Conveniently located across from Union Station, this area is the birthplace of Los Angeles and features historic architecture, many buildings of which have since been renovated to become museums worth browsing for anyone interested in the history of Los Angeles.
Other sights not to be missed include historic statues and nearby institutes such as the Mexican Cultural Institute, home to a large collection of Spanish-language literature and Mexican crafts.
To get to the start of the tour:
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Important Note: Please make sure to always check times and schedules for transportation, destinations and events.
Union Station (Metro Red Line/Gold Line Transfer)
From Union Station/Gateway Transit Center Metro station proceed to exit the building at the Alameda Street entrance. As you exit the building, continue to walk west towards Alameda Street. At the crosswalk, proceed across the street to South Los Angeles Street. You will see a plaza immediately in front of you.
Although nothing remains of the original pueblo built by the 44 settlers who founded Los Angeles in 1781, there are 27 historic buildings at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Park, eleven of which are open to the public.
At the heart of El Pueblo de Los Angeles is the Plaza (1825-30). Highlighted by a wrought-iron bandstand, beautiful statues, and the site of many fiestas and concerts, you will find the Pobladores Plaque commemorating the 44 founding settlers of Los Angeles. Moving around the Plaza, notice the two beautiful bronze sculptures commemorating two figures that played a role in the founding of Los Angeles, Felipe De Neve and King Carlos III of Spain.
At the corner of Main and Arcadia streets, explore three buildings that are Italianate in style, and grand in history. The oldest building south of the Plaza, Masonic Hall (1858) (416 ?N. Main St.) now houses a museum of Masonic memorabilia. Right next door, the Merced Theatre (420 N. Main St.), built by William Abbot in 1870, was the first theatrical center for performances in Los Angeles. Finally, walk past the Pico House (1870), commissioned by Pío Pico, the last governor of Mexican California.
Anchoring the southeast corner of the Plaza is Firehouse No. 1 (1884) (134 Paseo de la Plaza). Los Angeles' original fire station until 1897, it also served as a saloon, boarding house and store. Restored in 1960, the building currently holds a museum filled with late 19th century fire-fighting equipment and memorabilia.
Across the street from the Plaza and to the west is the Old Plaza Church (535 Main St.), first established in 1784 as a chapel. The oldest Catholic Church in the city, the interior displays ornate designs of wrought iron and gold leaf. A collection of religious canvases adorns the altar and murals grace the ceilings. Today, Our Lady Queen of Angels serves as an active church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Just east of the Plaza, cross Los Angeles Street to Father Serra Park, site of the Lugo Adobe. Here, a statue of Father Junipero Serra depicts him draped in priest's robes as he gazes at a cross held in his raised right hand while holding a medal of Mission San Carlos de Borromeo in his left hand. This memorial to Father Serra honors the Franciscan padre's role in the colonization of California and his founding of the first nine of California's eventual twenty-one missions.
Originally the United Methodist Church Conference headquarters, the Biscailuz Building (1925-26) is named in honor of Eugene Biscailuz, former Los Angeles County Sheriff. Having housed the Mexican Consulate General for almost 30 years, it is now home to the Mexican Cultural Institute (125 Paseo de la Plaza; 213/624-3660), which offers an impressive collection of Spanish-language literature, traditional Mexican handicrafts, as well as exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Mexican art in its gallery. At the entrance, don't miss a mural painted by Leo Politi entitled, Blessing of the Animals. Capturing a colorful mix of animals and people to depict a popular event that has been an annual tradition on the Plaza since 1938, Politi's mural recalls some of the people who have participated in the ceremony over the years.
Scheduled to open in 2003, the Chinese American Museum (125 Paseo de la Plaza; 213/626-5240) is the first museum in Southern California dedicated to the Chinese American experience and history. Housed inside the oldest surviving Chinese buildings located in the City, namely the Garner Building (423 N. Los Angeles Street) and the adjacent structure (425 N. Los Angeles Street), the 7,200 square foot museum site stands at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. Constructed exclusively for use by the Chinese community in the 1890s, both buildings housed shops, schools, temples, churches, and businesses as well as hold dances and theatrical performances between the 1890s to the 1940s. The Garner Building was once regarded as the unofficial "city hall" of Los Angeles' Chinese community, and is now a perfect cultural symbol for housing an institution dedicated to the Chinese American experience.
A colorful marketplace lined with merchants offering a wide variety of Mexican and Latin American merchandise and artisan goods, Olvera Street opened on April 20, 1930. Representing many of the customs and trades of early California, Olvera Street's shops have leather goods, jewelry and western wear. You may even catch a glimpse of a glass blower at work. For lunch, venture into the
Pelanconi House (1855-57), one of the earliest buildings made of fired brick to experience some authentic Mexican cuisine at Casa la Golondrina (17 Olvera St.; 213/628-4349).
Along Olvera Street, several buildings that provide a window into early Los Angeles are open to the public. Avila Adobe (ca. 1818), built by Don Francisco Avila, is the oldest existing house in Los Angeles. Serving as headquarters for Commodore Robert Stockton during the Mexican-American War, and later as a boarding house and restaurant, it now houses a museum representing the lifestyle of Los Angeles in the 1840s. Be sure to visit the Christine Sterling exhibit and the History of the Water in Los Angeles exhibit donated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Just a few steps away, an example of Victorian Eastlake architecture was built to combine residential and commercial activities by Eloisa Martinez de Sepulveda. Today, the Sepulveda House (1887) hosts historical exhibits and the Park's Visitor Center.
Just before leaving Olvera Street, take a second to look down at the Path of Zanja Madre. Abandoned in 1904, the Zanja system served as the first water system for Los Angeles. To show where the original Zanja Madre (or mother ditch) had brought water to the pueblo, its path is marked on the street with diagonal bricking.