History Lessons: Haute 5 Historical Landmarks in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is only rarely described as “steeped in history.”  Even though Hugh Hefner’s grand contribution saved one of our most beloved landmarks this week, the city of angels is more often pioneering than reflective, for better or worse.  That LA’s landscape is littered with big film studio lots doesn’t help much – you can see old-towns, country-western roads, and even a street with distinctly New York townhouses as you drive past Fox, Sony, or Warner Brothers, further proving why Angelenos have a hard time distinguishing between film sets and landmarks.  Regardless, LA has some beautiful spots that speak to the great history of this city, here’s the haute 5.

The Hollywood Sign

The iconic image of Los Angeles was in peril until just recently when developers threatened to build condominiums and a hotel on the land just adjacent to the sign. (The gall.)  Contributions flowed in from any and all devoted Angelenos and most notably from Hugh Hefner who’s $900,000 couldn’t have been offered up at a better time.  Hike up to the landing below the sign, drive up to catch the view from above it, or marvel at it on a clear day from as far as Century City – the sign defines this city and reminds us why our streets are filled with so many waiters… er, actors.

The Hollywood Sign is located off of Mt. Lee Drive above Mulholland Drive in Hollywood

Bradbury Building

In downtown LA, there’s a semi-hidden architectural wonder that packs an historical punch. Originally built in 1893, the Bradbury building’s wrought-iron interior is probably best known for its prominent role in the hyper-futuristic Blade Runner and it was most recently a character in one of the last scenes of (500) Days of Summer.  With an eerie story as to how the builder and real estate millionaire Lewis Bradbury began collaborating and luxurious, Renaissance style fixings, the Bradbury building is the type of place that will make you wish walls could talk.

Bradbury Building is located at 304 S. Broadway in Downtown LA

Olvera Street

A hub of Hispanic culture in Los Angeles, Olvera Street attracts a mix of locals and tourists on weekends for its street-fair/market feel.  Supposedly the “birthplace of Los Angeles,” Olvera is the home of the El Pueblo Historic Monument and now features everything from tacos and taquitos to live outdoor entertainment, dancing, vendors selling handmade crafts.  Strolling down the street yourself is a cultural experience to say the least, but if you want to go the fully historical route, take a free docent tour with a guide who’ll know all the stories and gossip about what really went down on Olvera Street back in the day.

Olvera Street (El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historic Park) is located at 845 Alameda Street in Downtown LA

Watts Towers

You know what they say… You haven’t really seen LA withouth visiting Watts.  Ok, so absolutely no one says that, but Watts Towers has become an iconic landmark of our diverse, unique city.   Built by Sabato (aka Simon) Rodia between the years of 1921 and 1954, Watts Towers are an ode to alternative sculptures and sticking with your vision.  An immigrant and construction worker, Rodia built the 17 interlocked structures simply because he had something big in mind to do in his spare time.  Declared a landmark in the early 90s, Watts Towers has endured damage, changes in ownership, and distinctly LA earthquakes.

Watts Towers is located at E 107th Street in Watts

Greystone Mansion

As is only right, for a landmark situated on a tres chic and covetable address in Beverly Hills, the Greystone Mansion was, when the land was bought in 1914, the largest family estate in the history of Beverly Hills.  With 55 rooms from stable apartments to Gothic English bedrooms, Greystone Mansion is probably best known for its exterior treasures.  The property is lined with waterfalls, multiple gardens, a greenhouse, a tennis court, outdoor pavilions, and winding walking paths.  Open now to the public (although you’re under strict supervision there), Greystone is the kind of place that inspires garden picnics and comments like “shall we retire to the drawing room?” Many films have been shot on site at Greystone as well as photo shoots, charity events, and it has been featured in many a home video made by tourists from far and wide.

Greystone Mansion is located at 905 Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills