This small alleyway known as Olvera Street, in the heart of Los Angeles, is filled with history. It is one of the oldest parts of the city and is said to be the originating point of all of LA. Though called a street, this location is a pedestrian walkway packed with shops, vendors, and restaurants. Los Angeles was founded in 1781 and it was founded very close to this destination. While it originated as a plaza for the ethnic Californio community and a farming and cattle ranching site, the area is now a popular tourist destination for authentic Mexican food, shopping, and culture.
Located right in downtown, this location has plenty of walkable areas. One feature in this historic district is the Avila Adobe, “the oldest house in Los Angeles.” Even in the waning sunlight of this SoCal evening, this adobe stayed remarkably cool inside due to its thick clay walls. The replicas of furniture create a snapshot of life in 1818, when the adobe was built. Admission is free and guests get to walk along the wooden floorboards into each of the rooms. There is also a courtyard with cactus to walk around.
Many of the shops are built in authentic buildings with basements filled with clothing, souvenirs, purses, toys, and trinkets. There is also live entertainment, with mariachi bands outside almost every restaurant. El Paseo Inn was a tasty restaurant that had amazing tacos and margaritas, with a beautiful patio to sit on. It was built in 1930, which was the year Olvera Street was “revived” and developed as “A Mexican Street of Yesterday in a City of Today.” In 1930, the area was called Paseo de Los Angeles, and eventually came to be known as Olvera Street, the street’s official name.
The downtown area in which Olvera Street lies has plenty of other destinations to walk to. Union Station is a short walk away, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014. The grounds around the station have lovely planters and gardens of drought-resistant plants: perfect for California right now. Also a short walk away is Chinatown and the historic Phillippe’s restaurant, home of the French-dipped sandwich.
The history of Olvera Street is fascinating. A woman by the name of Christine Sterling was responsible for making the historic area into a shopping and tourist location. In 1930, with her help, it went from a crumbling historic site to a bustling downtown destination. I found her efforts really interesting and based my story on her.
Know of any other fascinating #dtla places? Share with me!