6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

The Story of Hermon and Marisol

Support Provided By
viamarisol.jpg

In our last exploration of Los Angeles street names, we searched for a girl named Bonnie Brae, but instead found a pleasant hill. For this installment we travel to another corner of Northeast L.A. in an effort to unearth the story behind Via Marisol, a street that was indeed named after a girl.

In 1978, then Councilman Arthur Snyder, a fiery four-term representative, loved by many and reviled by some, proposed a motion to rename Hermon Avenue to Via Marisol, in honor of his three year old daughter Erin Marisol. Councilman Snyder had been a mainstay of the community since 1965. His friend and one time campaign director Harry Englander described him this way: "He was a red-haired, blue-eyed Irishman who spoke fluent Spanish and kept getting reelected even though his district became a mostly Latino district [...] He was always backslapping, always jovial, always making a deal." To the quiet community of Hermon, however, the larger than life politician was responsible for removing an integral community identifier: Hermon Avenue.

Councilmen Snyder at the opening of El Mercado, flanked by then Mayor Sam Yorty. 1968 | Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library
Councilmen Snyder at the opening of El Mercado, flanked by then Mayor Sam Yorty. 1968 | Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library
Art Snyder leads a  Mexican Independence Day Parade ca. 1980 | Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library
Art Snyder leads a Mexican Independence Day Parade ca. 1980 | Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library
Hermon ca. 1910 | Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library
Hermon ca. 1910 | Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library

The almost secretly tucked away community of Hermon was established in 1903 by a group of Free Methodists, who named their community after Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, a sacred land that straddles the borders of Syria and Lebanon.

In an effort to quell protests, Snyder claimed Marisol was short for Maria La Reina Del Sol, or Mary Queen of the Sun. In prior years, he had spearheaded the Monterey Hills Development Project, a five million dollar push to create affordable housing in the hillside nook. When residents of Hermon were informed of the change, a petition with 110 signatures was presented to the city council. But there voices went unheard. Eventually, CalTrans changed the street signs and managed to foil a nod to the slighted community by misspelling the name (Herman) on a separate freeway sign. In an open letter to opponents, Councilman Snyder noted:

The entire street pattern in the project is based on Spanish names and the architecture of the project is, in turn, reflective of Spanish influence. And such a name (Hermon) would have a jarring influence on the theme.

Many residents of Hermon were outraged. One of the leaders of the opposition to Via Marisol was 37 year resident and Spanish teacher Carol Littner: "We thought it was just bad Spanish and an unnecessary change [...] If we had known it was his daughters name we would have really blown up."

After the street signs had been changed, Snyder pushed to alleviate angry Hermonites by debuting three "Hermon" community signs and renaming the Arroyo Seco Recreation Center to the Hermon Recreation Center (now home to the Hermon Dog Park).

Snyder stepped down from his council post in 1985, claiming he was leaving in order to provide his pregnant wife with a more stable lifestyle. He later took on a job as a City Hall lobbyist, which came to an end in 1996 after he was convicted of campaign finance violations. In 2007, Snyder's firm, Marisol LLC, bought the rights to the Don The Beachcomber name, once a popular chain of "Tiki" inspired restaurants. After the ex-councilman's passing in 2012, there was some social media chatter that dared to ask: "So can we please revert Via Marisol back to Hermon Avenue now???"

KCET Departures interviewed the retired councilman for our Highland Park neighborhood series, at his Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Huntington Beach. Here he talks about the changing demographics of the neighborhood (See more with Snyder here):

Freeway-Sign-thumb-600x444-61358
110 N Freeway Exit | Image: waltarrrrr/Flickr/Creative Commons
Hermon-Street-Sign-thumb-480x640-61360
View of Hermon | Image: waltarrrrr/Flickr/Creative Commons

View Larger Map

Support Provided By
Read More
Chiqui Diaz at work advocating to end social isolation | Courtesy of Chiqui Diaz

Youth Leaders Making a Difference Honored by The California Endowment

The Youth Awards was created in 2018 to recognize the impact youth voices have in creating change throughout California. Learn more about the positive work they're accomplishing throughout the state.
A 2011 crime scene in Tulare County, where one of Jose Martinez's victims was found. | Courtesy of Marion County Sherff’s Office via FOIA/Buzzfeed

California's Unincorporated Places Can Be Poor, Powerless — and the Perfect Place to Commit Murder

It's time to do better by communities that don’t even have local police to call, let alone defund.
Protesters confront police outside the 3rd Police Precinct on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota after the George Floyd killing | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

In California, A History of Young, Powerful Voices in Journalism Emerge

In the Golden State, the youth have a long history of storytelling that uncovers little-heard narratives.