From the age of the Native American, to the Mission era and the birth of Arroyo Culture, to today, Highland Park has always been a laboratory for new and emerging ways to be an Angelino. Numerous factors - including location and geography - created conditions that allowed the area to become one of the preeminent cultural and social centers of the West. One can argue that Los Angeles came of age in Highland Park – artists, writers and intellectuals such as Charles Lummis creating the vocabulary on which we now rely when we try to explain what Los Angeles was and could be. Highland Park was home to the Getty of its era – The Southwest Museum – and institutions such as Occidental College and Judson Studios (which would later become USC’s Art Department) were born in the area, further strengthening the fabric of the city’s cultural life.
The creation of the Arroyo Seco Parkway – the envy of other cities – and the channelization of the River and its tributaries placed Los Angeles at the center of the Progress Movement. By the 1950s however, this powerful forward momentum slowed and the area became dormant. The era of white flight was on, beginnig a demographic shift whose long term arc is still unfolding today on the streets of York and Figueroa.
At the turn of the 20th century, Highland Park was a vibrant bohemian community that shaped the cultural life of the city. Today, just after the turn of the 21st century, that same DIY, bohemian ethos is alive in the neighborhood again. Another movement - collective and multi-racial - coming to terms with what it means to live here, and is proposing new, integrated ways to care for our shared, built environment.
Los Angeles is a sprawling city of many neighborhoods, each with its own unique set of people, places, and things that work together to create a distinct community. With so many layers of history and culture, the best way to begin to understand L.A. is to break it down into small bits, and peel back the layers, and reveal the depths of this complex city.
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Use our Field Guides to explore the places and histories that make up our unique neighborhoods.