Photo above: Shakespeare Bridge in 1983
A Love Song to Los Feliz
Los Feliz is a very beautiful place. Some of the signature features of our charming northeast Los Angeles community are the majestic deodar cedar trees on Los Feliz Boulevard, beyond-stellar architecture and our beloved Griffith Observatory that soars gracefully above us.
We also hold bragging rights to the sprawling Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. and gifted to the city by businessman/ philanthropist Griffith J. Griffith. Full disclosure: that “larger-than-life” figure was not without controversy.
Our rich historical roots run deep. Long before the Spaniards inhabited the area, Native Americans lived in villages in what’s now Griffith Park’s Fern Dell. The Autry Museum of the American West is currently creating a permanent exhibition that pays homage to our original inhabitants.
The history records tell us the name “Los Feliz” originates from Corp. José Vicente Feliz who in 1781 had the duty of organizing a new pueblo in Los Angeles. He was rewarded for his good deed by King Carlos III of Spain, who granted him Rancho Los Feliz in the early 1800s.
By 1903, there were fewer than 30 residences in the flatlands of Los Feliz. (Today, there are more than 5,000 residential structures in Los Feliz.) A housing boom was sparked affordable railroad fares and by the new film industry with 10 film studios in Los Feliz producing celluloid productions during the silent movie era.
As Los Feliz grew, it transformed into one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the City of Angels. In 1916, the Los Feliz Improvement Association (LFIA), originally called the Vermont Canyon Improvement Club, was established for the betterment of the community. Some of the notable residents who served on the LFIA board of directors were showman Walt Disney, newspaper publisher Harry Chandler and radio mogul Earle C. Anthony.
The ageless architecture of Los Feliz has been described as a visual feast. The architecturally-diverse neighborhood showcases residences designed by nearly every major architect of the 20th Century. There are two Frank Lloyd Wright landmarks, including the Hollyhock House which was recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Richard Neutra-designed, all-steel framed Lovell Health House was one of America’s first International Style residence. Other architectural stars are FLW’s son, Lloyd Wright, R.M. Schindler, Wallace Neff, Gordon B. Kaufmann and Paul Williams. Preservation architect Brenda Levin, who lives in Los Feliz, was the force behind the most recent renovation of the Griffith Observatory.
In 1987, LFIA began conducting an ongoing Historic Property Survey that documents homes and buildings in the Los Feliz district (including most of the 90027 zip code and the eastern portion of the 90068 zip code). The survey continues to be expanded to include additional properties. Click here for the LFIA Historic Property Survey.
Today, Los Feliz features more than 50 residences and structures that have been designated as Historic Cultural Monuments (HCMs). The entirety of Griffith Park, all of its historic buildings, and the boulevard’s deodar trees, to name a few, have landmark status. To view the HCMs, click here.
More on the compelling story of Rancho Los Feliz becoming the modern-day neighborhood it is today can be found in the LFIA-published book, Los Feliz: An Illustrated Early History, written by Los Feliz historian Donald Seligman.
Los Feliz is a very, very fine place. Just ask one of the 46,000 residents who call Los Feliz home!