THE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTS
Digging fervently for a new building foundation, Yovanni Hernandez struck something hard. Working quickly to remove all obstacles in his path for an expected concrete pour the next day, he used a pickaxe and shovel. Dust and dirt flying, he made his way around the obstacle which was too heavy to get out. Quietly he called me over to take a look at the solid metal rusted firmly into a whole piece.
Should he continue to try and dig it out or leave it? We decided it was in the best interest of the house, and the footing, to be free of artifacts. “Dig it out” I told him. After about an hour he claimed victory and what he pulled out was incredible. A ship’s anchor chain. But how did it get here? We were about a stone’s throw from the beach. Could it have been a shipwreck? How old was it? How long does it take for this type of metal to coalesce into a solid?
These were all questions for Rob Nelson, owner of the project and local resident. Upon further investigation of the site and footing areas we continued to find more historical artifacts: a horseshoe, then two, a stirrup. This was getting very interesting. A glimpse into the real Southern California history up-close and personal. Was this material from a dusty watering hole along the original Mission Trail? Yes probably, there was an old stop located in this general vicinity.
In total about 23 pieces of solid metal materials were discovered including a knife blade, and wagon pieces. All of these artifacts will be on display at the Westchester/Playa Historical Society’s new Discovery Center located in the Westchester Triangle 6207 West 87th Street, Los Angeles, California 90045.
Besides an interactive educational center, the center also has an extensive and secure archive collection, which houses historical photos and news of the Westchester/Playa area. Under the direction of Cozette Vergari, the center has incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)3. The center will is for visitors and reservations for a private tour can be made through their web site; www.wphistoricalsociety.org. In conjunction with The Book Jewel Bookstore and to meet the State mandate of teaching local history to 4th & 9th graders, the Discovery Center will be providing programs to meet this mandate.
Classes will teach the importance of historical preservation, interactive presentations, and technological advancements as well as reviewing some of the incredible firsts and accomplishments of citizens of the area. Among these are Howard Hughes, Howard B. Drollinger, The Turtles, and Pat Russell to name a few.
Notable architecture in the area includes the LAX Theme Building designed by Paul R. Williams and built in 1961, which is a cultural and historical monument. James H. Garrott, modernist and designer of the Westchester Municipal Building, Eldon Davis’ Googie style example of classic coffee shop architecture at Pann’s restaurant at 6710 La Tijera Boulevard, and my own masterpiece of modern utopia architecture at 401 Redlands St. Playa del Rey.
Credits: Photo by Marcelo Cruz, Architecture by Lara Hoad, Graphics: David Russell & Hunter Culberson
Board Members : Cozette Vergari, Chair, Marcelo Cruz, David Russell, Art Wexler, Mike Heffernan
This year is the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the states and federal government from denying citizens the right to vote based on gender. Yet the struggle for women’s suffrage began nearly a century earlier, when women began to speak out about inequality and conventions began to be established in protest of the discrimination against women and minorities. In practice, however, in 1920, non-white women still faced the same obstacles that hindered non-white males in their right to vote, under the criteria set forth initially in the U. S. Constitution. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been applied to correct those discriminatory election policies.
As early as 1820, women were questioning why they did not have the right to vote. Women, in the United States, began organizing to rally and proclaim their right to vote. In 1848, two years before California became a state, the first organized event, bringing substantial attention to the issue, was the Seneca Falls Convention in Rochester, NY led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, where she presented the Declaration of Sentiments.
In 1851, Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony, another New Yorker, through their shared goals in the women’s suffrage movement, as well as other social equality issues, including the abolition of slavery. They became lifelong friends and formidable leaders in social reform activities.
In 1850, the first statewide convention, the Ohio’s Women’s Convention was held in in Salem, Ohio. It is thought to be the first public meeting in the U.S., where the organizers, participants and officers were exclusively women, with Harriett Taylor Upton being one of the leading voices in the movement for a woman’s right to vote. This convention is also considered a pivotal point for women’s suffrage, that led to a long road of 70 years before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
The first National Women’s Right’s Convention met in Worcester, Massachusetts, on October 23 & 24, 1850, meeting annually thereafter in different states, until 1869. Some 900 people showed up for the first session, men forming the majority, with several newspapers reporting over a thousand attendees by the afternoon of the first day, and more turned away outside. Delegates came from eleven states, including one delegate from California – a state only a few weeks old.
Lucy Stone was key to the organization of these conventions, sustaining the fight for a woman’s right to vote. She urged the assemblage to petition their state legislatures for the right of suffrage, the right of married women to hold property, and as many other specific rights as they felt practical to seek in their respective states as equals. However, the conventions ceased, soon after the Civil War, as focus shifted toward American equality for all, replaced by broader focused conventions, including discrimination against women, minorities and the poor.
It is known that Susan B. Anthony, in her thirties at the time, was inspired by the leadership of Lucy Stone. In 1863, Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton founded the Women’s Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in United States history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery. In 1866, they initiated the American Equal Rights Association, campaigning for equal rights for both women and African Americans.
In 1869, Anthony and Stanton also founded, along with Lucy Stone and Lucretia Mott, 76 years of age at the time, the National Woman Suffrage Association in NY, to isolate and promote the right to vote for women. Anthony was a key force in this movement. In 1872, she was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. Many women suffered arrest and abuse for marching for their right to vote.
In 1878, Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with a constitutional amendment, giving women the right to vote. Introduced by Senator Aaron Sargent, a Republican from California, it later was tagged the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. It was eventually ratified as the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
When Anthony, traveling world-wide, first began campaigning for women’s rights, she was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. Public perception of her changed radically during her lifetime, however. Her 80th birthday was celebrated in the White House at the invitation of President McKinley. She became the first female citizen to be depicted on U.S. coinage, when her portrait appeared on the 1979 dollar coin.
The Women’s suffrage movement in California began in the 19th century and was successful with the passage of Proposition 4 in 1911, granting women the right to vote. Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 8 was sponsored by Republican State Senator Charles Bell from Pasadena, after a similar Amendment had been defeated in 1896. Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 8 was adopted by the State Legislature and approved as Prop. 4 by voters in a referendum held as part of a special election on October 10, 1911.
Commencing in the 1860s, a small number of activists in California began mobilizing for women’s suffrage. In 1868, orators Laura de Force, just 30 years of age and the second female to be admitted to practice law in California, and Anna Dickinson, just 26 years of age, gave a series of lectures advocating for women’s suffrage. In 1869, Emily Pitts Stevens, co-founder of the California Woman Suffrage Association, along with others, organized the first Pacific Coast suffrage meeting in San Francisco.
Early on, in the suffrage movement in California, there was an extensive amount of connection between western suffragists and national suffrage organizers on the east coast. De Force, Dickinson, and Stevens came to the attention of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton. In 1871 Stanton and Anthony took their only trip to California and drew large crowds to their speaking engagements.
In 1870 Laura de Force Gordon founded the California Woman Suffrage Society, working with lawyer and suffragist Clara Shortridge Foltz, the first female to be admitted to practice law in California and after which the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building is named.
In 1894, the Republican Party in the state of California endorsed women’s suffrage. On November 3, 1896 California Constitutional Amendment 6 made it to the ballot, but was defeated, with a vote of 137,099 to 110,355, with 55.4% of the voters voting to deny women the right to vote in California.
African American women in California had been working for suffrage. The Fannie Jackson Coppin Club, organized in Alameda County, were extremely active in the suffrage movement, led by Lydia Flood Jackson and Hettie B. Tilghman. It proved to be an important club for African American women in Alameda County who were active in the suffrage movement. Flood Jackson also served as a leader of the California Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. Tilghman was heavily involved with the League of Women Voters in the 1920s. African American suffragist Naomi Anderson traveled throughout the state to campaign for suffrage.
One of the major organizers of the 1911 suffrage campaign in southern California was Maria de Lopez, the youngest person and first Latina to teach at UCLA, was president of the College Equal Suffrage League. She instituted a campaign among the Spaniards and the Mexicans, touring the State speaking and serving as a Spanish translator for the movement.
Born in 1905 in Texas, Howard Robard Hughes Jr., now famously remembered as Howard Hughes, brought both aviation and film making to Westchester. Hughes was a business mogul, record-setting pilot, film maker and one of the most financially successful individuals in the world during his lifetime.
Very early on, Hughes demonstrated a talent for engineering. At age 11, Hughes built Houston’s first “wireless” radio transmitter. In 1917, at age 12, he built himself a motorized bicycle, which he constructed with old parts from his father’s steam engine. He took his first flying lesson at age14. After high school, he was accepted at Cal Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. By the time he was 19, he had lost both parents and made the decision to quit school to take over his fathers’ business, Hughes Tool Company, moving back to Houston, Texas in 1924.
Two years later, in 1926, having had acquired a taste for Hollywood and film making while attending Cal Tech, Hughes could not resist returning to Hollywood to pursue his desire to become a film maker. The Texas Hughes Tool Company supported his Hollywood journey, where he became known for directing and producing films that ran over budget and resisted the envelope of censorship. Hughes produced numerous films as Hollywood was moving from silent film to talkies. Some of his most notable films include silent film Two Arabian Knights released in 1927 and Hell’s Angels released in 1930 starring Jean Harlow. Transitioning during production from silent film to sound, Hell’s Angeles was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, as the stunning aerial sequences were, and still are, considered groundbreaking cinematography. Scarface in1932, followed by Outlaw in 1943, brought him enormous wealth and celebrity. Although Hughes never directed another film, he continued to work as a producer, and in 1948, he bought a controlling interest in RKO Pictures He remained chairman of the board of RKO until 1957, when he left the film industry.
While making films, Hughes was also innovatively involved in pushing the envelope in aviation. In 1932, he founded the Hughes Aircraft Company, as a division of Hughes Tool Company, which he later moved to the Westchester area of Los Angeles, hiring numerous engineers and designers, while acquiring 1200 acres just beneath and including the Westchester bluffs. On September 12, 1935, in an airplane of his own design, he established the world’s landplane speed record of 352.46 miles (567.23 km) per hour. On January 19, 1937, in the same craft, he averaged 332 miles per hour in lowering the transcontinental flight-time record to 7 hours 28 minutes from Los Angeles to Newark NJ. Flying a Lockheed 14, he circled Earth in a record 91 hours 14 minutes in July of 1938.
In 1939, Hughes bought a share of Trans World Airlines (TWA), by 1944 becoming the majority shareholder and greatly expanding the scope of TWA. That same year, Hughes Tool Co. purchased the first six Boeing 307 Stratoliners, using one personally, and leaving TWA to operate the other five. Hughes is commonly credited as the driving force behind the Lockheed Constellation airliner, which Hughes ordered in 1939, as a long-range replacement for TWA’s fleet of Stratoliners. Hughes personally financed TWA’s acquisition of 40 Constellations for $18 million dollars, the largest aircraft-order in history up to that time. The Constellations were among the highest-performing commercial aircraft of the late 1940s and 1950s, and allowed TWA to pioneer nonstop transcontinental service. During World War II Hughes leveraged political connections in Washington to obtain rights for TWA to serve Europe, making it the only U.S. carrier with a combination of domestic and transatlantic routes. The 1966 sale of his TWA shares brought Hughes $546,549,771.
During World War II, Hughes’s focus centered around military aircraft. He fashioned his company into a major defense-contractor. The Hughes Helicopter division started in 1947 when Hughes Aircraft became a major American aerospace and defense contractor, manufacturing numerous technology-related products that included spacecraft vehicles, military aircraft, radar systems, electro-optical systems, the first working laser, aircraft computer systems, missile systems, ion-propulsion engines (for space travel), commercial satellites, and other electronics systems. In 1948 Hughes created a new division of Hughes Aircraft, the Hughes Aerospace Group, from which the Hughes Space and Communications Group and the Hughes Space Systems Division were soon spun off to form their own divisions and ultimately became the Hughes Space and Communications Company in 1961. By the time he sold Hughes Tool Company in 1972, it had become a multibillion-dollar venture.
In 1943, Hughes constructed the hanger in which he planned to build the Hughes H-4 Hercules, a.k.a. Spruce Goose. The area included an airstrip and helicopter landing pad, which could easily be seen from the cliffs of Westchester, later giving rise to some of the Playa Vista street names. The hanger was later used as a film and sound stage for several years. It still stands today at 16 S. Campus Center Dr,. having most recently been acquired by Google, as the “Google Spruce Goose Office.” It is still visible from the cliffs of Westchester. You are encouraged to google the site, to view Google’s fabulous use and renovation of the interior of this famous hanger, while still capturing and saving it’s history and original structural engineering.
The Hughes Aircraft Company was a major American aerospace and defense contractor, creating and bringing thousands of jobs to the Westchester community. The company not only produced, the Hughes H-4 Hercules Spruce Goose aircraft, completed in 1947 as the largest flying boat in history and having the longest wingspan of any aircraft from the time it was built until 2019, but also produced the atmospheric entry probe carried by the Galileo spacecraft, the AIM-4 Falcon guided missile, and a long list of other products, including the H-1 Racer. His H-1 Racer was donatedto the Smithsonian Institution.
Hughes was awarded, among numerous accolades, both the Collier and Harmon trophies for his achievements in aviation throughout the 1930s. In 1939, Hughes received a special Congressional Gold Medal from President Roosevelt “in recognition of the achievements of Howard Hughes in advancing the science of aviation and thus bringing great credit to his country throughout the world.” He was later inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973. In 2013, Hughes was included in Flying magazine’s list of the 51 Heroes of Aviation, ranked at No. 25. Today, his legacy is maintained through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Howard Hughes Corporation. During his illustrious career, Hughes survived four airplane accidents, but suffered complications from his injuries until his passing in 1976 in Houston, TX.
Born in 1913, a native Angelino, William H. Hannon dedicated his life to giving back to his community. His father, a rancher, and his mother, a homemaker, instilled in him a love of the history of the region. Upon graduation from Loyola High School in 1933, William had his heart set on attending Loyola University of Los Angeles, which had just opened their campus in 1930 in a remote rural area of the City of Los Angeles, later, in 1973, to become known as Loyola Marymount University.
However, the money for such a college education was not something William’s parents could afford. That did not dissuade him. He, with the support of his mother, proposed an arrangement to the President of Loyola University. William Hannon promised, if he were accepted by the university for his undergraduate studies, upon graduation and finding employment, he would pay his debt back in full. That promise, which began with a handshake, was the beginning of a lifelong dedication to, and support of, his alma mater.
Upon graduation from Loyola University, Hannon served as an intelligence officer in the Army. Shortly thereafter, in 1937, he was offered a job by Fritz B. Burns on the sales team of Marlow-Burns & Company. He had met Burns at the beach at Playa del Rey, while a student. That friendship and business relationship would last for more than 40 years. He quickly became the Sales Manager for the commercial and residential properties for the Westchester and Playa del Rey communities. They subdivided thousands of acres in Westchester, then built and sold homes to veterans returning from World War II. He served on the Board of Directors of the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, both as an officer and a director, from 1978 until 1974, including as President of the Board.
Hannon also became a major partner in the development of several other industrial parks, hotels and shopping centers in the Los Angeles region. William continued in the real estate business independently. He was known as an innovator, for his creative thinking, constantly dictating and/or notating his ideas. He successfully maintained an office in Playa del Rey. In 1983, William forged his own philanthropy, by founding the William H. Hannon Foundation. Over the years, the Hannon Foundation has supported many Catholic schools, Missions and hospitals, as well as numerous other public and private nonprofit organizations in Southern California.
As he had promised, William became a major benefactor of Loyola Marymount University and serving his alma mater as an Honorary Trustee and a Regent Emeritus. His contributions and generosity are memorialized in the campus Hannon Apartments named after his mother Eugenie B. Hannon, Hannon Field and the William H. Hannon Library. His legacy and spirit of giving is carried on by the William H. Foundation, established in 1983, which has supported other local universities and colleges, as well as high schools, elementary schools and preschools. The Foundation continues to generously support community projects and organizations within the Westchester community. William was also very proud to be named a Knight of St. Gregory and to receive the 1994 Cardinal’s Award from the leader of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
I am proud to say, I had the opportunity to meet William, joining him for lunch at the old Carl’s Jr. in Playa del Rey, to discuss a community project. He was truly a gentleman. His passing in 1999 left a memorable legacy, now carried on by his niece Kathleen Hannon Aikenhead, President of the William h. Hannon Foundation.
ARTICLE: WESTCHESTER/PLAYA HISTORICAL SOCIETY DISCOVERY CENTER TO OPEN IN AUGUST
By Cozette Vergari :
The new Westchester/Playa Historical Society Discovery Center is scheduled to open to the public August 1st of this year. Notwithstanding the challenges that Covid-19 has rendered, after an exciting year of strategic planning and implementation, the Westchester/Playa Historical Society Board of Directors has been working diligently to bring its dream of a public location for visitors to explore the rich history of our local communities to fruition. The mission of the Westchester/Playa Historical Society, incorporated as a nonprofit entity just over a year ago, is to gather, study and preserve the history of the communities of Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista, providing educational and research opportunities for all ages. The new WPHS Discovery Center will be a major component of that mission.
The Discovery Center is located at 6207 W. 87th St. in the Westchester Triangle commercial district, which in and of itself is considered an historical commercial retail district, within the Los Angeles region. Architect Lara Hoad was hired to collaborate with Board members, Cozette Vergari, Marcelo Cruz, Art Wexler, Mike Heffernan and David Russell in the design of the buildout, after which Contractor Robert Sawyer was engaged to implement the new design of the Discovery Center. The WPHS Board also collaborated with Otis College of Art & Design students in the new branding assets of the Westchester Historical Society, including the interior murals, dramatically and relevantly depicting local history as far back as 8000 B.C. The Discovery centered throughout this process of implementation has been equipped with updated technology both to serve and protect access to its archives.
Partnering with The Book Jewel and other local businesses, as health protocols permit, the Westchester/Playa Historical Society Discovery Center will be open to the public on Sundays from 9:30-2:30 and by appointment. Student filed trips will be available to schools, to enrich the California mandated history curriculum, requiring students to study state and local history. Beginning in September will be full and ongoing calendaring of Historical Exhibits, memorializing major themes in the history of the region and individual pioneers who directly impacted the birth of our local neighborhoods in the early 1900s, and others who followed to protect and preserve thoughtful development. Individuals with historical ties to the community will be invited to record their oral histories to be housed among the historical society’s archives. The Discovery Center will also be available for special events, once again partnering with The Book Jewel. As soon as reasonably possible, the WPHS Walking Tour and WPHS Driving Tour will be resurrected. When the pandemic shut our lives down, WPHS was forced to cancel the very first “sold out” tours that were planned for May of last year.
Please visit the newly launched Westchester/Playa Historical Society website at www.wphistoricalsociety.org . If you are interested in supporting the efforts of the WPHS, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are donor, contributor, exhibit sponsorship and volunteer opportunities.
We have already written about the courageous visionary, Ella Drollinger, taking the risk in 1944 of building the first commercial property in Westchester, an area that was beginning to evolve and take shape out of the wheat fields surrounding the small Los Angeles Air Port. And, no that is not a typo. Initially, on March 17th, 1928, the headline for The Daily Californian read “Air Port Here Chosen.” On July 26, 1928, the Los Angeles Examiner’s front page headline read Council Votes To Lease Mines Field For City Airport, land owned by rancher Andrew Bennett comprised of acres of wheatfields. The original terminal built in 1928 still exists at the eastern end of LAX. Will Rogers and Charles Lindbergh landed in the first passenger plane at Mines Field. Commercial aviation was developing its foundation, with an eye to the future
And, as the future unfolded, Ella’s vision of a commercial district to support the community of Westchester and its new stakeholders working in the aerospace and defense industries following WWII, was shared, embraced and carried on by her son, Howard B. Drollinger. After returning from serving his country in WWII, having been awarded the Purple Heart, four air medals and two Presidential Unit Citations, while serving in the Army Airforce, Howard joined Ella to grow the commercial district of Westchester. He earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees at USC and went on to build and manage much of Westchester’s central business district.
During the expansion of LAX, in the 60’s and 70s, taking over 3500 homes and displacing approximately 10,000 residents, coupled with the opening of the Culver City Fox Hills Mall, the retail and business district of Westchester was hit hard. Howard fought back even harder, for nearly 20 years, buying up the real estate that was being abandoned and left behind by major retail companies, who were moving to the malls. Single screen movie theaters could not compete with the new multiscreen cinemas, usually attached to those same malls.
Along with those who fought for the preservation of the historic landmark, the Loyola Theater, which stands near the southeast corner of Manchester Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard, Howard fought hard on many levels to preserve the Paradise Building at the southeast corner of Sepulveda Boulevard and Westchester Parkway, which had been the site of many star-studded movie premieres in the 1950’s. Search lights lit up the evening skies over Westchester, as the Paradise Theater hosted the many Hollywood celebrities. Opening on August 23, 1950, it’s close proximity to the Los Angeles Airport made the Paradise Theater ideal to host those celebrities traveling from afar. Howard’s battle to save the Paradise Building lasted over several decades.
His redevelopment of the Sepulveda commercial district culminated in 1995, with the opening of the Ralphs Supermarket Center, along with cultivating other large retail businesses to tenancy along Sepulveda Boulevard, including the first building constructed by his mother on the southeast corner of Sepulveda Boulevard and La Tijera, which opened as a Thrifty Drug Store in 1945. The Ralph’s Supermarket Center, now known as Westchester Village, is the hub of the Sepulveda Boulevard commercial district and is bordered on the south by Howard Drollinger Way.
Howard was a not just a developer. He was a philanthropist, who gave back to his community and to the region at large. Raising his family in the Westchester / Playa del Rey community, with this wife Jewel, he appreciated the concept of giving back and established the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation. The Foundation gave and continues to give, through his legacy, to countless charitable and educational causes.
On November ___ 2017, the Rotary Club of Westchester honored Howard and the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation, by installing the Rotary International Clock that sits at the west end of Howard Drollinger Way, near the Ralphs Supermarket across from Pizza Hut. The clock is dedicated to Howard and his family for all of the years of dedication to our community, past, present and future. Howard joined Rotary International as a member of the Rotary Club of Westchester in 1952, just two years after its inception in 1950. The Rotary Club of Westchester and Howard Drollinger served the local community, jointly for nearly 50 years. Through that association and partnership, Howard donated 100s of thousands of dollars over time. The Rotary Clock was dedicated to the business community of Westchester in honor of the combined efforts of the H.B. Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation and the Westchester Rotary Foundation, and symbolizes their close partnership in community service to the citizens of the area, as well as maintaining a sustained quality business environment.
The new Westchester/Playa Historical Society Discovery Center opened to the public August 1st of this year, celebrated by the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce at the August 24th Ribbon Cutting. In attendance, to offer their congratulations, were City Controller Ron Galperin, City Attorney Mike Feurer and Airport Commissioner Val Velasco. The city officials recognized the hard work and dedication of the Westchester/Playa Historical Society Board of Directors, in reaching their targeted goal, as well as the value of their mission to the community at large.
Notwithstanding the challenges that Covid-19 has rendered, after an exciting year of strategic planning and implementation, the Westchester/Playa Historical Society Board of Directors have been working diligently to bring its dream of a public location for visitors to explore the rich history of our local communities to fruition. The mission of the Westchester/Playa Historical Society, incorporated as a nonprofit entity just over a year ago, is to gather, study and preserve the history of the communities of Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista, providing educational and research opportunities for all ages. The new WPHS Discovery Center will be a major component of that mission.
Also recognized at the Ribbon Cutting were Founders Circle Donors, Cozette Chattin Vergari Family, Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation, Westchester Rotary Foundation and Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Foundation, along with Diamond Donors Richard Moon, Amy Frelinger and Los Angeles World Airports, as well as Emerald Donors Patty Crockett, Maria Davis, Director of Carousel Schools, Marc Mohaher on behalf of Technologent, John and Gail Grover, and Lisa Schwab.
The Discovery Center is located at 6207 W. 87th St. in the Westchester Triangle commercial district, which in and of itself is considered an historical commercial retail district, within the Los Angeles region. Architect Lara Hoad was hired to collaborate with Board members, Cozette Vergari, Marcelo Cruz, Art Wexler, Mike Heffernan and David Russell in the design of the buildout, after which Contractor Robert Sawyer was engaged to implement the new design of the Discovery Center. The WPHS Board also collaborated with Otis College of Art & Design students in the new branding assets of the Westchester Historical Society, including the interior murals, dramatically and relevantly depicting local history as far back as 8000 B.C. The Discovery centered throughout this process of implementation has been equipped with updated technology both to serve and protect access to its archives. The start up of this location would not have been possible without the support of Drollinger Properties and Truxton Investment Company.
As health protocols permit, the Westchester/Playa Historical Society Discovery Center will be open to the public on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and otherwise by appointment or special event. Student filed trips will be available to schools, to enrich the California mandated history curriculum, requiring students to study state and local history. Beginning in January will be full and ongoing calendaring of Historical Exhibits, memorializing major themes in the history of the region and individual pioneers who directly impacted the birth of our local neighborhoods in the early 1900s, and others who followed to protect and preserve thoughtful development. Individuals with historical ties to the community will be invited to record their oral histories to be housed among the historical society’s archives. The Discovery Center will also be available for special events, partnering with The Book Jewel and other local businesses. As soon as reasonably possible, the WPHS Walking Tour and WPHS Driving Tour will be resurrected. When the pandemic shut our lives down, WPHS was forced to cancel the very first “sold out” tours that were planned for May of last year.
Visit the newly launched Westchester/Playa Historical Society website at www.wphistoricalsociety.org . If you are interested in supporting the efforts of the WPHS, please reach out at email@example.com. There are donor, contributor, exhibit sponsorship and volunteer opportunities.
Some of you may share my long time dream of being able to travel in a time machine, which could propel me backwards in time, while standing at the same location throughout the ride, to observe what was happening at that exact spot 100 years ago, 1000 years ago and on and on. To share what that might look like in our local community, as you read, I will travel all the way back to 65,000 B.C. and move forward in time from the beginning.
Current prehistoric migration theories consider the possible links between our local native populations to Northern China and Siberia as far back as 65,000 B.C. There is a greater degree of certainty surrounding the theory of migration from Asia circa 25,000 B.C., as well as migration in 13,000 B.C. across the ice bridge that covered the Bering Straits between Asia and North America. In fact, there is evidence of settlement on the islands off the coast of southern California as early as 12,500 B.C.
Recorded history unveils evidence discovered in the 1930s excavation of Ballona Creek, when the Army Corps of Engineers created a nine-mile long flood control channel to protect the growing metropolis from flooding in the Los Angeles basin. The natural creek, once meandered through the Ranchos of the Los Angeles basin. During the excavation, partial remains of the “Los Angeles Man” were discovered in a storm drain. They had unearthed the mineralized cranium of a human skull. Though radiocarbon dating indicated an age of approximately 23,600 years of age, current theory suggests, due to lack of other supporting evidence of human habitation along the Ballona Creek, the Los Angeles Man is likely to have settled here circa 8000 B.C.
There is further evidence of a shoreline economy within the footprint of the Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista communities as fare back as 7500 B.C. There is also evidence of the Chumash Native American population, who spoke the Hokan language and who survived as hunters of land, sea and air life, within this same footprint. There is evidence of a neighboring Tongva Village settled near the Centinela Springs flowing through Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa visit circa 5000 B.C. The Shoshone displaced the Chumash, circa 2000 B.C., migrating from the Mohave Desert to the Los Angeles Basis, which they named the “Land of the Smoke.” The area was already polluted from the camp fires of the native population. They spoke Uto Aztecan, and considered experts in irrigation and the canalino culture, traded acorns, salt, fish, baskets, dogs and clothing with other coastal traders for the items they needed in return, such as obsidian for spears and arrowheads.
There is some evidence of foreign explorers arriving circa 1200. A Spanish novel, written in 1510, chronicles Spain’s conquest of what is now Mexico and California and speaks of New Spain and the Island of California. In 1542 Spanish Explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was first greeted by the native population at Santa Catalina Island, and followed by entering the mainland through the Baya de los Fumos (Bay of Smokes), believed to be the present day San Pedro Harbor. During the period of Spanish colonization and the founding of the mission system, in particular the building of the Mission of San Gabriel, circa 1770, the Tongva society became known as the Gabriellinos and today are often referred to as the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. By 1800, the native population death rates nearly doubled due to the new foreign settlors.
After a hard fought Mexican War of Independence from 1810-1821, Spanish Rule ceded to Mexican Rule. And as soldiers were awarded land grants for their service in this War of Independence, within our Westchester/Playa footprint, Mexican soldier Antonio Avila was granted 40,000 acres and acquired Rancho Sausal Redondo in 1937, in which the most of the present day Westchester/Playa communities sit. Rancho Ballona was acquired by Ygnacio and Augustin Machado and Felipe and Tomas Talamantes in 1939. The Centinela Adobe, which still sits at the eastern edge of Westchester, was the first home to be built from the local community footprint all the way south to the Redondo Beach / Torrance area, was built in 1829 by Ignacio Machado.
After the U.S. invaded Mexico, which included Rancho Sausal Redondo and Rancho Ballona, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave Alta California to the U.S. and “California” becomes a U.S. Territory. It took two years of contentious debate, over the issue that California citizens wanted to enter the Union as a non-slavery state. Statehood was granted in 1850.
Stay tuned for next month’s continuing time-machine journey. In the meantime, visit the Westchester/Playa Historical Society Discover Center, Sundays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. On Sunday, September 5th, the Discovery Center will be showing “Eminent Domain, An LA Story by Leo Sichi at 10:15, 11:00 and 11:45 a.m., with the last showing at 12: 30 p.m. Leo is a Westchester resident and student at Loyola High School, whose video has been recognized by the 2021 All American High School Film Festival. Visit our website https://wphistoricalsociety.org/.
For those of you, who last month joined my time-machine travel back to 65,000 B.C., we are continuing the journey this month. Standing in the midst of today’s Westchester/Playa community, our last travels took us back to the evidence of human settlement on the islands off the coast of Southern California circa 12,000 B.C. and sped us forward with various time stops on the same Westchester/Playa footprint all the way to California’s Statehood in 1850. Over a span of the 300 years leading up to statehood, our Westchester/Playa community stood under the flags of three different countries, the flag of Spain, then Mexico and finally the United States.
In 1850, our community’s land belonged to two brothers. While still a part of Mexico circa 1830’s, 2200 acres of land, to become known as Rancho del Aguaje del Centinela, was granted to Bruno Avila. And another 40,000 acres, to become known as Rancho Sausal Redondo, running from what is now the Venice and Marina communities south to Redondo Beach, was granted to Antonia Avila. Overtime through various transactions, circa 1872, Scotsman Robert Burnett acquired both Ranchos and in 1873 leased his land to Alice and Daniel Freeman.
The Freemans moved from Canada to America, due to Alice’s medical condition that required the mild and dry climate of the coastal area just southwest of El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula, which in English translated to “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula (small area). Today, the pueblo is commemorated in the historic district of Los Angeles Pueblo Plaza and Olvera Street, the oldest part of Los Angeles. The Freemans settled into the Centinela Adobe, the first ranch house adobe built on all of the then 42,200 acre parcel, which sits on the eastern most edge of Westchester, previously built by Ignacio Machado circa 1830 . By 1885, Daniel Freeman had purchased the land and formed the Centinela Land Company. He builds his Land Office in what is now Inglewood and plans to sub-divide the area, while planting fruit trees and raising sheep to provide income in the meantime. The area suffers from a severe drought, and Freeman gambles on dry farming and wins, acres of wheat fields.
From 1886-1890, Daniel Freeman wages in a battle for Port Ballona to become the official Port of Los Angeles. His competition is William Banning, who is pushing for the site of Port Willington. While this is happening, Henry Huntington begins the Pacific Electric Trolley Service, laying tracks form downtown to Port Ballona. To Freeman’s disappointment, Port Wilmington is chosen as the official port of Los Angeles, which today supports 20% of all cargo coming into the United States, covering 7500 acres of land. Had Freeman won, imagine what the time machine would be showing us now. Daniel Freeman becomes the second President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce from 1893-1894 and founds the City of Inglewood in 1908.
Because Freeman felt no other value to the area of our now treasured Westchester/Playa communities, after losing the bid for the Port of Los Angeles in 1890, he donates the land to the City of Los Angeles. Circa 1900 the Venice Midway Park Amusement Pier is built. The Pacific Electric Trolley Service builds tracks through the wetlands from downtown and heads south down the coast along what is now Playa del Rey to Redondo Beach. The Los Angeles Motordrome opens in the wetlands of now Playa del Rey. The first of its kind, the Los Angeles Motordrome was a highly successful venue for motorcar, motorcycle and aviation events and competitions, attracting large crowds of paying spectators, but lasted just three years due to a fire that destroyed the wooden track.
Once again, stayed tuned for our continuing time machine travel. In the meantime visit the Westchester/Playa Historical Society Discovery Center in the Westchester Triangle, open on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or by appointment. Learn more at www.wphistoricalsociety.org
First photo 1850 the area at the time of Statehood