Chinatown and Olvera Street but first (being a Brit) a visit to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex
10.05.2013 - 11.05.2013 24 °C
Los Angeles has a cricket complex! I stumbled upon this little known fact while investigating what I might want to see while I was visiting the city and of course been a cricket fan I was quite keen to go and see it. Trying to explain cricket to my American relatives as like baseball but with two 'bases' (i.e. wickets) moved to the centre of the field with the 'pitcher' (i.e. bowler) bouncing the ball before it reach reaches the batsman was always fun! So we spent the morning of my final full day in Los Angeles making our way down to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex in Woodley Park in the Van Nuys District of LA to have a look.
The first cricket ground in LA opened at Griffiths Park in 1933 but was moved to Woodley Park in 1978. The pitches themselves are quite good and are judged by the former Jamaican test cricketers instrumental in setting them up as amongst the best in the USA. Although there are only small pavilions beside each of the pitches it has had 5,000 spectators in temporary stands for bigger games and the ground has been visited by the New Zealand National Team, the India and Australian A Teams as well as several England counties.
As we walked around the four pitches and limited facilities at the Leo Magnus Complex we stumbled upon a couple of Pakistani ex-pats practising in the nets. It was great to see the cricket facilities being actively used during a quiet spell in the working week, there's hope for the USA yet!
Next stop was Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles; or more correctly New Chinatown as the original Chinatown founded in 1852 was moved in 1938 to make way for LA's new main ground transportation hub at Union Station. The 25 feet (7.6 metre) high Twin Dragon Towers Gateway entrance to Chinatown at Cesar Chavez Ave and North Broadway was erected in July 2001 and was designed to symbolize luck, prosperity and longevity.
The hub of New Chinatown however is the Central Plaza between North Broadway and North Spring Street with decorative gateways at each end. In the square by the Gate of Filial Piety at the North Spring Street end is a statue erected in the 1960s of Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolutionary leader who is considered the "founder of modern (Nationalist) China".
Between the two gateways Chinatown's Main Plaza is a Hollywoodized version of Shanghai designed by Hollywood set designers in the 1930s with Chinese lanterns strung overhead. There is a Wishing Well with saucers labelled with such things as "wealth", "serenity" and "romance" into which passers by are encouraged to toss coins and make a wish. The last major landmark constructed in the Central Plaza was the Hop Louie Restaurant Pagoda (formerly the Golden Pagoda Restaurant) in early 1941.
My final stop in Los Angeles (and one I was particularly looking forward to because of happy memories I have from there in the past) was Olvera Street. This is where El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded in 1782 on land close to the River Porciuncula (aka 'Los Angeles River'). The site was chosen by Felipe de Neve, the Spanish Governor of California, on the orders of King Carlos III of Spain to setup a new pueblo in Alta California. The original Spanish "pobladores" (settlers) consisted of 11 families - 44 men, women, and children, accompanied by a contingent of soldiers - and their names are listed on plaque in the Plaza at the southern end of the street alongside statues of the Governor and the King.
Just across the road from the Plaza is La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles ("The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels" also known as the "Old Plaza Church") which was founded a couple of years later as an "asistencia" (or "sub-mission") of the nearby Mission San Gabriel Arcángel with the current church constructed 1814-1822. A large cross has been erected at the southern end of Olvera Street where it opens out onto the Plaza, it looks old but is actually a replica of a cross erected in 1929 to commemorate the city's 148th birthday.
Olvera Street itself is only about 500 feet (152.5 metres) long and was originally called Wine Street until it was renamed in 1877 in honour of a senior court judge who was a long time resident there. About half way along its length is the Avila Adobe, the oldest existing house in Los Angeles. It was originally constructed from bricks made primarily of clay and straw about 1818 and then damaged by an earthquake is 1971. It has now been restored to look as it did in the late 1840s, about the time when Commodore Robert F. Stockton of the US Navy used the house as his headquarters during the Mexican-American War of 1847.
Inside we were able to walk around the various rooms in the Avila Adobe; the parlour was only used on special occasions and the kitchen was only used for cooking when the weather was bad preventing cooking outside in the courtyard. The descendants of the Avila family lived in the house until 1868 after which it deteriorated as a rented property until it was condemned by the city in 1928. Mrs Sterling with the help of influential friends then restored the house and created a Mexican style market place on Olvera Street itself which when opened to the public in 1930 quickly became a major tourist attraction in which to experience Los Angeles' Mexican culture and heritage.
As a tourist attraction, Olvera Street has become a living museum paying homage to a romantic vision of old Mexico including a fountain and a water trough. Its sides and centre are lined with small shops and stalls selling colourful dresses, oversized sombreros, serapes, piñatas, pottery, leather goods and a host of other Mexican trinkets to the nearly 2 million tourists that come to visit the street every year.
Olvera Street is also dotted with many Mexican Restaurants which have musicians strolling amongst their guests playing serenades. While Mexican restaurants are as a common in California as Indian Restaurants are in the UK somehow the ones on Olvera Street with all the Mexican culture around them feel like they have the most authentic setting than Mexican restaurants elsewhere.
The following morning I flew to Denver from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and managed to get a picture of its futuristic icon the googie style "Theme Building" built in 1961 before I took off. The building (which has been heritage listed since 1992) was never intended or used as a control tower and is actually a restaurant suspended beneath two arches that form the legs.