What's in a Name? The Origins of Lincoln Heights' Ela Park | KCET
What's in a Name? The Origins of Lincoln Heights' Ela Park
Its three-letter name is almost as tiny as 0.38-acre park itself, but "Ela" -- as in Ela Park of Lincoln Heights -- is actually an acronym with big historical meaning.
The park first took shape around 1877 on the outskirts of what was then East Los Angeles, a booming streetcar suburb connected to the rest of the city by a cable car line. Foreshadowing changes to come, the park's creator, developer H.M. Johnston, thought he could improve upon the town's name.
"The initials of East Los Angeles suggested the concise and poetic designation of 'Ela' for that beautiful suburb," he told the Los Angeles Herald.
So Johnston built an oval-shaped racetrack nestled against the Repetto Hills and named it Ela Park.
In 1886, when William Lacy subdivided the land surrounding the racetrack ("High Elevation! No Fogs! No Frosts! No Malaria! No Asthma!" the advertisements boasted), he named the tract after the tiny park. Otherwise, Johnston's abbreviation never caught on.
Details of the park's history are sketchy -- its small size means it never attracted much notice -- but in 1889 the Los Angeles Times described it as "a very pretty little park... fenced with posts and chain, ready to be seeded down." It had become a municipal park by 1904, when the city park commission noted that it was "uncared for" and beseeched the city council to appropriate $500 "for first aid to this little pleasure ground." Later, as seen in this photo from the New York Public Library's collections, the city planted fan palms along its perimeter.
The park's landscaping evolved, but its name remained the same -- even as residents of East Los Angeles moved to rebrand their neighborhood Lincoln Heights. Their proposed change became official in March 1917, and soon the names of businesses and civic installations were scrubbed of any reference to East Los Angeles. Yet somehow that tiny, oval-shaped parcel of land remained Ela Park, and today it's one of the few remnants of a time when East Los Angeles was in Lincoln Heights.
L.A. as Subject is an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, cultural institutions, and private collectors. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region.
“We get it all the time — people come up to us and say, ‘We didn't know that Black people live in Santa Monica,” Carolyne Edwards said. “And there was a huge population there.”
On the Shoulders of Giants: The Lineage and Growth of California’s Intergenerational, Multiracial Youth Movement
The early and ongoing commitments of movement elders helped set the stage for young social movement leaders addressing many of the pressing issues facing our nation today.
It's time to vote! Get fired up to hit the polls, ballot drop boxes and voting centers Nov. 3 with this hilarious PSA from Culture Clash.
Young people have a pivotal role in some of today's biggest issues. See how their voices have helped shaped movements around the world.
Explore the lasting impact of the Shindana Toy Company, created out of the need for community empowerment following the 1965 Watts uprising, whose ethnically correct black dolls forever changed the American doll industry.
This episode explores how Yosemite has changed over time: from a land maintained by indigenous peoples; to its emergence as a tourist attraction; to the site of conflict over humanity’s relationship with nature.
California’s deserts have sparked imaginations around the world. This episode explores the creation of the Salton Sea; the effort to preserve Joshua Tree National Park; and how commercial interests created desert utopias like Palm Springs.
This episode explores how surfers, bodybuilders, and acrobats taught Californians how to have fun and stay young at the beach — and how the 1966 documentary The Endless Summer shared the Southern California idea of the beach with the rest of the world.