Every two months you’ll find an assembly of people gathered at the Sousa-Hiner Bandshell in Sycamore Grove Park, ready to embark on a half-mile walking tour of the Sycamore Grove area in historic Highland Park.
The Highland Park Heritage Trust, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Conservancy, has put together an informative tour that explores numerous homes and works of architecture that were crafted in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“People can get a real feel for this area 100 years ago and the kind of wonderful, graceful living that took place here. It was and still is a mecca for artists,” said tour leader Marilyn Robertson.
After brief introductions and a history lesson on , the walking tour heads over to the Ziegler Estate/La Casita Verde, an award-winning, shingle style craftsman home, which contains all of its original flooring. The house was owned by the Southwest Museum for several decades and was nearly demolished to make way for condominiums during 1991.
has operated as a non-profit daycare center since 2002.
Vernita Mason, a technology teacher at in nearby Cypress Park, went on the walking tour held this past Saturday. Mason said the tour is part of a workshop for Los Angeles Unified School District teachers called River Runs Through It: Charles Lummis and the Culture of the Arroyo Seco.
Mason explained that the walking tour will assist educators in creating projects with their students that will incorporate the community in which the students’ reside. Highland Park is just one of those communities.
“We’re doing projects so that the kids can begin to appreciate the community where they live and recognize that they themselves are a part of the history," Mason said. "They need to understand that they are creating future communities by taking care of the past,” Mason said.
Following a short stop at Casa de Adobe, the tour gets an in-depth look into the Baker House located at 4671 Figueroa St. The Baker house was built in 1905 and sits high above the Glenmary Stairs—which recently received a facelift courtesy of students—before moving on to the Hiner House.
“It was built by a man named Edwin Hiner in 1922. He was a big figure in music at that time and formed the Hiner band,” said current owner Heather McLarty.
“It was designed by Carl Boller, who was one of two brothers that were known for architecture on movie palaces, and pretty fanciful architecture that we really like," McLarty said.
The Hiner house also features a rehearsal space next to the main house where the Hiner band practiced; it’s called the Sousa Nook. McLarty and her husband purchased the home in 1996, after it was on the market for three years without a single offer. The couple are the second owners of the home.
A name that is mentioned throughout the tour is Charles Lummis. Lummis walked to Highland Park from Ohio, over the course of 143 days, to work as city editor of the L.A. Times.
“He preserved so much history of the Native American people and raised awareness of the native cultures here,” Robertson said. “He really did a lot to preserve cultures and put this place on the map. This was a place that president’s visited. Back in the day, it had a lot of historic significance.”
Lummis’ home, El Alisal, is a designated Los Angeles Cultural Historical Monument. The Lummis home still exists on its original lot on Ave. 43, near Figueroa St.
The tour proceeds to view several properties on Sycamore Terrace, also known as “Professors Row”, due to the high number of professors at Occidental College that lived on the street. The last remaining building of old Occidental College is also a stop on the tour, where classrooms were turned into apartments in 1924, a decade after the college relocated to its current location in Eagle Rock.
Tour leader Pat Griffith said people can gain a sense of development from the early settlers who came to a vast amount of open space and crafted beautiful houses.
“They came with a sense of art appreciation and built a really lovely area,” Griffith said. “This was a really vital area. People don’t think of Highland Park as one of the main areas of Los Angeles, but it really was an important part of Los Angeles history.”
Griffith said, “It’s really an interesting place to be and hopefully people will get that impression by coming on this walking tour.”