Honey and the second barrio of Los Angeles

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January 1, 2018 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground 


By Honey van Blossom


(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

As soon as a piece of a puzzle does not fit, then the rest of the pieces jiggle and come loose.  Some pieces of the history of early Los Angeles jiggle.

William David Estrada, presently Curator of California and American History at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, wrote that La Placita was built between 1818-1822 on the plaza’s third site; that is, that the settlers or the government moved the plaza from the original site to another site to the Olvera Street location.[1]

That statement is one of the few about the history of early Los Angeles that makes a lot of sense.  The Spanish Colonial records were destroyed, H. H. Bancroft’s team of researchers did a tremendous job of copying and attempting to organize – they did not organize all that well; it is hard to this day to understand the organization but Thomas Savage and his assistants spent two years with paper anarchy.  There was no survey of Los Angeles until 1849 and no map since about 1793.  No one had a deed to his property.  Property descriptions were impossible to understand because they referred to things like the orchard where the cows ate the apples.  Later writers turned information on its head and because they saw things through preconception and wearing American blinders, they mystified by the beginning of Los Angeles.

That Dr. Estrada figured out there was a second barrio after the original plaza and its surrounding buildings and before there was the plaza in front of the Catholic church near Olvera Street is impressive.


The present plaza is a shrunken portion of the Native American village sometimes called Yang-Na.  The Spanish colonial settlers of 1781 had  built their pueblo proper at a distance of 1.25 miles from Yang-Na.


The people called the Tongva today occupied Los Angeles for about two thousand years, superseding another native people, many of which moved north.   Native people occupied Los Angeles for about fifteen to twenty thousand years before merchant-explorer  Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his men sailed into the Santa Monica harbor in 1542 in  ships with large white sails, an event that gave birth to a legend that white men with beards could fly, a legend that lasted until 1769, when the Portola expedition arrived in Los Angeles riding horses up from San Diego, accompanied by Indian guides.

There is no primary source evidence that the Tongva people that met the men that rode horses into their village thought the European men had ugly blue eyes.  On the contrary, Father Crespi wrote that the native people welcomed the members of the first land exploration in 1769 and offered the soldiers seeds and blew some smoke at the Spanish. Indian guides accompanied the Portola expedition, and the Spanish arrived in Los Angeles on ancient Indian roads.

Who was not an Indian or part Indian of the non-Indian settlers is fairly clear.  A lot of people that came here from Mexico were of African-descent, Indian-descent, or part African and part Indian. Not that many people came to Los Angeles from what is today Mexico until 1848-1850, and, by then, Los Angeles was occupied by American forces and part of an interregnum government until governmental authority shifted to the United States government.

Mexico had become independent from Spain in 1821, although Los Angeles residents did not find this out until 1822.   In 1836, the Mexican-era municipal government told the Tongva people remaining in the village to move out of their village sometimes called Yang-Na, and they did.  By then, the remaining Tongva people were property.

Under the first American-era laws, Indians officially became slaves.[2]  The Indian houses – or abodes, whatever was there until the city ordered the remaining natives to leave – were located in a once very large open space until 1836.  That open space became “the Plaza.”   Over time, “the Plaza” shrunk because people kept building houses in it, and there was not really legal authority to do anything.  Mexican government was remote, changed often anyway, and neglected its Alta California province.

The Los Angeles area was so remote and had so few visitors – those that came tended to stay and marry Mexican women and get a lot of property as a result of their marriages – that one of the rare visitors noted that the Mexican women thought that hat boxes were fashionable hats because they had not seen hats, and it was all he could to stop himself from laughing out loud.[3]

When I began writing about Los Angeles’ birthplace, my idea had been to showcase the work of the writers on the subject.  I found writers contradicted each other and once maybe twice an author contradicted himself.

Writing about writers about Los Angeles gradually became like writing a Dan Brown novel where a professor encounters an evil plot revealed by historic locations.

The secret plot in the history of early Los Angeles was the emergence of class distinctions, slavery, theft of the land of a once-vibrant native community and racism– so the plot was merely the usual banal sort of evil that we are accustomed to seeing.   There was no ominous crescendo of atonal music to warn the people living here.

A people were liquidated[4] although that took over half a century, and no had – apparently — started out wanting that to happen.  Indeed, Spanish law had abolished Indian slavery and also ended the encomienda[5] system in 1542 when King Charles V enacted the New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians.

Yang-Na had been an important and quite large Native American village for possibly 10,000 years.[6]  All of the major Indian roads led in and out of Yang-Na.  The first explorers[7]

The city’s government, insofar as a municipal entity that passed no laws and collected no taxes can be called a government, passed a resolution in 1836 that the remaining two hundred or so Indian people living in Yang-Na were to be evicted and the village moved south a bit.  The Indians moved.  There is no evidence they fought the eviction.

The city’s government re-configured “The Plaza,” the open space in front of today’s plaza church several times up until at least the time surveyor and engineer E.O.C. Ord and artist-surveyor William Rich Hutton created the first survey of Los Angeles in 1849. By the time of an 1860 photograph, perhaps the first photograph of The Plaza, the plaza had become a much smaller space shaped like a rectangle.  By the 1870s, when the American population for the first time superseded the Indian and Mexican populations, the rectangle became a circle.  From one of Hutton’s paintings, Mr. Pryor’s house, built in the late 1820s, is behind the Casa de Lugo.  Casa de Lugo was constructed in 1838, two years after Yang-Na’s remaining buildings were destroyed.

For sixty-two years, Yang-Na  had survived as a community of Indians living 1.25 miles from the original Spanish colonial plaza and surrounding structures.

From the Thomas Savage copy of the 1786 Arguello map, the first Spanish plaza seems to have been about 75 varas across and 100 varas in length.   One hundred varas translate to 36 feet.  Seventy-five varas equal 75 feet.  The triangle of land occupied by the Gold Line storage yard at the base of Elysian Park above the Broadway Bridge today is 400 feet at the base and about 400 feet in length.  There is a distance of 200 feet from the base of the hill to the concrete channel at the top.  The first pueblo proper could fit nicely in that triangle with a little room for a few more houses to be built after 1790, but not many.

The house sites, however, add an additional 100 varas to the width of the pueblo proper as it was in 1781.

The original Spanish colonial “pueblo proper” consisted of 13 home sites, a granary, two administrative buildings, and a guardhouse.   There was no church near the first pueblo proper.  There was no room for a church on the narrow mesa.

There was no cuartel (barracks).  The cuartel was for the soldiers, and it was – and much of it still is – in Santa Barbara.  If the pueblo proper was built as the Spanish colonial pueblo in Santa Fe had been built, the adobe houses were connected in back, giving the appearance of a wall.

No one knows when the original pueblo proper disappeared.  Secondary sources suspect that it disappeared during either the 1815 or the 1825 floods.  The first plaza may have still been there tucked into the shelter of an Elysian Park hill at the western edge of the river, out of sight from Yang-Na, until sometime after Ord’s 1849 survey.  The first plaza was a small dirt open area surrounded by possibly 20 structures, all of them made of adobe, and adobe is essentially also dirt.  That little area could have continued to 1876, when Southern Pacific Railway laid tracks through it.

Where was the second barrio?

No writing I’ve come across has an opinion about where the second barrio was, the one before the one in the front of La Placita, was developed.

There were too many people to live at the original site by 1790, only eight years after the pueblo of Los Angeles was founded.   If the pueblo proper – plaza, houses, etc., — moved in 1815, then where were people living between 1790 and 1815?

By the time of the 1825 flood, Los Angeles was a Mexican pueblo, and there was no good reason to replicate Neve’s 1781 design, which implemented the ordinances for inland pueblos contained in the Law of the Indies.  The Mexican-era municipal government’s reason for establishing what may have been the third public open space might be found in what happened before 1836.

The reason may be that, after the population of pobladores increased and their children or relatives moved somewhere else, they decided in 1811 to build a church.  Under Spanish colonial regulations, the church was to face the plaza.  It took until 1822 to finish the church, and that was in a different location, the location where the plaza church now is, so it may have been in the minds of people living in Los Angeles to evict the Indians from the area in front of the church sometimes before 1822.

A long submerged question is where was the somewhere else that the people of Los Angeles that did not fit in the first pueblo proper lived in after 1790 until the wealthy elite moved into town houses near the Plaza Church, popularly called La Placita beginning in 1818.

That somewhere else was Los Angeles’s second barrio.  The only candidates for the somewhere else barrio are the area that is now Chinatown and also an area adjacent to the North Main Street on the western bank of the river.  Everything else was occupied by agricultural land up to the river’s edge until Southern Pacific Railway purchased the land that is now occupied by the Los Angeles State Historic Park, although not all of the first agricultural fields were removed from production after Southern Pacific laid tracks and raised berms.

Of course, there might have been no second barrio.  Adobe house could have been randomly sprinkled all over the area between the river and Yang-Na.  Against that theory, however, is the fact that Father Gil came out from the mission in 1814 and laid the cornerstone for the foundation for the first church somewhere.  Building a church was urban planning: houses would be built around it.  A plaza could go up in front of it.   The residents decided a church was to be built around 1811, and they decided on the location in 1811.  The church was probably to be built where there was a more or less established neighborhood.

Where was it?

Reprise of the first pueblo proper located on the western bank of the river, at a moderate elevation.

Los Angeles began with Yang-Na, and whatever village was there before Yang-Na.   All roads led to and from Yang-Na.  After that, it began as a tiny Spanish colonial pueblo on the edge of the river in 1781.

Governor Phelipe de Neve sited it, and he wrote instructions for its establishment that fastidiously followed the Laws of the Indies, a body of laws issued by the Spanish Crown for the American and Philippine possessions that regulated social, political and economic life in those areas.  More specifically, Neve followed directions for the establishment of inland pueblos.

That is, Neve located the pueblo at a distance from the largest Indian village because the Laws of the Indies were secular, and the Crown – unlike the San Franciscan missionaries – prohibited the building of pueblos adjacent to Indian communities.   The native people were not to be forced to work in the pueblos.

The padres in the San Gabriel Mission did force – through gentle and also quite harsh means – the Indians to work building the mission and doing the work for the missions.  That is a different story from the story of treatment of the Indian population remaining in Yang-Na.[8]

Today’s Chinatown barrio was probably not the second barrio.

The legend that the 1815 flood caused the pueblo to relocate from the original pueblo to the Olvera Street barrio has big holes in it.  The original pueblo proper was built on a moderate elevation and so may not have been inundated, although the area marked on the Arguello map as “tierra para los propios” – by then agricultural plots, as seen in the map marked “Coronel” in the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.   Another hole in the theory that the pueblo moved after the 1815 flood is that there is no evidence of any Spanish-era houses at the boundaries of Yang-Na until 1818.

The 1815 flood probably could not have inundated the Sonoratown (now Chinatown) area – it was on high ground.

The E.O.C. survey shows straight streets and regular blocks in Sonoratown, which is not what was in the ground in reality.  Ord indicated a few houses in this area, set irregularly in the surveyed plots.  The best image I found of those houses, the plots, and the names of some of the land owners is http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15799coll65/id/12770/rec/6.  (“The E.O.C. Ord’s first map of the city of Los Angeles, drawn in August 29, 1849,” in the USC digital library, retrieved 12/16/2017).  By 1849, there were too few houses indicated on Ord’s map in the Sonoratown area to constitute a neighborhood.

Governor Sola did have the first church rebuilt in 1818 and put at the base of Fort Moore Hill with a little plaza or placita behind it, and the Avila Adobe, which still exists on Olvera Street, was built in 1818.  There had to have been the comisionado’s house near the location of the 1818 church because Sola wanted the church to be near that house.

It is as probable that the 1825 flood ended the second barrio, and that the people living in it moved after that flood.

Gumprecht tells the story of Don Jose del Carmen Lugo, then (in 1825), a twelve-year old boy, which indicates the river entered the town and created a new river bed.

“My father heard a great noise.  The river ran about 100 varas (275 feet, sic 360 feet) from our house.  I went to the bank, and discovered that it was a sea of water, which was overflowing vegetable gardens, fences, trees and whatever was before it.  The water was running with great violence, making enormous waves.  I warned my father immediately of the terrible danger.  He …sent me without a moment’s delay to inform the commissioner of the pueblo.

“My brothers and some of my father’s servants were already running through the town warning the people.  Orders were given speedily for all the inhabitants of the town warning the people.  Orders were given speedily for all the inhabitants of the town to move to a place of safety…”[9]

Don Jose del Carmen Lugo was the eldest son of Don Antonio Maria Lugo.  One  essay on Los Angeles history reports the town home of Don Antonio, “where nearly all of his large family of children was born, was on the east side of the street, afterward known as Negro alley, situate on the eminence overlooking the valley, was then a very desirable place of residence; it had not then been a resort of low gamblers, nor as it is today, a vile den of heathen Chinese.[10]

Casa de Lugo, however, was not Don Antonio de Lugo’s town house, the house built in front of Mr. Pryor’s adobe in 1838, at about the location of the main part of today’s Union Station, later part of Old Chinatown, which existed until it was demolished for Union Station.  Casa de Lugo, once located at 516-522 North Los Angeles Street, was demolished in the 1930s with the rest of Old Chinatown.  Another of Antonio’s sons, Don Vicente Lugo built Casa de Lugo.

From a photograph in the essay “Life of a Rancher,” the Antonio Lugo adobe was on San Pedro and Second Street.

A lumpish rectangular area rather like a map of Pennsylvania is on the E.O.C. Ord map marked “Antonio M. Lugo.”  There is a large adobe – large compared to some of the very tiny buildings in the Sonoratown/Chinatown area — indicated at the top end of the property.   This property was on a significant road and a narrow road passed on the other side of it leading, in 1849, nowhere but into an orchard or field.   On today’s Google maps, using today’s streets, the distance from the Antonio Lugo adobe from La Placita is .9 miles.  It was, according to the Ord scale of inches to the mile, that distance in 1849.

The Lugo house that was flooded in 1825 apparently stayed where it was and no one relocated to another location.  It was still there in 1902.

Los Angeles may not have had a plaza other than the 1781 plaza before 1836.

In August through October 1827, Auguste Duhaut-Cilly visited Los Angeles.[11]

His description of the arrival of his ship at San Pedro gives flavor to the isolation of Los Angeles from the rest of the world after Mexico’s independence from Spain.

“The bay of San Pedro is quite deserted, the closest habitation being a rancho that can be seen four leagues away on the road to the pueblo of Los Angeles.  It is possible to spend several days here before anyone at the pueblo knows that a ship has arrived in the roadstead.  One can send a man on foot to the rancho to ask for horses but ordinarily one fires a gun in order to be noticed.  In the calm of the evening, especially, the sound easily carries that far and even as far as the pueblo.  As we know the range of our carronade eights, we loaded two of them with balls with the double intention of learning their power and of making a louder noise.  The detonation was first heard against the cliffs of the bay, then it crossed the plain that extends to the north, rolling like distant thunder, and as soon as the sound had died down an echo from the mountains reached us from more than ten leagues away, a faint cannon shot but clear and distinct, as if our salute had been returned by the inhabitants of Los Angeles…..”[12]

Duhaut-Cilly later ascended a high point in the city.  He did not say which of the Los Angeles hills he climbed.  The most likely hill is Fort Moore Hill but he could have climbed Bunker Hill or one of the Elysian Park hills.

“From the same spot I counted eighty-two houses comprising the pueblo, from which I concluded that it might contain one thousand inhabitants, including two hundred Indian domestics and laborers.  The land around the village and the low ground separating the two channels of the river appeared to me to be cultivated with some care, the principal crops being corn and grapes.”

In October, Duhaut-Cilly may have seen vineyards and drying corn stalks.  The pobladores did raise corn and they did grow grapes.  The people of Los Angeles had also grown wheat, lentils, garbanzos, and olives and may have had other fruit trees by that time.

The editors inserted a note after this description[13] to tell the reader that the pueblo, like the pueblo of San Jose, was a civil (as opposed to religious) community.  The editors imposed an order on those eighty-two houses by centering them on a plaza but, if Duhaut-Cilly saw a plaza or saw any orderly development, he did not write that he did.

The editors also remarked in their footnote that the population was 700, not including Indians.  I don’t have a problem with their last conclusion.

Duhaut-Cilly did not note where it is that the Indian houses were located, which suggests that by 1827, the native people lived in structures similar to the Mexican residents’ houses: flat-roofed one-story adobes rather than in reed huts.

The Ord/Hutton survey – assuming we have a copy of all of the original survey, an assumption I don’t buy – showed a mostly higgledy-piggledy and random assortment of houses indicated with tiny squares.  There are a few little houses located on the flanks of Fort Moore Hill in the survey.

Richard Griswold del Castillo begins his social history with chapters on the Indian tradition and the settlement of Los Angeles and includes chapters on the Mexican-American War and the ranchos.

He shows that in the years between 1848 and 1852 almost 25,000 Mexican immigrants from Sonora crossed into California on the way to the gold fields.[14]  Most stayed or returned with their families.  Most of those that arrived in Los Angeles in those years moved into Sonoratown.[15]

By the time Helen Hunt Jackson visited in 1886 most of the people from Mexico lived on a hill, which seems to have been the slopes upwards on Fort Moore Hill and the bottom of Elysian Park, that is, in the barrio that, after 1850, became known as Sonoratown, today’s Chinatown.


Detail from 1857 map of Los Angeles by EOC Ord from the Plaza (large cross) to the northeast of what is now Chinatown. The streets, from the lowest, are Eternity (now Broadway), Bull Street (now Hill Street), Hornet Street (now Yale Street), and Adobe Street.


This is the Sonoratown that Jackson saw:

“One comes sometimes abruptly on a picture that seems bewilderingly un-American, of a precipice wall covered with bird-cage cottages, the little walled yard of one jutting out in a line with the chimney-tops of the next one below, and so on down to the street at the base of the hill. Wooden staircases and bits of terrace link and loop the odd little perches together; bright green pepper-trees, sometimes tall enough to shade two or three tiers of roofs, give a graceful plumed draping at the sides, and some of the steep fronts are covered with bloom, in solid curtains of geranium, sweet alyssum, heliotrope, and ivy. These terraced eyries (nests of birds of prey) are not the homes of the rich: the houses are Lilliputian in size, and of cheap quality; but they do more for the picturesqueness of the city than all the large, fine, and costly houses put together.

“Moreover, they are the only houses that command the situation, possess distance and a horizon. From some of these little ten-by-twelve flower-beds of homes is a stretch of view which makes each hour of the day a succession of changing splendors — the snowy peaks of San Bernardino and San Jacinto in the east and south; to the west, vast open country, billowy green with vineyard and orchard; beyond this, in clear weather, shining glints and threads of ocean, and again beyond, in the farthest outing, hill-crowned islands, misty blue against the sky. No one knows Los Angeles who does not climb to these sunny outlying heights, and roam and linger on them many a day. Nor, even thus lingering, will any one ever know more of Los Angeles than its lovely outward semblances and mysterious suggestions, unless he have the good fortune to win past the barrier of proud, sensitive, tender reserve, behind which is hid the life of the few remaining survivors of the old Spanish and Mexican Regime….” [16]

There was no direct route between what would become Sonoratown and the original pueblo proper site.  The Huntington Digital Library contains a map, which shows locations in Los Angeles before 1875.[17]



Detail of Kelleher 1875 map showing Zanja as it runs from near the Plaza then runs north just before the Calvary Cemeterey.


This M. Kelleher map shows both an “intake” and a “toma.”  Michael Kelleher was City Surveyor when he drew this map but the original “toma” had been where the “intake” was indicated on the 1875 map. He sketched a “Road” from the original pueblo site to Sonoratown by a narrow curving line and dashes, suggesting the “Road” at that place was not much more than a footpath as of 1875, going below Calvary Cemetery and joining up with an established wider Road, Eternidad, which became North Broadway after the map was created.   This dash/thin line goes around an elevation of the bottom of the last Elysian Park hill and it also turns into another dash thin line called “Road.” This extension – “Road” – crosses the river where the “Camino Real” crossed the river and went to the first pueblo proper in the 1786 Arguello map. A path descends from the Zanja Madre to join Toma Street.

Toma Street went along the bottom of what had been the original agricultural fields, by then part of the Rafael Carbajal Grant with the date 1843.  The Ramon Orduno Grant, also dated 1843, and also with the word Abel Stearms (sic, Abel Stearns) and locates the Stearns Mill on a ditch next to what was once a significant stream at the eastern end of Sonoratown.  Toma Road also fords the river.  Another “Road” shown with dashes goes from Toma Street up to the site of the original pueblo proper.

Going in the other direction, Toma Street, a wide street, crosses a ditch and then the Zanja Madre and hooks up with Calle Principal  — by 1875 already called Main Street and goes past a square plaza.[18]

San Pedro Road now – whatever time Kelleher was recreating – and on this map the Pennsylvania shaped land shows the L shaped Antonio Lugo house and another house.  The road, which was to become part of Second Street, that in the 1849 Ord survey/map was a road that disappeared into an orchard, has been extended through the Wolfskill property to reach Alameda.

Kelleher indicates a water wheel as part of a zanja considerably below the location of the water wheel that had existed at the road through Solano Canyon.  The Solano Canyon area was first developed in 1860.  A brick building, last named Capitol Milling replaced Stearns Mill in 1860.[19]  The Capitol Milling Company occupied the building until 1998.

Stearns widow, Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker had sold these grants to Southern Pacific Railway in 1874.[20]  The “Indian Camp” (El Pueblito) located on the eastern side of the river  ended in 1847.   Kelleher’s inaccuracies suggest that the “1875” map is a map that was drawn in 1875 to describe locations from a time before 1875 as predicate to the City’s gift of rights-of-way to Southern Pacific Railway – which Kelleher had also overseen.

Alameda Street went through Aliso Street and headed in a westerly-southerly direction after Aliso.

Where was the bull-fighting ring?

In “Life of a Rancher,”  Don Jose told  Bancroft’s researcher Thomas Savage about a bull-fighting ring in Los Angeles.  He said that it was the plaza.

The people put a fence around the plaza on occasion to protect the surrounding residences and had bull-fights.

There was a fenced bull-fighting ring by the time of Horace Bell.  Bell wrote the arena consisted of a fence built of green willow posts set in the ground to which were lashed, with raw-hide thongs, stout poles forming a circle about forty feet in diameter.  On one side elevated seats were arranged, one above the other, in theatrical style, for those who were to pay; while the rabble had the privilege of peeping through the poles without price…”[21]

.  James Miller Guinn wrote that the Calle del Toro adjoined the Plaza de Los Toros, and that the men of Los Angeles brought in grizzly bears from the San Gabriel Mountains for bull and bear baiting.  The Calle de Toros became Castelar Street.[22]   The area of the bull-fighting open space was at what is the corner of Hill and College Streets,[23] where the Pacific Medical Alliance building stands.

That is, the bull-fighting ring was in what would be after 1850 called Sonoratown.  Ord marked Calle de los Toros on his 1849 survey.

Lugo’s comment could mean several things: that the bull-fighting ring was an earlier plaza, that the plaza in front of La Placita was sometimes fenced in and used as a bull-fighting ring, or that there was another plaza that sometimes became a bull-fighting ring, perhaps the original plaza tucked up behind the Elysian Park hill, or he could have been mistaken in his recollection that the ring was sometimes the plaza.

The second barrio did exist, and it was probably around the area of Dogtown, and the first church and second plaza may have been where the William Mead public housing project stands.   

The 1786 map drawn by Jose Arguello[24] shows two scales: one for the pueblo proper, one for the fields.  The Arguello map indicates the suertes, or agricultural lots, were 800 varas in width.   The suertes were assigned to each household.  In 1786, two home sites were empty.

There were 22 different measurements for the vara during the mission and exploration period.  There is no academic consensus on what distance a vara covered. But in California, a vara was about 33 inches.  See, http://californiamissionsfoundation.org/articles/weightsandmeasuresmissionperiod/.   800 x 33” = 26,400 inches, or 2,200 feet.    The width of the Los Angeles State Historic Park – once the Southern Pacific Railway yard popularly called “The Cornfield” and train station and before that farmland – is only 500 feet in width, which suggests the road once Toma Road at the southern boundary of the fields was today’s North Main Street.  That may be the street the self-taught Los Angeles historian J. M. Guinn referred to as “Upper Main,” although Upper Main could be the street that became San Fernando Street, which was renamed North Spring.

The agricultural fields, it appears from the map, were complete in 1786, which means the settlers, probably with Indian help in spite of the injunction against Indian labor, dug those fields with primitive tools in five years.

In a map after 1790, the propios were occupied by squares and rectangles.  These might have been home sites but this was in a riverbed, so probably the geometric shapes indicate the common lands became additional agricultural land.

A primary text on Spanish Colonial land use planning incorrectly labels the post-1790 map as the 1786 map, and that map is upside down.  The authors published the Arguello map as well, and this one is right side up.  Crouch, Garr and Mundigo, Spanish City Planning (The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England, 1982), Figures 55 and 56.

Crouch, et al, make another mistake in their urban planning history of Los Angeles.  The authors repeat the frequent misreading of Bancroft’s research.  They state that the 1815 flood caused the residents to move the plaza and the church.

Bancroft did not say the first pueblo proper had a church.  It didn’t.  There is nothing at all to indicate there was a church.  The evidence is to the contrary.   The only primary source is the Arguello map, which shows no church.

Father Gil laid the cornerstone for the church in 1814.  No records show where the foundations for the church were built.   Bancroft wrote that Governor Sola decided to relocate what had been built – probably only the foundation – because the 1815 flood created a new channel that endangered the church’s foundation, not that the church itself was destroyed in a flood.

Writers after Bancroft have assumed that the 1815 flood destroyed the plaza and the church and based on that assumption they conclude the settlers leapfrogged through a lot of area and put down a new church and a new plaza down about where they are now.

Bancroft’s research in the provincial archives did not reveal that the plaza was moved after the 1815 flood.  Nonetheless, generations of history writers worked, and continue to work, on the assumption that the plaza was moved.   Obviously, there was at least one later plaza but the Laws of the Indies allowed for multiple plazas.

The original plaza may have existed until Southern Pacific Railroad laid tracks through the area; that is, it may have existed until 1876.[25]

Central social life, however, had moved from the little original pueblo before the 1815 flood, and there could have been another plaza in that earlier development.

There is only a suggestion of a road on the Arguello map; that is, there was the road to the mission.  It was a ford, rather than a road, and then a little road to the pueblo proper.  You can’t see the road on the eastern side of the river.  You also can’t see how the settlers traveled to the primary trading village of Yang-Na on this map.  You can see it on the M. Kelleher 1875 map.

Roads in California existed before the Spanish explorers arrived.   The Indian people had a system of roads for the trading to and from Yang-Na.   These roads were not the straight roads we might expect.   They went around difficult areas rather than through them, and a primary concern was water.   The Indians did not carry water with them or at any rate probably didn’t because they didn’t have pottery or glass.   They had woven baskets except for the soapstone bowls carved on Santa Catalina Island.  They could have created waterproof baskets – they made boats, after all – but no basket water bottle has yet surfaced.

But how did the Indians get to the fording place and how did the Spanish explorers get from that fording place to Yang-Na?

They would have followed the Indian road, a road that is not on the Arguello map.   That road was what is today North Main, mostly, except during the early Spanish occupation, that road went along the river to the fording place and now it does not.  That was Toma Road.   Southern Pacific Railway removed that portion of the road.  This was the road that was to become Calle Principal and after that it was called Main Street.

The 1790 census of Los Angeles showed about thirty-one households. William M. Mason’s research revealed there were twenty-nine family homes in 1789.  There were the 14 adobes, a guardhouse, meetinghouse, the fourteen original houses, and an additional seventeen houses of agregados separated from the square.[26]  By 1790, the number of residents totaled 139 and far outnumbered the number of 1786 sites.  In 1795, there were 186 inhabitants.[27]  In 1800, there were 315.

The seventeen houses were separated from the main plaza settlement, according to Mason’s research.   These houses were on a street.

These seventeen houses may or may not have increased in number over the years but they likely did because the population increased.   The only place this agregado development could have occurred was below the agricultural fields in the industrial area on the western bank of the river popularly called today “Dogtown.”

Although the name derives from an animal shelter that has nothing to do with Spanish Colonial urban development in Los Angeles, the name evokes an underprivileged area, a contaminated area, and a sense of the Untermensch,  This enlarged Dogtown area contains an industrial area and also the William Mead public housing project.  The William Mead public housing project was built on Cardinal Street in 1942. Cardinal has several definitions, but one of those definitions is principal, and another is basic.

Cardinal also is the name of a Catholic prelate and of a bird.  The name Cardinal is probably a coincidence, but it is tempting to imagine it was the first street off Toma Road, and the location of the 1814 church.

You can see the William Mead housing when you ride Metrolink to Disneyland.  You can get a view of today’s industrial portion from the Amtrak train headed to Glendale as well as Metrolink from Glendale.

This area seems to correspond to the City’s Ward 8 by 1900.  See, Daniel Johnson, “Pollution and Public Policy,” Land of Sunshine, Figure 4.1 “Los Angeles Wards,” page 82.  By 1904, Ward 8 was a degraded neighborhood, signaled by the building of two slaughterhouses.[28]  The battle over the slaughterhouses was between the owners of little houses, working class families against millionaire butchers but residents of more affluent wards did not want the slaughterhouses near their houses.

The 1849 Ord map and survey[29] is a little difficult to interpret because Ord drew the north-south line at an angle through the church front, so map has to be turned a big in order to figure out where things are today, but it appears that in 1849, the clearest road was the road to San Pedro – Calle de las Huertos under the Mexican occupation[30] — but there are no houses located along San Pedro.  A meandering rather foot-and-calf shaped road branched off San Pedro and headed towards the river in the southwest of the current plaza area.  The land around that area was agricultural. J. M. Guinn’s view of a copy of the Ord map in the city clerk’s office indicated to him that the lands between Main Street and the river were “plough grounds, gardens, corn and vine lands,” but the map to me looks as if there were a few houses as well.

The road from San Pedro meandered towards the east, disappeared into a field and may have continued towards the river, going in three branches.  The three branches are straight. That area with the straight three roads approximates the area between Mission and Main, but Ord stopped his map at the edge of the paper – or the copies we have stop at the edge of the paper.  It does not go as far as the toma and instead shows only an edge of the Zanja Madre.

Guinn remarked, “How Main street came to zigzag below Sixth Street, Spring to disappear at Ninth street, and Fort to ignominiously end in Governor Downey’s orange orchard (subdivided in 1884), are things that as Lord Dundreay says, ‘No fellow can find out.’”[31]

The date of 1836 is significant because that was the date the new city leadership evicted the Indians from Yang-Na.[32]   The plaza as it was from 1836 kept shrinking but it the large plaza area had earlier been the Rancheria.   The “domesticated” Indians lived at the new settlement Rancheria de Poblanos for ten years.

  1. W. Robinson stated Juan Domingo, a naturalized former citizen of Holland, got the Indians evicted from this second Rancheria in his “The Indians of Los Angeles: As Revealed by the Los Angeles City Archives,” The Quarterly: Historical Society of Southern California, Vol. 20, No. 4 (December 1938), pages 156-172.

The city’s archives show a series of ayuntamiento sessions preceding the eviction, with accusations that the Indians drank, that they had to be forced to work on the zanja as punishment, and with accusations that the Indians bathed in the zanja and washed clothes in it making it dirty for the non-Indians.  (W.W. Robinson, pages 157-158).  The Indian women did the laundry for the gente de razon – the elite non-Indians that considered themselves to be white, so that accusation had to have been bitterly received.  Luis Vignes later claimed Rancheria de Poblanos.   In 1845, the Indians were not allowed to hear mass in La Placita “as these Indians are a dirty class and on mixing prevent the white people from hearing mass, and dirty their clothes.”

There was no other place Yang-Na could have been – no archeological evidence has been found, however —  and no other way a big open space emerged in front of the 1818 (or so) Avila adobe.

  1. Mark Raab, “Political Ecology of Prehistoric Los Angeles,” Land of Sunshine : An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles, edited by William Deverell and Greg Hise, (University of Pittsburg Press 2006), Dr. Estrada’s The Los Angeles Plaza, Chapter One, and William McCawley’s The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles (Ballena Press 1996) are three excellent sources of information about the lives of the native people that lived in the Los Angeles basin.

William David Estrada served as Curator of History at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.  He is presently Curator of California and American History and Chair of the History Department.  The staff biography for Dr. Estrada tells us the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is “the birthplace of the city,” which it was if Yang-Na is accepted as the birthplace of the city but Dr. Estrada defines “the Plaza” as something other than the physical layout.  In supporting his position that “the Plaza” was the birthplace of Los Angeles, he quotes Edward W. Soja for the description of a “thirdspace” as the place where “real and imagined narratives overlap and provide questions that disrupt binary and linear historical understandings of this place (Los Angeles) and its people.”

Estrada writes about the period 1781 to 1821 “the Plaza would undergo its first physical transformation by changing locations at least twice (and perhaps three times) due to the periodic flooding of the Los Angeles River.”[33]  If “the Plaza” means that the physical location of “the Plaza” changed at least twice, that is of course true.  The current physical “the Plaza” moved around considerably in approximately the same location, starting at a space behind the new church and then expanding to include Yang-Na and then shrinking to the current location.  The thirdspace concept suggests “the Plaza” means something almost metaphysical, so what Dr. Estrada may mean is that the community of people moved at least twice, “the Plaza” is metaphor for the community no matter what its spatial relationships, and that no one can disentangle the bits of story shining in bits like shiny dimes in the many narratives about “the Plaza.”

Jose Antonio Carrillo petitioned the Comisionado for a house lot near the new church in 1821, and this house was finished in 1825.[34]  This adobe was demolished in 1860 for the Pico House, which remains standing near today’s location.

Mason found reference to a plaza at a “more southerly location,” but the Law of the Indies allowed for more than one plaza.  There is no reason, other than Mason’s conjecture, to believe the original plaza and surrounding original adobe houses were destroyed in the 1815 flood.  Governor Sola said that adobe structures do not last more than thirty years, but, — as  William M. Mason points out — in 1815 there were few adobes as old as thirty years.  There were no deeds to land.  No system to record deeds.  Effectively, no laws only the equivalent of resolutions.   Land ownership under Spanish law meant grantees had usufruct rights; that is, if the person owning the land did not use it, the land reverted to the government.

Bancroft tells us the white population of pueblos, villa and ranchos increased between 1811-1820 from 540 to 930, but that figure includes San Jose as well as the ranchos. [35] The increase was “still” from the children that had grown up in California and from retired soldiers.  At that time, there were still no new colonists from Mexico, England or the United States.  Mexico was not yet sending convicted criminals to California.  Indians did most of the work in the pueblos, given one-third of the crops every year as their wages.  Later, the Indians got less and eventually were turned into slave labor.

The flora and fauna had changed during the thirty years from the initial settlement.  Ground squirrels, gophers and rats had multiplied because the Indians no longer hunted them.  Mustard – an import – choked the fields.   In 1805, a plague of locusts almost completely destroyed the corn and bean crops.[36]

Both Governor Neve, in his 1781 instructions, and Governor Fages, in his 1787 instructions, [37] stressed that the relationships with the native people were to remain peaceful.  No one was to go alone to the “rancherias” (the Indian villages).  No one was to enslave the Indians.   The Law of the Indies, moreover, had required that Spanish colonial pueblos should be laid out at a distance from Indian villages.

Mason comments, “Floods seem to have prompted a move to higher ground” a year or so after 1790.[38]   Mason does not give his authority for this conclusion but it isn’t an unreasonable assumption.   At least some people would have moved because of flooding.  The propios almost without doubt became unsuitable for agriculture because of the river sand.

On the other hand, families – one widow in the 1790 census had ten children –grew; people would have gotten into disputes with their neighbors.  Floods did not cause all of the movement away from the original pueblo proper and the second development.

Bancroft found almost nothing about Los Angeles for the decade of 1800 to 1810 in his research.   He found a list of the alcaldes, and he discussed the fact that the settlers cultivated hemp and requested neophytes from San Juan Capistrano to do the work in 1810, apparently running out of local Indians.

In April 1815, a great flood turned the river into a new channel eastward of its original course.  Cattle perished in large numbers.  There was considerable damage to gardens and farms. [39]

Again in 1825, the rivers in Los Angeles County were so swollen that their beds, their banks, and the adjoining land was greatly changed.   Bancroft states that at the date of the settlement, Los Angeles was largely covered with a forest, interspersed with tracts of marsh.  The river did not discharge its water into the sea but rather spread into lakes, ponds and marshes.[40]

In 1827 Duhaut-Cilly[41] visited the pueblo.  He found eighty-two houses with well-cultivated gardens and “noted the inability of the alcalde to preserve order or to protect individual rights in property.”  In the 1830s, Luis Vignes reclaimed some of the land from the river, using “brush wood, etc.” to push the water back to the east.  The Vignes property was located rather to the south of today’s current plaza, and the Great Sycamore (Aliso) grew in its courtyard of his vineyard.

William M. Mason, for many years the historian at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, wrote a highly readable account of the pueblo’s early years.[42]  He traced the development of the pueblo up to 1822, the year that Los Angeles realized that Mexico had won its independence from Spain, and Los Angeles became a Mexican city.

In 1895, J. M. Guinn wrote in the Journal of the Historical Society of Southern California: “There are no landmarks to show the  location of the lots that clustered around the old plaza … Time, flood, and the hated gringos having erased all ancient landmarks and boundary lines of the old Pueblo.”[43]

Although Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., editor of the Journal of the Historical Society of Southern California, said as late as 1996[44] said that nobody knows where the original site of the founding of Los Angeles was, the site was exactly in the place that father Juan Crespi had recommended in 1769 – a little above the place where the Indian road the first explorers followed into Los Angeles, which was about where the Broadway Bridge is today, below the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the river, and a little below as well the toma, or dam that the settlers built, on the western bank of the river.

In 1885, Guinn placed the boundaries of the original pueblo as “The northeast corner of Marchessault and Upper Main Streets.”  That he said, was the southwest corner.  From Marchessault and Upper Main Street he said to draw a line 278 feet northwest.[45]

Guinn’s conclusion is incorrect.  The location he describes is under Union Station and the nearby apartments, in what was Old Chinatown.

Marchessault was one of the streets in Old Chinatown.  By 1944, Marchessault had been erased. [46]  Marchessault had run alongside the former Lugo house.  Upper Main was renamed San Fernando by 1897, but this street also disappeared.

That area Guinn described was not at the edge of the river on an elevated mesa or plateau.  What he described is a section of what had been Yang-Na, and was therefore one of the areas of “the plaza” that shrunk and shrunk again after the eviction of the Indians.  Guinn did not footnote.  His papers are at UCLA’s Special Collection Library.  One day a dedicated historian may go through those papers and may learn why he thought what he did.

The first agricultural plots were – keeping in mind the map was skewed – to the south west of the first pueblo proper.  The Los Angeles State Historic Park partly occupies this land.

Msgr. Francis J. Weber indicated that Antonia Verdugo Chevoya arrived in Los Angeles by stagecoach in 1808, when she was an infant, and that she lived in the Verdugo adobe in the Old Spanish Quarter north of the plaza.[47]  There was no stagecoach to Los Angeles until 1858, and Antonia probably did not remember how she arrived because, after all, she was a baby.

Antonia also purportedly said that she saw the first church crumble in 1815, when she was seven.  It is more likely that she saw La Placita’s (the popular name for the church’s physical body) 1860 destruction by that flood because, in 1815, only the foundation had been laid.

Although Antonia evidently misremembered when events occurred, she should have remembered correctly where she had grown up.  The Verdugo adobe was in Glendale but Msgr. Weber probably meant her name was also Verdugo.[48] There was not an Old Spanish Quarter north of town in 1808. In 1849, Ord or Hutton showed about maybe five houses in what would become called “the Old Spanish Quarter.”

See:  USC digital library, “Section of E.O.C. Ord’s first map of the city of Los Angeles.”  http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15799coll65/id/12769/rec/7.   Retrieved 12/23/2017.

  1. M. Guinn found a brief mention of an 1811 flood.[49] The 1815 flood abandoned its former channel and flowed into the first settler, its new channel followed the present line of Alameda Street. “The fields were washed away or covered with sand…”

Blake Gumprecht writes that the pueblo church was moved in 1815, “its walls weakened by floodwaters, had to be rebuilt on higher ground three years later.  Since the pueblo church was supposed to front the plaza, the plaza was also moved.”[50]Gumprecht cites a number of sources for this conclusion, including J. M. Guinn’s “Exceptional Years,” but “the plaza” – meaning a plaza in the area of today’s Olvera Street, did not exist in 1815.  William David Estrada says “the plaza” was laid out between 1825 and 1830.  Estrada did not cite his source.  The 1847 sketch in the municipal archives shows “the plaza” was until 1847, a much larger area than today’s plaza, a rather formless area, corroborated by the E.O.C. Ord survey and map and the Hutton sketches and the Koppel lithograph.  Bancroft’s thorough research concluded Governor Sola recommended the church be moved because the change in the river’s course endangered the newly laid foundation walls, not that the walls collapsed.

Bancroft wrote that, in 1815, a great flood turned the Los Angeles River into a new channel eastward of its original course.  “Considerable damage was also done to gardens and farms, and cattle are said to have perished in large numbers.”[51]

Bancroft states that in January 1818, three years after the river changed its course, Governor Sola ordered that the church site be changed in favor of a higher one near the comisionado’s house.[52]  Juan de Ortega took over the comisionado position in January 1818.[53]

Presumably, the Ortega adobe had been near the location of today’s La Placita.   Ortega had a rancho outside of the pueblo by the early nineteenth century, 200 yards south of the San Gabriel mission[54] Presumably, he had a house near La Placita in 1818 but Professor Lisa Kealhofer’s research only showed a priest’s house had been near La Placita. There were, therefore, at least two houses – the Avila adobe and the Ortega adobe in the area where the church is now three years after the 1815 flood.

Governor Sola, this suggests, engaged in a little urban planning.  Three years after the flood, which had not destroyed the church, he had a new church built near where at least two wealthy families had built houses.  The church was to grace the new neighborhood of the elites.

Gumprecht tells the story of Don Jose del Carmen Lugo, then (in 1825), a twelve-year old boy.

“My father heard a great noise.  The river ran about 100 varas (275 feet) from our house.  I went to the bank, and discovered that it was a sea of water, which was overflowing vegetable gardens, fences, trees and whatever was before it.  The water was running with great violence, making enormous waves.  I warned my father immediately of the terrible danger.  He …sent me without a moment’s delay to inform the commissioner of the pueblo.

“My brothers and some of my father’s servants were already running through the town warning the people.  Orders were given speedily for all the inhabitants of the town warning the people.  Orders were given speedily for all the inhabitants of the town to move to a place of safety…”[55]   What town?

Don Jose del Carmen Lugo was the eldest son of Don Antonio Maria Lugo.  The town home of Don Antonio, “where nearly all of his large family of children was born, was on the east side of the street, afterward known as Negro alley, situate on the eminence overlooking the valley, was then a very desirable place of residence; it had not then been a resort of low gamblers, nor as it is today, a file den of heathen Chinese.[56]

Casa de Lugo, Don Antonio’s town house built in front of Mr. Pryor’s adobe in 1836, at about the location of the main part of today’s Union Station, later part of Old Chinatown, existed until it was demolished for Union Station.


1949 photo by Mildred L. Harris showing Union Station in front of the church, the main part of which stands where Casa de Lugo once stood. The street and trees in the back of the church once comprised the first La Placita, the little plaza that was behind the second plaza church. The present church was rebuilt after the 1860-1861 floods. It is courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

From a photograph in the essay “Life of a Rancher,” the Antonio Lugo adobe was on San Pedro and Second Street.

The Lugo Adobe. Photo by Mildred L. Harris. LAPL librarians indicate the photo was taken in 1949, but the Casa de Lugo came down for Union Station in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library.


There were houses by 1825 around La Placita, with Yang-Na in front.  Was this “the town?”

.If Dogtown was the second barrio, homes, assuming there were homes there, were then at an easy walking distance from the original pueblo by going along Toma Road.  It is the more likely second site because there was a road to it from the 1781 pueblo proper.

The “town” in 1825 may have been centered south of the Los Angeles State Historic Park, and that was “the town” with its gardens and orchards, that was swept away in 1825.  A church location in Dogtown would have made sense: it was near or on the road to the mission, the same road that led to the original settlement a little below the toma, and it was still at a distance from the Indian village.




Anyone is allowed to play the piano that is in the Union Station waiting area.   A few times I heard extraordinary music, music that made me feel as if I were entering the world or some other world.  Once, two gifted young pianists played the piano together.

On the days one or two of the city’s musicians accompanies my walk through the station with his playing, I briefly enjoy a state of enchantment and pass through the world before the station was there.

The Canton Bazaar and the Pekin Curio Store were in a very old building that occupied the land the front of Union Station sits on although perhaps those stores only stood the parking lot and landscaping in front of Union Station.  The photograph Mildred Harris took in 1940 shows the building when it was on Los Angeles Street.  By the time of Harris’s photograph, that building was over 100 years old.

Peeling back time further, that building was Loyola High School and St. Vincent’s College (1865), today’s Loyola-Marymount University and before that, the structure once there was Don Vicente Lugo’s Casa de Lugo, built in 1838, four years after the ayuntamiento evicted the remaining Indians of Yang-Na from the area where Casa de Lugo stood, from Los Angeles Street to what was then Calle Principal, the main street that led to Toma Road (now North Spring, where it overlaps) and that led around the cornfield up to the first plaza, the one created back in 1781.

In 1849, William Rich Hutton painted the back of Casa de Lugo when he stayed in the adobe home of Nathaniel Miguel Pryor.  You can see the back part looking towards Fort Moore Hill.  The flag on top of one of the hills was the flag near the cannons on the hill.  The Americans had not yet won the war against Mexico but they took California anyway and settled down on Fort Moore Hill.  President Polk had said manifest destiny determined that California should be part of the United States.

Mr. Pryor was a Kentucky fur trapper that settled in the pueblo in about 1828.[57]  If Mr. Pryor bought or acquired the land for his adobe and vineyard in 1828, the land in front was occupied by native homes.  William Hutton was also the surveyor/engineer that drew the map for E.O.C. Ord’s survey of the Mexican city of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles started out as a formal Spanish colonial pueblo located on a mesa too small for much population growth but in other ways in accord with the ordinances in the Law of the Indies.

Most of the families that arrived after 1781 – or the children of the families that arrived after 1781 – probably located below Toma Road, which was the ancient Indian road from the fording place slightly below the first plaza.  It is unlikely they settled in the agricultural fields: that is where they got their food.  A few may have built scattered houses up in Chinatown.

The Indians became their servants.  The Indians took care of their children, carried water from the river in heavy jars to the houses, raised the crops, and built their houses for them.   An ugly side of human nature seems to be that the only way to get really rich is to enslave other people.   The pobladores, people from very humble origins themselves (mostly), and the new elite that arrived from Mexico after 1834, looked down on the Indians and saw them as dirty and excluded them from the church.   In 1836, the Mexican-era city government took away the physical village, Yang-Na.

To walk through Union Station is to walk through time.


[1] William David Estrada, The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space, (University of Texas Press, 2008).  Although several historians state that the first plaza was relocated, there is no evidence that the residents relocated the first plaza.  As explained elsewhere in this essay, many records have been lost.  What is fairly certain is that the large space around La Placita in 1849 was not the area described in the purported original copy of the Jose Arguello map probably drawn in 1786, five years after the pueblo was created.

[2] The Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, which made ownership of Indians de jure, was enacted by the first session of the California State Legislature in April 1850.  California became a state in September 1850.  California functioned as a state for a year before it became a state. See, “The First Legislature of California,” an address by Senator Herbert C. Jones before the California Historical Society December10, 1950, published by the Senate of the State of California.  Although Senator Jones skipped over the Indian slavery legislation, the American preference at the time, but not the Mexican, was for genocide instead of slavery.

[3] Duhaut- Cilly, cited elsewhere for more important remarks, but he was French and may have had a fashion sense.

[4] The city government relocated the Rancheria to the present area of Commercial and Alameda Streets.  This was called Rancheria de Poblanos. The Indians were moved across the river, to a location called El Pueblito.  See, William McCawley, The First Angelinos, Maliki Museum Press/Ballena Press1986, page 202, citing. W. W, Robinson, The Indians of Los Angeles: the Story of the Liquidation of a People (Dawson Bookstore, 1952), 15-17.  The likely location of Yang-Na is found in Fr. Crespi’s journal of the first land expedition, the Portola expedition.   Crespi recommended a location for a mission or large settlement 1.25 miles from where the expedition forded the river on August 3, 1769.  Spanish borderlands historian Herbert Bolton annotated from his translation of Father Juan Crespi’s diary in Fray Juan Crespi: Missionary Explorer on the Pacific Coast, 1769-1774 (University of California Press, Berkeley 1927).  The first Spanish march through the Los Angeles area begins on page 146.  The road the expedition took can’t today be exactly duplicated but, if Portola went from the fording place along an Indian Road – likely what was later called Toma Road and eventually called North Main, the distance from the place Portola crossed the river to today’s Olvera Street Plaza is about 1.25 miles.

[5] The encomienda was a grant of people.  An encomienda included men, women and children.  The Spanish masters forced them to mine gold, cultivate the fields or carry burdens like beasts of burden.  Charles Gibson, ed. The Spanish Tradition in America. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1968. Bartolome de Las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. New York: Penguin Books, 1992 [originally published in 1552].

[6] Richard Griswold del Castillo states in The Los Angeles Barrio 1850-1890 (University of California Press 1979) the native people arrived in Southern California about 20,000 years ago.   The only hard evidence so far of when the native people arrived is Arlington Springs Man, a set of Late Pleistocene human remains found on Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands.  Carbon dating determined the skeleton age was 13,000 BP.   National Park Service “Arlington Man,” written by Dr. John R. Johnson, https://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/historyculture/arlington.htm. (Retrieved 12/18/2017).   La Brea Woman, first discovered in the La Brea Tar Pits in 1914, lived about 10,000 years ago.   Amy Wilentz, “L.A. Woman, August 20, 2016, Los Angeles Times.

[7] The Spanish explorers entered Alta California and traveled in it on Indian roads but there were about 300,000 people living in what would become the State of California, so they were not from the Indian perspective “explorers.”  The Americans that arrived in Los Angeles were not pioneers from the Spanish/Mexican point of view.

[8] See, Steven W. Hackel, Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father, (Hill and Wang, reprint edition, 2014).  Also see, Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, Junipero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary (University of Oklahoma Press 2015).

[9] Gumprecht, page 140.  Gumprecht cites, Don Jose del Carmen Lugo, “Life of A Rancher,” translated by Thomas Savage, Quarterly, Historical Society of Southern California 32, no. 3 (1950), pages 190-191.  Thomas Savage first published “Life of A Rancher” in 1877.   In 1825, the river went through Rancho San Antonio and destroyed a vineyard, the corral and the corn fields, a house, and quarters occupied by servants. (“Life of a Rancher,” page 191). Mustard had been unknown before this flood.  Immense numbers of cattle drowned.   Mustard was a European import.  It is not a California native plant.  The story that the padres sowed mustard on each side of the roads is not a true story.  Animal dung contained not only mustard seed but also seed from other European plants, which superseded the native grasses.

[10] H.D. Barrows, “Don Antonio Maria Lugo; A Picturesque Character of California,” (Read May 4, 1896), published by the University of California Press on behalf of the Historical Society of Southern California, Source:  Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California, Vol. 3, No. 4 (1896), pp23-24, citation from page 29.  https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/41167598.pdf.  (Retrieved December 11, 2017).

[11] August Duhaut-Cilly, A Voyage to California, The Sandwich Islands, and Around the World, translated and edited by August Fruge and Neal Harlow (University of California Press, 1997), beginning on page 142.

[12] Id, page 89.

[13] Id, footnote 4, page 145.

[14] Richard Griswold del Castillo, The Los Angeles Barrio, 1850-1890 (University of California Press 1979), page 38.

[15] Id, page 40.

[16] Jackson, “Echoes in the City of the Angels,” Glimpses of California and the Missions, 1886.  https://archive.org/details/glimpsescalifor00jackgoog.  (Retrieved 12/21/2017.  Please contribute to the Internet Archive when the request pops up.)

[17] M. Kelleher, “Map showing the location of the old Zanja Madre, ditches, vineyards and Old Town,” http://hdl.huntington.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15150coll4/id/11850/rec/11.  The “Notes” indicate “Los Angeles River west to hills, toma south to Sixth St., Shows structures, surface detail, surface details, owners.  Original at Los Angeles Public Library.”

[18] The (about) 1860 photograph of the plaza, which shows El Aliso, the Big Sycamore, to the south is marked “1857” by LAPL librarians.  Another copy of this photograph indicates “1857 to 1860.”  By sometimes in the 1870s, the rectangle had become a circle.

[19] Stearns owned Stearns Mill.  Harris Newmark stated that “well out in the country,” Joseph Chapman had built the mill before Stearns owned it.  Harris Newmark, Sixty Years in Southern California, 1853-1913. Edited by Maurice H. Newmark and Marco H. Newmark (New York, The Knickerbocker Press. 1916), page 87. https://ia801407.us.archive.org/24/items/sixtyyearsinsout00newmrich/sixtyyearsinsout00newmrich.pdf.  (Retrieved 12/21/2017).  Joseph Chapman was a former pirate and shipbuilder.  He completed La Placita in 1822.

[20] Abel Stearns died in 1871 at the age of 72.  Arcadia had been fourteen years old when she married Abel Stearns. Stearns had been 43.  The  widow Arcadia Bandini de Stearns married another wealthy Anglo-American man, Robert S. Baker in 1875, when she was 47.    The couple moved to Santa Monica, where they lived in “Ocean Cottage” by the pier.  After Colonel Baker died in 1894, Arcadia lived in their home on Ocean Avenue until her death in 1912.  Arcadia sold the area that had once been the 1781 site of the pueblo proper to Southern Pacific Railway the same year M. Kelleher’s map was prepared.  The street leading to what was the original site is now called Baker Street.

[21] Horace Bell, Reminiscences of a Ranger, pages 242 and following.  (Los Angeles: Yarnell, Caystile & Mathes, Printers 1888).

[22] James Miller Guinn, A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles (1902, Chapman, Chicago).  There is no longer a Castellar Street, but it was near the where the French Hospital would be built in 1869, at College and North Hill in Chinatown.

[23] James Miller Guinn, A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles (The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago 1903), pages 310-311.

[24] The original Arguello map was lost with the other Spanish Provincial archives in the 1906 San Francisco map.   Historian H. H. Bancroft sent researchers to copy and organize the previously never organized documents in the late 1870s.  Thomas Savage, born in Cuba, supervised this work.  The copy at the Bancroft Library indicates it is an exact copy by “Josef” Arguello.   The researchers’ interpretations could have contained mistakes.  Bancroft (or his researchers) footnoted his History of California based on his researchers work in the archives.   This is the closest we can come to primary sources.

[25] William Rich Hutton, with a brief memoir and notes by Willard O. Waters, Glances at California 1847 to 1853 (The Huntington Library San Marino 1942),  page 10, in a letter to his uncle:  “We commenced last Monday, & have gone from the church to the last house on the main street, about 1-1/4 miles; thence west to the hills, laying off in squares the plain; then to the vineyards, for he is to include all the cultivated ground between the hills & river, within two miles of the church….”  Hutton drew the map for the E.O.C. Ord survey of 1849, the first survey of Los Angeles.  Assuming the main street was Main Street, the Calle Principal that turned up around the agricultural field and connected with Toma Road, 1.25 miles from the center of town, which Ord decided was the front of the church, is the same distance Fr. Crespi wrote that the Portola expedition traveled from the fording place.  So at least one of the original pueblo proper structures may have existed at the time of the Ord survey but it is not on the Ord/Hutton map, which stops.  There is no original Ord survey/map – or it is in the attic of someone descended from M. Kelleher, whose work seems to derive from a survey that went all the way to the river. The City Clerk’s copy, once framed in the City Council, is in the municipal archives at Piper Tech.  That copy is purported to be the original but it is a copy.  Each copy of each document was a hand-made copy, so it’s possible the real original did go all the way out to the site of the first pueblo proper.

[26] Mason, Los Angeles Under the Spanish Flag, Southern California Genealogical Society, Inc. (2004, https://www.scgsgenealogy.com/free/media/los-angeles-under-the-spanish-flag-wmason.pdf, (Retrieved 12/15/2017), page 26.  William M. Mason was for a long time the curator of Southern California history at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.  Mason traveled to Mexico City to do research in that city’s provincial archives, which Bancroft had not done.  Nonetheless, I believe I found errors in his interpretations because he partly relied on J. M. Guinn’s conclusions.  Mason died in 2000.

[27] Mason, page 30.

[28] Johnson, page 85.  The slaughterhouses created a “ghastly pollution,” which affected a public school with 600 children.

[29] The Ord map and survey only shows a portion of the pueblo’s four leagues square. The City commissioned Ord 1to survey the entire four leagues.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that settled the United States – Mexico war provided that the pueblos would keep the land allocated to them under Mexican law.  How to measure the “Four Leagues” was an issue in subsequent litigation but the only copies of the map suggest to me that there was a second page that has been lost.

[30] J. M. Guinn, “The Plan of Old Los Angeles: And The Story of Its Highways and Byways,” Annual Publication  Historical Society of Southern California, Vol. 3, No. 3 (1895), published by University of California Press, pp. 40-50,  page 43. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/41167619.pdf.  (Retrieved 12/15/2017).  Guinn in this essay as well is in his other writing describes what he calls “la plaza vieja” as beginning from the northeast corner of Marchessault and Upper main and forming a parallelogram.   Not much in early Los Angeles could be said to form a parallelogram except for the original Neve-sited pueblo proper, so Guinn had to have made that part up.   An old plaza area could have been at Marchessault and Upper Main and probably was at one time because after 1836 the city kept shrinking “the Plaza.”

[31] Guinn, “The Plan of Old Los Angeles,” page 45.

[32] The city government relocated the Rancheria to the present area of Commercial and Alameda Streets.  This was called Rancheria de Poblanos. The Indians were moved across the river, to a location called El Pueblito.  See, William McCawley, The First Angelinos, Maliki Museum Press/Ballena Press1986, page 202, citing. W. W, Robinson, The Indians of Los Angeles: the Story of the Liquidation of a People (Dawson Bookstore, 1952). pages 15-17.

[33] William David Estrada, The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space, (University of Texas Press, Austin 2008), page 9.

[34] David Samuel Torres-Rouff, Before L.A.: Race, Space, and Municipal Power in Los Angeles 1781-1894.  Page 13.  Also, as Torres-Rouff points out in his introduction, Los Angeles was located at the edge of an isolated frontier.  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013).

[35] Hubert Howe Bancroft, in Vol. II of California (San Francisco, A.L. Bancroft & Company, Publishers 1885), page 413.  A villa is a large country house.  Bancroft may have meant a large adobe with Indian servants making candles and weaving fabric and chasing cattle, like the Petaluma Adobe in Northern California.

[36] Bancroft, infra, page 118.

[37] Mason, page 19, discussing Governor Fages’ instructions to Comisionado Vicente Feliz.   The Spanish government later granted Vicente Feliz the area known as Rancho Feliz, comprising today’s Griffith Park, the Los Feliz neighborhood, about half of the Silver Lake district, and part of today’s Burbank.

[38] Mason, page 26.

[39] Id., page 563.

[40] Id.

[41]  August Bernard Duhaut-Cilly.  A modern translation is A Voyage to California, the Sandwich Islands, and Around the World in the Years 1826–1829 Auguste Duhaut-Cilly (Author), August Frugé (Editor), Neal Harlow (Editor), August Frugé (Translator), Neal Harlow (Translator)

[42] William M. Mason, Los Angeles Under the Spanish Flag, op cit.

[43] J. M. Guinn, read December 2, 1895, “The Plan of Old Los Angeles: and the Story of Its Highways and Byways,” Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, vol. 3, No. 3 (1895), pp. 40-50.  Mr. Guinn in this article repeats the story – probably woven by Antonio Coronel and told to Helen Hunt Jackson, who then embellished it and put it into her writing – about a formal ceremony with choristers and musicians and a long procession.   This story has been long discounted as a fable.   Guinn’s conducted thorough research, learning Spanish and going to the provincial archives; nonetheless, he was often mistaken.  In his A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs (1915), he states that Upper Main opened into the Calle Real, or Main Street, which was of Neve’s original streets.   (Page 269).   The original plaza was not where the Olvera Street plaza is, so this statement is not correct.

[44] Hector Tobar, “The Mystery of the Misplaced Pueblo,” Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1996.  http://articles.latimes.com/1996-07-12/local/me-23477_1_los-angeles-river.  (Retrieved December 9, 2017).

[45] Guinn, pages 41 and 42.

[46] “Los Angeles Revisited.”   (Retrieved December 8, 2017) .  https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2012/07/sonoratown-little-italy-china-city.html.

[47] See, The Old Plaza Church, A Documentary History, by Francis J. Weber.  (Los Angeles, published by the author in 1980).  The notes about Antonia, however, were unpublished.  Historians frequently cite for information about La Placita:   J. Thomas Owen, “The Church by the Plaza: A History of the Pueblo Church of Los Angeles: Part I, The Historical Society of Southern California, Quarterly for March 1960., Vol. 42, No 1, p. 5-28.

[48] Maria Antonia Verdugo Chavoya aged 103 died in 1928 in her home in Glendale.  Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1928, page 14.   She arrived, therefore, in Los Angeles sometime after the 1825 flood.

[49] J. M. Guinn, “Exceptional Years.  A History of California Floods and Drought,” Read March 4, 1889.  Southern California Historical Society Journal,  page 33. (retrieved 12/11/2017). https://ia601703.us.archive.org/16/items/jstor-41167825/41167825.pdf.

[50] Blake Gumprecht, The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth, (The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore & London, 1999), pages 140-141.

[51] Bancroft, History of California, page 563.

[52] Bancroft, infra, page 351.

[53] Mason,

[54] Lisa Kealhofer, Cultural Interaction During the Spanish Colonial Period, the Plaza Church Site, dissertation presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 1991, page 216,387, citing Bancroft.

[55] Gumprecht, page 140.  Gumprecht cites, Don Jose del Carmen Lugo, “Life of A Rancher,” translated by Thomas, Quarterly, Historical Society of Southern California 32, no. 3 (1950), pages 190-191.  Thomas Savage first published “Life of A Rancher” in 1877.   In 1825, the river went through Rancho San Antonio and destroyed a vineyard, the corral and the corn fields, a house, and quarters occupied by servants. (“Life of a Rancher,” page 191). Mustard had been unknown before this flood.  Immense numbers of cattle drowned.   Mustard was a European import.  It is not a California native plant.  The story that the padres sowed mustard on each side of the roads is not a true story.  Animal dung contained not only mustard seed but also seed from other European plants, which superseded the native grasses.

[56] H.D. Barrows, “Don Antonio Maria Lugo; A Picturesque Character of California,” (Read May 4, 1896), published by the University of California Press on behalf of the Historical Society of Southern California, Source:  Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California, Vol. 3, No. 4 (1896), pp23-24, citation from page 29.  https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/41167598.pdf.  (Retrieved December 11, 2017).  This is incorrect.  Casa de Lugo was built by one of Don Antonio’s sons.

[57] Susanna Bryant Dakin, A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles: Hugo Reid’s Life in California, page 291, footnote 4. Mr. Pryor – one of the first party that arrived by way of the Gila River — had arrived illegally in California in about 1828.  The Mexican authorities kept him in custody in San Diego in a crude jail and then released him.   He moved to the pueblo and became Miguel el Platero, marrying a 14 year old daughter of the Sepulveda family .


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