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Historic Downtown Los Angeles

Chinatown and Olvera Street but first (being a Brit) a visit to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex

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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.

Me by the entrance to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex in Los Angeles

Me by the entrance to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex in Los Angeles

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.

A wicket chalked up ready for a cricket match at the weekend

A wicket chalked up ready for a cricket match at the weekend


A small pavilion beside one of the cricket pitches at Leo Magnus

A small pavilion beside one of the cricket pitches at Leo Magnus


Changing rooms and scoreboard beside one of the cricket pitches at Leo Magnus

Changing rooms and scoreboard beside one of the cricket pitches at Leo Magnus

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!

Bowling and batting practise underway in the nets

Bowling and batting practise underway in the nets


Close up of the batting in the practise nets

Close up of the batting in the practise nets

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 Twin Dragon Towers Gateway into Chinatown

The Twin Dragon Towers Gateway into Chinatown


A typical shop in Chinatown

A typical shop in Chinatown

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".

New Chinatown's Gate of Filial Piety and Central Plaza Square

New Chinatown's Gate of Filial Piety and Central Plaza Square


Gateway to New Chinatown Main Plaza from North Broadway

Gateway to New Chinatown Main Plaza from North Broadway


Statute of Sun Yat-sen in the square of Chinatown's Central Plaza

Statute of Sun Yat-sen in the square of Chinatown's Central Plaza

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.

New Chinatown Main Plaza

New Chinatown Main Plaza


Wishing Well in New Chinatown Central Plaza

Wishing Well in New Chinatown Central Plaza


Hop Louie Restaurant Pagoda in New Chinatown Central Plaza

Hop Louie Restaurant Pagoda in New Chinatown Central Plaza

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.

Statue of Felipe de Neve, Spanish Governor of California 1775-1782 and founder of Los Angeles

Statue of Felipe de Neve, Spanish Governor of California 1775-1782 and founder of Los Angeles


The top end of Olvera Street as seen from the Plaza

The top end of Olvera Street as seen from the Plaza


Plaque in the Plaza listing the names of the original 44 Spanish pobladores (settlers) of Los Angeles

Plaque in the Plaza listing the names of the original 44 Spanish pobladores (settlers) of Los Angeles

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.

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles (The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels)

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles (The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels)


Me stood by the large cross erected at the southern end of Olvera Street

Me stood by the large cross erected at the southern end of Olvera Street

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.

Me stood on the steps of the Avila Adobe, the oldest remaining building in LA (circa 1818)

Me stood on the steps of the Avila Adobe, the oldest remaining building in LA (circa 1818)


The courtyard fo the Avila Adobe

The courtyard fo the Avila Adobe


Reconstruction in the courtyard of the Avila Adobe of a wooden 'carretta' as used in the early days of Los Angeles

Reconstruction in the courtyard of the Avila Adobe of a wooden 'carretta' as used in the early days of Los Angeles

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.

The family room in the Avila Adobe where regular meals were eaten

The family room in the Avila Adobe where regular meals were eaten


The Indoor Kitchen in the Avila Adobe

The Indoor Kitchen in the Avila Adobe


The Parlour or Sitting Room in the Avila Adobe

The Parlour or Sitting Room in the Avila Adobe


The parents bedroom in the Avila Adobe

The parents bedroom in the Avila Adobe


The Office in the Avila Adobe were the business affairs of the vineyard and ranch were transacted

The Office in the Avila Adobe were the business affairs of the vineyard and ranch were transacted

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.

View south along Olvera Street towards the United Methodist Church

View south along Olvera Street towards the United Methodist Church


The fountain on Olvera Street

The fountain on Olvera Street


Colourful Mexican clothes on display outside a shop in Olvera Street

Colourful Mexican clothes on display outside a shop in Olvera Street


Colourful trinkets on sale in a shop on Olvera Street

Colourful trinkets on sale in a shop on Olvera Street

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.

Musicians serenading outside their restaurant in Olvera Street

Musicians serenading outside their restaurant in Olvera Street


Market stalls on Olvera Street

Market stalls on Olvera Street


More market stalls on Olvera Street

More market stalls on Olvera Street

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.

The googie style 'Theme Building' at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

The googie style 'Theme Building' at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged churches museums food markets california sport city chinese missions mexican earthquakes film_locations Comments (0)

Independence Hall Philadelphia

America's most historic square mile

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The first city my family took me to visit on the US East Coast was Philadelphia and in particular the L-shaped group of downtown city blocks that make up the Independence National Historic Park and contains many of the key the historical buildings from the time of the American Revolution. Having parked underneath the Independence Visitor Center and made our way past our first Benjamin Franklin look-a-like, I got my first view of Independence Hall ...with a group of Chinese looking people surreally performing Falun Dafa on the lawn out front trying to attract new recruits!

My first view of downtown Philadelphia

My first view of downtown Philadelphia


The Independence Visitor Center and National Constitution Center in Independence Park

The Independence Visitor Center and National Constitution Center in Independence Park


My first view of Independence Hall

My first view of Independence Hall


'Falun Dafa' being performed on the lawn in front of Independence Hall

'Falun Dafa' being performed on the lawn in front of Independence Hall

Our first stop however was to see the famously cracked Liberty Bell which has become an iconic symbol of freedom. The bell was originally made in London and hung in the then State House (now Independence Hall) in 1753 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pennsylvania's constitution with the inscription from the Bible Leviticus 25:10 "Proclaim Liberty through all the land, to all the inhabitants thereof". The bell was only tolled for important occasions (most notably for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776) but became cracked sometime between 1817 and 1846 and after several attempts to repair it hasn't been rung since.

X-rays of the Liberty Bell showing its famous crack

X-rays of the Liberty Bell showing its famous crack


The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell


Me stood by the Liberty Bell with Independence Hall through the window behind me

Me stood by the Liberty Bell with Independence Hall through the window behind me

The centrepiece of the National Park is Independence Hall itself, a world heritage site and a lovely example of Georgian Quaker architecture. Although free to get in (as are most government owned heritage buildings) we needed timed tickets that had to be booked several days earlier. Our tour began with a talk in the East Wing explaining the historical context (as a Brit I was surprised how the American Revolution was portrayed as something few really wanted and was stumbled into almost as a last resort).

Independence Hall

Independence Hall


Washington's Statue outside Independence Hall

Washington's Statue outside Independence Hall


Plaque commemorating Independence Hall as 'The Birthplace of the United States of America'

Plaque commemorating Independence Hall as 'The Birthplace of the United States of America'


Horse and Carriage passing the front of Independence Hall

Horse and Carriage passing the front of Independence Hall

We were than taken into the main building underneath the white clock tower and shown the Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and then the Assembly Room itself (which is where everything happened - George Washington appointed Commander-in-Chief 1775, Declaration of Independence adopted 1776 and a lot more besides).

Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court


Independence Hall Assembly Room - where the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776

Independence Hall Assembly Room - where the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776

Behind Independence Hall is Independence Square which is where first public reading of the Declaration of Independence happened in 1776. In the middle of the square is statue of John Barry, born in Wexford (Ireland) in 1745 he was the first captain of a US warship and is credited with being "The Father of the American Navy" (an epithet sometimes also used for John Paul Jones).

The back of Independence Hall from Independence Square

The back of Independence Hall from Independence Square


Replica of Stretch's 1753 Clock on the west end of Independence Hall

Replica of Stretch's 1753 Clock on the west end of Independence Hall


Commodore Barry's Statue and the back of Independence Hall in Independence Square

Commodore Barry's Statue and the back of Independence Hall in Independence Square

We then hoped to visit Congress Hall on the west side of Independence Square (which is where the US Congress met between 1790 and 1800) but there was quite a long wait until the next tour so I decided to cover this off when I was due to visit Philadelphia again a bit later on my trip. Instead we had a look around the West Wing of Independence Hall which is where original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States are on display.

The West Wing of Independence Hall from Independence Square with the Congress Hall just beyond

The West Wing of Independence Hall from Independence Square with the Congress Hall just beyond


Copy of the Declaration of Independence inside the West Wing - no flash allowed!

Copy of the Declaration of Independence inside the West Wing - no flash allowed!


Inkpots used to sign the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution

Inkpots used to sign the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution

The final historic site we passed was Franklin Court which consists of a row of five restored tenement shops, three of which were originally built by Benjamin Franklin in the 1780s. They lead onto a courtyard where Benjamin Franklin's house itself once stood which has an underground museum filled with artifacts associated with him but we didn't have time to go in and see it. Amongst the restored tenement shops is a 18th century printing shop - similar to Franklin's own business, a postal museum and a real US post office - the only one in the country that does not fly the US flag as it didn't yet exist when it first opened in 1775.

Franklin Court Market Street Houses

Franklin Court Market Street Houses


The US Post Office at Franklin Court

The US Post Office at Franklin Court

We then went on an unsuccessful quest to find somewhere I could try the local fast food known as a Philly Cheesesteak before my 2 hour train journey from Trenton into New York to see an exhibition soccer match at the Yankee Stadium. That dubious culinary delight will have to wait for me until another time!

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged museums city chinese philadelphia us_east_coast constitutions Comments (0)

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