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At the turn of the 20th century, Sycamore Grove (area known today as Sycamore Grove Park) was its own little town with its own rules. Telling someone you were off to "the Grove" could prompt either knowing winks or horrified gasps, as the area was then a thriving and rowdy red-light district frequented by prostitutes, gamblers, addicts and other creatures of rough, illicit comfort. Trouble was always just a trolley ride away, the Pacific Electric Railway unloading revelers at the Sycamore Grove trolley stop on a regular schedule.
Perhaps by no accident, Charles Lummis began the long process of building his home El Alisal a stone's throw from the Grove. Lummis' saloon-style parties, or "noises" as he referred to them, attracted socialites, dandies, libertines, artists and and intellectuals. Lasting for days, the noises reflected the open attitude of the area, with local bohemia and the seedy underbelly sometimes blending together.
The constant merriment at Sycamore Grove—not to mention the crime and addiction found there—would eventually begin to distress more upstanding neighbors. When Highland Park and Garvanza proposed annexation to Los Angeles, improved policing of the Grove was high on the list of promised changes to be brought by the newly expanded Los Angeles.
Below, see a slideshow of historical images of Sycamore Grove Park.