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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.

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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.

 

Annexation
Arthur Snyder explains what lead to the annexation of Highland Park to Los Angeles.

 

First Suburb 1
The Highland View Tract, which included the areas in which Charles Lummis purchased lots for his home, was one of the first subdivisions in the area, placed on the market in 1882 by developers G. W. Morgan and Albert H. Judson. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 2
Morgan and Judson had purchased the land from the widow of Jesse Hunter, who in turn had acquired the land directly from Julio Verdugo, before his Rancho San Rafael had been sold off. An ad was placed in the Los Angeles Times in 1882. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 3
By 1883, Morgan & Judson had purchased what was to become the Highland Park Tract, from Andrew Glassell Jr. and Albert B. Chapman. The new subdivision promised "pure mountain water in abundant supply," and was "most desirable for suburban homes." | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 4
The opening in 1885 of the San Gabriel Valley Railroad through Highland Park brough a new phase of development to the area. Future residents were promised two stations, one for the business area, another for residential. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 5
Ad for the Highland Park Tract in the Los Angeles Times, dated April 20, 1883. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 6
In 1892, population of Highland Park was only 100. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 7
The Los Angeles and Pasadena Electric Railway laid down the first interubran electric railway in Souther California in 1895, bringing passengers through Highland Park. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library
First Suburb 8
Highland Park was annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1895, despite opposition from city voters. Los Angeles Time headline from October 5, 1895. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 9
The Highland Park Post Office remained an independent station until 1901 when it became a sub-station of the Los Angeles Post Office, 6 years after annexation. | Image from the Los Angeles Times courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 10
Highland Park School on Monte Vista Street was built in 1903. When the area was annexed to the City of Los Angeles, concerns were raised regarding whether the teachers' salaries will be paid by the old Highland Park school district or the City of Los Angeles. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library
First Suburb 11
In the early 1900s Highland Park had two campuses for higher learning--Occidental College, established by the Presbyterian Church, and the Free Methodist Seminary in the hills of Hermon. The Occidental campus can be seen in this photo dated 1908. | Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library
First Suburb 12
Pasadena Ice Company was based near Avenue 59 and Piedmont in Highland Park. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 13
Victorian style architecture was fairly common in turn of the century Highland Park, as evidenced by the Shepherd House located on 5034, ca. 1900. | Image courtesy of the USC DIgital Library
First Suburb 14
In 1903, tracts were being sold for the area of Highland Park between (New) York Blvd. and Aldama Street. This ad from the Daily Los Angeles Herald seems to target those who had moved out west without their families: "Everybody should get a home in the land where life is easy--where there's never a snowstorm nor a sunstroke. Bring your family to Highland Park and see their cheeks grow rosy..." | Image from the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers site
First Suburb 15
New homes being built on Ave 50, 1909. | Image from the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers site
First Suburb 16
Highland Park home of James N. Burns, 1909. House still stands on Avenue 53. | Image from the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers site
First Suburb 17
A pictorial supplement from the Daily Los Angeles Herald in 1909 suggests the beautiful Highland Park and its convenient location between Los Angeles and Pasadena to represent the accomplishments of its Anglo settlers: "they invariably get a view of Highland Park thus form their impressions of what this part of the world has come to be since the Yankee invasion." | Image from the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers site
First Suburb 18
President of the Bank of Highland Park G. W. E. Griffith was one of the prominent residents of the area in the early 20th century. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 19
Santa Fe Railroad employees on a handcar at the intersection of Marmion Way & North Figueroa. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 20
The Arroyo Seco branch of the Los Angeles Public Library was built in 1913. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 21
Erection of the first power pole of the Los Angeles city electric distribution system on March 30, 1916, on the site of the Arroyo Seco Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 22
Pasadena Avenue (later North Figueroa Street) in Highland Park. The Sunbeam Theater is on the left, and Highland Park Herald newspaper office and Bank of Highland Park on the right. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
First Suburb 23
The Southwest Museum, founded by Charles Lummis in 1907 in downtown Los Angeles, moved to Highland Park in 1914, bringing the city's first museum to the city's first suburb. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library