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Charley Chase, Chester Conklin, and Three Stooges shorts. Tom Mix also built his studio just over the hill in the Silverlake area, and many Westerns were shot in hills of Echo Park, East Silverlake and the Elysian Hills. Some of the earliest screen performers, including Gloria Swanson and Tom Mix, bought homes in the Angelino Heights and surrounding neighborhoods before moving to Hollywood and other areas.
The area has continued to be used as a location for films such as Chinatown (film), Echo Park, Kentucky Fried Movie, Mi Vida Loca, “Tending Echo Park”, Quinceanera and “Columbus Day (film)”. The 1960s television series Gilligan’s Island was shot in the area as well as scenes in Michael Jackson’s 1982 music video Thriller, as were parts of the original 1953 film version, The War of the Worlds. The Manor, a house in the television series Charmed, is also located here. The area is popular with modern filmmakers for the pre-World War II look of some districts.
Before World War I, Echo Park was a middle-class neighborhood, nicknamed “Red Hill” for a concentration of political radicals living there . Postwar flight to the suburbs resulted in Echo Park becoming overwhelmingly Latino; although other ethnic groups have always had a presence in the neighborhood.
The vast majority of Echo Park’s population used to be Latino, primarily Mexican and Mexican-American. However, in the past 10 years the overflow from its trendy neighbor, Silver Lake, has radically changed the demographics of the area. Artists, actors, musicians and gay couples of all races have flocked the neighborhood for its relatively cheap housing and alternative feel. Since the early 1900s, Echo Park has been known to attract the creative, underground, independent, and iconoclastic elements of society. Many small independent boutiques and coffee shops have blossomed along the northern most part of Echo Park Boulevard going up into the hills.
Famous artist residents have included such luminaries as writers Leo Politi, Carey McWilliams, John Fante and Ayn Rand; painters Carlos Almaraz and Philip Dike, famed muralist Kent Twitchell, and film art director Al Nozaki, creator of the Martian War Machine from The War of the Worlds; actors Shia LaBeouf, Anthony Quinn, Steve McQueen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alessandro Nivola, Jack Webb, Ann Robinson, star of The War of the Worlds, and Charles Gemora, king of the Hollywood “gorilla men”; architect Richard Neutra and disciple Harwell Hamilton Harris; book seller and art dealer Jake Zeitlin; famed wood engraver Paul Landacre; opera singer Marilyn Horne, conductor Henry Lewis, and jazz great Art Pepper; film director John Huston; filmmaker Monica Gazzo; African-American playwright, poet and screenwriter Lemar Randle Fooks; Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Allan Ito, of O.J. Simpson trial fame (his mother was a kindergarten teacher for many years at Elysian Heights elementary school in Echo Park); as well as Edward Middleton Manigault, who organized the nation’s first exhibition of modern art. The painter Jackson Pollock also made his home here as a child. The singer Elliott Smith lived in this neighborhood in the final years of his life . During the 1960s and 70s, the area became known as a bohemian enclave, and attracted many young musicians, artists, and craftspeople. Some residents during that era included J.D. Souther & Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Tom Waits, Jackson Browne, and Frank Zappa. The writer and poet Charles Bukowski was known to frequent the local dives, as did actor and Reservoir Dogs real-life tough-guy Lawrence Tierney.
Elysian Heights Elementary school was home to “Room 8 the Cat”  and Echo Park lake was home to “Pete” the Pelican, a wild pelican who made the lake his home for many years during the 1920s and enjoyed a great degree of fame at the time. A photo of “Pete” can be seen three paragraphs down.
Echo Park was also home to Art Ingals, who in 1956 built the first Go-Kart in history out of a store front on the 1900 block of Echo Park Blvd, and who started an industry that counts over 1 million competitive racers and several million weekend enthusiasts world-wide. Professional baseball player, Luis (Lou) Gomez, who had been an outstanding prep star at Belmont High School, and played for the Minnesota Twins, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Atlanta Braves during the 70s and 80s, resided here as well. Baseball immortal Babe Ruth himself maintained a bachelor’s pad at the Crown Hill apartments in South Echo Park for much of the 20s and 30s.
Jerry Rubin, American social activist and member of the Chicago Seven, lived here and ran a legal and civil rights office on the southwest corner of Echo Park Avenue and Sunset Blvd. for much of the 70s and 80s. In 1993, the movie Mi Vida Loca was filmed in Echo Park. This movie described the Latino gang culture in the neighborhood at the time. In 1999, the diary film Tending Echo Park by experimental filmmaker Monica Gazzo, was completed and presented at the Egyptian Theatre and the Director’s Guild, Hollywood. The film has also screened at the Pacific Film Archives, Berkeley, numerous venues in California, including Echo Park Film Center, and at film festivals nationwide.
A pelican and the lotus flowers at Echo Park Lake, circa 1920.
The commercial district along Sunset Boulevard suffered greatly in the 1950s from the condemnation of the residences in nearby Chavez Ravine. The buildings were condemned for the purpose of building low-income public housing, but after the bond funding for the project failed to be approved, the ravine property was sold for one dollar by the city of Los Angeles to Walter O’Malley as the location for Dodger Stadium.
In 1969, Keith Barbour recorded a song titled “Echo Park”. In 1997, The Blue Stingrays recorded the album Surf-N-Burn, with a cut titled “Echo Park”. In 1977, Linda Ronstadt recorded the Warren Zevon song “Carmelita” on the album Simple Dreams, wherein she mentions the Pioneer Chicken stand on Echo Park Avenue. In 1980 Gary Numan mentions Echo Park in his single “I die: you die” and The Eels mention Echo Park in their 1996 album, Beautiful Freak. British band Echo Park Orchestra produced their first album in 1995. Ryan Cabrera wrote a song titled “Echo Park” that is part of his mainstream debut album, Take It All Away. The song “Who Would’ve Thought” by punk rock band Rancid off the album Life Won’t Wait is about Echo Park, and the obscure Heavy Metal ballad “Echo Park, After Dark” was recorded by Alfred Corpuz and the Alleyheads in 1980. British band Feeder also named their third album Echo Park released in 2001.
Poetry and literature readings have been a tradition in Echo Park and its residents since the early 1920s. Beginning in the late 1970s, the Temple Street Poets brought many diverse groups together for spoken-word gatherings at the Travellers Cafe on Temple Street, but soon disbanded by the middle 1980′s. Spoken word readings, however, still continue in and around the neighborhood to this day; most specifically at the Little Joy Bar where the Echo Poets can be found reading and playing on Sunday nights. During the 1970s, the Travellers Cafe was frequented by Lawrence Tierney, Glen Frey, Tom Waits, Kent Twitchell, Carlos Almaraz, Doy Mercado, Linda Ronstadt and Charles Bukowski.
Local attractions include the eponymous Echo Park, and its small lake which at one time was said to contain the largest planting of lotuses outside Asia.
There is also a Cuban festival held on the birthday of Cuban poet and patriot José Martí, who has a statue in the park.
Bordering the park are the cathedral of the Episcopalian diocese of Los Angeles and the famous Angelus Temple, a large Foursquare Gospel church built by Canadian-born Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson in 1923.
The first totally enclosed film stage and studio in history , Keystone Studios, built by Mack Sennett in 1912 at 1712 Glendale Blvd in the Edendale quarter of Echo Park, still exists in all its structural entirety, though now passes time as a public storage facility. Some of the studio’s original auxiliary buildings are also still standing ( with modified facades) on both sides of Glendale Blvd. An obelisk monument and bronze plaque commemorating Sennett’s studio was located for many years in the patio area behind one of the Bert-Co Paper Company’s buildings on 1855 Glendale Boulevard, but was demolished, along with the Bert-Co plant, in September 2007 and the plaque stolen by vandals.
Given the large amount of lotus leaves that existed in the lake up until 2007, Echo Park has been the site of the annual Lotus Festival, a pan-Asian celebration complete with Chinese dragon boat races. The event has been held since the late 1970s and it showcases a different Asian ethnicity (such as Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, Bangladeshi, etc.) every year. It attracts Asian Americans as well as other local residents.
The festival itself came under criticism by locals in 1979, when festival directors refused to let the local garage band, The Alleyheads, which consisted of Asians, Latinos, and whites, play at the festival, yet let several tame white and Asian “pop” groups approved by the city, perform. The community was outraged that the festival directors did not let the Alleyheads play in favor of out-of-town performers. The Alleyheads persisted for three more years , but each time were refused by the festival committee. Complaints mounted until the city and festival committee dropped their ban on rock bands in the middle 1980s, but ironically hired only all-white rock bands at first, none of which were indigenous to Echo Park itself. This situation has since changed , however, and the festival now showcases a wide range of diverse musical acts and performers that better mirror the demographics of the City of Los Angeles and Pacific region to which it belongs.
Echo Park was home to the Metropolitan Street Hockey League (MSHL) from 1971 until 1977, one of the first organized street and roller hockey associations in the Los Angeles area, and which produced the Preston Avenue Sharks, winners of the Los Angeles street hockey City Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976, the Atwater Open in 1974, the Melrose Open in 1975 and Echo Park Opens in 1973,1975 and 1976, the Echo Park Jets, which won the City Championship in 1977 and Echo Park Open in 1974, and the Stadium Way Rangers, winners of the Atwater Open in 1975, the Melrose Open in 1976, and the City Championship in 1973. Another team from the league, the Coronado Terrace Mustangs, won the Echo Park, Melrose and Atwater Opens in 1977, becoming the only “Triple Crown” winner in history , and in 1978, won the Echo Park Open as an independent/at-large entry.
Echo Park is and continues to be home of the world famous, Echo Park Ducks, originally formed in 1967 as a loosely organized social , sports & community activist club, and which attracted many of the hippies and free spirits of the area at the time. They were immortalized when Billy Shire began selling the now famous Echo Park Ducks T-Shirt out of his Sunset Blvd store, The Soap Plant, in 1972.
Currently, Echo Park is home to many unique businesses, such as the Barragan’s Restaurant, Echo Park Film Center, The Echo & The Echoplex, Machine Project, Vlaze Media Networks, Inc. (vlaze.com), Epitaph Records, the Taix French restaurant, several boutiques, live music venues and art galleries including the Echo Curio Curiosity Shop & Art Gallery, and an eclectic night-life, including the whimsical Midnight Ridazz, an after-dark bicycle rally where as many as 1000 people show up on the second Friday of each month for themed bicycle rides and beer party on wheels throughout the streets of Los Angeles. Each ride’s theme is announced several days in advance through emails, Yahoo Groups, and flyers, the actual route being kept secret until the beginning of the ride. The cyclists meet at Echo Park at Sunset Boulevard at 9:30 p.m.