The First Suburb

Faced with difficulties accessing water and an increased need for police presence in a rowdy red light district, Highland Park was annexed to the city of Los Angeles in 1895, creating one of the city's first suburbs. Situated along the Arroyo Seco below the San Gabriel Mountains, the area provided a respite from downtown city life that combined easy access to natural amenities and open space with proximity to the center of the city.

Situated between what were then the county's two largest population centers—Los Angeles and Pasadena—Highland Park provided residents with convenient transportation options for their commute. With the establishment of colleges and art communities, soon the rustic community along the Arroyo became a hub for intellectual life.

Although older bedroom communities had been established in the region prior to Highland Park—Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, and Angelino Heights to name a few—its annexation created what was the first true expansion of the city, when Los Angeles absorbed the unincorporated town to expand its original 28 square miles of city land.

The urban grittiness that some see in Highland Park now may not conjure up images of a "suburb," the word usually evoking the sprawling rows of identical homes found farther from the city's center than the few miles that separate it and Highland Park. A closer look, however, reveals that many of the original structures from Highland Park's small-town past still stand.

Above, Charles Fisher and Nicole Possert, historians and preservationists with the Highland Park Heritage Trust, and former city councilman, Arthur Synder talk about Highland Park's development and its subsequent annexation to Los Angeles in 1895. Below, a slideshow of historical images show the development of the neighborhood, and its reputation for beautiful homes.

Andrew Glassell and Alfred Chapman
Charles Fischer discusses the origins of Highland Park from the sale of portions of Rancho San Rafael.
A Nexus of Opportunity
Nicole Possert highlights geographic trends of development in the area in relation to Highland Park.
Arthur Snyder explains what lead to the annexation of Highland Park to Los Angeles.
Explore the related interactive mural


Transportation - Between Two Cities