The idea for this week’s featured neighborhood came from a reader who was contemplating purchasing a home in Mt. Washington. We told her that we did not have enough botox and highlights to be a realtor but that we could feature this east Los Angeles locale.
The neighborhood of Mt. Washington lies north and east of downtown. Yes, as the name suggests, it is a mountain (really a large hill). Mt. Washington's boundaries are roughly El Paso Drive and Avenue 50 on the northeast, the Arroyo Seco (the 110) on the southeast, Elyria Canyon on the southwest, and Division Street on the northwest. Most people think that it was named for George Washington, but others speculate that its name comes from Colonel Henry Washington, a man who came to survey Southern California in the mid-1800s.
Developers ahead of their time founded Mt. Washington as a “luxurious” suburb of L.A. in 1909. The development mostly consisted of Mediterranean Revival mansions in which many wealthy Angelenos lived, but a hotel was also built atop the mountain. There once was a time in L.A. when cars were not the dominant force in the culture, and the hill atop which these homes sat was too steep to build a road. So a funicular railway provided passenger service up the hill. The railway had its terminus at a Pacific Electric Railway station at the bottom of the hill. Eventually, Mt. Washington was annexed by L.A. as the city grew around it.
By World War II, snobby whites didn’t like that they began to see people with dark skin around them, so they fled to the West Side. However, it quickly became a popular destination for middle-class Mexicans, who remain the dominant population in the area today. A few of those snobby whites returned in the 1960s and later, and the area became another popular area, besides the Hollywood Hills, to build modernist homes. The Metro Gold Line also has a stop in the area, so the snobby whites can pretend like they would take public transit. Notable Mt. Washington landmarks are the Southwest Museum and the Self-Realization Fellowship headquarters. Mayor Villaraigosa used to live here until he moved into the mayor’s mansion in Hancock Park.
· Mt. Washington, Los Angeles, California [Wikipedia]
· Mt. Washington: Its Hotel and Incline Railway [Electric Railway Historical Asssociation]