Tragedy at the Elysian Springs
October 26, 2009 § 4 Comments
Thanks to Creekfreak readers who added so much richness of detail to the post, A tree grows on Beaudry. If you are intrigued by Echo Park’s former Arroyo de los Reyes, Elysian Springs and Woolen Mill Ditch, I recommend you scroll through the comments there. One reader, David Kimbrough, confirmed the rumor of springs at the Elysian Heights Elementary School – near Valentine and Baxter. He followed up by sending Joe and me a fascinating and creepy Los Angeles Times news clipping from 1904, which I am summarizing for you here.
If you’ve ever felt that there’s something slightly haunted about Echo Park, this may be (partially) why.
On the evening of December 27, 1904, Columbus C. Champion, 67, committed fratricide, shooting down his brother Thomas in a “deadly fusillade…in front of the Elysian Springs bottling plant,” for whom Thomas worked as a water delivery man. Columbus, called “Lum,” lived on property next to the bottling company. Due to Lum’s tyrannical nature, “not only were the members of the murdered man’s family in terror of the surly and churlish relative, but the whole settlement in the little valley through which runs the Echo Park electric line seems…to have dreaded some such tragic outcome as that which took place last night.”
Lum had already been abandoned by his wife, son and father several months previously, and neighbors believed it was “worth almost any effort to keep on good terms. It is said he has terrorized the neighborhood on numerous occasions…” Earlier in the day, he fired BB shot at his niece, threatening to kill the entire family, which precipitated the deadly confrontation with his brother.
Thomas, returning to the Elysian Springs Bottling Company, rode his wagon with his son Sam past Lum’s property. “At once the old man rushed out of the house and began to abuse his brother. Sam Champion, fearing for his father’s safety, secured a revolver from the home, and started up to where his father and uncle were quarreling. The younger brother (Thomas) was trying to ward off the attacks of Lum, and just as Sam arrived his father told Lum to go back into his own lot and leave him alone, or he would knock him down. With an oath, Lum started toward the cottage, crying out that he would kill the whole outfit. He quickly reappeared with his gun, and when within twenty feet of this brother fired the load of shot into his breast. Thomas sank to the ground and expired almost immediately.”
The villain was unrepentant and actually joking with the police who carried him away.
Finding the lost creek in your neighborhood
October 18, 2008 § 1 Comment
If you’re a Creekfreak, and you’ve not figured out where the water used to flow in your neighborhood yet, then this post is for you. From 2001-2003 I mapped the old streams and wetlands of the LA area in Illustrator, and began to lay them out for public consumption. And then got sucked into other projects. So here they are, in all their imperfection – but quite legible if you are a map reader. Just go to the side panel to the page labelled Find a former waterway or wetland near you!
These maps are based on 62,500 scale 1896-1906 USGS maps, 1888 Detail Irrigation Maps, and slightly informed by later 24,000 scale USGS maps. The overlay maps are not definitive: the 24,000 scale maps, circa 1919-1930s, show streams not indicated on the earlier, larger scale maps, while showing at the same time considerable stream and wetland losses to development. In other words, I have a lot more drawing to do.
But this is about you, dear Creekfreak. If you live in the following areas, you may find a creek or wetland on one of these maps in your neighborhood:
Eagle Rock Glassell Park Highland Park Lincoln Heights
Cypress Park Pasadena South Pasadena Alhambra
Boyle Heights East Los Angeles Downtown Echo Park
Silverlake East Hollywood Hollywood Hills Koreatown
Mid-City West Adams Culver City Baldwin Hills
Cheviot Hills Mar Vista West Los Angeles West Hollywood
Beverly Hills Bel Air Brentwood Santa Monica
Venice Marina del Rey Inglewood Hawthorne
Gardena West Athens Willowbrook Watts
Compton South Gate Lynwood Vernon
Maywood Torrance Carson Lomita Wilmington
Long Beach San Pedro Palos Verdes
Happy searching! And let us know what you think!
Rivers Lost to City
September 20, 2008 § 7 Comments
I did a double take on this title. Was this the Judith Lewis piece, Lost Streams of Los Angeles, featuring, among other things, my creekfreaky research and advocacy for LA’s buried streams?
No, this is a 1924 Los Angeles Times article, a wistful and racially peculiar (to be charitable, we’ll call it naive) obituary to the streams that were being buried at that time. While not making any strong environmental case for preserving these streams, the author nostalgically laments the decline of a more pastoral era, stating: “And so the romance of the city goes – the prosaic storm drains and high priced lots have run the alluring arroyos out of business.”
The story also fills in this Creekfreak on a long-simmering mystery – the name of the creek that used to flow through Lafayette Park – Arroyo de la Brea (Tar Creek). Worth noting the name, as there is a parking lot across the street from Lafayette Park that oozes tar to this day. If you’re into weird urban geology, ask the car rental company permission to go to the back of the lot and take a look.
For the curious, here’s a stormdrain map of a portion of Arroyo de los Reyes, the downtown creek mentioned in the article. I am working on the connection of this to Echo Park-historical maps clearly show two streams that joined where Echo Park lake is today, with a perennial creek flowing along the path that is now Glendale Blvd to 2nd Street. But the maps lose the flow around Figueroa. This description here may fill in the gap – and we Echo Parkians may now have a name for our buried creek!
More later on lost rivers – and more importantly a City effort to preserve what’s left.