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Arroyo Seco: The Impetus of Southern California Lifestyle

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By the turn of the 20th Century the Arroyo Seco had fallen into disrepute, the stream and the area surrounding it often viewed as a literal, stagnant backwater. From the vantage point of the wealthy residents of Pasadena, those who lived "down at the Arroyo" were poor unfortunates, low-lifes or mad eccentrics. But upturned noses in Pasadena had a silver lining: property near the Arroyo was inexpensive and readily available. Just as the area is today a magnet for artists and intellectuals, many turn-of-the-century arrivals to Los Angeles settled near the stream, its environs providing the perfect backdrop to an early environmental and art movement.

The community that grew along the banks of the Arroyo was decidedly bohemian in character, and it celebrated the local environment in art, craft, and architecture using materials often taken directly from the stream. The regular use of stones from the Arroyo for the construction of the homes in the area clearly articulated the relationship that the neighborhood's people wanted to have to place and environment - straightforward, respectful, utilitarian.

Similarly, Plein Air artists such as Franz Bischoff used the Arroyo as muse, recording a unique and terminal moment of its environmental history. In a few decades, the scenes painted by Bischoff would disappear, the "dry stream" irrevocably transformed by the construction of the Arroyo Seco Parkway and the channelization of the Los Angeles River and its tributaries.


An Impetus for Culture
Timothy Brick talks about the cultural attraction of the Arroyo Seco and it's fulfillment for a unique Southern California lifestyle.

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