In 2008 Echo Park was selected as one of 10 APA Great Neighborhoods largely because of its vibrant mix of cultures, incomes, architecture, commercial activity and social activism that has retained its unique character and charm for more than a century. Yes, that’s right for more than a century. While this is great for Echo Park the honor should have actually been bestowed upon Edendale. Before the construction of the park and as of the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, Edendale was actually one of LA’s first suburbs. This is little known.
Even lesser known is that before there was Hollywood, there was Edendale. This neighborhood now known as Echo Park should be world famous. It should be a household name with a storied past. Unfortunately, it seems to be an area long forgotten.
Edendale was the predecessor as the Mecca of entertainment before Hollywood took and has kept that reputation. While Hollywood is world famous, Edendale remains seemingly only through the U.S. Post Office and the Los Angeles Public Library (the Edendale branches) However, its beauty, its aesthetically pleasing architecture, its history and its engaged citizens remain
Street car lines helped make Echo Park and thereby, Edendale, a viable community connecting it to central Los Angeles and other nearby towns. A cable line opened on Temple Street in 1886 and three years later a horse drawn line started on Echo Park Avenue.
In fact a 1911 film trade publication once described Edendale as a “very beautiful suburb of Los Angeles. It is the motion picture center of the Pacific Coast. With clear air and sunshine 300 days of the year, conditions are ideal for perfect picture making. The scenic advantages of the location, too, are unique. From Edendale can be seen the Pacific Ocean, 22 miles to the west, and the broad panorama of Southern California, with its fruit and stock ranches, its snowcapped mountains and its tropical vegetation, to the east, north and south.”
Apparently this film trade publication weren’t the only ones to feel this way about Edendale. William Selig and Francis Boggs liked it enough to take their Chicago based company Selig-Polyscope, and establish the first permanent Los Angeles motion picture studio, in Edendale—in 1909!
The famous cowboy film star Tom Mix made his first films with Selig-Polyscope out of their Edendale studio. The studio which was originally completed in 1910 featured a mission style façade on the front entrance patterned after the bells at Mission San Gabriel.
Then in 1912 thanks to a rough start in New Jersey, film maker Mack Sennett moved west and settled in Edendale where he began with a run down and mostly vacant lot. With success came the ability to upgrade where he took up 5 acres on two sides of the street and his Keystone Comedies would literally become the face of comedy in the mid teens of that decade.
His comedic success as a producer and director led to the creation of open air stages and buildings of wood, brick and concrete that housed a five story planning mill and restaurant. The mill was where the patrol wagons, Swiss chalet bungalows and skyscrapers were created. The mechanical devices were made in the machine shops and the big garage housed the numerous cars used in the various scenes. The studios became a city within a city and employed upwards of 1,000 Angelenos.
The first totally enclosed film stage and studio in history, the Keystone Studios, at 1712 Glendale Blvd, still exists however it now boasts a lesser use as a public storage facility. Some of the studio’s original auxiliary buildings are also still standing, with modified facades, on both sides of Glendale Blvd.
An obelisk monument and bronze plaque commemorating Sennett’s studio was located for many years in the patio area behind of the Bert-Co Paper Company’s buildings at 1855 Glendale Blvd, but was demolished, along with the plant in September 2007.
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