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Sycamore Park

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.

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Sycamore Grove was an area rife with numerous crimes in the late 19th century, before annexation of Highland Park to the city of Los Angeles. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library
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Sycamore Grove Park was established in 1905 when the city of Los Angeles purchased portions of the land. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library
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In the late 1890s, controversy arose over the granting of an alcohol license at Sycamore Grove. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Archive
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Automobiles and electric trolleys ran along North Figueroa Street by Sycamore Grove Park. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library
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Horse trough with water and a "No Parking" sign. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library
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Once filled with rowdy drunks, the well kept grass area became a popular recreation spot in the years following the offical designation of the park. The historic Hiner House can be seen in the background. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library
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John Philip Sousa's concert band often played at the bandshell at Sycamore Grove Park. It is now named The Sousa-Hiner Bandshell, in honor of the composer and his friend Dr. Edwin M. Hiner, founder of the music school at UCLA, who lived across the street. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library
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Sycamore Grove Park as it looked in 1920. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Archive
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The park was a popular location for gatherings and picnics, from a gathering of butchers to a meeting of the Afro-American League. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Archive
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It was also the site of the annual State picnics, gathering residents from that particular state who had migrated to the bustling city in the West. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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Norwegian Crown Prince Olaf visited Sycamore Grove Park during the "Seventeenth of May" celebration in honor of Norway's independence. 1939. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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Nebraska State Picnic, 1925. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library
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One of the state picnics involved women eating hanging grapes from a tree. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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Young ice cream vendor at a state picnic. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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Iowa State Picnic, ca. 1920s. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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Song and dance at a state picnic, ca. 1920s. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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Mexican American family picnicking at Sycamore Grove Park, 1939. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library
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Group of Korean American men at picnic in Sycamore Grove Park, ca. 1935. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
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California 49ers Club included residents who had arrived in California in 1849, 1939. | Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library

 

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